Friday, November 9, 2018

Evolution of a Parent, thrice over.

I took the iPads away.

Let me back up. I have three kids. They're 10, 8 and 3. I have three kids but I only know how to be one kind of parent. See, with the 'big kids' I parented them the same. They were both little at the same time and the same kind of discipline worked for both of them. It's your basic 'I say no, you don't do it' type of discipline. And if you do it, you land in time out and you sit there and don't move. Time outs evolve as they get older into losing dessert for a week or God forbid, Xbox. But you get the point. And they listened, they still do. I would say 95% of the the time my big kids followed directions and didn't break the rules. That's the parent I know how to be. And I'm damn good at it. I'm in control and I call the shots and you live a great life within my parameters.

Enter kid #3. She was the easiest baby. Happy to be dragged around, slept well, nursed well. But now, what she doesn't do so well is listen. In particular, listen to me. At school she follows directions, plays well with others, listens to her teacher. Dance class, same. For Daddy, she mostly listens. For me? Not so much. And I created this problem.

She's the third and I'm busy. I'm juggling 5 people's schedules and trying to run a household and a photography business and have some semblance of a life. And she gets the short end. She gets pacified (sometimes literally with a pacifier but that's a post for another day). I hand her the iPad and let Ryan's Toy Reviews entertain her so I can do all the other things. It's not parenting. It's survival. But it results in massive, epic, awful meltdowns when I need her to do something. And then I yell. And then she yells. And then she's in time out where she tries to stand up 100 times in 3 minutes.

It's not working. This one type of parent that I have perfected over the last decade is not the right parent for her. I have to evolve. I have to be better. For her. For me. For all of us.

It's a hard thing to admit in such a public space that one of your kids isn't getting the attention she needs and deserves from you. But here I am.

I'm three and a half days in to being more present. To paying more attention. I'm not yelling. I'm not responding when a fit starts (even though on the inside there is literally a volcano erupting). And it is HARD. Not giving in, not yelling, not reacting is HARD. But my reaction, my parenting standard, doesn't work. So I'm fighting every instinct I have, every natural reaction.

And I took the iPad away. I took everyone's iPads away because they don't need them right now. And it's a crutch for me. So instead of watching Ryan sing 'Happy Birthday' to someone for the thousandth time, she's helping me make dinner. Or we are coloring. Or we are watching a TV show, together.

All of this must sound so obvious. Of course you should pay attention to all of your kids. Of course you should be present. Of course you shouldn't use the iPad as a babysitter. What's wrong with you woman? I was a perfect parent until I became one. And when you know better, you do better. So this is me, being challenged, tested, and fighting the good fight. And trying to do better.

Am I delusional enough to think that my 3 year old won't still melt down or that she'll listen 100% of the time from now on? Hell to the no. But I know that what I was doing (yelling, forcing, blaming, shaming) was not working and it's time for a new path.


Meggie Dials said...

I FEEL you. We are taking the iPad away today too. I think the babysitters relied on it (and no I would never blame them for that) but she becomes a little terror over it. So we are done with it for the foreseeable future. Not it makes getting stuff done so much easier. And calm. And whatever. But for now, gotta do it. Talk to me Sunday when she may have it again because I caved. You're doing all things right. It's a phase. She is still an amazing little kid and you are still an amazing mom and someday, she and Pen will channel this energy and passion and drive into something amazing and be the faces of the good in their generation. Love you.

Katherine McCleary said...

Yup. I figure that until I'm done with my doctorate, it's ok to use my crutch, aka the ipad / Netflix, etc. Ugh. I hate thinking how "Ok, on such and such day, when I have done such and such, I'll be better." But it's sort of where I'm at right now, though I'm trying every day to just have a set time to write and then be more present with them. Great blog post!