Yesterday was a fairly regular day at Casa Dotytron-Lagerfeld (current version). I tried to get the Big Yam out of the house on time, did errands with the Wonder Twins, came home, did some nap training, prepped dinner, the Dotytron brought the Big Yam home, we checked the advent calendar, made dinner, had a stand off with the Big Yam about trying a bite of zucchini (which he almost garfed on, when he finally relented after much cajoling and wheedling and threatening with Elf on the Shelf tattling), cleaned up after dinner, put a load of laundry on, tried to get the Big Yam to bed on time (which generally involves minor battles pertaining to: taking off his own clothes, putting on his pyjamas, brushing his teeth properly, not wasting time running around naked so that there's time for stories), and then took my customary hour of kid-free time where I lie out on the couch, talk to the Dotytron, and sometimes muster the energy to knit.
That's all pretty standard stuff. When I finally reached that much-awaited hour, the Dotytron and I got into a big discussion about how I was short and standoffish with the Big Yam after he came back from daycare, in the course of trying to get all of the above happening. I did a lot of: "I'm counting to five: ONE. TWO. THREE..." and a lot of putting my foot down, and all those things are okay as tools for generating desired behaviour, except that there was an undercurrent of frustration and anger that the Dotytron identified and that I felt really guilty about afterwards. I felt like a bad mom. A really bad mom. I felt so bad for ruining the Big Yam's life when at the end of the day, he is such a sweet, innocent, happy kid who just wants to play with us. I cried thinking about it and the guilt is so overwhelming that I've been periodically crying about it today.
When I took him to that new indoor play space, we ran into someone who recognized the Big Yam from going to drop-ins and seeing him there with his daycare homies and J. She introduced herself to me and made a point of saying that he was a really sweet, gentle kid. The Big Yam has that reputation in the neighbourhood. Then along come I, with my to-do lists, and my trying-to-keep-a-household-together and I feel like sometimes, all I'm doing is yelling and forcing him to behave and being all hard line, put-my-foot-down about things and that makes up the majority of our interactions. Like, all he wants is a bit of uninterrupted time with his parents, and he never gets that any more and it sucks for him and for us. The Dotytron does it too, by the way. I'm not the only harda** in this household.
We had a big talk and came away with some concrete "action items" (can you tell I miss being at work?) One: we're going to go a little easier on the kid. We're going to not be on his case all the time for little things like playing messy, or the small infractions. We've tended to treat all misbehaviour the same because we're frustrated and tired and we also want time to ourselves, but that shouldn't be the case. Two: We're going to try to make the majority of the interactions positive instead of negatively focused. The Dotytron says that as an educator, non-punitive, productive, positive behaviour modification is something he still struggles with. It's a lot harder to produce the effects you're looking for by being positive than taking the quick, easy, bearing-down route. But that's something we're both going to work towards. Our kid is awesome, he should know that and be rewarded for being awesome, punctuated with moments of being kept in line, not the other way around. Three: we're going to make an effort to cut down on distractions and try to give the kid some concentrated attention each night.
I think part of the problem is that we don't have a really robust support network for help. Halmeoni was amazing, but she had to go and quit on us (I kid). This an extraordinarily busy moment in our lives. Having two babies at once, having three under three, it is next-level survival mode. I have a tendency to downplay my need for help and to feel the need to convey to the world that I got this, but it would be awesome to have someone look after either the babies or the Big Yam or all three so that we can all get the one-on-one and alone time every permutation of our family needs and deserves. My mum is going to hopefully take the Big Yam over the holidays while his cousins are in town for a couple of days. My mum and Big D are from the school of "GRANDPARENT FUNTIME BACCHANALIA" which means all you can eat bacon for breakfast and ice cream and cookies and activities and no limits on TV, which is all stuff the Big Yam could use. They are always on my case about being too hard on him and not letting the Big Yam be a kid, which is rich, considering how hard they were on ME, but precisely the kind of grandparent about-face that you want for your kid.
Anyway, this is all to say that parenting is hard and that I'm going to try to be better and that's all anyone can really do. We're all just trying to make it in this workaday world.
Now I have to be off to finish my fresh cranberry garland, which ranks high on one of the top ten stupid ideas I've had.