When I carefully reflect upon my parenting style, this comes to mind:
I try very hard to stick to a method of parenting, particularly in the discipline department, that makes sense to them (and to me). I try very hard to give them clear instructions in phrases that both can understand. I try very hard to keep my sanity when my method fails.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t figure out this parenting, or discipline, thing, as it were. In fact, given how little I cared about what the extended neighbourhood, the library patrons, the staff at the local convenience store and the squirrels for that matter thought about my most recent situation only emphasizes my confidence in myself as a parent. Here I was, dealing with two rowdy children who refused to listen and didn’t care how much noise they were making, and I did not give two hoots about who was watching, or whether I was being judged (or pitied, as it were).
Just because they bickered and complained and fought over who got to pull the wagon to the library didn’t mean that I had to involve myself in their matter. Sure, I was there to help guide and initiate techniques to help them cope with the issue at hand (sharing), but have you ever tried negotiating with a toddler?
I tried reasoning with the 4yo. He is, after all, capable of understanding some rational thought. Finally, I said “she’s too little to pull that big heavy clunky wagon all the way to the library. She’s going to get tired, and then you’ll get your turn back”.
Obviously I was demented. How long have I known said toddler? 23 months? Let’s describe our little Sonja here: focused, determined, hard-headed, stubborn, strong, strong-willed…you get the picture.
There was arguing. There was complaining. There was no listening to mommy’s insightful commentary, reasoning, negotiating, threatening and eventual yelling.
So I did the only thing I could do: I quit.
Yes, I quit rather dramatically. I sat on the sidewalk and refused to go anywhere.
Naturally the kids were stunned. Then they started freaking out even worse. They realized that with mommy sitting on the ground they were not going to the library, nor were they going anywhere else. They started negotiating, yelling, complaining at me…and I simply redirected them to each other.
“Benjamin, you two are fighting over the wagon, you are both not sharing, and nothing I recommended has worked, so now it’s up to you two to solve your own problems.” I paraphrase here, but that was the gist of it. And honestly, Benjamin tried to solve his problem. He is better equipped than the toddler to give up things, or wait longer than he wishes for something. He’s realized long ago that Sonja does what Sonja wants when Sonja wants, and that there is little anyone can do to make her stop.
What he did know is that he did not want to cancel the library trip. So he indulged his sister, and let her pull the wagon. He became a very big boy at that moment.
Then he turned into a little boy and reached for my hand. And I praised him for coming up with a solution that resulted in the continuation of our trip, and promised him that his turn will come again.
We approached the library. Benjamin was feeling rather sad. He asked me if his turn has arrived, and I started to sputter out some sentence toward his sister when it dawned on me that initiating a trade NOW, less than a minute from the library door, will result in, um, shall we say, loud protests that will ultimately result us not being able to enter the quiet establishment.
Again, Benjamin had to wait. But then, with the street crossing about to happen and the toddler refusing to listen to “stop” and “wait”, I single-handedly removed her hand from the wagon handle and picked her up. Safety has become the more current issue here. Naturally, she started to complain.
But being a family who reads, and frequents library trips two, three times per week, I recalled a favorite story and immediately quizzed her about it:
“What happened when the lion made noise in the library?” I asked the child. She knows this book and happily responded to my questions, and I managed to keep the uneasy quiet for the duration of a very quick library stop.
And yes, Benjamin got to pull the wagon all the way to the store, and all the way home. Without further incident (well, no major incident), we arrived at home.
And then I poured myself some of this: