Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Saying yes

I decided yesterday that I needed to say "yes" more often to Sister. My girl has been having trouble in school again lately. She is daydreamy when she should be working, her teacher says, but is also getting into trouble when she lets other kids--boys, usually--tease her into misbehaving. My sneaking suspicion is that I'm not cutting her enough slack at home. I've reasoned that between me and my Ex, my parenting role is the disciplinarian because Sister's father is so very lax with her that it's not even funny. I've mentioned before that she's borderline chaotic whenever she's with him and his parents, so I've felt that I should be more firm with her, that I should take special care to spell out the rules with her. Until now.

I'm tired of being the tough parent. I'm tired of having her looked stressed because I'm making her do homework on schedule. (Her 1st grade teacher kept harping on how it was important to lay down good study habits NOW by making her do homework at a routine time in a routine place everyday. I'm thinking that maybe it's just enough that it gets done at all each week.) I'm tired of trying to drill manners into her head at the expense of tension at the dinner table. (That's a hang-up shared by both myself and my Husband.) I'll be the first to admit that I'm rather a control freak, but I'm just tired of being her really-too-rigid mama. My girl used to be the biggest sweetheart I'd ever known, but she's changed in the last year or so. Maybe it's because she's just older and doesn't show it as much, but maybe it's because I'm not being all that sweet myself anymore. Even I'm noticing these days the contrast in my tone when I'm talking to little baby Bean versus when I talk to Sister. She doesn't call me on it, but I'll bet it hurts her feelings sometimes that I don't talk like that to her now. Is that why at least a couple of times a week Sister tries to climb into my lap and talk baby talk to me? Um, yeah, probably.

Our house doesn't always have to run so efficiently, does it? With every piece of the daily puzzle in its place everyday? No. It really doesn't. So yesterday I made a conscious effort to relax with Sister. I decided that I'd say yes where I'd previously said no. She wants to play with her toy horses, take the dog outside, swing on the tire swing, have snack, try on clothes, and read me poems, all before doing homework? Yes, my love. She wants to wear some new clothes that I got for her, even though the weather is really a little too chilly for them? Of course, but come inside for a sweater if you start to get cold. She wants to pick my camellias and put them in her hair? Go ahead, dear. The thing is blooming gloriously this year and there are plenty. Can she stay a little longer in the bath, though dinner is nearly ready? Yes. Can she tidy her room after dinner instead of before? Yes. Can she go with me on an errand without the baby and Husband? Yes.

And thus, yesterday we had the nicest day together that we've had in months. This will be hard for me because I am used to running our household almost like it's a job, rather than relaxing in it and letting others do the same. But I'm hoping I can keep it a little slacker around here.


Erin said...

It sounds like you are doing the best you can for her. In our house, I live by the 'pick your battles' rule. It's so much less stressful.

Good luck!

Mama D said...

Sounds like this may be exactly what Sister needed. That doesn't mean to say that every day has to be that way, but the occasional one would likely make her happy.

Bobita said...

What a beautiful and honest post!

I have a couple of things to say (my friends would say, "that's SHOCKING!!") Hee-hee!!

1) It is REALLY, REALLY hard to be a mom...and look at all you are able to do in one day!

2) Kids need consistency...even if it is doing homework. An important thing that helps kids feel safe and loved is a predictable routine.

3) You're right...she needs to hear you say "yes" more often. But it is important to remember...if a child feels safe enough to be "grumpy" around you...this says something really important about how much they trust you!

In one of my former lives I was a child & family therapist. There were 2 things that I consistently recommended to families that were having troubles with their kids (which of course just means...they HAD kids!!). 1) Read "Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman (or if you don't...try to incorporate a routine in which 20-30 minutes each day is spent completely focused upon your child...usually playing, or maybe holding Sister in your needn't be more than 20-30 minutes as long as they are your sole occupation during that time. And it is most effective if it is around the same time each day. Because then you can say, "Remember, 'Sister-Time' is coming soon...but now it is time for you to do your homework.") And 2) incorporate something that is constant between mom & Ex's house. Maybe it is the same pillow or the same stuffed toy. It's called a "transitional object" and gives her a sense of continuity between your homes. And 3) when you kiss her "good-night" whisper something to her that you appreciated about her that day, ie: "My favorite part about today was watching you play with Brother so gently."

Anyway, clearly I could go...on & on & on about this...and BUT I have learned is that...we "get" what our kids need...its just a matter of listening to our own voice. Being a mother includes a highly sensitive intuition. So, just ask yourself...what does Sister need? And then listen. You will get the answer.

And please, please remember...being a Mommy is a hard job...and the fact that you are concerned for Sister and desire to help her can only ROCK at it!

Dawn said...

Some of it is the age too. I think their hormones kick up a little right now - a growth spurt, and extra awareness of their place in the classroom. Emily's body is starting to change and it freaks me the hell out.

But last night, I held her like I did when she was a baby and rocked her.

My Early childhood Guru's chant is "Unbusy Yourself"

And you're doing fine.

Nancy said...

You're a great mom -- and the fact that you're observing changes in your daughter, thinking about the causes, and responding to them is wonderful. Hope you enjoy the "slackness" -- it can be good for mom as well as for Sister!

Suzanne said...

It's wonderful that you're able to revise your rules as you go along -- being flexible is hard sometimes, and it sounds like your daughter will respond well to this new approach. Good for you!

Mommygoth said...

Aw, sounds like a great day. Sister will be all right - she is at a wonky age and I'm sure it is a little confusing to go from the dynamic of your ex's house to yours. And there's been a lot of change in your house in the last year. My mother's favorite expression is "this too shall pass" - and it will. If I can learn to let Miss K leave toys all over the floor and let her go to bed with sweet potato in her hair, you can learn to slack off a little too!