Norah has had a thing lately for alliteration. For those of you who missed class that day :), here is good ol' Webster's definition:
alliteration |əˌlitəˈrā sh ən|
nounthe occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from medieval Latinalliteratio(n-), from Latin ad- (expressing addition) +littera ‘letter.’
It's kinda like backwards rhyming ... focusing on the front end of the word instead of the backside. For example: Little Liddy likes to lick LeeLee's lunch. Silly sissy sat sideways on the swing. Wonderful Wednesdays in truth are wild and woolly. Dear Daddy did the dishes.
You get the idea.
Well, lately I have had my own alliteration bouncing around in my head as a result of this little ditty: Terrible twos test my tolerance. Too true.
My sweet Lydia (who does like to taste-test other diners dinners) is in a trying time of life. She's one month shy of turning two and she has started her toddler training! As you know, she has a limited lexicon, but she has added a few new winners to her vocabulary. My very favorites are: "No" and "Stop". Did you catch the sarcasm there? :) In an attempt to offset her restricted words, she has developed some other fantastic ways to communicate her feelings: hair-pulling, yelling, flopping on the ground life-less and flapping her arms with the hopes of making contact with someone. As we often say in our house, "It's a good thing she's so cute."
This sort of behavior, while being a normal part of the maturing process for a two year old, is not socially acceptable in school, the work place or marriage. Somewhere along the line we each figured out how to better communicate our feelings, thank goodness. There is comfort in knowing that I have never seen a grown woman flop down in the middle of the grocery, kick her feet a bit and howl, "My favorite BBQ sauce isn't on sale! Ahhh!" I know that my girly-girl will grow out of this phase, but how do I help her along so that it lasts for as short a time as possible? This is where my own little alliteration might come in handy: Pay attention, Patience and Persevere.
First, I must pay attention. This is a tid-bit of wisdom from my mom. She was convinced as a young mom and now as Nana that all our kids really want is for us to pay attention. This is proven by one little trip to the playground. It doesn't take long for your ears to go numb with the number of times you hear the words, "Mom, watch me! Watch me! Watch me!" When we are focused in on our little ones, we are communicating value and importance. They are more secure because they know deep in their hearts that we are paying attention.
Unfortunately, from time to time, I have my own agenda for the day and it doesn't involve watching, watching, watching. It is on those days that we have real trouble. I am wanting to do my own thing (like read a book quietly) and the kids want to continue to be seen and observed and admired. It doesn't take long for us to butt heads because these two desires don't easily coincide. My day will go much better (and I will feel less frustration) if I set aside my book and enjoy my little person. Does this mean that I never get to read ever again?!? Not at all. But my me-time looks a little different.
For this season of raising my kids, I recognize that this is a time of giving up some of my desires and interests for the sake of my family. It also means being intentional about setting aside some me-time so that I don't get burnt out. It's a delicate balance of meeting the needs of my kids and hubby while not neglecting myself. And it's a bit of a dance that I'm still figuring out. I have come to terms with being primarily a mom who also cooks, cleans, reads, shops and exercises with kids in-tow. A mom in the midst of life, so to speak.
Also, when we are paying attention to our children we become students of our kids ... professionals, if you will, in the areas of their likes and dislikes, their blooming personalities and their quirky behaviors, their feelings and their thoughts. If we continue to pay attention to our kids as they grow up, I believe that we will know them well and be able to continue to communicate their value to us. And our relationship should stay close as they stay secure in their knowledge of their worth.
Next, I must have patience. All my kiddos push my buttons. They are regularly walking along the boundary lines of our house rules, checking to see if I am still paying attention and if I will continue to uphold those expectations. It is exhausting. Absolutely and utterly exhausting. But, if I am consistent in my enforcement of the rules we have set out, they eventually fall back and respect what we have set down. If I don't stay strong, I lose ground and my authority - then it's an uphill climb to get to be back in charge! I would much rather be the tough mom at the beginning of a power struggle than try to regain the upper hand after letting my toddler be in charge for the day!
