“It’s just one of those days… Don’t take it personal….”
Ironically, one of those days just happens to be today, the day after Mother’s Day. It’s been 8 weeks of pandemic shelter-in-place times. Today, of all days, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt this way, was a serious bust when it came to my firstborn.
The first bust was trying to do some homeschool. We haven’t done any serious homeschooling since school was cancelled 8 weeks ago. Jacob’s teachers have been emailing us weekly projects/assignments, letters, projects, riddles, yoga/youtube videos. We tried to do it in the beginning but it was so painful. It was hard to imagine my child not ever reading/writing and not jump down this negative pathway… So I decided (based on some research from other toddler moms) that the best thing for everyone was to have fun, learn by playing, prevent both of us from crying. But in light of school likely not resuming for the rest of the year and questionably even during the summer, I had to do something! So I decided to start with what the teachers recommended.
S is for stars, sun, Saturn, solar system- all things my #1 likes. We have a book he can trace and write himself.He doesn’t seem to follow the directions or stay within the lines well but I let that go. A few Ss were normal and then he started to write them sideways… There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears… I vaguely remember having to learn to read, write and do math with my dad. There was resistance, fear, anger and frustration but I got through it and thanks to all that torture, I was able to excel at math and English growing up (now is a different story! Where’s my TI-85?!?).
I said to myself, Okay, this gentle approach is not working as well as I had hoped. It’s going to have be tough love. I’m not MOM, I’m the tutor/teacher/strict lady. He may hate me now but will thank me when he starts to enjoy reading and writing. And so onward we went.
Today’s assignment was ‘T’ – perfect! T is for train, turkey, turtle, Tyrannosaurus Rex, all things that Jacob likes.The first few Ts went as the book instructed-vertical line downward, then cross the T., all in 2 strokes. And then the whining/resistance began and suddenly the Ts could only be made with 3 strokes. While #2 is also trying to recolor the walls, table and himself with markers, I’m trying to remain serious. How do teachers do it? How can learning be fun? How in the world did my parents do it? And all these thoughts whirl round and round my head. Should I be satisfied that this T sort of resembles a T? I can’t give up now, I still have to keep trying. What can I bribe him with? Threaten to take toys away?? Maybe I should have a plan in place before starting this path.
Somehow he brudgingly wrote a few 2-stroke Ts and then we went outside to play, where he was gleefully making soap volcanos with this rocket stomper toy, making siphons, tube systems, playing with water… That is his passion. I’ll say, it’s science.
I thought playing in the sun for hours would help him nap but it didn’t. Jacob’s been napping 40% of the time these days. Only after physical activity will he nap in the afternoon. So I was looking forward to feeding him dinner early and getting to bed early (when Cameron goes to sleep, around 7-7:30pm).
Well, MomFail #2 was with dinner time. Dinner is a struggle unless we’re eating pizza, mac and cheese, brats, steak, penne pasta. He does eat chicken sometimes but getting him to eat veggies requires bribery (dessert), he’s a slow eater (we’re all done and ready to clear the table and he’s only eaten a few bites) and only when we start to clear plates and say he’s going to miss milk/dessert does he start to eat faster. But most meals are a struggle.
In an effort to reduce waste and conserve paper products, we recently decided to try cloth napkins. We jokingly pretend we’re the waiter at a fine restaurant as we drape it across his lap, Here’s your napkin, kind sir. And we tell him to keep the napkin on his lap. Very soon after, he’s twirling it around his head, whipping it at me/Dad/Brother, wearing it like a scarf… and after consequences like ‘no dessert’ and one warning, we’ve had to whisk him off to bed (he hasn’t eaten more than a few bites and is goofing around).
The look on his face when we scoop him up to take him upstairs to his room is heartbreaking (had to do it a few nights ago). He looks so sad, devastated, and remorseful. But to be consistent with our warnings and to be taken seriously, I must do what I say I’m going to do. Does the punishment fit the crime here? I’ve heard that toddlers and mealtimes are a struggle until age 7 or so. But other than the possibility than he’s tired (hadn’t napped), hungry or not hungry, until what point do I just let things go and let him carry on?
Mom Guilt is real and it’s painful. I lay awake at night thinking of what I could’ve done differently, what research/book do I need to read next, what notes do I have to review. I’ve read How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen, No Bad Kids, No Drama Discipline, and listen to podcasts about Gentle Parenting, Respectful Parenting. And I have to mindfully think about things before I let my emotions/frustrations project onto Jacob.
Tonight, both kids in bed by 7:30pm… I’ll talk with Jacob tomorrow when he and I are in a calmer place and work on a way to make things better. Until then, I’m happy to hear any advice you have about toddler discipline, home school and mealtimes.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day- to all the moms, sisters, friends here on Earth and in Heaven, to all the Moms of babies in Heaven, I am thinking of you. There’s no other happiness and stress in the world. Cheers to another day of trying to be better.