These are letters to Jack, my son, and my daughter, Audrey. You have given me the gift of motherhood. This is just a little gift back. I want to share my experiences with you of your childhood from my perspective of watching you grow - of being your Mom.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Being "Not Daddy"


Yesterday with me was a rough time for you. Starting in the morning when I got you up. We headed downstairs and after a few minutes, you started in with calling up the stairs "DADDY! YOU WAKE UP! I explained that Daddy had gone to work but would be home in a couple of days. This brought about loud protests of "NOOOOOOO! Want DADDY!"

I was sympathetic but told you it was no big deal. Daddy would be home soon. My objective was to help you to be happy and focus on other things because I know that Daddy doesn't want to be gone and I don't want him to feel bad and I don't want you to feel bad.

I just want everyone to be happy all the time, is that so much to ask? :)

Okay - so I see the error in my logic, but it's still what I aim for most of the time.
Well, you were so upset that Daddy wasn't there, that you figured I must be responsible in some way and yelled the whole morning for an assortment of reasons - pretty much screaming NOOOOOO whenever I suggested anything or opened my mouth.

I dropped you off at daycare with no small sense of relief thinking that - after a day playing with small friends - you might have decided it WASN'T my fault afterall.

But, when I came to pick you up, you had seen me pull up next to the playground. The playground doesn't have an outside access in order to protect the children from someone taking them or from figuring out how to get out themselves. Therefore, I had to go inside of the building to come around to get you. I knew you had seen me so I rushed through the building at top speed, but it wasn't fast enough. By the time I made it to your classroom door, I could hear you crying loudly outside as though you had seen me change my mind about coming to get you. I rushed outside and the relief on your face was visible. I held you tight while you told me that you were crying and I said, "Yes, I know. I'm sorry, Buddy! Don't be sad! I always come to get you!"
As a special treat, I took you to Borders because it's different from what we normally do. We found a bunch of books in the Children's section with wheels on them and you quickly took to lining them up in traffic jams like you do with all your car toys. We spent a good, quiet and relaxing 45 minutes playing in the bookstore.

Finally, I took you home to much protesting. You were very upset. I made you ravioli and you were upset that they weren't scrambled eggs. Daddy wasn't home and you wanted Daddy to be home. You wanted to get up! "I GET UP! I DONE! I NOT! I HIT! PFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT!!!"

The spitting started and continued very pointedly done while staring me right in the face. I told you "no! No Spitting!", but you didn't listen. I turned your highchair around so you were facing the wall and you continued to spit while declaring loudly to me behind you "I SPIT! I SPITTING! PFFFFFFFTTTTTB!!!! PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFTB!! I NOT!! I NOOOOOOT!!! PFFFFFFTTTTTTB!"

This was not having any effect and I needed to get your attention so I turned off the light and walked into the other room. At first you pretended like it didn't bother you "I SPIT! I SPIT! I NOT!" but then your verbal banter slowed and you only infrequently uttered your scorn ".....I NOT...." "I SPIT........" Then you started to cry.

I hate that it has to come to that. I don't want to make you cry, Sweetheart, but I need to know my point is getting through. I need you to know that speaking to me that way isn't acceptable and that you DO need to listen to me sometimes. I may not always know what I'm talking about, but - at THIS point in your young life? - I DO! Things like having dinner or cake, hitting or hugging, spitting or not spitting.... these answers I do have.And - I know sometimes you would rather get this advice from Daddy. I know that his approach is softer and you are more receptive to it because it's not the voice that you hear when you are most frustrated. When Daddy is around, the atmosphere changes here at home. I myself am WAY more relaxed because I have another adult to talk to. Someone that I can bounce things off of if I don't know the right answer. Also, your Daddy has a way of finding humor in your backtalk that I cannot find when he's not around. Sometimes you will look me right in the face when Daddy is home and say "I NOT! PFFFFFFTB!" and I'll be about to say something in a deep and angry tone of voice to show my disapproval when I'll see Daddy grab some toy close by and put it in front of his face while his shoulders shake with laughter and I realize that my son's backtalk IS amusing ..... when it's not directed at YOU! I can see this a little more clearly when Daddy is around and it tempers my response. I will more calmly tell you that this is not acceptable and if you aren't going to be nice to Mommy, then Mommy will need to step away for a minute until you CAN be nice to me.

Which, really - is MUCH more effective than the battles that usually ensue.

I'm a better Mommy when Daddy is home.

Here are some things that I need to work on and I hereby vow to try:

  1. To NOT be personally offended when you are mad that I'm not Daddy. I can't control that and you are a sweet little kid and don't understand why you can't have your Daddy when you want him. And I'm the only one here for you to express that to.

  2. I need to make sure not to convey anger in my tone of voice when correcting you because I think this is contributing to the anger you show when you can't have what you want. I think you are picking up on this in my responses and you are seeing it as acceptable when it's not. I vow to be more aware of this and do a better job of modeling appropriate responses.

  3. To make more attempts to diffuse situations with humor. Funny - I can do this so easily with adults that I work with, but when it comes to you - I immediately become authoritative as though that is the only way to change behavior. The truth is - Daddy is effective at this for a reason. Humor is fantastic and diffusing an emotionally charged situation BEFORE addressing the behavior that was wrong might be a better way to go. You may be more open to listening AND we end on a much happier note than we would otherwise.

So - while I can't control being "NOT DADDY" - I can and DO commit to you that I will try to be a better Mommy.

I feel much better, Jack! Thanks for listening to me!



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