All kids test our patience ... all kids have their "thing" that they use to try to make us crazy. It's the same craziness with Lydia and her affinity for grabbing hair, Ashley and her unending request for the choice I didn't offer her, Norah and her bossy-pants and Aaron and his incessant request for screen-time. Each challenge is their attempt to be the one in charge. It seems right now that Lydia is the most challenging, perhaps because there is a limited discussion to be had with her. It's much more a cause and effect sort of training. Hair pulling = Time Out. Over and over and over again. It's important for me to not get riled up when we are back to the corner (again) for hair pulling ... especially if Lydia pulled hair while saying sorry for the last time she pulled hair (3 minutes earlier). If I get worked up, that little toddler has won. She has gotten a reaction out of me when I needed to keep my cool. This is definitely a hard perspective to keep and I have lost my head more than a few times. But ... it's an important part of parenting with respect.
Finally, I must persevere. All of this toddler-training is for the sole purpose of helping our little people become wonderful, enjoyable and responsible bigger people. Each little training moment is a small puzzle piece in the big picture of teaching our children what appropriate and acceptable behavior looks like. It is so very important that we take the time to invest in our little ones as they are learning about how life works. By taking the time now to teach our kids responsibility, manners and honoring authority we are saving them (and us) a lot of heartache later. Unfortunately, most of what we teach our kids takes effort and time ... and perseverance. It's hard in the middle of a lengthy training time to not just give up and give in, but I try hard to remember that my investment now will pay off huge dividends later on. For example, we have been working on manners at the table with Lydia and it's been a long road! Here is a snapshot into a daily interaction at the kitchen table.
Scene: Lydia would like to be excused from the table. She needs to say "all done" with either her hands or her mouth. She has successfully accomplished this feat at the end of every other meal of her young life.
Lydia: Shoving bowl away and trying to pull her bib over her noggin. "Meeeeh!"
Me: Are you all done?
Lydia: Kicking feet into table. "Meeeeh!"
Me: Say, "All done." Showing her the sign language motion (for the umpteenth time!)
Lydia: Shoving drink into side bowl and grabbing her bib again. "Maaahh!"
Ashley: I think she's all done.
Me: Thank you, but she needs to ask the right way.
Lydia: Throws fork on the floor. "Meeeahhhh!"
Me: Please don't throw your fork. Say, "All done."
Lydia: Aaaaahhh! Meeeeh! Shoves cup into bowl, sloshing left over cereal.
Me: That is not okay. You need to go sit for a bit.
Lydia runs to her corner for a bit of a "time out" ... screams the whole time.
Ashley: My ears hurt. May I be excused and go have my alone-time?
Me: sigh ... Yes, please clear your place.
Five minutes later, Lydia is back in her seat following a brief talk and a "Yes, Mom" or I should say "Ma-ma-ma".
Me: Say, "All done" and I'll clean you up.
Lydia: Twisting her hands in sign language. "Aah daah."
Me: Thank you. You may be excused. Head on table.
That is an example of 10 minutes of my life that I will never get back! :) And there's plenty more where that came from! It would have been so easy to say, "Fine ... go ahead and get down." But that would mean that Lydia had won that battle and also set a precedent for many more battles down the road. I don't want her to learn that enough fussing will lead to Mommy caving. So ... in spite of wanting to bang my head against the table, I need to persevere and require of Lydia what is appropriate. I firmly believe that she is just testing the boundaries and that she will learn to do what is right. I have the living proof of three other children to look to: Aaron, Norah and Ashley are my inspiration to keep on keepin' on.
One way that I keep a bit of my sanity in the face of this dauntless task of persevering is to choose my battles wisely. There is no way that I can attack each of Lydia's areas of learning and spend 10 minutes seeing each one through to the end. There are not enough minutes in the day! In light of that, I have to decide with each of her misdemeanors :) which I am going to tackle and which I'll save for tomorrow. No doubt she'll still be doing it! When I find myself in the midst of some sort of offense that needs attention, I have to make the commitment to see it through to the end and be the victor. :) For example: When I ask Lydia to clean up the puzzle she got out, it's important that I see her through to the end of the task. Even if it takes her 23 minutes to put away the 24-piece puzzle. It might break-out into a battle of wills, but rest assure, Mommy will win. Again this is an investment in her being able to listen and obey all on her own.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will have to revisit this blog sometime in the coming month to remind myself of such sage advice :) ... mainly because being a parent is such a hard job. But it truly is a privileged, prodigious, prized profession! :)