I was standing in line for coffee at Starbucks when a woman walked in, talking loudly on her cellphone. As she got in line behind me, I couldn’t help but overhear that she was having an argument with her husband. Her side of the conversation went something like:
“Taking care of a child involves discipline. Discipline. DISCIPLINE!”
“I want to be the fun one. It can’t always be you who gets to have fun and me who disciplines.”
“I know you put the car seat in but to suggest that I’m the one who does nothing is ridiculous. You do nothing.”
“Don’t say, ‘Whatever.’ It’s not ‘whatever.'”
“It’s not a burden. I’m happy to be with him. But it’s a lot.”
I was eavesdropping, so I couldn’t reach out to this woman. But as I sat down with my computer, I watched as she, having ended her conversation, fumed while waiting for her coffee. I wanted to give her one of these:
What she said sounded so familiar. I’ve talked before about how division of labor with a child is really tough. It helped to hear this woman’s convo, to know that I was not alone. I wanted to tell her that she wasn’t, either.
Later in a FB mom group I’m part of, a mom posted that she was very upset because her child was being mean to her, and super nice to her husband. Everything was about Daddy, and poor Mom got to hear her first, “I hate you!” Other moms told her that it’s us who kids usually feel closest to, so we’re the ones they take their frustrations out on.
When you stay at home with your child, it’s the parent who works (often Dad) who is the novelty. So when they get home, it’s all about Dad. Dad gets to be the fun parent, the parent kids don’t see as much, the parent who lets them eat whatever, watch whatever and do whatever. Daddy’s a softie. Dad might let us do things that Mom won’t. Remember this commercial?
These are all generalizations, of course. I do feel like the main disciplinarian, but I don’t feel that LM has developed a strong Daddy preference (yet). Most of the time it’s all about Mama. And yet, I know the day will probably be coming, and it’s one of the things about him growing up that I’m dreading. I don’t want him to be a mama’s boy (who am I kidding — of course I do!) but I still want to hold a special place in his heart.
Being a mom is a hard gig.
Moms, are you the main disciplinarian? Do you feel like you bear the brunt of your child’s frustration?
Confession: Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. I know most moms, especially first-time moms, probably feel this way. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to figure out how to set limits and enforce rules.
My son is strong-willed and fearless. He wants to do things that are sometimes dangerous. I find myself saying, “No, please don’t do that” multiple times a day. Don’t stand on that chair. Don’t jump off the sofa. Don’t play on the stairs. And each attempt is either followed by me giving in – “Oh, just forget it, do what you want” – or me forcibly stopping him from doing the activity, which will be inevitably followed by a tantrum.
I know I have to be clear about what the rules are. I know I have to show him that I’m in charge. But he constantly testing me and testing the boundaries of how far he can push the envelope.
My husband sometimes lets him do things I wouldn’t. He says he has to pick his battles.
But I’m alternately worried that I’m spoiling him and that I’m crushing his spirit. I want him to be well-behaved, to follow my instructions without me having to raise my voice at him. I want to remain in control at all times (Remember, you’re the grownup, I tell myself). I want him to just f’ing listen to me! Wait, remember, you’re the grownup.
While I was pregnant I read Bringing Up Bebe, an account of an American mom living in France and her observations about why French children are so better behaved than ours. But blaming mommy and/or pregnancy brain, I can’t remember what she finds out. I meant to re-read the book. I got one chapter in and got distracted. Probably by a tantrum.
One thing I do remember is that French parents set strict limits, but then allow their children lots of freedom within those limits. This sounds great in theory, but I need some specifics about how to practically apply that philosophy. For example, is it OK for LM to run back and forth on the couch – does that fall within the boundaries of what’s acceptable? No clue.
If he’s doing something I don’t like, I try to distract him with something else. But that doesn’t always work. He won’t sit in his high chair – he wants to sit on a regular kitchen chair. Of course this means he can get up and down at will, which is not good for mealtimes. It also means he can’t reach the table and I have to feed him, so teaching him to eat on his own isn’t really working.
And when it comes to meals, since we’ve had such issues with food, should I just let him eat what he wants? Or should I only give him the option of what we’re having? Is too many options not a good thing either? Kids need structure, right?
He wants to go in the stroller. OK, fine, we’ll go for a walk. Halfway down the block he says, “All done.” Do I take him home or keep walking? I either end up with a screaming child, or we go home only to have him say, “More.” Really? Why won’t you f’ing make up your mind?? (Remember, you’re the grownup.)
Diaper changes. I don’t even want to mention diaper changes. He has no choice – he has to have them. And yet they elicit from him such blood-curdling screams that I’m sure the neighbors think I’m torturing him (Foggy Daddy’s response to that, “No. They’ve had kids. They know.” Hope you’re right, FD!).
He can’t have his way all the time. I don’t want to reward his tantrums, but sometimes it’s hard to hear him scream.
I’m really at a loss with this one. This parenting thing just keeps getting harder and harder.
Any advice for setting limits for strong-willed toddlers?