I normally do a weekend recap on Mondays (and honestly it's the only blogging I've been doing lately), but our weekend was so uneventful I couldn't bring myself to write about it, and you know my standards aren't high. Ryan was out of town until last night so we just did errands, ate our weight in pickles from Ruggles, and folded laundry.
Instead, I'll try to write about a post that's been brewing in my little noggin' for a while; being a mean mommy.
If you've read some of my parenting posts the past six months, you've probably figured out that it's been a tough six months for me. No, I'm not trying to martyr myself, life is good, but it's been a challenging six months for me in terms of parenting. I felt like we breezed through the newborn stage, the first year was so fun and felt easy with the occasional sleep regression thrown in, and then around 18 months, I felt like I lost my groove.
Every single minute of every day was a struggle, contained a tantrum (or so it seemed) and I felt like I was starting to hate being a stay at home mom. Ryan's travel picked up around this time, so maybe that had something to do with it, or maybe it's that Olivia's already strong personality set in even more, maybe it's just that age, or maybe it's a combination of all the things, I'll never know.
Nonetheless, I felt like I was in parenting survival mode. All the things I said I'd never do as a parent, I did. I felt like just standing in the grocery store and surviving an epic meltdown was all I could manage, let alone parent through it. I didn't even know what I was supposed to do at that age, and I was steadily losing ground to a tyrannical toddler. I bargained, bribed, and begged. I felt like crying almost every day and my resolve to hold off on more kids strengthened with every week. Cheery, right?
Then something awesome happened. Steph came to town for 9 days. I can't tell you what a difference it made to have someone around to tell you "it's ok to do that", "that's not too mean", "that's not ok for her to do that". I spend 90% of my parenting time solo, and I lose perspective and honestly felt so defeated, I felt like giving up. She never overstepped her bounds, she just gave me the confidence and reinforcement to do what I knew I needed to. I needed to be a mean mommy.
I don't really mean "mean". You know that we can't have a blog post around here without some dramatic flair, so don't worry that I've lost it.
Here's what I realized:
1. If she can understand "go throw this in the trash and then go wash your hands" and follow through, she can understand "sit in the cart and don't get out". Duh.
I had to start holding her to a higher standard, knowing that she understands exactly what I'm saying.
2. If I'm not consistent, it's all a waste. This means pulling the car over no matter where I am to tell her that it's not ok to try to squirm out of her carseat (anyone else have a toddler who can undo the buckles? It's terrifying). Every time. It means time outs for throwing things because she's angry, even in the grocery store. It means a lot of work up front.
3. I have to catch her doing things right.
I felt like I definitely praised her before, but when I stepped it up and really laid it on thick during the times she was following instructions, she grinned a little grin and complied even more.
4. She won't hate me because I'm strict.
I was afraid to be stern, even angry when she did things that were wrong or maybe even dangerous, that she'd reject me and be even more resistant to following instructions. I was so, so, so wrong about this.
The firmer, stricter, and sterner I am (in the appropriate situations) when coupled with relentless consistency, the more she obeys. I feel like a have a brand new kid lately. She's more affectionate, giving more hugs and kisses than ever. Listens to me when I tell her to stop, or come back, or to sit in the cart. She's eating more at meals, sitting at the table until we're all finished, going to bed with no fuss, and even initiating new habits we've started, like holding my hand when we go from the house to the car.
And guess what? I'm nicer now. She knows I mean business when I tell her no, or how to do something, so I actually spend less time telling her no. I spend more time praising her because she's doing so much right, and it's working.
Does this mean it's perfect? Oh hell no.
She's 2 for crying out loud, it's going to be a mess sometimes, but I love being home with her again. I don't feel like I'm drowning in my own incompetency anymore, and that's a relief.
So, I apologize for the ramble, and I realize that this parenting style doesn't work for every parent or every child, but it's saved my mama mind. For the first time in a long time, when Ryan came through the door tonight after being gone since Monday, I didn't feel like I needed to toss her at him and go drive in the car for 20 minutes just to be alone, drink a Diet Dr. Pepper and blast my Britney Spears Pandora Christmas music.
I sat behind some teenagers at dinner tonight who were talking about how they're going to parent and how they won't be like their parents and I was flat out cackling to myself. Sure, you'll be cool parents with kids who want to share everything with you, yet never get in trouble, and you won't get stretch marks or hemorrhoids, or spend a whole day with a velcro cookie attached to your bum.