02 June 2006

Too Kind, Really

You all are really too, too kind in those comments about how vexed I was getting about Curious Girl's meltdowns and potty problems. I'm not sure what's so inspiring about someone realizing when to quit! I do think I'm good at being connected, staying attuned to what CG is really trying to say, and I'm also good at cutting my losses.

A bit of a digression, on therapy and parenting: Politica and I saw a couples therapist for a long time. We started going when we were heading out to the university where she had a tenure-track job and I had a visiting position, and we knew at the end of the year we would have to decide whehter to return here or stay there or try to move together somewhere else. And we started therapy to improve our communication skills around such a big decision. We hated the therapist we first chose (which actually helped us out, since we bonded about what we didn't like about him--he had a policy of not scheduling standing appointments, and when we were at a session which had led me to cancel a meeting with 7 other people I'd scheduled months earlier, and I suggested a standing time would be easier for me to handle, he said that perhaps I wasn't committed to therapy. Argh!). When we returned from far-away-place, we found a wonderful therapist who worked with us a lot about boundaries and choices. It took me years to work out the value of boundaries (I'd always worried I'd be lonely if I had good boundaries, only to find that good boundaries promote better connection). She also talked a lot about how we could choose how to react to what others do. And I would think, "but when Politica does X or Irritating Colleague does Y, what other choice is there but do be irritated?" But with Curious Girl, all these lessons seem so much more easily applicable. (And I learned them with Politica, and find them hugely useful for us, too.) When CG is having a fit, I'm patient mostly because I usually separate her fit from my reaction, and I don't let her determine my reaction. That it's often relatively easy for me to do this is because of all those years of couples therapy! What a bonus.

Back to parenting: So far, my new plan is working. We're stopping at potties practially whenever we see them (at least hourly and at any activity transition). She pooped in her pants last night, and I said "Our new plan! go take off your clothes and put them in the plastic bag." And she said "Right! our plan!!" She wasn't so big on picking up the panties, but she managed, and there were no tears. So that was good. We've had lots of snuggles, and I so appreciate the support in the previous comments about the value of parents holding their kids and giving an upset child what s/he really needs.

When we were visiting Politica's father last week, I had packed only my Teva sandals, and Curious Girl kept stepping on my feet. My toes were sore, and I got irritable. So I decided we needed a new plan there, too, since my reminders to her to please look at where her feet were in relation to me were not working. So I got these at a shoe store we kept walking past. CG was funny: she kept brushing by my feet and then saying to Politica, "And Mama's toes don't even hurt!" So my perspective on parenting is not without its tangible rewards beyond peace in the household. New shoes are a not inconsiderable benefit. (note to Elsewhere: no Danes here, but Politica is a first-generation Norwegian, so we have a lot of Norwegian family names and some Norwegian holiday customs. Norwegian and Danish are pretty close.)

I said above that I'm pretty good at cutting my losses. I'm also pretty good at picking friends. The blogs I read have also shaped my reaction to parenting challenges. Believe me, when I was pondering how to respond to CG and her meltdowns, many of Phantom's posts about LG and his own potty travails came to mind. Elsewhere's stories of Mermaid Girl and her choices also came to mind. The children I read about on blogs are so real to me; one of the things I love about parenting blogs is the combination of story-telling, hindsight, reflection, and dialogue. I just don't always get that in conversation with friends--sometimes, yes, but it's just not always possible with the pace of daily life. So many of you inspire me, and if any of my stories here help anyone else to take a deep breath in the midst of a challenge, I'll be glad.

I'm here, looking forward to your next story, grateful for comments many of you leave here, and happy about my new red shoes and my sweet sleeping girl who loves the basket of plastic bags and extra clothes on the steps.


Ianqui said...

I'm sorry I have nothing to add to parenting stories, but I did want to say that when I bought some Sketchers recently which were a poor imitation of those Keen shoes, I regretted not simply shelling out for the shoes I really wanted. So good for you.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Yes, good for you on the shoes. I have them in blue, and they are perfect for not being stepped on. And for taking long walks to special places with small children who have been cooperative about using the potty beforehand!

Deb said...

And now *your* reminder about separating our reactions from our kids' tantrums will become part of my own parenting repertoire! Thank you for that!

peripateticpolarbear said...

I LOVE my Keens (I have more than one pair, I 'fess.) I bet you'll be glad you have them.

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