Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Parenting: Close your eyes and hold on tight!

When I get together with my sister, a hot tub, and a glass of wine, I could never predict where the conversation is going to go. A few months ago, we had a chance to relax and have some good quality sister talk. No kids, no men, just us. Somehow, our conversation about Lee Brice (country music singer/hottie) turned into a very in-depth conversation about what kind of mothers we are (So very typical of us to bounce around so dramatically with rant topics). 
I am writing about this now, because it was one of those chats that will live on for a long time in my mind. It made an impact on how I will be parenting in the future and I thought I would share with all of you as well!
We started by swapping stories about the crazy techniques we have been using to deal with temper tantrums, and the ever popular "not-listening syndrome" that all of our children seem to have. Our children have very different personalities, so it’s always a great learning experience discussing and comparing them.

The issue I was having at the time revolved around how I have been dealing with my two year old Maelle when she has temper tantrums and wants everything that she can’t have.  Or maybe I should say how I have NOT been dealing with my two year old.

Let me start with a little back story: My seven year old daughter Gianna is an angel. She was an only child for almost six years. She was my whole life/world/universe/existence for a long time. She is actually the closest thing to perfect I have ever seen in a child (yes, I understand I am totally biased). She is very polite (thank you Auntie Bean for teaching her manners when she was two) she is smart as whip, and has an imagination that you would never believe was possible. She is an absolute delight to have as a child. I am blessed.

I was 22 when I had her, and in the middle of completing my University degree. I did most of my classes through DVD at home so I could be with her all the time. Dora the Explorer was on one TV and Developmental Psychology on the other (don’t judge me). We couldn’t afford full time daycare so she spent much of her one’s and two’s playing happily under my feet at the desk or watching me study.

The “mommy play time” was definitely a lot less with Gianna compared to what I now have with her little sister Maelle. I have been a stay at home mom for the majority of Maelle’s life, and thankfully haven’t been trying to complete another University degree during this time.

From the beginning, Gianna has had a hard time understanding that Maelle needs a bit more attention than her sometimes. I don’t really blame her because she had it all for so long. Not only does Maelle need attention just for emotional support like cuddles and quiet time with Mommy, but attention for moments when there is a real risk the house could burn down or moments when I am trying to avoid the neighbours calling the police because it sounds like we are torturing her!  Her scream can be pretty “bloody murder-esque” when she wants something.

Maelle is at that stage right now where she has to have whatever Big Sissy has. If there is only one of something, she screams until she gets it. We (including Gianna) would rather give it to her then hear the screaming. So it usually ends up with Gianna losing whatever it was that she was playing with in the first place.

But isn’t that how having sibling’s works? The baby gets everything, and the more babies there are, the less you get. It’s kind of how I remember it. Of course until I was old enough to lock up my belongings out of reach of the annoying (but so cute) younger siblings (love you both, a lot!).

Sacrificing Gianna’s toys, and worse, sometimes her quality time with me has been a very unintentional occurrence in our house for the last two years. It has become so “normal” that I haven’t even been able to see it for myself. So when my behaviour was pointed out to me by my own mother I thought I was going to die. My sister was the only one I could talk to about this. I knew she could relate.

When I started to tell her about it, she laughed at me because it wasn’t long ago that I was complaining to her about how she deals with her children (typical little sister thing to do). She has two girls that are eight and six and since the youngest was born, she has always bought two of everything to avoid the fights. I really razzed her and told her that she was giving them an identity crisis because she wasn’t allowing them to have their own personalities. She explained to me that it’s the only way to “keep the peace.” It’s probably not what the “professionals” would recommend. I am sure there is a whole book about it out there somewhere explaining that it’s probably the worst thing to do, but who cares, it seemed to work. I didn’t really believe her at the time.

But now, I know if Gianna has something, Maelle will want it, so sometimes I buy two! But you see, the problem is that toys and things that Gianna is “in-to” are not even close to being appropriate for a two year old to be playing with. At least my nieces are only two years apart. I am in trouble here. If something doesn’t change, I fear that Maelle will be ten years old, wanting to have her license, wear make-up, go on dates and to parties, just because Big Sissy is. Uh-oh.

