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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

When Everything They Warn You About Is True

January 24, 2013 6 comments

Breakfast Club

Just wait until they’re teenagers, people would tell me, as I struggled up a flight of stairs with a double stroller and a Baby Bjorn strapped to my chest, at least obscuring my leaky boobs if hurting my lower back. I was too exhausted to reply with a clever quip, but my deadpan stare surely said shut the fuck up.

Without saying they were right, because clearly they were spiteful, I acknowledge there is a certain truth to their words: parenting becomes more difficult, in different ways, when children are older.

The hard labour of diapers and car seats and stalking pediatricians is replaced with a constant doubt: am I doing the right thing?

I used to consult baby books, and whether it was Dr. Spock or What to Expect During the Toddler Years, there was a plethora of information, all with clear answers. But teething issues morph into texting issues, how much is too much? being the new hot topic.

Part of the problem is the world has changed. Technology has made the world I grew up in unrecognizable, and I grapple with new decisions, that have serious repercussions. When I wondered if my daughter should have a cell phone, I worried on both sides; whether she would spend too much time texting, and conversely that she would be left out of the conversation if she didn’t. Same thing with Facebook, Skype, Instagram, etc. I attended a lecture about the dangers of teenagers and social media, the message being use caution and hope for the best.

Okie-dokie, that was helpful. Two hours I won’t get back.

Then there are the age-old problems that I’m facing for the first time as a parent. Reports of drinking, rumours of drugs, whispers of sex; none of which are in our lives yet but are hovering on the  horizon, far too soon. I want my daughter to have fun and enjoy her youth, and yet I quell a desire to lock her in her room every weekend.

With high school came makeup. One morning I noticed a hint of mascara, the next day it was a full-on smoky eye. The first day it was okay, fun! I even thought; the next day I made her take it off. The short shorts. The high heels. The cropped/backless/lace tops. No. No. No. Every morning she wakes, it seems she is a full inch taller and wanting to wear more makeup and less clothing.

As I deliberate the line between right and wrong, there is the attitude to deal with. What to do when your daughter talks to you like you are an imbecile? What is the appropriate comeback to shut up? Timeouts have had their time in the sun; I try to take away her computer, but then she can’t do her homework. Instead I take away her phone, but of course she simply uses her computer to talk to her friends. I try different measures, in the same way I continually try different brands of running shoes: I hope they will fix my injuries, but know they likely won’t.

These are just a few of the issues. Everyday there are more; more limits to set and more boundaries to create, which almost inevitably lead to lengthy discussions and the slamming of doors (sometimes hers, sometimes mine).

Attitude comes with the teenage territory, and the ground that we now tread on is full of potential landmines. I couldn’t see them back when I was pushing that double stroller, but to be fair I couldn’t see to the end of the day in that sleep-deprived state. As my friend explained to me the other day, all she wants to do is what’s best for her daughter. Something simple in theory, much harder in practice.

That could be what those seemingly spiteful people meant to say, all those years ago.

Dancing in the Dark

October 24, 2012 2 comments

Skipping their way to high school

My daughter started high school this September, and we are floundering, groping for a life preserver in harrowing seas, searching for something to hang on to before the next wave pulls us under. Not her, my daughter – oh no, she is having the time of her life – but we, as in my husband and I, and my comrades, grade eight moms with whom I drink wine.

They make it look so easy on Glee, the parents don’t even have a role to play. Which is exactly the point. I wasn’t quite ready to not play a part.

We were excited to start high school, and this time I mean both my daughter and I. Eight years in the same school, ten if you count preschool, and we were ready for a change. Change is good, keeps you young, invigorates your mind, restores sanity ( so I’m hoping). Even though change meant leaving her idyllic and inspiring elementary school, we squared our shoulders and bought a new, sturdier backpack for those heavy textbooks she would be hauling back and forth, and showed up for the first day wearing new, albeit ripped, jeans and a slightly nervous smile.

It turned out to be as shiny as the apple she refused to eat, having discovered pizza bagels in the cafeteria. High school was all that and more: locating her classes and navigating between campuses was challenging and interesting, bigger classes and a much larger school meant more friends, more boys, more teams, more clubs, more everything. All good, all exciting, two thumbs up, four if you count mine. (I personally had a little trouble finding her classes for parent teacher night, so let’s downgrade that to three, but why am I even in the picture?) My daughter was loving high school, is loving high school.

