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Monday, May 9, 2011

The Trying Twos

This morning Kye had his first real temper tantrum. While driving home (with a kicking, screaming toddler in the back seat) I mentally blogged. Writing helps me vent and get my thoughts out so I don't go crazy (or become psycho mommy).

I've grown up hearing parents complain about certain stages of parenthood. Whenever a child turns 13 you hear adults say "oh no, a teenager!" and whenever a child turns two you hear "the terrible twos!!!" Those remarks irritate me. Not all teenagers are tough and not all two year olds are terrible. Now that I myself have a two year old I feel that I'm allowed to say this. When I have a teenager, I'll let you know my thoughts on that situation ;)

Our pediatrician calls this year the "trying twos" and I appreciate that. It is not a terrible age. It's a trying age. Kye is learning independence. He's learning that he can make choices and that those choices don't always match up with what Mommy and Daddy ask of him. He is more active. He tests his limits to fully understand his boundaries. He is changing, learning, and growing more and more everyday. He can reason, he can understand, he can be disappointed and upset. On top of all of that, during this age kids are made to learn to use the potty, transition to a big bed from a crib, get rid of pacifiers, get in their two year (painful!) molars and many welcome a new sibling into the picture. It's a LOT on a toddler and we expect a lot (too much at times?) out of them.

I personally believe the reason parents hate this age is that it requires more parenting. It's harder. It's a time when we have to STEP UP and actually PARENT. Up until now it's rather easy. I mean babies lay there and even 1 year olds do everything you ask them to do. Now that Kye has a "mind of his own" it's a time where I have to train him, mold him, and discipline him. Over. And over. And over. He decides to disobey so he gets punished. As the parent of a two year old, the days of sitting back and relaxing are long gone.

I observe other parents of toddlers all the time and I think so much of the terribleness of the twos is that parents let things slide. They don't feel like disciplining. They are embarrassed of their kids behavior and don't know how to respond in public settings. They just give their kid whatever it takes to shut them up/keep them happy/make them stop instead of taking care of the problem at hand. They think about the moment and not the lesson. The how-to-fix it instead of the why-it's-happening. I'm not saying I'm perfect in this. Today I did what I think the majority of parents do. But then I also caught myself, and changed my tune.

After swim lessons this morning I had to run to the mall to pick up an anniversary present for Zach. It was like a 10 min trip b/c I already had what I needed on hold. Kye was in a nice mood and asked if we could stay at the mall so I thought that would be fine. I was parked on the total opposite side of the mall from the indoor playground but I thought a little exercise would be good for me so we walked down there. While walking my phone rang and it was SGMC about the free skin cancer screening I want to attend. This is where I hands down most often screw up as a parent. I'm on the phone and Kye acts up so I "do whatever it takes to make him happy and shut him up" thing. What I should do is politely get off the phone, discipline my child, then call them back at a better time. But 99% of the time I don't do this.

In this case Kye was pitching a fit because he wanted to stop and play at the little car station thing where you can put in a quarter to ride it or whatever. Instead of continuing on the path we were on, I stopped and let him out to play there (no, I didn't put in any quarters...) as I "needed" to finish my conversation. I know to most people that's not a big deal. It made him happy. It allowed me to finish my phone call. Everyone wins right? No. Kye didn't win. He may have been happy right then but the lesson he learned was "if Mommy is on the phone and I act up then I can get whatever I want." After I finished my call, I was disappointed in myself for that decision.

We got back going on our path to the indoor playground and Kye enjoyed playing with another little girl. Another thing I notice about some parents is that the let their rules go when in public, and I try VERY hard not to do this. Kye is NOT allowed to climb up the slide. I don't care how many other kids are doing it, he's not allowed to. He's not allowed to scream inside (why does it seem like kids get in these playgrounds and feel the need to scream these high-pitched, ear piercing screams? HELLO instant migraine!). He's not allowed to crawl around on the seating surrounding the playground. Every single time we are there other kids do these things. Kye rarely does the screaming, the slide is a simple reminder as he heads that way and he stops, and he's never attempted the cushion crawling/climbing thing. Until today. For some reason he climbed up on the seating and started crawling all around on it. I got up and got him down then told him if he did it again we would be leaving. He said "yes ma'am" then turned and did it RIGHT again.

