Monday, September 7, 2009

No Learning Curves in Parenting

One thing about parenting is that the learning is never done. I've been a mom to E now for 6 years and she is still taking me by surprise. Like many of you when you were starting out I had my preconceived notions, kids behaved like kids and certain behaviours were reserved for certain ages etc.

Imagine to my surprise when E was 2 and she ran to her room and slammed the door in anger at me. Did she just stomp out of the room and slam the door? She's 2, not a hormone ridden, irrational teenager. Did she just yell that she hates me and I'm a mean mom? Okay maybe I didn't yell at my mom and tell her I hated her.. i just wrote it in my diary knowing that eventually my mom would read. Yeah.

So I've had to roll with the punches so to speak and unlearn all my preconceived notions pretty fast. The younger two have it easier because E has paved the way. I can now say... "Ahhh, E did that at 2, that's normal behaviour." I don't have to immediately run and google it to assure myself that my child was normal (whatever normal is, really). That this aggressive behaviour or spitting food or biting was a phase and would soon, God willing, pass.

I have learned to live in 6 month increments. Each 6 months saw us leaving an old bad phase and moving into a new bad phase. Okay, it wasn't all bad but I knew when she was going through a annoying behaviour phase like eating and regurgitating, I knew that in about 6 months or so it would pass and we'd be on to new annoying behaviour. At first you are relieved that the old behaviour has stopped but it never takes you long to discover the "new" annoying behaviour. So yes, I've had this as a guide post for the other two.

That does not make my task with E any less difficult these days. It seems that since she has turned 6 her sole mission in life is to challenge everything we say. My 6 year actually said to me "Why should I?" in that characteristically snotty tone that I once thought was only reserved for 12 year olds. I risk parroting my mother when I respond back with "because I said so" although I have made it my own and thus somewhat avoid completely parroting my mother by actually saying "Because I asked you to." I know, it's pure semantics.

So I am flummoxed by this behaviour and was only recently assured by my husband who googled it, that this too is normal. That my 6 year old going on 12 is challenging us exactly on course with her behaviour. Great, she's normal. Why couldn't she have been slightly abnormal, you know just blindly trusting everything we say and meekly responding.. "yes mommy" when asked to do something.

I know, I know, boring right? Let's face it though at this point I could use a little boredom. On the other hand I recognize that she is growing up to be a strong, independent girl who thinks for herself. She is wonderfully creative and passionate about many things and she doesn't get that by being meek or biddable. If I want her to challenge society and her peers later on in life I am going to have to somehow figure out how to get through this phase now without damaging her spirit or her esteem.

Raising a girl is pretty tough. There are so many issues that can drag you down. Clothes, beauty, weight, fashion. I can tell her till I am blue in the face that none of it matters but it doesn't help when she's faced with it on t.v. everyday and at school. No matter how much I protect her, eventually she's going to come face to face with it. In kindergarten, E came home bummed because her coat wasn't pretty and pink like a lot of the other girls. She had on a really pretty green coat with embroidered flowers but that didn't matter when pink was obviously the in colour. What brought this on? I don't know she previously didn't care about it but maybe someone said something negative to her in the line up at class.

I make sure she eats right and is healthy but darn it, some days it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that she's paired pink and grey striped tights with a white and red flowered skirt and orange tank top. I do not kid. She has no fashion sense at all but it still hurts her feelings when I try to point out to her a better combination.

Not to mention the fact that I'm not happy with my own weight but I try not to disparage myself or mention my weight in any way because I don't want her to become self conscious about her weight or how she eats. She's a great eater and I want to continue to encourage that and not give her hang ups about it.

Even teaching basic hygiene is tough. Why do you clean your hands after you go to the bathroom, because it's good hygiene, wash away the germs so you don't get sick or make others sick. Why does it matter that my fingernails look dirty? Because it doesn't look nice and dirty fingers mean germs? Why doesn't it look nice?" Each answer always leads to more questions and try not to answer it by... no one will want to be near you when your hands smell dirty like pee. Okay.. that's what I am trying to tell you in a really nice way but now you're bringing it out cause you're driving me crazy and I want to impress on you how really disgusting it is that you forget to wash your hands all the time after going potty. Arrrgh. Did I just say all that. Yup. sigh. Never mind the brushing teeth and bad breath. You get the picture.

I know those of you with girls older than mine surely must know what I am talking about or is it just my kids that can remember to go wash their hands before dinner but can't remember to wipe, flush and wash hands after going to the bathroom? At least we save on toilet paper.

We can read lots of parenting books and articles and google till our hearts content. We can glean tips from other parents and caregivers but still in the end we are stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. Let's face it, what works for one kid doesn't work for another but until you try you don't know so you end up taking a combination of methods and apply it, twist it and reapply it until you figure out what works for your kid.

You just can't help worry in the meantime that your (as in mine) sometimes poor response to it isn't a wee bit over the top and that you're doing more harm than help.

So I am looking forward to her going to school full-time this year. I think the main problem this summer has been that she needs more challenges which is pretty hard to create for an older child when you have 2 younger ones at home.

I am hoping that with her more engaged in school this year, it will lower my stress level during the day because truth be told, she's the real instigator in the house, and just maybe it will give me a little more insight in how to deal with her.

Whatever happens, I have to just keep learning how to parent E and hope that this process will continue to foster a close relationship that will hopefully carry us through the turbulent teen years. Cause I shudder to think what will happen then.

Still, I can see how parenting could drive you to drink.


5 comments:

  1. Sassing or seeking truth? That's the question. I wish I had an at-home extra me to answer all the questions! If we just said, "Because I said so" they wouldn't learn how to think for themselves. It sounds like your detail-oriented daughter LOVES to learn, which is exasperatingly tiring for us moms at times. I know how you feel. I remember telling one of my sons that I only have so many words in me a day before I lose the energy to speak, so chose your questions carefully! He didn't buy it. Neither did I, but after 1 million questions, it was worth a try. You might enjoy my post about stages: http://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/journey-through-a-stage/
    It sounds like you are doing a great job, allowing your daughter to bloom.
    You might also like Mother Words: http://bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/316/

    You are one lucky mama to have such a precious daughter!

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  2. Amen!!! This post says it all!! You are so right about girls....my boys could care less about some of the stuff that Bella concerned with. I did already hear from her that all the girls in her kindergarten class have new school clothes and she was upset b/c she didn't have any. The peer pressure and competition has already started.....

    To me, it sounds like you're doing a wonderful job raising your children. I think we'll hit bumps in the road along the journey but hopefully they'll be minor ones!

    Look at this way....she'll have children someday. Then she'll be able to appreciate you even more!

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  3. I want to have a girl. And then I read your post and was reminded of how my sister and I gave my mom such a hard time growing up... deal breaker? Something for me to think about. ;-)

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  4. The challenges of a parent. Evan tries to wear his shirt and pants backwards, which is fine if we're not going out.
    I guess we're back to the old mantra, "This is just a phase. This is just a phase."
    Yeah, Good Luck with that.

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  5. As the mommy of four girls and no boys I guess I don't know any better. That's either a curse or a blessing. I'm not going to try and figure out which it is...

    :)

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