Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oh, to be two again...

We didn't leave the house today, so Mitchell and I had some major quality time together. As we went through the course of the day, I got to thinking about what it must be like to be two years old. I think it is as two-sided to them as it is to us on our end as parents.

On the one hand, life is great. Toys everywhere you look, you get help cleaning up, someone keeps you warm, fed, clothed, comfortable, and loved. Your pleasures and leisure time FAAARRR outweighs the demands that are put on you. I think my favorite might be nap time. It sure would be nice to get out every book, cooking utensil, scrapbooking supply and movie I had an interest in today and know that someone would swoop in and help me clean up my mess. I would love it if someone was making sure that I had enough blankets on me at night and that my temperature was okay. If someone made all my meals and did all my dishes, well, heck...that would be heavenly. Having someone bathe me, sing me songs while they massaged lotion onto my skin, and dress me in clean pj's wouldn't be so bad. Pretty much being entertained by someone or something throughout my whole day wouldn't be such a bad thing.

On the other hand, you are living with control freaks. Someone decides when and where you're going, who you're going with, where you sit, what you wear (most of the time), what you eat and drink, when you get changed/use the potty, and which activities you can and cannot do at any given time. Oh sure, you eventually get involved and are offered choices, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy having someone tell me what to do, how to do it, and hearing "no", "not now", "not yet", "not a good choice", "put that down", "please stop", etc. all day like he does. I know it's all part of life and that we're helping him make good choices and setting limits and boundaries for him, I just bet I'd get sick of it after a while. (I know, I know...we also praise him too, but I just was thinking about how it must feel to him. Obviously, that's a futile effort because they process things so much differently.)

I was really thinking about this during a couple of time-outs that we had today when all the poor little guy did was imitate me. I mean, how fair is that, he does and/or says what I say and he gets punished? Yikes. Let me explain...he woke up from his nap clearly too early, as he was still grumpy and groggy. My solution (since he had zero interest in remaining in his bed) was to have him lie on a pillow on the floor in the living room while I folded laundry. He had a blanket, had his cup of milk, all was good. He got this bright idea after I moved his Thomas book that he wanted to watch Thomas. Well, it wasn't "tv time" yet, so I said "No, not yet. Lay down and rest some more." Well, I've worked hard not to have words come out of my mouth that I don't want shot back at me, so one of the strategies I've employed is to say "shush" or "shhhhh" to him. Well, he "shushed" me very loudly and with his finger pointed. It was REALLY snotty, so I told him that wasn't nice, please don't do it again. He shushes me again. I told him that he was not being kind and the next time he said "shush" he'd be in time out. So, he did it again and there I was...the time out warden.

Mitchell does not like to stay in time out and that really frustrates me. So, my new strategy is the stairs. I can keep an eye on him, the clock, and keep my distance but be close enough. He has three stairs he can sit on...that way he has some control about where exactly he sits, so I'm trying to give him some room. Well, he kept insisting on sitting on the floor. Ugh. He is a screaming, crying, kicking, snot dripping mess at this point, but I feel like it's really important consistency-wise to see this through. So, in order for him to do his 2 minute time out, it ends up being close to a half hour of him sliding to the floor and me putting him back. Slide. Back up. Slide. Back up. I was working VERY hard to not lose my temper (which from the 15 minute or so mark on was pretty challenging) and the majority of the time I said nothing. Just re-positioned him on the stairs and walked away. (My back hurts now, by the way, in case you're wondering.) Occasionally I'd say, "Mommy can't start counting your 2 minutes until you stay in time out." When he did sit there, I'd praise him with "Good choice, buddy." Needless to say, he eventually made it out. He knew what he did and apologized for "shushing" and I explained that it was his loud voice and his finger pointing that made it not very nice. I told him that I know mommy does that too, and I'm sorry if it ever seems mean to him. We hugged, love you's, etc. and that was the end of rest time.

It just made me think though, how frustrated I would be if my "boss" acted like that. I mean, if I imitated what he said/did at staff meetings and was then put on probation or sent home for it, wouldn't that really make me mad? It's times like these when I just *hope* I'm doing the right thing. I just want him to be a good person who takes responsibility for his actions. Maybe I say "shush" or "shhh" louder than I think I do, or point at him...time to take inventory of that one! Here I was thinking I was doing all of us this big favor by not saying "be quiet" all the time...he might as well have told me to shut up with his body language and tone of voice today! Ugh. So NOT what I was hoping to accomplish. That happens a lot as parents, I think.

He really is a good boy and I think part of his hysterical tantrums during time out is just not knowing how to express his frustration. (That, and he is genetically at a disadvantage as the son of two parents who also know how to be cranky.) I try to give him the words, but how often is that successful for adults? I mean, often can someone say "Tara, I know you're feeling frustrated right now, but you need to use your words." Wouldn't that just make you more mad?? When you're two, I imagine it's much more fulfilling to scream and stomp your feet and throw toys and hit and kick, because Lord knows that I still feel like doing that myself some days. (I'm a recovering door slammer, by the way.) Besides, no one makes me go to time out and sit somewhere to calm down...the difference is that I do it myself. (Remove myself from the situation or whatever.)

Today after the second timeout, we talked about making sure we help Georgia figure out how to be a good girl. We talked about whether or not he wanted her to learn how to hit, kick, yell, bite, etc. (Thankfully he said no to those.) Then we talked about good things we could teach her...using her words, hugs, kisses, clapping, singing, dancing, eating, etc. He seemed happy after that conversation. It amazes me that he really does love her very much already, and I don't think he even totally gets it yet.

I hope I'm not asking too much of him, but I feel like consistency is a huge part of helping Mitchell understand how to be successful in the world around him, and not just when it's going his way and catering to his every whim and fancy. I think he's getting it...but he definitely pushes the envelope to make sure. (We repeated the time out about two hours later for the same thing.) I hope he knows how much we love him, even when he's being a little stinker and that us loving him so much is the whole reason we're putting limits on him. I think he knows and it does my heart good to hear the GOOD stuff come back out at me, too. The "I love you", "Bless you", "I'll help you", "Sweet dreams", etc. I could actually write just as much, if not more on the good stuff...I was just motivated to think about the bad stuff today. If he ever has any doubts about us loving him, I guarantee we'll only be too happy to remind him as often as possible. :)

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