Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Recently in a rather dramatic moment, Jake announced if people had no hands, they'd have less trouble just letting things go. This came shortly after Matt retold the story of how I nearly killed him by pulling out in front of a Jeep. The story is called "Jeep. JEEP! Dammit, Esther!" I replied that it was pretty crappy to throw that in my face after all these years, bat tosser. That refers back to when we were still dating and we were walking through the woods, he was swinging a stick around and he whacked a big oak tree branch, knocking off a bat, who flapped around just long enough to land on the front of my shirt and proceed to try to roost under my chest shelf. Ah, the days before gravity and 7 years of breast feeding kicked in...those puppies could house a bat in full shade.
A debate quickly followed Jake's proclamation about if you had no hands, you could not grasp on to anything in the first place and back and forth we all went about what was involved with letting go and holding on.
But that made me think about what I do hold on to.
I think the thing I hold on to most is not physical, it's emotional. And it's guilt. It's mostly from being such a rotten mother when the kids were younger. Lots of yelling, some spanking, tantrums, lectures, general losing of my shit over mundane things. I know WHY I was acting that way, I can blame all the factors and I can see how I have overcome most of them. But it comes down to failing as a parent, it was me. Yes, my mother was a tyrant and cutting her influence and voice out of my life has only made me better year after year. It was a LONG time after she was physically out of our lives before her voice stopped popping into my head each time one of the kids was difficult.
No one, and I mean NO one, can damage you like your mother.
Money, no support, being really young, not having a good role model...all factors. But no excuses. I was using disciplining my children to appease someone else, not as anything to guide or nurture them. I did that. And I stopped that.
It's been a decade since I have spanked the kids, even 'just a swat'. I seldom yell. I can take what is around me and put myself in the future-how much will it matter in a week, a month? Usually it's 'not at all'. I have learned to remove myself (my annoyance) from the equation-what ELSE is going on at the time that's setting me off? Usually it's noise or mess. Both are kind of vital to kids and sometimes to me as well. I have never, ever grounded one of the kids. Taking away something someone enjoys as a means of making them do what you expect is...pointless. Turning your safe haven of a home into a prison just adds an element of misery, which is not healthy and it teaches a child to sneak to not get caught, to lie or blame to avoid punishment and most kids still find a way around the restrictions, wheedle and plead and make life unpleasant until the sentence is over or has been lifted.
The times I have yelled have been generally at OTHER people's children. Yeah. For being unsafe toward or about to harm one of my kids or for blatantly disregarding a single request. I have hardly any rules, but taking a full glass of soda into the living room 2 days after I spent $60 and a full day steam cleaning the carpet and kicking it over it over TWICE in a single visit is just...I want to say can be avoided using common sense, but when a child is bullied and told how to act and think ALL of the time, they don't think for themselves beyond, 'I hope I won't get caught.' They shut down when they do. I know, I was a bullied kid. I can spot a bullied kid. And a child who is yelled at all the time knows they can keep doing what they want UNTIL the yelling starts, mom's not serious unless she shrieks. By the time mom shrieks, it's past the original issue and has become about being defied, which leads to more punishment. It's a nasty cycle.
Just this morning I was on Matt's facebook page deleting a photo of me that I disliked and as I scrolled down to find it, I saw a post from someone he is friends with telling another mom of a 2.5 year old girl that spanking was a great potty training tool. So, if hitting a child is discipline, a form of guidance, what is hitting them for not being able to pee on command called? If a child of 12 slaps a child of 4, it's an outrage, it's bullying, it's bad, there's something wrong with the 12 year old that he can't control himself and come up with a better way to communicate his frustration. But a 30 year old who hits a 2 year old for not having bladder control is good parenting? Excuse me while I wipe all this bullshit off my boots.
It's easy for me to become angry with other people for failing in similar ways to how I failed. While beating my children through potty training never occurred to me, there's that outside influence of 'they should be trained by now. X has her kid trained already'. It's in every aspect of raising a child-that outside expectation of age and ability and what's "normal" and what's "expected" and in homeschooling, there's an added level of what they'd be doing in school foisted upon the parent by not only PS-happy educators and family, but also by our own support system. There are tons of sites where you can download lists of what your child should know and when and in what order.
That's another area where it's easy to get caught up in others expectations, trying to please or conform, to be as 'normal' as possible. There are plenty more. Playing sports, attending church, vacationing in certain places, wearing certain clothing, even buying certain foods because it's 'expected'. Every time you do something that causes a pang somewhere inside, each time you think, "I HAVE to do this thing" or "X expects me to..." you are giving up something. You are silencing your inner voice, you are stifling a relationship or your child or yourself. Wouldn't it just be easier to let go instead? Follow your heart, follow that drum beat, that call, that idea, that dream?
Leave the guilt and leave the conformity, take your child's hand and start a new ideal life. The one that YOU BOTH decide matters. I think if everyone were to step back and see each situation for what it is, the need to control, 'ground' and hit children would evaporate. I am not saying there won't be frustrations, dead-ends, kids who annoy and push boundaries, days when you need help or a break or a nap, but if our generation could stop hitting and punishing as a means to control and started listening and thinking more instead, the next generation would be totally different.
And their lives as parents would have a different patina, their children would grow up talking through conflict, finding ways to resolve issues and learning to being able to see a situation from another perspective starting in early childhood. All it takes is valuing a child as a fellow person and not as a reflection of yourself/your abilities or as someone who needs to be molded.
Since I am saying do away with the main 'tools' we all were brought up with, what do I suggest be done in place of hitting or restriction? Exactly what we as adults have to do when we have done something wrong. Fix it. Something broken? Work out a way to repair or replace it via extra chores or giving up part of an allowance. Someone punch someone else? An apology followed by talking over why it happened and an agreement on both sides to try another way the next time. Usually a younger sibling who gets punched has spent the better part of the day annoying the crap out of the puncher. Breaking a house rule? Find out why and talk over ways to deal with it next time.
Refusing to eat? Let them be hungry or eat something else. Adults get to choose to not have certain foods-I can list at least 50 things I absolutely will not eat-many of them are 'good for me'. Not eating lima beans or limp greens or squishy carrots will not do any harm to a child, either. Not having battles over food makes trying new things a fun adventure together, not a new battle. Potty training? WHY? Why train someone to pee in a pot for prizes? At some point, it's not comfortable to be in a diaper any longer, it may be 2 for one kid and 4 for another. They will learn bladder control when they want to get out of that diaper. Put them in cotton pants at home, those stay-dry liners are the devil. If your bottom is not damp, there's no annoyance in having wet pants.
Okay, I guess I have run my course on this one. My main point is, kids don't have to suffer to learn. Let things go, forgive yourself, be better, do better. We are all capable.
posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012