Wednesday, October 19, 2011

44 Months (the second act)

Getting the kids into bed is becoming an increasingly difficult task, so much that it is extremely draining and by the time we finally rustle them into their prospective cages, all I want to do is go find my own bed and collapse into the pillow (in slow-motion dramatic effect like I'm in some Hollywood movie that tries to capture the trials of parenthood but never manages to get it right because there is nothing that you could ever put up on a screen that will make you understand the complexity and confusion and exhilaration involved in all of these decisions that we deal with every day and when these false images are filtered down to us through the media of popular culture I simply want to scream at the screen, YOU JUST DON"T GET IT!)

But I digress.

We used to put all of it down to the notion that, since they no longer nap during the day, that they are so exhausted that their brains simply can't concentrate long enough to brush their teeth or put on their pajamas or clean up their rooms or...well, do anything that will help Christina and I some small fraction of sanity before another day has been lost to us (even Quinnie has now decided that napping is just such a two-year-old thing and since she's three-going-on-four that it is somehow beneath her dignity to lay her head down for an hour or two or even for thirty minutes so that some people in the house may have a moment of relaxation and it'll be better for her later anyway when she is trying to focus on the various necessities required of her in order to get her into bed without dragging her through the house by her hair and plopping her down into the warmth of her covers thumb in her mouth blankie on her cheek)


Once I think about it, I suppose that most of these complaints are simply my version of acting out after becoming frustrated or tired from the heedless burden life can dump on our heads. Don't we all reach a point at the end of the day where we are fed up with the constant pushing and pulling of our attention and we either fall down into a heap somewhere and zone out or jump around and act out, attempting to diffuse some of those turbulent feelings jumbling around within us? I suppose that we are all looking for some healthy way to process these strained emotions and our children aren't any different.

We used to give them tea because that works really well with ourselves. A calming warm influence that brings us down to settle before the flames churning in our hearth, ruminating on the experience of being alive. That worked for Lucas and he probably needs it the most because he has a tendency to amp out of control when his brain begins to shut down. Quinn is a different story altogether. Yeah, she has her moments when her impish qualities are revealed through a strange source of energy that is hard to explain but much of her night time issues are from some really bad habits that she is struggling to break.

Quinn has a power inside that has the ability to go toe-to-toe with anybody's will. I used to call her stubborn but now I know that she is willful, in the sense that her will is bound to be the fullest of all when it comes to a showdown that she is determined to make. Right now, it devolves into lots of screaming and continuous use of the word "can't" and when I hear that word my will comes forth to challenge. No, "can't" is unacceptable because we can always try. That's the attitude I immediately take but not Quinn, not if she's decided that she is not going to do it. That's when it turns ugly real quick.

And that's when I truly find myself failing as a parent. I know in my heart that there are better ways to communicate to my three-year-old daughter that may empower her to try instead of cry but my ego has taken over and since I'm on the side of righteousness and she just doesn't get it, Quinn falls into a puddle of tear-stained red-faced cheeks as she squirms and shakes and anguishes against the unfair world that has crushed her soul. Then the shock of her behavior punches me in the gut and I realize that I am no longer a father. I have turned into an ogre.

I pick her up and I soothe her, do everything in my power to calm her down and it takes way longer than if I had simply used a calming influence ten minutes earlier. As the adult, shouldn't I be the one with the power to make decisions based on maturity during these difficult situations? When a standoff of wills occurs with my daughter, I always realize this basic truth way too late. Why can't I realize that she needs a calm and respectful voice to help her understand the value of these efforts? She's not at the point in her life where she's become so aware of her power that she's decided to use it for frivolous crap yet and it's up to us to make sure that she never reaches that point. She's honest and embracing and she simply is seeking a gentle connection that will provide some comfort. She's using these actions and her babyish behavior to help create that connection. She's pushing our boundaries so that we will pay more attention to her and love her and give our parenting attention to her. She knows what our role is and she simply wants us to play our part.

But how does that help her grow? That's the question we always come back to after every decision we make during their shifting and evolving journey. Are we creating scenarios that are causing more damage in the long run just because it seems easier to do it this way now? There is a purpose behind the design of discipline. So how do we help Quinn understand that it's so important for her growth as a human being for her to try to put on her own clothes and to pick up the mess she's created? These are basic life lessons that all people need to discover because we've all seen those who never learned a thing about being responsible.

Quinn is different. You can't win trying to use the strong arm of the law with her. She needs a softer focus that respects her, that looks into her heart and reminds her of the power that she has within her. She knows it's there because she can bring it out any time she wishes. We just need to be patient with her so that she can take the next big step in her journey. When I watch her and talk to her and hold her and really open my heart to her, I know that once she does take these steps she is going to really grow in dynamic ways. She has so much potential and her will is so full.

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