Category: Parenting

Being Better

Temper. Blaming. Complaining. Comparing. Name-calling. Stubbornness. Picking on. I’ve just been lying here, post-early-morning-exercise-nap, thinking about the negative behavior that can sometimes be observed in my children … and it occurred to me: wow, I’m guilty of much of that same behavior, only in more subtle, grownup ways.

Example. Blaming. I have a habit of saying, “Someone must have done such and such.” Someone forgot to close the front door. Someone’s made a mess of the bathroom. Someone must have put the scissors in the wrong drawer. What I’m saying is: hey, I didn’t do this and therefore one of you lot must have! Hardly a productive response to any situation, and not so very different from one child saying to another, “You lost my [insert precious possession here]! I know it was you! It was here when I left and now it’s gone!”

The opposite of blaming is taking responsibility. As I tell the child, owner of said precious possession, “If it’s very precious to you, you need to keep it in a special place, and not on the counter.” And if I don’t like that someone’s made a mess of the bathroom, I need to instill a greater sense of ownership and responsibility in my children for keeping the house tidy, rather than grumbling while cleaning it up all by myself.

(If someone can tell me how to do that–how to instill a sense of responsibility in my children–please let me know).

I’d like to think I don’t call names. But I do say things like “that was a dumb thing to do.” Which is next-door to name-calling, and even if it’s true (which let’s face it, in some situations it just might be), if dumb isn’t a word I want kids to use, why am I using it?

I won’t go through the whole list, calling out each of my less-than-worthy-role-modeling. Instead, I’m thinking about the alternatives.

Okay. Blaming. Taking responsibility.
Temper. Finding other expressions for emotional distress or disturbance. Apologizing as immediately as possible after the fact is helpful, too. Nobody’s perfect.
Complaining. Thinking of ways to change the situation causing the complaint, or at the very least to change my response to the complaint. There is always something that can be done.
Comparing. Celebrate and consider each family member as an individual.
The opposite of name-calling? Uh. Don’t do it, I guess. (Though there are some situations in which name-calling and poking fun can be positives and can reinforce relationships, and in fact are markers of a trusting and close relationship).
Stubbornness. Flexibility.
Picking on. I don’t believe that I do this. But I do see it happening in my family: two siblings subtly teaming up to bait another sibling. Not pleasant. And we call it out and separate them, but haven’t found a better way of curbing it. Maybe maturity will do the trick. I remember my brother and I picking on our younger brother (who we just knew was our mother’s “favourite,” and who was so darn cute and better behaved than us). And we’re all good friends now.

March Break

Check it off the want-to-do list:

We have hosted one friend sleepover (with the boys waking at approximately 5:30am to play wii in the basement, only to be foiled by semi-outraged, semi-amused mother who was leaving for spin class).

We have gone for walks in springlike weather, and visited our little neighbourhood park.

We have gone to the movies. Okay, so we were too late to get tickets for the one we wanted to see (Tangled), and thus ended up seeing the only other option (Yogi Bear), but it was friendly, corny, and funny enough to keep everyone happy, and the big kids were sent to the long concession line, by themselves, with cash, and returned with change and one treat for everyone, even mama (a Coffee Crisp–good choice, Albus).

We’ve had a family fun night (drawing, dancing), and a family movie night (School of Rock–who knew? It was the perfect movie for our sometimes ambivalent budding musicians).

We’ve had friends over for lunch, and vice versa, and everyone’s had a playdate or two sprinkled into the mix.

And now it is Friday. I fear the coming of the end of March Break, if only for the list of have-to-dos. We have to pick up all these toys, for example, the ones that have migrated around the house, along with blankets, pillows, art supplies, fort-building materials, and orphaned odds and ends of mind-boggling proportions. We have to memorize the times tables (well, one of us does, and if the rest of us come along for the rote-ride, all the better). There is much baking to be done (granola, pitas, bread). And there is the sense of: have we done enough with this magical week of freedom?

That question seems front and centre in the nine-year-old mind (almost ten). I’ve been sensing the pre-adolescent emergence this week; more than sensing it, seeing it, witnessing it, being slightly horrified by it. I keep working to emphasize the good, and call out the bad. I’m trying to figure out the balance between expectations and acceptance. If the grumpy nine-year-old has to howl about going for a walk in the beautiful spring breezes, because it doesn’t involve any direct pay-off for him that he can recognize, but then agrees to go for the walk, and comes along, and has a generally good time and is generally pleasant, should I get upset because the good was preceded by the bad?

I’m seeing the edge of mood swings. The precipice of myopia. The unlovely view of a sense of entitlement. I want to figure out a way to say, hey, I get it, but I expect more. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and lots of them–we all are–but you have to apologize, too. It’s natural and normal to want, to crave, to long for, but when you don’t get what you want, it’s good for the soul to look around and be glad for what you have.

Ugh. Are these just parenting cliches? Cliches generally? Well, they’re what I’ve got. If I find something more effective, I’ve let you know.

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