My mission for the last few months has been to stop sacrificing Gianna and her things for the sake of peace a quiet. Oh my gracious, we have had some crazy moments! But, I think that Gianna is starting to really appreciate what we have been trying to do. It’s going to be a long road dealing with the age difference between them because six years is a huge difference when they are this little. I can’t wait for the day when six years doesn’t matter at all. (See Blog Titled My Best Friends)

By the time we got out of the hot-tub that night, we were wrinkly, the wine bottle was empty and we had discussed all the ways we would love to change the way we parent our children (also an in-depth debate and scheming session on how to get Mr. Brice to play at CBMF this year).

We both came to the conclusion that our children will definitely turn out fine no matter what we do because we love them. It might just come down to trading kids when they are teenagers, because apparently I have children just like her, and she has the children just like me! It’s really funny how we ended up with a little piece of each other show up in our children’s personalities. Well, it’s either funny or cruel. We agree to disagree on this. (ha ha ha)

It’s also because of moments like this, and conversations like the one in the hot tub that we know everything will be OK. We know when it’s time to seek out help and advice. We share all the (sometimes embarrassing) details about how we parent our children, and we help each other by relating, and comparing notes on ways to get through it.
As parents, are we just destined to feel like we are always doing something wrong? Are we always going to feel like there is room (copious amounts of room) for improvement? Are the choices I make now with them, going to effect the way they parent their own children someday? One day, will we wake up in the morning proud (or at least just satisfied) with the job we have done raising our children? I hope so.

Often, we look back to what our parents would have done in moments like this and we realize that all we need to do is the best we can, and love our children unconditionally. When they are grown, they will forgive us for the small "mistakes" we have made during the younger years. They will still love us no matter what because we loved them so much (if nothing else, this theory allows us to get sleep at night).

We are also counting on the day when our four girls have some little girls of their own. We hope that they will gather in hot tubs, with wine, to bitch and vent about them, and then realize the great job that their parents actually did raising them. (Unless they are drinking OUR wine, then they’re in trouble)

I think at some point, everyone (even the childless) eventually reflects back on their childhood, and discovers that parenting really isn’t easy, at all. Nobody has ALL the answers, and we mostly get through it by using trial and error and some finely-tuned deception techniques. But if you love your children (which I know you do), you owe it to them to do everything in your power to protect them and provide the best growing-up environment/experience that you can.

The really sad/disturbing part about being a parent is that you basically have to close your eyes, try to make responsible decisions, hold on tight and wait it out until they are adults to know if you did a good job or not. But I will tell you, if your daughters (or sons), are sitting in a hot tub, drinking wine and trying to think about what YOU would do in a situation like this, you know you did good.  xo 

In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores,
child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.
You just need a lot of love and luck- and, of course, courage.
                                                                                                           -Bill Cosby




  1. My god Katie! That was brilliant! Hope the girls are doing well. More importantly I hope you and Kyle are doing well after reading the temper tantrum issues aha! You and Kyle are great parents, don't worry about right or wrong, good or bad because at the end of the night when the girls are sleeping you guys know you did everything possible that day to ensure those kids went to bed happy,safe and loved. Love you guys!

    1. Thanks Juno, I really appreciate that! Maelle is much better these days. We're always hoping it's "just a stage" ;) Thanks for reading! xo

  2. Hey Kate! this was so refreshing to read! Kayla went through some very "terrible two" tantrums which would take all my strength to try and get her up off the ground! how a two year old can be so strong is beyond me?!! I am glad it was just a phase bc she's a doll now ost of the time! Gotta say, I am kind a jealous of your "hottub confessions"! I think wine and a soak is just what the dr ordered! thanks for sharing once again! xo AMY ROBSON.

    1. Thanks Amy! The hot tub is definitely a great place to relax and reflect! I'm hoping our "terrible 2's" are almost over! :)


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