Making it up as we go along
It’s not until you have kids of your own that you realize how DIY this whole child-rearing thing can be. Parenting just seems so simple in theory (love them enough and they will turn out fine) and so ridiculously complex in practice (should I let her hold the pen for a few minutes while I watch her, or should I preemptively pull it from her hands for fear she might sprint off with it and have it lodge firmly in her jugular), that you find yourself in uncharted territory about 64 billion times a day.
I’ve already had a few forays into parenting literature where I emerge from a book, certain I have the tools I need to address all of the day’s possible discipline challenges, only to realize that when it comes to the changing natures and imaginations of our kids, those books don’t even graze the iceberg enough for a cup of shave ice.(Still, I do really like Love and Logic in Early Childhood).
It’s easy to look at another parent and deem them a pushover, or a waffler or, on the other end of the spectrum, tyrannical or cruel. It’s much harder in practice to try to gauge how you’re doing overall, or more importantly, how your kid is doing in the wake of all your parenting-on-the-fly.
So far, I’ve been really lucky to have such a verbal kid. It means I can discuss a lot of things, get instant confirmation from Quinn that she understands, and give her reassurance that I understand what she wants (even though I am not always going to give her that thing right then).
I found out, for example, that ordering Quinn to share and then ripping something from her hand to give to another kid does not work out. What does work out (SO FAR!), is explaining to her that we are taking turns, telling her it’s the other kid’s turn, and reassuring her that she will get the item back for her turn. It’s pretty cute how she confirms her understanding with a semi-terrified look on her face. “OK,” she says. “Wait,” she allows, and then “Back, she reminds me. “Quinn,” she adds, in case I am at all unclear.
I’ve had less luck getting her to do the things she is truly unwilling to do. Like, sometimes, getting in to her carseat. My current M.O. is to sit in the back with her, play with her for a few minutes, then tell her I am going to count to ten and she can either sit down or I will sit her down. Most of the time, this goes alright, because she sits on like 8 or 9. But when she doesn’t sit and I have to physically force her, it’s awful. She kicks and screams and while it isn’t really a physical challenge, it’s just so painful, especially when she sits there sobbing afterward.
But one thing I’ve decided so far (maybe the only thing I’ve decided so far) is I have to do what I say I will or she will really realize the emperor is naked as a Jaybird. If I say one of us is going to seat her on 10, I have to follow through. She is listening to everything, and she has already made it quite clear that she doesn’t forget. I just have to get her to 18 before she realizes I’m making this whole thing up as I go along. Or at least 10.