I've really been struggling with the idea of discipline lately. Addie is extremely strong-willed, and she's pretty smart, too, so some of the usual tricks--bribery, wheedling, force--don't work so well. Granted, this has been an unusual week. The kid is not feeling so well. But her strong sense of independence has definitely been presenting me with some challenges.
Like the fact that she hasn't taken one nap this week, even though she's clearly exhausted and needs the rest. We can give her some quiet time in her room and all, but I can't force the kid to sleep. She was banging on her door to be let out today, and I went in and sat her down and explained to her why that wasn't okay, and why she needed quiet time. "But mama," she said. "That's not true."
"Why isn't it true, Addie?"
"Because you're so silly."
The weight of my own history plays into this, of course. My parents were strong believers in having a heavy-hand with discipline. Like most kids of my generation, I was spanked, and there was a fair amount of I'm-putting-my-foot-down going on. Eric, on the other hand, was raised with a more liberal hand, maybe too free in retrospect. My point is not to judge our parents. Like most parents, they did the best they could, and it was pretty darned good. I mean, we turned out alright, right?
My point is that the pendulum often swings with this stuff. So, I haven't wanted to be too aggressive with Addie because I sometimes felt my parents were too aggressive with me, and at the same time I find that my first instinct is to be aggressive, to want to be rough or mean. Eric, I think, struggles with the opposite. We're pretty consistent, but where there is tension in our parenting styles, it stems from these two very different backgrounds.
These are my guiltiest secrets, of course, the things about which I feel the most shame. I've never spanked Addie, and never will. But honestly? There have been times I've wanted to. There have been times I've been grateful to put her in time out because I was the one who needed the break or else.... Or else. It makes me tear up just thinking about what the or else could be.
Anyway, what I have learned is that she doesn't respond at all to our trying to control her. It just forces more bad behavior out. For example, if she asks for pasta with pesto and tomatoes and olives, and I make her pasta with pesto and tomatoes and olives, but she doesn't eat it? I can yell and shame and give her the evil eye all I want, but she's not going to eat that pasta. Or, if she's walking around the grocery store not watching where she's going and she's running into other people's carts and knocking down cans and everyone in that store is looking at me like what the hell is your problem do something with your kid, already? Well, I can certainly get down on Addie's level and talk to her about why what she's doing is a problem, or I can stick her in the cart, but then we get a big screaming fit, and I have to just be okay with that. But then those people start looking again, and wonder if I pinched my kid. Grocery stores are just tough.
All I'm saying is that my face gets flushed and I get embarrassed and nervous in those moments, because I don't want to be one with the ill-behaved child. I don't want to see people shaking their heads at what a spoiled brat my kid is. All of these judgments come whirling down the canned fruit aisle, a sick little dervish of complaint and shame and judgment. And I'm hit full force, and sometimes forget who my kid is--a great kid--and who I am--a great mom--and feel like grabbing her arm, and squeezing just a little.
So there it is, my great shame. In writing it, I have just a little compassion for myself, and maybe will remember this next time I'm at Safeway, and will be able to walk through that storm, not take it so seriously, and remember that my kid is just fine, and so am I.
But I might think about pinching her. Just a little.