Oh, age four, how you're kicking my ass!!! Here I was thinking I was out of the woods because my child was the sweetest 2-year-old I've ever seen! Yeah, right! Life has a sense of humor!
Let me fill you in. Ari turned four on September 18, less than three weeks ago. She is a very sweet, compassionate, helpful child. She is fairly self-centered at times, but what little kid isn't? We're working on that, explaining to her that she doesn't always get to go first, that we take turns, that all of us get to have choices. I refuse to let my child become the stereotypical only child. I believe that the way we raise our child will have a huge impact on who she will become. I believe in treating my child with love and respect, the same way I want to be treated. I believe in setting boundaries lovingly and with empathy. Hell, I'll just put it out there. I've moved away from the whole consequences thing. My beliefs have shifted and I now believe that communicating and remaining connected will do us all better than imposing a consequence that is just going to embarrass her or piss her off. I have a lot to share about that ongoing journey. I promise I will get to it some day. For now, I will share that I set firm boundaries, that when she cries, stumps or tells me that she is angry and that I hurt her feelings, I tell her that it is ok to cry, that I understand her feelings and that I am right here, ready to hug her when she is ready.
All that makes it sound like we live in a perfect, easy little world, I know. I'll share a story about today and you'll see how this is a work in progress for me.
You see, starting last Friday, my sweet, not-so-little child and I have been finding ourselves getting into power struggles usually once a day. Thus far, these lovely episodes last anywhere from one to twenty-five minutes. One time we spent just under ten minutes in a restaurant restroom because I insisted that she sit on the potty to prevent an accident. Let me take a minute to add that, of all the times I've insisted on her using the potty, there was exactly one time when only drops came out and not a big pee. Today we had an episode, for lack of a better word, that lasted almost half an hour because she wanted to have some chocolate. What is the big deal? Grandma had already given her some chocolate. Our rule is one treat after dinner. Also, given the fact she is giving me hell about eating a balanced diet, I want to make sure I don't overdo it when it comes to junk food.
Back to today's big event, she did not cry the whole time. She alternated between stumping, lying down on the floor, crying, temporarily calming down, and saying things like "I'm sad. I'm angry. You hurt my feelings. You're not doing what I want you to do."
When these power struggles began I was feeling quite drained when it was all said and done. Today I felt fine, despite the fact that this was by far the longest. I don't know if I'm growing up, if I got enough sleep or if I was just having a good day today. Little girl, don't try me next week. All bets are off, ask daddy!!! Just kidding, well, kind of!!!
At any rate, I guess the moral of the story is that parenting is a never-ending learning process, that certain behaviors are developmentally appropriate and so they will come up no matter what, and that, what matters in the end, is to get through it the best you know how so that at the end of it your family is still feeling connected and intact. Yes, there are times when we will lose it. We're human. Let's just make sure that we apologize when we have to, even if it means apologizing to a four-year-old. Lastly, let's try very hard to always end the day in a positive note. For us, this means "no, you can't watch Daddy play his game, but we can do a family hug."