>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Apparently I have one friend that is hard core no spanking...who knew? Meet Sharla. My oldest friend. No like really old. Let me count...five....ten....fifteen..wow sixteen years. That is a long time yo! And I am a military brat so that has to be some kind of record with all the moving around I did. So Sharla is a single mom to Jackson. Remember my new respect for single moms? This girl gets the bulk of it. You can check out her blog called Just the Two of us here How does a single mom keep her cool? Read on my friends....
Greetings, Da Eads readers! Let me introduce myself. Stephaine & I go way back. Back to the mid-nineties when we were awkwardly adolescent and just discovering our true snarky wits. When she moved to the great town of Dallas, NC and joined me at WC Friday Junior High, I immediately knew this girl was destined to be a good friend. We shared not-quite-legal weekend jobs at the local flea market (did I really just publish that on the intar-web?
As for my story -- I’m a late-20s single mom to a 2 year old boy (yeahhh…. my ex-husband just out of the blue decided to peace the eff out of our marriage one day. When my son was 15 months old. After we had been together for ten years in what I thought was a happy, solid relationship. Say it with me now --- deeeeeeeeebaaaagggggggeryyyyy!!). I’ve managed to come out on the other side of that madness with my life still intact, barely medicated, and hopeful and excited about the experiences Jackson and I will share in our tiny little twosome family in the days and years ahead.
So on to the topic at hand --- TANTRUMS. I am no stranger to these evil storms of toddler terror. And I haven’t made it to the other side yet, so I’m still in the terrified how-bad-will-this-get-and-will-it-ever-end side of things. The worst days are when he seems to just get in a “funk” and has tantrums over and over and can’t be placated. His tantrum patterns are similar to labor contractions --- they come in and out for hours at times; usually not too lengthy (a couple of minutes max), some more intense than others. Where’s my mommy epidural? Closest thing I have to simmering it all down is pulling up a Dora the Explorer on the DVR !! Alas, most tantrums happen away from home; that damn Dora is never there when I need her most. No bueno, mi amiga.
His “tantrums” first started as self-punishment; he did the whole head-banging thing. My response to that was to ignore, and he learned rather quickly that it wasn’t conducive to his ultimate goal. The tantrums have since evolved into mixed arrangements of hitting, thrashing, throwing down on the floor, crying/yelling, and the like. Of course, the ones in public are the worst, and I’m sure he senses this slight shift in power and takes full advantage of the opportunity to humiliate me to no end. I try to retain the upper hand, but sometimes I do feel like I lose the battle. I try not to give in, but sometimes I just take a deep breath, remind myself that this behavior is completely developmentally appropriate, and let him “win” whatever he’s trying to achieve. Sometimes my sanity is more valuable than being a 100% hardass.
Many times, the tantrums erupt over his incessant urge to do things completely 100% on his own, and those are usually the battles that I let him claim victory, because sometimes his tantrums make me realize that I’m in the wrong here. I SHOULD let him do more things on his own, even if it will make a mess. Even if it will result in a mistake. Even if it will take more time. Sometimes it takes a crying thrashing 2 year old to snap me out of the my-way-or-the-highway mode and realize I do need to adjust my own attitude and just let him learn and experience things on his own.
But for other tantrums, it’s usually what-I-say-goes-and-that’s-that. At the recommendation of a seasoned mom of two boys, I read and am following the advice and guidance of the 1-2-3 Magic approach. I’m a firm no on spanking (no knock to other parents, just my personal choice). My approach is kind of a 3 strikes you’re out --- if he does something he’s not supposed to (whining, not following instructions, throwing something down on purpose, the list goes on…..), I say “1.” No explanation or discussion (unless it’s something he hasn’t ever done before, and a brief warning precedes the “1”). Subsequent offense gets a “2” and then if I get to “3” it’s a 2 minute time out. During time out, I do not interact with him at all or give him any attention or eye contact. There is little to no discussion on the offense – I may briefly mention it after his time out is complete. There are some things that don’t get a 1-2-3 --- hitting is an immediate time out. In the beginning, he just tested this game, and always went to 3. But now, he often stops at 1 or 2, so some progress!
The only problem is it’s difficult to handle in public. I try to stick firm with the 1-2-3, but do find myself waffling a bit because, hello(!), where the hell am I going to put him in time out?? I have been creative, and simultaneously mortified. Here are some places I have put Jackson in time-out:
In the car. While driving. I just announced he was in time out, turned off the radio, and didn’t talk to him for 2 minutes. Should have gone with the empty don’t-make-me-turn-this-car-around threat instead.
At Discovery Place (museum) outside the exhibit area. Just sat him against the wall and kind of stood a bit away. Tried to not feel like worst mother of the year as he cried and onlookers stared in confusion as to why I wasn’t consoling my sobbing child.
In WalMart in the shopping cart. I do the shopping cart time out all the time (even though I try to avoid taking him shopping at because he only lasts a good 5 minutes before losing it). I just push it a bit away from me, and ignore him for 2 minutes. Also creates confused stares from fellow shoppers, and many oblivious do-gooders ruin the time out by talking to him anyway. So perhaps a worthless effort, nonetheless.
On the sidewalk curb at an outdoor festival. Ditto on the embarrassment.
Sometimes Jackson brings laughter and frustration all at once with his antics. Case in point --- he was not behaving appropriately during bath one night, so he got a time out. Without wasting time, so the offense/punishment time ratio was slim, I just took him straight to his upstairs time out spot --- his PBK Anywhere Chair in the bonus room. Two minutes later, when I go to let him get up, I come in the room and he says “I pee pee.” And indeed, since he was wearing only a towel, there was pee all over the PBK chair. With a slipcover I have only ventured to spot clean because the insert was so effing frustrating to get crammed in the cover. Beautiful. Lesson learned, mommy. Time outs must include a diaper.
Other tantrum highlights?
Me carrying him (horizontal in my arms) screaming “My trains! My trains!” (along with my handbag and a coffee cup) through the Books A Million store after we left the train table.
Me mortified as he threw his plastic fireman hat on the ground in anger and almost tripped an innocent passerby dad holding his baby. (this was just this past Sunday!)
Me taking him thrashing and screaming out of Moe’s before we even started eating because he went ballistic nutso after he couldn’t eat the cookie first (damn that free cookie that I didn’t even know we were getting with the kids meal!!! And a PSA to all the Moe’s cashiers, don’t announce super loud and wave the free cookie in a toddler’s face. This mom will give you a death stare.). We sat in the car for 20 minutes with food left on the table inside. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to go back inside at all. We did, eventually. This was in my early single-parenting days, and at the time, it was a serious blow to the I-CAN-do-it-alone confidence.
And I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. This parenting rite of passage is overwhelming and immensely frustrating at times, but I have to take comfort in the notion that all around me, other parents are enduring the same torture. And it helps me to remember that my little guy is overwhelmed and frustrated himself --- he’s beginning a tremendous developmental journey into learning to manage independence and self-judgment. And I’m so thrilled to be able to enjoy the journey with him --- even if he does scream and thrash a little bit along the way.
Jackson pouting at an event last week....oh the cuteness. At least he is being green!