My twins are only five years old, but that doesn’t mean I’m in any way smarter than they are. In fact, most days, it feels like quite the opposite.
See, I’m not so good at the “because I said so” line. I always hated it when I was a kid, and I went into this whole mom thing having made the conscious decision that I was never going to do that to my children.
I was wrong.
I was so wrong.
Part of the problem, of course, as I mentioned laughingly to a friend before I had to carry my kicking and screaming five year old off the playground about an hour later (because that’s totally not embarrassing at all, by the way…or and in before you say “it’s your own dumbass fault.” I KNOW. Hence, post. Right?), anyway, like I mentioned to her, it’s because I have too much respect for my kids.
I know, I know, gasp! How could you ever have too much respect for your kids? Especially you, Darlena, I mean, you yell at them all the time! That’s not respect!
Okay, but bear with me.
Let me rephrase. I hold my children up to expectations I would have of an adult. Not in obvious ways, because I can tell they’re five. No, in more…ingrained ways. It’s hard to explain.
Basically, I expect my kids to think like I do when things are going in a normal way on a normal day. I project my sensibilities on them, so that when I say something like, let’s leave the playground, and then they say no, and then I say yes, and then they get upset and tantrum (just a little, we’re getting to the big ones, just wait), and then I tell them to calm down we’re leaving either way, and then they do calm down for a half second and ask me if they can do one more thing…I will say yes.
I think, “It’s time to leave, I should tell them it’s time to leave, oh, they didn’t like that, well, that’s normal, kids don’t like to leave fun places, I’ll tell them again nicely, oh crap, they’re crying, WHY DO THEY CRY? This is normal life, it’s not like we didn’t leave 10 billion places yesterday, too. Why aren’t they getting that? I would get that. I’ll tell them sternly to calm down, that’s what moms do. Oh, look! They did calm down. And they want to do one more thing. Well, since they were able to calm down so nicely, and they’re behaving now, and they clearly understood the message that we have to leave like, you know, people would understand that, I could let them do one more thing. Then we’ll all skip home lalala, and everything will be wonderful.”
Because I think that my kids understand things.
I do this a lot. Because I do this a lot, my kids have been trained to think this about the above situation:
“Crap, mom told us we have to leave. We don’t want to leave. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG DON’T WANT TO LEAVE WAT DO? I know! I’ll say no. That will very clearly show her my stance on this matter. What? Why did she tell us to leave again? Can’t she hear me? OMGOMGOMG EMOTION FEELS CANNOT WON’T LEAVE. Also, maybe she’ll cave if I cry. She never caves if I cry. No, you silly! It’s after you cry that she caves. Just watch. Okay, crying. Oh. Here it is, she’s telling me to calm down. Let’s try that first, if it doesn’t work, then we lose our shit, okay? Okay. Great! It worked! She’s letting us stay! Huzzah!”
You see? I think they know I’m letting them stay because they improved their behavior. They know no such thing. What we’ve got going on is an improvised, slightly longer version of the I’ll-cry-until-she-lets-me-have-it error that so many moms are shamed out of existence for.
Anyway, to round out the story, after the one thing, when it was actually time to go, one of my kids did totally lose her shit, and freaked out not only as I had to carry her to the car, but also the whole ride home and then for about 30 minutes in her room, too.
So, what I’m saying, crudely, is I need to have less respect for my kids. But that’s not what I’m saying at all. I actually just don’t know how to articulate what I’m saying for once. I have to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt? No, that’s not it. I have to set clear boundaries and not let them do even one more thing once I’ve said no.
They need the boundaries. Because the way I’m doing it, while it might work for an older child, only serves to make them absolutely miserable, which of course makes me miserable.
I really, really want them to be able to reason, and come up with good points and get rewarded for thinking their way around things. But we’re not ready yet. And me forcing that to happen only sets us back. Way back. So, keep it simple, stupid. No means no. No matter what.
Wish me luck.