Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Being a parent is hard

Here's an Eliana story for you all, and this time it will be my segue into today's topic: parenting. It's hard.

We were at a cast party for the show I'm currently in, and we were all sitting outside eating snacks. Eliana particularly enjoyed the cheese popcorn, and at one point asked if she could have some more. Seeing as she had already eaten about 5 cups of the stuff, we said no. Next thing we realize, she has gone into the house on her own, and emerged with her face full of an unknown food substance.

"Eliana," I said," What are you eating?"

She looks at me, eyes wide, the wheels in her head visibly spinning. "I was hungry," was the muffled response.

"Wow," says my director, "She's being intentionally evasive." I think he was simultaneously impressed and concerned.

I ask again. "Eliana, what is in your mouth?"

And again, she pauses to think, then shrugs. "I don't know," she replies.

Well now people are starting to giggle, and who can blame them? Here's my crafy future politician coming up with various ways to avoid giving me the right answer without actually lying. So I ask once again, this time with more (I think) anger in my voice."

"Eliana! Tell me now what you're eating!!"

She slowly turns to face away from me, and says, "Nothing."

Parenting is hard. It's difficult, if not impossible, to always know what to do in a given situation. I know Eliana was lying, but what do you do with that? Do you punish her? Will she understand what's so bad about what she did? Is talking to her the better road to travel? I just have no idea. Nor do I have any idea what to do when she gets upset and, as she did the other day to her father, yell with all the rage and fury she could muster, "Papa, you're nobody's best friend!!"

Research shows that the most well-adjusted kids are those with parents who are high in demandingness and high in warmth. I think we have the warmth part down. The demandingness, well, I'm starting to wonder. I've always known we had the potential to be too soft on our kids, but I thought we'd been doing pretty well with limit-setting, consistency, and consequences for her actions. And yet, she continues to ignore us, disobey, and come up with all sorts of reasons why she can't go upstairs to bed right now. Of course, much of this is typical 3-year-old behavior. But what are you supposed to do about it?

Our other dilemma is her nighttime behavior. Eliana is up at least once - sometimes 3 or 4 times - per night, dorking around usually, under the guise of having to go potty. We're trying a sticker incentive plan that I am stealing from my boss (nice to have psychologists around you sometimes), and it's working OK, but I'm not convinced the results will be long-term. It seems like with Eliana it is one thing after another, and those things usually happen around or during bedtime. I worry sometimes that we're letting her get out of control, and yet I have no intention of spanking her. Aside from time-outs and removal of privileges, what do you do?

I'll tell you: you yell. I can't help it. I know that yelling isn't the hallmark of great parenting, but lately I can't help myself. I feel like I'm yelling at her all the freakin' time and I hate that! Every day takes a toll on me, because it seems like every day is filled with me or Paul asking her to do something, and she then tries to get around it. We go through our little privilege-removal/time-out routine, and eventually we just yell. I get so crazy and frazzled that I can't even keep track of what is working. It's almost as if I'm so deep into it that I have lost all objectivity and I'm now going solely by instinct. And I'm definitely not convinced my instincts are praise-worthy.

Of course, all of this exhausting parenting business has me wondering just what the hell I signed myself up for when deciding to have another child. I never feel bored with this one, never have that "our family is missing something" moment, and never think to myself, "Gee, I sure love continuously interrupted sleep, no time to myself, temper tantrums and self-doubt as a parent. I know! Let's do it all over again!!" But I guess you just do it again, huh? Which is why God made wine and chocolate.


Rudnicks said...

I feel better that a psychologist is also having the same problems that I am! We also have a cycle of privelege removal with a bit of bribery thrown in. Our biggest dilemmas of late are bedtime and drinking a glass of milk with dinner. And now, because I also resort to yelling, Xavier yells. He yells at his brother, the dog and us. Do I have any words of wisdom? Nope. I hear from other parents that 5 is a wonderful age, and this is what I look forward to.

rebekah said...

One night after a particulary discouraging bedtime battle, I turned to my husband and said, call off the Ethiopian adoption. I don't want anymore. (we didn't call it off)