When my husband and I brought our second son home, our first son was 19 months old. He seemed to barely notice the addition. As a stay-home mom, the first couple of years were full of parallel activities: feeding them both included breastmilk for one and fingerfood for the other, different size diapers needing changed, and the new routine was adapted for napping. When the older son didn’t sleep midday any longer, he was allowed to play with his special treasures while the younger was in his crib. These were small items like dice, a jack, a marble and other things he’d collected in a small box. As soon as my toddler went down for a nap, my preschooler would say, “I want my choking hazards. Can I play with my choking hazards?”
So, the days unfolded. We moved from our two-bedroom, one-bath, 800 square foot starter bungalow to a house with more room inside and out. Not long after, I found myself in a most peculiar position. My offspring seemed to become closer in age as they grew and they joined forces against me!!! Before too long, they were the same size with nearly the same capabilities. The two imps found great pleasure in doing things they ought nought and maybe even more when they saw my reaction, their joyful laughter ringing all about as they turned and looked at each other.
The point is that, no matter how many parenting curricula I learned to teach or how complete my knowledge of child development, I was not a perfect parent and my sons were no angels. One of their favorite mischiefs was to jump on my bed and call our 120 pound dog, Molly, to join them. I’d hear the falderal and come from the kitchen or another room in the house to see the three of them cavorting and two laughing gleefully. Another time they might be emptying the diaper bag and smearing zinc oxide on themselves or playing in unattended paints while I tried to fit redoing the kitchen walls into my days.
In those early preschool years, far from a happy family gobbling up discipline and guidance in order to continue with our reliable routines and smooth transitions through ages and stages, I found myself raising my voice, okay yelling, nearly every day. Why? I know it’s not effective for training, and I may have checked myself more frequently if it were not for the galling laughter they displayed in the face of me giving directions or ordering them to stop. I was stymied by their defensive tactic. What to do when they weren’t bothered, in the least, by my instructions or my desire for them to obey?
One day, as I was in the middle of rustling those little guys, trying to place each of them in their own room and then, more difficult, getting them to stay put, the doorbell rang. Great. As I moved toward the door, I shouted for the boys to comply with my orders RIGHT NOW! Opening our front door to two, cleanfaced, white-shirted young men, I cut them off as they began to introduce me to the book of Mormon, “I can’t do this! We’ve got… chaos here!”
Running back to control my rambunctious inmates, the doorbell rang again. What in the world??? I turned and answered again, so ingrained are our social niceties. Now, two very nervous Mormon missionaries stood on my porch. “Um, can we help?” I shouted, “NO!” and shut the door. Bless their hearts – the young men, not my children – in that moment.
Eventually, what felt like forever, my sons grew and were more amenable to discussing, reflecting, and compromising. All grown up now, they still enjoy joining forces to yank my chain!
No one expects you to be a perfect parent. There’s no such thing. Circumstances, personalities, and natural proclivities to obey or challenge restrictions all combine to make parenting children a new adventure every day. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t lose heart. I told a mentor of mine I was so sad that my kids were just going to remember me yelling at them all the time, not lovingly guiding and teaching. She shared with me that when she apologized to her grown children for yelling so much, their memories were of love, play, and family with little-to-no recall of yelling and exasperation. In the big picture of your life together, frustrations will fade in the rearview mirror and may even become part of your family lore. Show yourself the same grace and forgiveness you would extend to any of your friends in the parenting trenches.
***Abuse is any action that intentionally injures or harms a person and includes physical, psychological and verbal abuse. No matter the frustration level, we must never attempt to assert control by belittling or attacking.*** If you need help, talk to your doctor, clergy, counselor, etc. If you suspect someone of abuse or neglect, check online for guidance in your state for reporting; agencies and regulations vary greatly across statelines.
Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.