Did I feel like making him leave right then? Did I really want to deal with the fit he was about to throw when I told him we were leaving? Did I feel like being embarrassed in front of ALL the other parents there? HECK NO. But I know that consistency is the #1 key thing with raising a child. I know that if I want this year of two to be less trying and nothing close to terrible then it's on my shoulders to be the parent I need to be. At home. In public. All. Day. Long. It ain't easy but it's what I signed up for when I got pregnant. It's my job and my duty. I love my child enough to discipline him. So that's what I did.

I yanked him off the cushions and told him he made the wrong choice and we were leaving. Yikes. Welcome to Kye's very first tantrum. He kicked. He screamed. He flung his head. I stayed calm, even when a MILLION eyes were on us, and walked out of the play area. I tried to carry him (in one arm while pushing a stroller with the other) and headed towards Belk to spank him but then realized I didn't bring a spank stick (aka paint stick) with me.

Btw, YES we spank our child. We use a wooden paint stick (free at Lowes!) and now that he's not in diapers we pull down his pants and underwear and spank is bare butt. I NEVER spank him in front of anyone else (even Zach...and Zach doesn't spank him in front of me either). We pull him into a private space (dressings rooms work great when out shopping) and spank him. Then we talk to him about what he did wrong, usually having him tell us why he got the spanking. Then we have him fix the thing/pick up the toy/etc if possible and say he's sorry to us. Then we tell him he's a good boy but must make good choices (and tell him what the good choice in that situation would have been). I know a lot of people hate on spanking, and that's fine. But if you want to read more about why we believe it is an essential parenting tool you can read our beliefs HERE.

Anyways. I didn't have the spank stick (remember I thought it'd be a quick in and out trip to the mall) so I opted for plan B. I stuck him the stroller, buckled him in, and walked the ENTIRE length of the mall to go back to my car. It was the parenting walk of shame. My child screamed bloody murder the entire way. Begging me. Pleading me. Bawling. Flailing his arms. Kicking his legs (thankfully I kept his shoes in my purse, or someone would have surely been nailed in the head). It was BEYOND embarrassing. But I kept on walking. Oh my the stares. And I can imagine the thoughts. I smiled at each person we passed and would tell Kye over and over and over again (especially in front of people haha) "I'm so sorry we had to leave the playground. You made a bad choice and broke the rules so we had to leave. I know you'll do better next time."

We got to the car and I (miraculously) got him in his car seat and we left. He continued to bawl, scream, kick and flail the entire drive home. Once he calmed down I re-explained the entire thing to him and I told him we will go back tomorrow and try again. Do I want to go back tomorrow? No. Tomorrow is the day before we leave for Bermuda and I have a TON to do. But I know his little mind can't remember for very long and it's important that we go back asap so he can make the right choice this time and so I can congratulate him for good behavior and show him that when he obeys and follows the rules he gets rewarded.

Life with a two year old (especially a teething one!) is not easy. It's especially, at times, not very fun. I wish I had the spank stick on hand as I think a good spanking would have straightened him up and not resulted in the long, drawn out, tantrum. But I refuse to use my hand and in this case leaving the situation did cause a punishment for him. I did not still spank him once we got home. Now when we return tomorrow I WILL have that stick with me and I will not hesitate to use it if needed! I'm very confident tomorrow will go better though and that he'll have a fun time, while obeying the rules.

I feel that, overall, Zach and I are doing a great job in raising Kye and in disciplining him when needed. We still make plenty of mistakes and are learning as we go just like everyone else, but I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns and leaving today. It wasn't easy but I know I did what was right. And I feel so much better after blogging about it ;) It always helps me sort out my thoughts and remind myself that I'm doing my very best as a mommy!

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