The problem, however, is she outgrew her knee-highs and grew into a social life overnight, while I simply rolled over in my sleep.

In the good old days, like two months ago, she did what we did on the weekend. If that meant trooping to her sister’s soccer game and then visiting friends for dinner, we did it together. But not now. Now there are football games to watch and movies to go to and mass sleepovers to attend and dances and the all-worrisome parties. Our measly social life is in peril, our babysitter is perennially busy. That is sad, seeing as we have only recently rekindled our dormant extracurricular lives; but what is even worse is this feeling that our cozy little bubble, the one that was all-knowing, all-hearing, all-seeing, due to my ability to hover over my daughter and discuss with other parents the innermost thoughts of our children (and occasionally break into her computer when there were discrepancies), this bubble has been burst open to reveal one single bold question mark.

I knew that starting high school would be the beginning of new independence for her, even went so far as to wish for it; I just didn’t expect it to hit so quickly.

So now we are scrambling to find and institute new boundaries. Huddling with other parents to compare notes and gather whatever information we can. Enrolling in social media lectures to help with this affront. I book her weeks in advance for babysitting, and ignore her inevitable eye roll.

And now we hope. Hope that all of those lessons we droned into her made some tiny impact, and that the choices she will make – without us hovering – will be good ones.

Consistently Inconsistent

March 27, 2012 6 comments

If I were to pluck a parenting book off a shelf, I’d wager there’s something between those pages about the importance of consistency. As in, you should react roughly the same way in similar situations. As in, the same rules should roughly apply for each member of the family. Roughly, right?

It sounds simple on paper, yet is astoundingly difficult in practice. When it comes to parenting, the only thing I am consistent about is being inconsistent.

I ruminated on this when I woke up clinging to the edge of our king size mattress, as my seven year-old lay stretched out like a snow angel in the middle of the bed, and my husband clung to the opposite side. We had been militant about not bringing our first and second children into our bed, lest it become a habit. Yet our third child lands between our sheets on a nightly basis, and we barely bat an eye. (We were right about one thing: it is habit forming.)

We barely recognize ourselves, and hardly know how we got here. Are we simply too tired of resisting? Are we susceptible to her status as our baby? Or have we simply relaxed our views on co-sleeping? Probably a little of each.

When my oldest child was two, I enrolled her in swimming lessons, gymnastics, preschool, and skating lessons. For the skating lessons, I recall dressing her like she was about to summit Everest, and then watched her crawl – CRAWL – around the ice with a marker in her hand, colouring on the ice, for twenty minutes. The dressing up and dressing down took longer than the lesson itself. It was ridiculous in so many ways,  but to be fair it was as much about me getting out of the house than about her learning double axels.

In comparison, my third child has recently taken her first set of swimming and skating lessons at the tender age of seven, and only because she begged me. The reasons for this one are more obvious: I’ve learned that until a certain age, these activities are useless, and I’m already too busy driving my other children around.

These are just the tips on my parenting iceberg. There are so many other examples – I can’t recall one time I have punished kids number two and three beyond telling them not to do something. Yet my first child has had so many time-outs it rivaled her time-ins. We have reels of videos of our oldest saying her ABC’s before she was two, but I had to give my second child a crash course on them the day before she started kindergarten.

With each child I’ve birthed, my parenting persona has done a triple toe loop. My over-bearing grip loosened with my second child, and then relaxed almost completely with my third. I’m inclined to blame it on my laziness, but I see it happening in families around me as well: generally speaking, parents chill more with each passing baby.

I once read a book about how your birth order affects your personality, suitably titled Birth Order and You (there was no chapter about being the ninth child, however, so no clues into my own quirks and oddities – judging by my own parenting, it’s amazing I was even named.) Otherwise, it was strangely accurate in its depictions of oldest, middle, youngest, and only children – I recognized a few of my siblings, and lots of my friends, in its characterizations. It’s fair to assume these personality traits are borne from the expectations and treatment by their main influences, their parents.

So I’m part of a predictable trend that creates headstrong firstborns, peacekeeping middle children, and smart but spoiled youngest children. (As my baby hogs my pillow, I detect a slight smile on her slumbering lips, and although my shoulder is killing me, I don’t dare change positions in the event that I wake her.) At least there is comfort in numbers.

Do you fit the birth order stereotypes? And if you’re a parent, have you unwittingly changed your tactics as your herd has grown?