Wednesday, March 18, 2009


G has been acting up lately. Nothing serious, she is only 3 after all, but lots of "NO" and LOTS of crying and screaming. She nonchalantly swats or shoves her little brother. She stubbornly refuses to eat her dinner (and boy oh boy is she stubborn!). She has spent a lot of time in "time-out", some time in her room, and lots of time being reprimanded and told to behave.

(There have been moments, in all honesty, where I have let slip that last scrap of patience I was saving for dinner-time or pre-nap-time and I lose it and just snap. The first couple times, G got this look on her face almost like shock--which hurt to see; now I don't see it as much--which hurts a little too.)

My father-in-law suggested that she was jealous of her baby brother. But since that is always his explanation, I didn't really consider it. "She is 3", I said, "that is what 3-year-olds do." "She has always been stubborn and independent and contrary" (she is her mother's daughter--I am sure I deserve it at some level).

I didn't really consider it... until I saw it on video.

We recorded a series of videos of Nico starting to walk, because it is so darn cute. (I posted one below from youtube). There are 4 videos and in each one G is doing something distracting: running around weaving in and out; whacking her baby brother in the face with her little monkey; and yelling for papi to "come get me."

When it hit me, it broke my heart.

Nico is at that all-cute stage--chubby, smiling, starting to walk. He doesn't misbehave; all the attention he gets is positive. He is doing lots of "firsts" that we want to record as we did with G. He was also sick for a bit and got lots of coddling.

It must drive G crazy: Look, Nico is walking; Look, Nico is clapping, how cute!; Be quiet, Nico is sleeping; Don't hit Nico, he's just a baby; Nico didn't mean to pull your hair, he's just a baby; We have to go in, I have to feed Nico; We have to go home, it's Nico's bedtime... and on and on and on ad nauseum...

Part of that is unavoidable. Babies (and I) do better on a schedule and this past year the daily routine has revolved around Nico eating and sleeping. There are a lot of things we don't do because it will interfere with naptime (and I'm not crazy about tired, cranky babies--so I rarely disrespect naptime).

The other part is that everyone gushes and coos over adorably chubby little babies. No one gushes over a grumpy, obstinate 3-year-old.

So we(mostly me--I am the mean disciplinarian) are trying to take the positive attention up a notch and lay off the reprimands. I am making a conscious effort to have more sweet moments with her (one of those things that when they are babies you never think will take effort), play with her more, laugh with her more, control less, react calmly when she misbehaves.

Sometimes, it is a lot harder than you would think--which makes me sad (why is it so much easier to snap?)

... but it seems to be working. She looks happier; she is sweeter; there are fewer battles.

I wish I didn't need to be reminded of the big picture. I wish that my lack of patience or lack of sleep, or need to have onegoddamnminute to myself didn't take precendence over how G feels. It is so easy to get lost in the minutiae of small daily battles: the eat-your-meal-battle; the pick-up-your-blocks-battle; the you-need-to-be-sleeping-battle; the we-don't-hit-battle; the-I-will-help-you-but-you-have-to-at-least-try-to dress/undress-yourself-for-godsakes-you-are-3-battle; the you-have-to-at-least-try-to-go-potty-before-we-leave-battle; the no-screaming-battle; the-how-do-we-ask-nicely-AND-without-whining-battle; the daily will-I-survive-until-bedtime-battle.

It is easy to lose sight of the big battle: raising a happy, secure, emotionally-(unscarred)-well-adjusted, responsible, empathetic child who feels loved and is capable of loving. It is easy to forget that how you fight the little battles, will essentially determine to what extent the big battle is won or lost.

Knowing that everything you do and say will leave an indelible print is both a blessing and a curse.

(If you want to read a beatiful post that perfectly sums up how I feel a lot as a mother, go HERE. She is one of the most beautiful writers I have read on the blogoshpere--or elsewhere. I love her honesty)


Danielle said...

Good luck with G:) I'm a believer in positive reinforcement. I worry about when I have another baby. I'm sure it will be the same story. Sounds like your doing a good job though. Keep it up :)

anymommy said...

Thank you for the lovely compliment. It absolutely made my day - in fact it made my week and it was a rough week!

This post really spoke to me. I have been struggling so much to be positive with my 3 1/2 year olds lately. Sometimes, I feel like entire days revolve around nagging them and scolding them and just boiling over with frustration at them. I'm trying to use more positive reinforcement too, although, it is hard.

Also, omigod on the refusing to get dressed/put on shoes/ incessant whining about the same. I FREAKING hate it. If I don't practice deep breathing, every morning begins with a horrific power struggle.