Friday, November 05, 2010

Nature, 2. Nuture, Zero.

Avery may physically resemble Nicole, but it is becoming abundantly clear that Avery has the same emotional framework that I have.

The girls and I came up to Massachusetts early again this week. My “soaking up every last ounce of fall” rationale is evolving into “we need to be here to witness the first snowfall, which can be any time” excuse. Regardless, the girls love it, and I do too. Walks in the woods and trips to a real food store and visits to the library and running in the driveway trying to catch leaves as the fall on us does our souls good. Obviously, the biggest drawback is Mommy/Nicole withdrawal. We all know that I do not crave many spaces in togetherness, but I am at the point in life when I realize 1.) it isn’t all about me anymore and I need to remember that the girls come first and 2.) some space is a good thing and 3.) Nicole loves alone time so she benefits from an empty apartment every now and then and 4.) really interesting things happen when routines are all shook up.

Avery mentions Nicole all the time and asks when she is coming back. She misses her in an obvious and constant and wistful and occasionally visceral way. (Madeline, on the other hand, is the strong, silent type.) That alone makes her a lot like me. But our exchange the other morning really drove the point home.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like to yell or raise my voice to the girls, but when one spends 12 hours a day, every day, with them, sometimes I slip. And being up here alone, without Nicole, means that there is not an ounce of relief in sight. The other rainy morning, I was trying to get the girls dressed and shoed and jacketed and hooded and out the door to go to a toddler event at the library. I am never late, but having kids has definitely pushed me to the border of my lateness comfort zone. Cooperation is key, and I wasn’t getting it form Avery at all.

The more I asked Avery to cooperate, the more she too that as a license to run around like a crazy child. And she was being very picky and petulant. She had a fit and wanted to wear Maddie’s jacket, which I foolishly acquiesced to after about five minutes of listening to her whine about it. But then, after I switched the coats (Maddie is so very low key about these things), she wanted her coat back. You see where this is going. I started to loose my patience, and I spoke in a strong voice. She was jacket-less. She still didn’t have her shoes on. Maddie was ready and I was ready, so I started gathering the keys and books and told Avery to put on her shoes and meet Maddie and me at the car. Avery freaked out. She burst into tears, and ran around in circles looking for her shoes. She looked and acted terrified and was clearly in a panic. And then she broke my heart and asked me “Can you please hug me, Momma?”

She has asked for hugs before, and I know I need to hug her after a time out or a tough toddler/Momma moment, but this time it hit a chord with me. That is something I would do, demand that hug. Beg for physical contact. That is exactly how I act. I get so upset when I know (or think) I disappoint someone or even just during a difficult exchange that I feel like I need an instant and immediate physical act of proof that the other person still loves me. So while maybe I made someone mad or upset, I still feel like they love me. Childish, I know, but it is important to me. And it is why I tried to enact a rule that Nicole and I had to hold hands when we argued (I read it somewhere), but that sort of fell by the wayside. But I do think it is an important symbolic gesture.

Nothing is crueler than capitalizing on a child’s worst fears, and I won’t do it to mine. Some people, once they smell your intense fear of abandonment, really love to exploit it. This fear of mine has been exploited on quite a few occasions in my life, starting at a very early age. Was I born this way or did it evolve? I don’t know. But I do know that apathy and abandonment and even the threat of abandonment certainly added fuel to that emotional fire of mine.

While denying Avery affection or a hug certainly would drive my own point home to her, I won’t do it. There are probably 40 parenting philosophies that contradict this, but I will hug Avery on demand, no matter when she demands it. I will interrupt a time-out for a hug. And I am now starting to tell her that even when Momma is angry or upset or sad that she did something, I still love her. I don’t want her growing up thinking that love is conditional or that abandonment is normal. It’s not in my world.

In fact, I have a philosophical argument that proves that there is no such thing as abandonment, but that is another post.

And right now, at this very moment, Avery is biting her toenail with her mouth, which is something I did as a child (and can assure you I DON’T do anymore!). Nature, Point 2!

Pictured above, look who snuggled next to me as I typed this post. See….no space, physical or otherwise, in our togetherness! And also, late fall pictures.


K J and the kids said...

Sick sick sick....I bit my toenails too. I don't think I COULD do it today. :)

I agree. I have done that exact thing and always end up saying, "honey...I would never leave you. I promise...but you need to get in the car"
and then I feel terribly guilty and promise myself that I will never do it again.

I have a post coming about how we parent because of our own experiences. I can't decide whether it makes us better or worse.

anniefoley said...

hugs are gods candy, those and blue cheese... first snowfall this year was in october, but i guess we can pretend til it happens again. love this post. all warm fuzzies and stuff, but still waiting for the tea.

Dora said...

I think you did great. Discipline is important, but affection doesn't EVER have to be withheld. Love the top picture.

Steph said...

I have totally traumatized The Boy by threatening to leave Mr. B. Mr. B on the other hand could care less (and my threat was directed at him but it freaked the boy out). I can no longer make that threat around here.

As for the hug - absolutely give the hugs on demand. Any parent book or philosphy that makes you deny hugs is crap. I love "Positive Discipline" by Jane Nelson (I know Carey's blogged about it). She has a Positive Discipline for the preschool years which you may like. And I know for a fact that she's all about hugs! and hugs on demand! Infact, you might suggest that you need a hug next time she's melting down - that may help!

Shelli said...

Malka will now say, during a period of punishment, or when I'm clearly mad at her: "I know you still love me, Eemah, even when you're mad at me."

Little shit! Giving my own words back to me, JUST to deflect my anger. Harumph! ;)