When Elisa pointed out that half of the year has come and gone, I felt a little panicked, as if I haven't accomplished much this year. I thought, what have I been doing all this time? And then I calmed down a bit because oh yeah, duh, I have been finishing up school, growing a baby, and looking after my family! Not bad! So far, I have really enjoyed setting these monthly goals. It has helped me reflect on all aspects of my life: from bad childhood habits like nail biting, to home decorating, and now to my parenting. I have been thinking a lot about being a good mom lately. Last month, I started listening to some parenting talks as part of a "Be a Better Parent" free online summit. The talks and some subsequent research have brought so many aha moments (learned SO much from this site) that now the only thing I really want to work on is establishing better parenting habits (and kick the bad ones).
Sure, I worked a bit on my goals from last month, but honestly, the thing I worked hardest on (and am still working on) was being a better mom to Hunter. You see, he's on summer vacation from school now, and this is the first time I have been all alone with Hunter for days and days at a time (not including evenings when Isaiah gets home, of course) at THIS AGE, after BOTH of us being in school with friends and fun for a whole year. There have been some very challenging moments and too many parenting mistakes. I am going to talk about them here because even though it's difficult to admit that I have done these things, I hope being open about it will help me avoid repeating those mistakes.
Although Isaiah and I have chosen not to spank our children or put them in time-out, when I've lost my patience with Hunter, I tend to get grabby. I've always told myself that any time I touch my child it should be a loving touch, but these are those times that I have not stuck to that principle. I remember the first time it happened, when he was around twenty-two months old and we were getting ready to leave the house for school. I was running late as usual, he was being silly while I was trying to get him dressed, and I snapped. I brusquely took him by the shoulders and spoke very sternly to him. He burst into tears. At that point, I remember feeling like it was my lowest mommy moment. When it happened again last week, immediately after he burst into tears, he asked, "Mommy hug?" With those two words, he said to me, "I need some reassurance that you love me because that was not a loving touch."
Of course, if my child's in harm's way, I have a split-second to react, and the only way to get him to safety is to grab him and move him, then I will do it, but I find most of the times I've been grabby with him, the situation could have been handled in a thousand better ways. One of my biggest issues with non-loving touches, such as grabbing, is the blow to my child's dignity. He is not a puppet that I can move about willy-nilly. He is a small human being. How would I like it if I were in a store about to take a product off the shelf, and someone came and grabbed my arm and moved me away from the shelf, especially without saying a word? The dishes in the sink can wait, looking put together doesn't really matter, and the laundry on the floor will eventually get put away because I can't think of anything more important right now than being a good mother to my spirited 2-and-a-half-year-old son.
1. Connect with Hunter. There is going to be a time very soon when I will need to split my attention between a newborn and an almost 3-year-old. I need to make sure I have a solid connection with Hunter so that he always feels loved and knows he is important even with a new baby around. I also find that when I take the time to connect with him throughout the day, he is less likely to show undesirable behaviors and more likely to go along with my requests. If I feel myself start to lose my patience with him, I need to check in on my connection with him. This also means waiting until naptime or bedtime to catch up on social media. He ALWAYS shows challenging behaviors if he sees me on my computer or phone. One of the helpful phrases I've heard a couple of times in the various parenting articles I've read is "connection before correction."
2. Eliminate the "morning rush." Leaving the house in the morning (or any time of day, really) is where I have faced the biggest challenge. It's one of my triggers, for sure. It's 10 minutes before the time we need to leave the house, and Hunter is not ready to go. It's all my fault, of course. I leave him in his pajamas for breakfast so he doesn't get his day clothes dirty. Then he plays a bit while I get dressed and gather everything we need to leave the house. Before I know it, it's time to go. He's busy climbing furniture or something, and the last thing he wants to do is sit and change his clothes. The solution? Get him dressed as soon as he wakes up so that the only thing he needs to do before we step out the door is put on his shoes. While getting dressed, talk to him about the day and what we need to do before we leave the house. I have an apron he can put on himself and wear at breakfast to keep his clothes clean. I also want to make a little "exit poster" than we can review 10 minutes before we need to leave. We would use it as a gauge to check that we're ready to leave the house. Communication and setting him up for success is key. (Seriously, why the heck did it take me so long to figure this out?)
3. Take a deep breath. Before dealing with a situation, if I take a deep breath, it actually helps me respond rather than react. Any time I have been grabby with Hunter, it's because I am reacting, not responding. One of my other "triggers" is when he is about to do something naughty or has just finished doing something naughty. For example, he is climbing on his stool about to knock over something breakable. My first reaction is usually to snatch him off the stool before he can do it. Instead, I should firmly call his name to get his attention, and then take a deep breath. Then I can ask him to leave the object alone. If he doesn't respond, I come close to him and say, "I see you are having a hard time stopping yourself from touching this. I am going to take you down from the stool now." Since I'm calm at this point, when I take him in my arms, my movements are gentle and loving. He may resist, of course, but I am not hurting him and he knows I care. OR he may have been too quick, and the object is shattered on the floor. Still, I take a deep breath. Stuff is stuff. He sees the consequence of his action. I tell him, "I need to move you to another room while I clean this up." After everything is cleaned up, we have a chat about what happened.
Easier said than done? We'll see when I will report back next month!