I think I'm due one.
We're struggling here, big time. I should rephrase that, since I am at home with the kids all day, it's me, ME.
I'm struggling, big time.
I need help - otherwise in years to come Miss E is going to stumble across this blog, and if between now and then I haven't broken her spirit with ineffective parenting, reading about the trials I felt in her young years just might.
Almost four years into this parenting gig - and I feel like I have no more of a clue now than I did when Miss E was an infant. Is this the norm? Is this what parenting feels like always, as each new phase arrives, and each new challenge faced? Or, do we ever get to say 'yeah, I think I know what I'm doing?' Even for a short time?
Maybe I have too high expectations of myself, or of Miss E? A good friend called me the other day after reading an email I'd sent her whining about not being able to manage my child and said 'don't be so stinking hard on yourself'. She knows Miss E well, and has seen many a full blown strop from her. She assures me that other kids do it, including hers.
The thing is - I rarely, if ever, see a child Miss E's age act out in public as much as she has done lately.
My feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and in truth, frustration of the tear your hair out variety, comes from the fact that we had conquered the tantrums and were successfully dealing with behaviour through lovingly, and consistently applied discipline. I told everyone who would listen, 'All Hail Supernanny', seriously!
So why then, now, when we apply the same techniques, consistently, the only consistent result is utter rebellion?
In "Parenting the Strong Willed Child" the authors recommend a series of steps to bring about better behaviour (in five weeks they say, ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and they focus on giving your child undivided attention for specific periods. To engage in play with them and let them direct the play - allowing them to instruct you in their imaginary sessions.
I get the premise behind this, but I hold my hands up and admit - that I am not good at it. I tend to give half hearted attention - while I'm doing something else - it's bad, I know it is, and I've been doing better in this regard. That's not to say I think I'm a complete failure as a mom, I don't. And it's not that I never give my kids undivided attention - of course I do - but I do have my fair share of times when I'm playing Candyland and trying to take in an episode of Divine Design at the same time.
In an attempt to have time with just her and I, lately Miss E and I have baked, we've coloured, painted, played outside together in the kiddie pool, in our neighbour's pool, and on the swingset. And, today we made homemade playdough. However, rather than giving Miss E a boost and then buying myself time where she will play independently, all these activities seem to do is create the expectation that I will be there, at her side, in her face, every waking minute. With another child, a house to keep up with and ,
Miss E was spoiled with lots of attention for five weeks at home in Ireland, and I accepted that there would be an unsettled period when we got back. It's been seven weeks since we returned to Florida - and all the challenges we faced and overcame before, are right back with us. The not listening, the tantrums when she doesn't get her own way, the demands for things NOW, from snacks, ice cream (over and over and over again!), to 'prizes' from every shop we go into. We have enforced all the tried and trusted Supernanny rules, and we've tried reasoning with her - to no avail. We're not making progress here, at all.
To use that all American phrase, 'Miss E! Get with the program already!'
I am now at the point where I am on edge any time we have to be in a situation where other kids and their parents are. Now that school is back this week - you can imagine how that goes for my stress levels. And there I go feeding into the whole situation - I know this, yet I feel powerless to change it because I feel like I don't have the tools to help me. I seriously need someone to tell me what to do (or what not to do). I feel like managing this effectively should be instinctive, and so I feel like my instincts are failing me.
I talked to my family and a friend last week about feeling guilty that I sometimes talk down about Miss E. In my efforts to forewarn people about my child's feisty personality I fear I am giving a completely negative impression of her. I did this at parent's orientation for preschool last week. I told the teacher that Miss E is 'stubborn and has a tendency to be bossy'. I told the other moms that she was a 'firey redhead'. What I didn't tell anyone was that she is beautiful, articulate, smart, funny, happy, compassionate, and very, very loving. And so, that mommy guilt that I'm so familiar with, plagues me once more.
This is why Jennifer's post at Playgroups are no Place for Children struck such a chord with me this morning. That, and the fact that the meltdown her son had, is one we managed to avoid at Miss E's preschool orientation this morning but only because by this stage, I can sense it coming, and we said our 'goodbyes' before the fuse was lit, so to speak.
I didn't entirely escape the terror of my almost four year old's tyranny however, she unleashed it in Target on the way home, throwing herself down on the floor for good measure, twice. I don't know how I did it, but I did not raise my voice and I remained completely calm as I steered her (firmly) out of the store. Sweat may have been involved however, along with a voice a few octaves and decibels higher as I reigned her in after she dashed out from behind our car into the parking lot. Thankfully there was no traffic coming, but neither Miss E nor I knew that. Another source of frustration, because no matter how many times we've had the conversation about roads, driveways, parking lots and DANGEROUS cars, it's not even close to sinking in.
I realise this is the second post that I've made a short period of time about my frustrations in parenting Miss E. I know that part of this stems from my innate dislike for doing anything that I'm not good at. I don't feel like I'm good at being a good parent, and I hate that! My standard routine when I don't know how to do something is read up about it, educate myself, find out what's worked for others and go from there.
So, once again I'm asking - what works for you? I know I have more experienced readers with older kids who've survived the preschool stage. Tell me where to go to find help! Tell me I don't just have to resign myself to 'that's just the way it is' - there has to be a way to make this better.
We are now getting the outer rain bands of Tropical Storm Fay - she may strenghten to a hurricane and is forecast to go right over our area. Schools are closed tomorrow and Wednesday. For those of you inexperienced in storms like this - this means we ain't goin' nowhere for the next few days. We'll be stuck inside - so hopefully this makes you appreciate that I need your help and answers, STAT!