As every parent knows (or learns fast) there are some parts of the job that are absolutely not fun. Correcting your child’s actions, or asking for a “redo” when a child’s dialogue is demanding or inappropriate, though on going, quickly reaches a point where it becomes a reflex reaction rather than a conscience effort. But it is the punishment for a wrong doing - the sentencing - if you will, that I loath. I realize consequences for one’s actions are required and necessary to help raise responsible, and considerate young adults, but at times my heart aches when I have to carry out this part of my parenting duty. Questioning whether the punishment fits the crime - am I being too tough or too lenient - weighs heavy on my mind every time, as I would much rather WILL the lesson learned through osmosis over having them serve time.
Treya is our bossy boss. Her forceful tendencies, and head strong nature, lead her down the wrong path constantly, often leading her to the “thinking spot” for her 3 minutes of pondering the correct or better solution. The word “obey” has been slow to enter her vocabulary! Her offenses; however, are small and appropriate for her age, and we know that consistency in our correction will eventually lead her to begin engaging those listening ears of hers soon. Beginning to turn the corner all ready, she now does not just sit in the corner with a scowl of madness, but shows remorse for her misguided action. Progress and promise are blossoming in her.
Devi on the other hand, has reached a rough spot, for lack of a better phrase. A rather bright child, I am stymied by her inability to learn her lesson as they old cliche goes. At wits end...this mom is filled with guilt, as I feel the root of the problem was caused, in a large part, by me (said with lowered eyes, pulsating my pointing index fingers directly at my face). That said, learning the hard life lessons, that “life isn’t fair”, or “patience is a virtue”, or “your time will come” are all just a bunch of words to a five year old. Obviously, she knows the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so is this defiance really a matter of being mean spirited, disrespectful and stubborn or is it exploring choices, developing reason, and part of the natural process of maturing? Either way it is exhausting!
A-typical for a child of her age, Devi’s behavior at home is aces. She is helpful, respectful, and a delight to have around - rarely is she out of line, but at preschool it is another story. As her excitement for kindergarten as well as her level of boredom rises, she has had trouble sharing with others, has been rolling her eyes at her teachers and has been disrespectful, calling one little girl a name, and she even uncharacteristically pinched one child because she was just mad! This, of course, has landed her in the director’s office two out of three days this week alone, having to phone her dad to tell him she is in trouble. The preschool, having annually seen this type of behavior of it’s soon to graduate older group is not surprised. So they have offered many incentives for her to be a good role model to her peers, even becoming a special teacher’s helper, but she can’t seem to rise to the occasion for long, constantly losing those privileges.
Naturally on these troublesome days, we follow up at home with predetermined consequences, that back up the detention she served at the time of the infraction at school. After receiving the call from Pat that Devi has gotten herself into trouble, I instantly start dreading the end of my work day, knowing that after I pick the kids up and go home, Devi will be sent straight to her room. Treya, “the helper”, lets Devi know, “You in jail!”, though I have no idea where she got that terminology. Then with my heavily leaded feet, I will trudge up the stairs, have a brief discussion about what happened how she could of behaved differently, and there she must stay to ponder the alternatives until dinner. All the while she cries, trying every excuse in the book (if she were a superhero, her power would be manipulation...wink) to try and get me to enter the room again to engage her. I ignore it, but it kills me.
As she serves her sentence, I can’t help but wander with my thoughts as well. How could it be that the same child who philosophizes that train cars being joined in a railway round house is just like composing music, as each car is a bar and when hooked together in patterns they form a rhythm - just like musical notes...could later resort to pinching a child just because she was miffed? Or my prissy, dresses-only, eye rolling, valley girl, could be the same child who reasons that the cells in her body must be nocturnal, because while she is asleep they are working hard to heal the scar on her face? Does she possess the ability to weigh the outcome of her misbehavior, reasoning that giving up a stuffed animal or a birthday party is worth the laugh from her friends for misbehaving in dance class or during swimming lessons? From a parents perspective, it is like being a contestant on the TV show Survivor - out wit, out play, and out last your daughter. But as everyone knows, trying to control another human being is futile, like herding cats. Further exploration, I've decided it is most like bowling with the bumpers up. She as the ball might begin rolling off center, but we parents are the bumpers ready to gently bump her back on track toward those pins. The problem is, at five, she does not yet have the skills to fully understand why she does these things herself, so therefore can’t tell me why. That is frustrating and hard to navigate.
In truth, during these times of struggle, I just want to grab her into my arms and cuddle her to make everything better. Perhaps these reminiscent feelings have come flooding back because it is so close to Mother’s day. Whatever the reason, it is becoming more obvious, that our time when human touch resolved all issues is slowly disappearing with her maturity, partially replaced by the tough part of one’s parenting job of guiding her through the school of hard knocks, where her needs are sometimes far greater than a diaper change, warm bottle, or rock in our favorite chair. Where watching her fail - only to suffer the consequences and try again, is part of the bargain. I guess what I am saying, is my baby is growing up and neither of us knows the answers just yet, but we are learning. Now if we can keep her out of jail!