Monday, July 27, 2009

Take two

Wednesday alone with both children went much better, with absolutely no property damage. We even survived a trip to the mall with sanity and limbs intact.

I've been pondering lately how much of when things go dysfunctional is my fault. Well, fault isn't really the right word. It's more accurate to say that things tend to go badly when I allow my expectations to become unrealistic. K is four, and as such, it's a given that she's going to throw tantrums, be defiant and experiment with how much obnoxious behavior she can get away with. That's the stage of development her brain is at, and I shouldn't expect anything different. I can and do try to respond to all of these undesirable behaviors with gentle but firm discipline. But it's easy to lose patience and instead of turning things into a game or pointing out what she'll be missing if she doesn't cooperate, resort to a stern voice and barking orders in hopes that she'll just do what I ask without nonsense or dawdling. This almost never works, of course. The stern voice works well in dog training, but usually has exactly the opposite effect I want when dealing with a child who is trying to push my buttons with defiance. It's so easy to slip into yelling when I'm tired and trying to juggle groceries and a crying baby and just want her to GET OUT OF THE CAR ALREADY. But while it's entirely understandable for me to lose patience in those situations where K is behaving in a provoking manner, ultimately what I can control is how I respond, which will hopefully result in better behavior on her part.

Changing my expectations has definitely made Alec's newborn days more pleasant than K's were. He is genuinely a better sleeper than she was at this stage, and it helps a lot that she had started getting reflux at this age which he doesn't seem to have (I think. It's becoming apparent to me that I have a bit of PTSD when it comes to K's reflux, and it makes it hard for me to tell how much I'm overreacting when he shows any reflux symptoms). But part of why he's a better sleeper is that I've recognized that he will only sleep well if someone is holding him. So that's what we do - stick him in the sling and go about our day. But with K, I put myself through a lot of stress wanting to be able to put her down and have her stay asleep, which rarely happened. I also didn't know how much sleep to expect from her at which age, so I went through stress over her not sleeping when it was that she was simply starting to wake up. With Alec, I don't have any expectations for his sleep at this age, so I enjoy when he's awake and interactive, and do my best to encourage him to sleep when he seems sleepy.

Mind you, it would take Yoda levels of zen to actually maintain the levels of patience I'm talking about about. I'm going to lose it with K, and just want Alec to go to sleep already or stop being so freaking fussy so I can just put him down for two seconds. But life goes better when I remember that it's changing my attitude that can make all the difference in a bad situation.

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