Posted February 27, 2012on:
May is getting there, the emotional part of her inner life.
Just as it took May 20+ months to finally showed some curiosity about door knobs and their functions, and 26+ months to figure out that carrying a step stool around the house to explore higher planes would be a great idea, now it takes her about 30 months to reach the wonderous universe of inner life, all of its emotions and turmoils, the joy of sheer screaming, the cathartic value of tears, and the vindication that [light] thrashing on the floor could bring.
The fully verbal and [perhaps sometimes excessively] expressive May is now at the mercy of her feelings, lol. Specifically, she’s asserting her independence, at last. Breakdowns are pretty predictable – when she’s tired/not feeling well, when she’s sleepy, when I’m in a bad mood and in curt command mode, when she’s bored, and, sometimes, when she just wakes up. At those times, if I present a situation to her where she feels that she can’t negociate with confidence (she will mostly try to negociate, even when desperate) she’ll whine, and if I don’t remedy that, melt down.
Tonight, for example, I sent her downstairs for bed, and then remembered that Son was already fast asleep, since he’ll be on an early shift tomorrow morning. So I quickly came down and told her to leave Son sleeping, and to speak in low voice. She then tried to climb onto the bed, telling me that she wants to brush her teeth while she’s on the bed (which is what we usually do, but sometimes we do it on the floor as well) – I quickly stopped her and said let’s just do it on the floor tonight, because it would be too much of a commotion and it might wake Son up. She protested, so I told her to either we brush quietly on the floor in the room, or we move over to the guest room and brush on the guest bed. at that point May started protesting loudly saying she wants to stay in the room. I was getting progressively annoyed, so that fed into her anxiety.so she started to cry. With that, she was out of the room and deposited in the furthest corner of the guest room. I turned on the light, but told her that she can stay there to finish crying. Then I waited for her in the adjoining bathroom. She shrieked and cried for about 1 minute, stopped, listened, gave it a few more feeble attempt, and then complete silence. When she saw me coming back into the room, she just said “Mom, I’m sorry.” I said it’s OK, le’ts brush teeth. She said “Mom, I’m sorry” again after a short while. I was also done with my own time out, so I reassured her that I’m happy she’s done with her crying, and we’ll just get ready for bed as usual.
That’s her typical melt down.
I know what I could have done to prevent these melt downs, I could calm May immediately (she’s very mellow), I know what to say/do to get May’s cooperation in almost 99.9% of the cases – she’s that predictable to me because I can read her intentions well. But. I don’t. And I’m ok with that. My view on parenting has changed a great deal as May grows and as I spend more time sorting through my thoughts. I’m now moving away from the “positive parenting” and “unconditional attachment parenting” and “empowerment parenting” side- Maybe I was never really leaning towards that, but I am attracted to the philosophy as well as the passion and compassion that they call for. At the same time, I think I would go cuckoo trying to behave like a model kindergarten teacher – there’s a reason why I never went into teaching. I’m OK with showing May my displeasure when I don’t get my way. I’m OK with the consequences of May bursting into tears in direct reaction to my anger – my explosions are more like bubbles, rather than dynamite. I am good and stamping down my own annoyance and temper as needed, but the price is that I want the interaction to end ASAP, even when it’s with my own kid. I think that would be sad for May. I would rather that she sees me and learns to handle me over time, just as I know her and have learned to handle her.
May is not one of those sensitive kids, not one to sit and ponders about others’ feelings. She’s very nice and gentle to living things around her (unlike me when I was a kid) but their pains and pleasures also doesn’t affect her much (very much like me). She gains insights into others’ feelings through her own experiences, and only then does she care to make some connection (logical enough). She’s also very resilient and emotionally stable, and shows great capacity to cope with unexpected unpleasantries. Events during the day doesn’t cause wakeful nights. She doesn’t have nagging fears or persistent anxiety. She’s rather forgetful when it comes to emotions – she let bye gones be bye gones. With these temperment characteristics, I think challenges would add to her personal growth. I have some rules that I insist on keeping, even when it seems like a losing battle: I don’t coddle her if she cries loudly at night if it’s out of anger/frustration. Over time, she’s slowly cutting it short, though I have not seen any drastic improvement. She doesn’t cry at night a lot, but it’s one of the things I really really really hate, and I have spelled it out clearly to her. We always talk about things afterward, or whenever we feel like talking about feelings and such. I tell her exactly what to expect if she decides to cry at night instead of talking to me about something that’s bothering her (she does have the option to cry like an ant – low volume crying, but of course it’s not something she can control just yet), and she understands me very well, so whenever she throws tantrum at night, I let it play out and refuse to budge. I tell her also what to expect in worse case scenario: if everyone is asleep, she’ll be sent to the guest room to finish crying there, this is to save my own ass when there’s another baby in the future (we’re trying) .
Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I rush her along and refuse to explain the why’s and how’s to her, even though I see that she’s clearly frustrated. She quickly learned and accepted the fact that although sometimes I force cooperation upon her, I always go back and honor her questions/concerns afterward. She’s learned that in case I forget, she can remind me at a later time, and I would welcome all her questions. I just feel that it’s very important for her to learn to follow my instructions when I need her to.
I think about these things because I draw up life and death situations in my head: what if I need to hide her or take her into a dark place that would terrify her etc., etc.. What if her parents die? What if she is abducted or lost? I teach her to recite our address ( I know sometimes things could back fire), I teach her to memorize Son’s cell phone number as well as how to dial it on phones. I teach her what to do when people act crazy or angry near her. Where to go and what to do when she can’t find her guardians. What to do when she’s falling off a steep slope… I have a growing list of things I want to teach her, because she’s rapidly acquiring information and storing them skillfully into that little head of hers. She can recall info with a lot of ease. She’s not fearful of the world (yet) and she views most things with a sense of amused wonder. So I teach her self preservation rather than empowerment.
And don’t worry, she is also with Nana more often these days, and Nana is all about optimism and fun.
I am resolved to spend more time on her from now on, and less time in front of the laptop. I am also doing away with late night “me” time in favor of earlier bed time, hence, earlier morning wake up, so we can actually get out of the house to do things.