Thursday, February 3, 2011

Treating my child with respect

Respecting the choices, emotions, and opinions of someone who demands bandaids in their hair...it ain't easy!

Sometimes I forget that Bean is a person who deserves respect.  It's so easy to think he is just being ridiculous and that the way he is behaving is rude, inconvenient, and disrespectful toward me.

Today he was pulling stuff out of the alphabet bags and spreading the bags and some of the objects out on the kitchen table.  I told him he needed to keep everything on the table, and we'd put everything away when he was done.  He did a great job keeping everything on the table.

I went and changed Squeak's diaper and discovered he has a rash.  Again.  (I'm at a loss as to what to do about these rashes...)  I was immediately in a bad mood. 

I headed back to the kitchen, crossing paths with Bean on the way.  He seemed to be on to some new project, so I asked him if he was done with the letters.  He said yes, so I coaxed him back to the kitchen to pick everything up.

Like I said, I was already cranky.  So I rushed us through picking everything up, and Bean started screaming something as I was putting bags back in the box.  I didn't know what he was saying, I didn't appreciate being screamed at just then, and I just scooped him up and said as I set him in his room and shut the door, "I can't take this right now - you can scream in your room until you are ready to talk."

I finished cleaning up.  He had stopped screaming and crying and I felt a little more calm.  I opened the door and saw him sitting on his bed next to the dog.  He was totally over whatever had had him screaming, and cheerfully informed me "I was just sitting next to Pepper, giving him hugs."

He went to leave the room, but I stopped him and said, "can we talk about what just happened, buddy?"

He said, "um.  I was just sitting next to Pepper....giving him hugs..."  (I love the innocence and how he has very little sense of what things I really want to talk about - petting the dog is as important and interesting as the fact that we just yelled at each other!)

I said, "but what about before that?  I want to talk about what happened in the kitchen.  You can go first.  Why did you get so upset?"

He told me that he wanted to play with the bags.  I said, "so you changed your mind?  Because you told me you were done, and we had said we were cleaning up."

"Yeah.  I changed my mind."

I told him, "Well, you could have told me that you changed your mind, and I would have stopped cleaning up the bags.  But I was doing what I thought you wanted.  I don't like being screamed at!"

He said "ok" and I picked him up, kissed him, and asked, "do you like being screamed at?"

"Noooooooooooo!" he said, playfully.

I started getting his lunch ready and The Beast (who was home due to a snow day) gave me a squeeze and said, "that was really great.  It was so sweet to listen to."

He said he loved that I acknowledged how Bean felt, gave a clear explanation of how he could have gotten just what he wanted, and still was able to say how I felt.

So many times I think I bulldoze over Bean.  He's smaller than me - I can move him physically out of my way!  He doesn't have the experience or the verbal abilities that I do.  There are so many ways that I can simply exert my will over him!

Not doing that is particularly difficult when I'm in a hurry, or I'm annoyed, or I'm tired.  This morning, I shooed him out of my room, and he asked me for his "Bong Tongs"  (they're tongs he picked up on our treasure hunt, but he called them "batons" and it has morphed into "Bong Tongs," which we are all calling them now).  The Bong Tongs were on the bed.  I grabbed them, handed them to him as he stood outside the door, and shut the door quickly.  He started crying.  "I wanted to walk out with my Bong Tongs!"

It was such a simple but seemingly pointless desire.  My getting him out of the bedroom and getting to the kitchen so I could eat my breakfast was so much more important to me.  But, hoping it was just as simple as him walking in and back out holding the stupid Bong Tongs, I opened the door.  He walked in, touched the bed purposefully, and walked back out with a huge grin on his face.

I have no idea why such a simple thing brought him joy, or why he became fixated on it.  Perhaps it was a matter of feeling powerless to my shutting him out of the room?

It's hard being a skinny, 3-foot-tall person.  He doesn't even weigh enough to open the fridge.  He can't pour himself a glass of water.  He relies on us for so much, and sometimes we complain about it.

It's kind of ironic - and downright unfair - that I expect him to keep my feelings in mind sometimes, but I do not always keep his in mind.  Also, I don't always understand his feelings, and yet I am really frustrated when he doesn't understand mine.  Gee, I guess the frustration is mutual!

And I find it interesting, amidst the information about development that says kids don't fully recognize themselves as separate from their parents and environment until they are 3 or even 4, that I am also recognizing him as more and more separate from me as he matures.  He has more and more of his own opinions and interests, and I have to respect that even as I help mold him.

So very tricky, this parenting gig!

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