I was talking to my girlfriend a while ago and asked how her day was going. She replied that it was going okay and that she “was trying to be a positive polly instead of a negative nelly.” My immediate was response was “Good for you! Because Positive Pollys get Pinot, but Negative Nellys get none.” Then I decided that I was either a comedic genius or needed to stop reading so much Dr. Seuss. Let’s go with both. Anyway, it got me thinking about positivity in general and its effect on our daily life.
Here’s what I’ve been struggling with. Hayden has gotten a job as the conductor of the Terrible Toddlerhood Train. Every “no” or change in direction elicits a MASSIVE meltdown. Yelling, crying, throwing toys (or his glasses); you name it. It doesn’t matter what he’s mad about, he will seek me out to hit, slap, pinch, or bite me. I don’t even have to do anything to contribute to his shitty mood, I’m just automatically the target (it would be nice to at least have earned whatever punishment I’m getting). This has been so frustrating and discouraging, and my fuse has gotten to be about an inch long. I can maybe take being yelled at once (which usually happens before 7AM) before I’m losing it and the situation is just getting worse. He’s frustrated because he can’t talk to tell us what he wants, which is equally frustrating for us. It quickly becomes a cycle of him yelling, and then getting yelled at, and then yelling because that’s what he’s seeing me do. He has also started acting out at school, which is super irritating and embarrassing. It shouldn’t be because all kids go through this, but damn it, it’s annoying. If I saw some kid acting this way in public, I would assume he was out of control and needed some boundaries. And what’s crazy is that he’s never been allowed to get away with acting like this. He’s always been very well behaved and we’ve never had to fight with him about something for very long before he’s changed his pattern of behavior. The last several months, however, are such a different story. It doesn’t matter what the consequence is, the pattern hasn’t changed. And I think that’s in big part to my attitude.
I wake up every day waiting for the battle to start. I’m on edge just waiting for him to push me. He’s come so far and has typical 4 year old wants and needs, but only the physical and expressive capabilities of a 1 year old. I’m an adult and I get super frustrated by this, so how must he feel? I can use logic and reason (most of the time) to understand why he feels a certain way and I know what it would take for him to get what he wants, but he doesn’t. All he knows is that he knows what he wants and we aren’t giving it to him. When the tantrum starts I always tell myself to let it go and walk away, but my knee jerk response is to react and correct whatever it is he’s doing. I’m so afraid of having one of those kids you see on Super Nanny, or ending up on Dr. Phil when he’s 15 and burning down buildings that I pick the battle every time. We have always been very firm in the idea that if you fight the hard battles with your kids when they are little, it makes parenting a little easier when they are older because they know their boundaries and the consequences for misbehaving. Now obviously every stage of a kid’s life is going to have it’s difficulties and no kid is going to be perfect. But I have been taking this to the extreme. Every fight with him becomes a huge ordeal because I feel like walking away from him tells him that he has won and reinforces that he acted poorly but still got what he wanted. And what this has led to are some very intense days around my house.
Now, back to my thinking about positivity that I mentioned earlier. We waited a long time for Hayden to be a normal kid. All three of us struggled during years of therapy sessions to get him to where he is now, which is starting to resemble a normal kid. He is finally active and has an opinion about what he wants. This is fantastic news! He’s progressing and will continue to do so. I know that every parent has gone through this insanity and they’ve all made it out on the other side (hopefully unscathed and without a serious drinking problem. #goals). This is only a phase and a tiny part of the back of my brain knows that it will eventually pass. This is what I need to fix my focus on. The days when I can remember that this is normal and what we fought so hard for are great days. I can brush off the tantrums and he doesn’t throw as many. Which then becomes a cycle all on its own: I’m in a better mood, so he’s in a better mood, which puts me in a good mood and makes the meltdowns easier to deal with. I’ll do really well for a little while, but then somehow we slip back into old habits (I’ve clearly been struggling with this for a little while).
So how do we hold on to the good habits? I think a big part of it has to do with our mindset. If I can stay focused on the small voice in my head reminding me that this will be a good thing in the end, I can deal with a lot more. Another important thing for me is not beating myself up when I have a moment (or a whole day) of being on edge. Telling myself, “I messed up this time, but I’ll do better next time” can completely change the tone of my internal dialogue. One slip up doesn’t have to define our whole day and it doesn’t mean I’ve ruined my kid (yet. Fingers crossed I haven’t turned him into a loony hot mess, but time will tell). And I hope as he gets older he sees that mom and dad sometimes mess up, but that it’s okay and we can find a positive way to deal with it. There is a lesson in everything, and a mistake is an opportunity to reflect on ourselves, which is a part of our personal growth. It’s important to my husband and me that he hears us apologize when necessary and reflect on not only how we handled a situation, but how we can do it better next time. None of us will ever be perfect parents because let’s be honest, sometimes kids suck and they push us to our limits. And sometimes adults suck. We all have bad days and moments of acting out. It’s a normal part of being human. The important thing is how we handle difficult situations and use them to learn about ourselves. And our kids should see us learning how to behave better just like they have to. So for now, I’m just going to buckle up and wait for this crazy train to let us off, or drive us off a cliff. But either way, I’m going to be happy about it.
And when all else fails, remember: Positive Pollys get Pinot, but Negative Nelly’s get none. I need somebody to put this on a sign for me.