Friday, July 23, 2010

Balancing Equations and the Periodic Table of Emotions

When Avery is doing something wrong, like stealing toothpaste to eat or commandeering a toy that Maddie has claimed, she does it stealthily. Or, the toddler version of stealthily. She will, for example, hide the toothpaste behind her back, and edge around me, going so far as to walking backwards so I can’t see what she has. Just to make sure I am distracted, she will tell me to go into another room or to not look in her hands. Her attempts at subtlety are anything but. Madeline, on the other hand, doesn’t even try to be subtle. She is an in-your-face violator of rules. She feels no need to hide anything, ever. Her attitude screams, “Yeah, I’m chewing on paper. Go ahead and try to stop me.” When I ask her to cease a certain behavior or activity, her canned response is “But Momma, I am practicing!” Practicing ripping up paper, practicing throwing cheerios, practicing taking all of the cushions off the couch.

Interesting to see their little personalities develop. More interesting is that there isn’t a single mothering approach that works for both. They keep me on my toes.

I think we all idealize parenthood to some extent. When I envisioned motherhood, the type of mother I envisioned I would be is, in retrospect, the mother of one child. That is, all those grand plans and schemes I had are more suited to a one-on-one parent/child ratio. Which is to say, I thought it would be a LOT easier than it actually is. Something so basic as needing to fine-tune discipline approaches for each child is something that just never crossed my mind. Of course, now when I think about it, it seems obvious to the point of absurdity. But my little daydreams from long ago were quite macro, a one-size-fits-all approach. I actually thought I could just read books on parenting and poof, be the perfect parent. And then, of course, infertility pushed my into Faustian territory, which had me making promises of perfection in exchange for the gift of a child. I think all those promises went out the window by the second week.

So I am not perfect. I think it is a sign of progress that I am not beating myself up as much for these infractions. The girls will sometimes watch hours of TV while I cook and clean. There are perfect weather days when we don’t go to the playground. There are those times when Avery will snatch the bag of raisonettes from the counter and I don’t stop her, even though I know this will spoil her dinner appetite. Despite my doctor’s advice to make potty training an expectation that is not rewarded with treats, I reward with treats. In a big way. The thing is, I don’t really think that these parenting gaffes are going to screw them up. I know for a fact that my children feel loved. I know they will have an amazing childhood. I know they will be raised in structure, order and routine. And I know that we are planting legacy seeds here, as we are not just raising our children, but also our someday grandchildren, because how we treat our children now is how they will treat theirs someday. There is a lot at stake. Thank God for Nicole, because all this comes so easily to her. I guess I could chalk it up to the fact that she spends a lot less time with the girls, so she is going to have more patience than I would. But I know that that is not the reason. By nature, she is calmer and more patient than I am for sure. But I feel like I am getting better. I can say that I am the type of person who is very aware of my flaws. But for the most part, the sentence and sentiment stopped there. Now I feel like I am earning the right to say that not only am I aware of my flaws, I am also actively trying to change them. What good is clarity without effort? What good is knowledge without action? How unbalanced I have been, thinking I was all that and a bag of chips because I could identify my core issues. How easy it is to fall back on these old labels, these old descriptors. I am, for example, impatient. But I don't have to be. Progress.

Pictured above, more signs of summer: Drying bathing suits and towels. Tomorrow we will head for the lake beach again. And to my favorite pizza place for then pizza with asiago almond pesto, zucchini, squash, scallions and red onions. That is all that is on the agenda, and that is just fine with me.


K said...

This is an amazing blog post b/c you touched on a lot of topics: kids behavior, the way you think things will be, changing our behavior. Love this: "I am, for example, impatient. But I don't have to be. Progress." perfection : )


teeveezed said...


Briar said...

Who is this crazy doctor person who calls for potty training sans treats? Beckett gets a lollipop just for siting on the damn thing! Totally would not happen for years to come without treats.

Jeannine said...

You sound like a really healthy person - progress is wonderful.

Judy said...

Damn can you write! I have been away from the blog world for a bit(formerly A very open book,) but have come back to write about running....well sorta.
I've missed your little family and can't believe how big and beautiful the girls have gotten.