Friday, July 26, 2013

On maturing

Summer break is whizzing past at a speed that is making me dizzy and a little nauseous. I haven't even recorded our amazing roadtrip west and the good times we had on and off our bikes. I'll get there. Eventually. Maybe. Definitely. But I wanted to talk about last night while it was still fresh in my mind. Last night, while the emotions are still a little raw. Because it was depressing and amusing all at once.

Every now and then, frustrations come to a head with my children, and I begin the mostly futile attempt at a logical conversation. But I think Ainsleigh is getting to the age where maybe they aren't as futile. Last night was a result of me enforcing a consequence that she (correctly) interpreted to mean I didn't think she was mature enough. Due to the hour (bedtime), and her own frustration, she decided the best way to handle this was to lie on her bed and cry. Which is a perfectly fine reaction.

I then decided to explain to her that this reaction actually made me glad, because it showed she cared about something. Which was the source of our problem. I have come the conclusion that my kids just don't care about their stuff. Who cares, we've got more stuff! Who cares, Santa will just bring more at Christmas! Who cares, I'll just wear the same pair of underwear instead of picking up the five on my floor my mom has asked me repeatedly to pick up. WHO CARES?!

(Actually, as a sidenote, Joel has developed a brilliant retaliation for underwear and socks left on the floor. Want to know our cure? Sure you do. And since they don't issue a Nobel Peace Prize for Parenting - which I'm sure I'd have won like a hundred times already, sure - I'll share it with you: We remind them once to pick it/them up. Instead of a second time, we pick it up and put it in their pillowcase. Then we can tell them we aren't kissing them at bedtime because their faces smell like feet and butts. This is similar to our "If you don't flush the toilet, we make you stick your hand in it ANDTHENWASHITRIGHTAFTER but still you've touched urine/poo water." It's very effective. Parenting is gross stuff. But when you've mopped a few rotovirus diaper blowouts, you become immune to gross. YOU'RE WELCOME.)

So here I was, kind of glad that I was actually getting a reaction from her. So I was trying to explain that her caring about something did showed she was maturing, but that the true test would be what she'd do with this information.

"Fine. I won't care about anything ever again!" she wailed.

Two steps forward, one step back.

So I very rationally and calmly explained hyperbole and how that kind of statement negated the maturity. I could see I was losing her. "Look," I said. "I'm trying to teach you maturity (as if that were a subject. go me) and you're reacting in a very immature way. Should I walk out and let you do that, or would you like me to teach you maturity?"

This struck a chord. She stopped sobbing. She listened as I talked about taking responsibility for things. And then, suddenly, I was crying. Big surprise.

Donovan was listening (obviously. his room is right next to hers and the doors were open). I told them that when they were upset because I made them clean their room, it didn't make me happy. On the contrary, it made me frustrated. Not just frustrated with them, but with myself. Because obviously if I was a good mom, I'd be a better teacher and these lessons would mean something and sometimes I feel like I must be the worst mother in the world... (talk about hyperbole)

"WHY WOULD YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!" With his head thrown back in seeming agony, Donovan wailed from where he perched on his bed. "YOU'RE THE BEST MOMMY IN THE WHOLE WORLD!"

(another sidenote: I'm not sure at what age this whole "mommy" title will morph into just "mom." I'm not sure if it's weird that my 11 and 8 year old still call me that. I had a conversation with Donovan recently about how he was using his daily quota of saying "mommy" -- seriously, does it have to preface EVERY sentence? we're in the same room! obviously you're talking to me! -- and he said, totally missing my point, "Sometimes I call you mom, but I like mommy better because it sounds better. Like a hug." Ok, I really can't argue that. Just know that when my kids are calling me "mommy" what they're actually saying is "Captain Hugsalot.")

And suddenly I was shaking. Giggles erupted out of me as the tears continued to stream down my face. The absolute absurdity of the situation overcame me, considering that this was the child who had thrown an enormous fit earlier when I asked him to pick his legos up. Also, we're really good with extremes here.

At dinner, earlier that evening, Gemma had conversationally said, "Mommy, sometimes you're the worst mom, you know?" Good, I told her. That means I'm doing my job. She seemed a little perturbed that I wasn't offended. I can't get upset or offended when I know she's being ridiculous. Worst. Best. We have a flair for the dramatics.

But when you pile on three cases of worstititis, I begin to believe it.

After that we all calmed down. Years ago, I probably would have just told the kids to go to bed because I was exhausted and it was past bedtime at this point anyway. But I didn't want to end it that way. I asked Ainsleigh if she wanted to go to sleep, or have me read for a bit.

After the kids had brushed their teeth, I sat on my bed, Ainsleigh behind me working on my latest hairdo, the other two kids sprawled out. I read a chapter of our current Harry Potter book and then tucked them into their beds.

I guess we're all still working on maturing, whether it's taking responsibility for things or how you end the day. We ended yesterday feeling a little better about ourselves, and if I can make sure that's a constant in their lives, then maybe, just maybe, I won't be the worst mom in the world.


bikergram said...

Good post! You're great, you're kids are great. They are just normal. Can't cure normal, but keep trying.

wanda said...

That last comment was me. I was signed in to a different account!