Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Skills

(Waking up to the flash of pictures in the morning.)

My daughter continues to prove mastery at the skill of absolute adorableness. My son, at the ripe mature age of 20 and a half months has decided that he has become such a master of adorableness that he would add to his repertoire the skill of pain-in-the-buttness. He is no master of this inevitable craft as of yet but he has some talent with this skill to be sure.

At first I wrote off early grumpy signs of his newest venture as the result of mere teething discomfort. He is teething with the sharp fang teeth and the molars popping out. And surely he would not begin the pain-in-the-buttness skills so soon while he still is working on mastery of speech, I told myself for comfort.

Several days ago he went to bed fussy, woke up fussy, and went to bed fussy again. Thankfully he can't help but pose and smile for a camera. That next morning Ana woke up first so I took some pictures of her. Enzo started to move around so I aimed the camera at him and the flash did it's magic. The Kid's smile woke up before his eyes did! All happy and cute and stretching and posing for the camera my son joined the world of the conscious that day. Grumpiness didn't have a chance of sticking when my son started the day off in front of a flash. These kids are just so good at being cute and beautiful.

Other evidence has since appeared, however, that we are not just talking about teething. Enzo is good with a cup or a glass and I let him hold and drink water from adult glasses often enough. When it's too full or Enzo seems a little distracted I will sometimes leave a hand of mine on the cup to guide... just in case. Enzo, as it would turn out, did not recently feel that he needed such assistance on a particular occasion and made it quite clear. I assured him that I would help anyway. At that point The Kid grabbed the mug, paused, and then threw it out of my reach. From there it was all gravity and physics but to tell you how it ended; there were more pieces of mug then when we started.

I was flabbergasted. I was shocked. I didn't know what to do.  My ego was offended.  That's what ego's do after all. This super adorable kid just threw a cup and it broke because he didn't want my help. What was I supposed to do? I could slap his hand or face or swat his butt but that didn't seem to make sense here and I personally have decided that I will go my whole life without hitting to teach a lesson to my children. I know, everyone has an opinion on this. But for me, it won't work any other way.  Perhaps others have a clearer mindset but I am suspicious of myself using any method of teaching that simultaneously vents my aggressive anger and I don't think I could hit my children in any way that did not include me releasing my anger on them.  I wouldn't be motivated to do so unless I was partially blinded by anger so I will just stay away from it all completely. I could yell but I didn't think that would teach Enzo anything right then and yelling often resembles hitting. I was standing there with a quiet child waiting for a response and a broken cup surrounded by water on the floor; frustrated and immobilized in indecision. Until that moment redirection always did the job. But here I was with an extra motivation or two. Redirection works when you don't want a kid to do something. You redirect them and they start to play with something else. But at that moment I also wanted to release my frustration and I wanted to teach my son a lesson that throwing cups breaks them and that is not a good thing. After several seconds I simply gave up, picked him up, and set him in a different spot so that I could clean up the mess. Very unsatisfying at the time. Two motivations unmet; my frustration un-vented and no lesson learned by my son.   I think it was better to miss teaching the lesson, which I didn't know how to teach, than to cause an undesirable lesson while venting the frustration I was feeling.  But that can't keep happening indefinitely.  The frustration was gone a minute later as was any thought my son had for the cup. Since then, I've been thinking and talking a little about this and I have come up something better that I could have tried.  I think I would have been better off telling Enzo that I didn't like that he threw the cup in a serious and reasonable tone and then showing him that the cup was now broken.  My goal would be to show him that I was sad about the behavior and that there was an undesirable consequence to his action.  Also, if any of this sticks with him over time, and he learns to copy and mimic the behavior his dad has modeled, he would be an impressive kid.  Maybe my son would tell another kid "I don't like that you did that, look what it caused" instead of yelling "No" or trying to hit another kid in school who tears his drawing.  I'm trying to put a plan together based on conversations I have had as I have no real knowledge or memory or reading or research or experience that I can think of to help in a situation like this.  I need to read a book.  Or, I need Tami to read a book and let me know what it says.  If you have an insightful suggestion I'll listen.

Time will tell if I master the skills of parenting at least as quickly as my son masters the skills of youth.  If not, I'll just keep a camera with flash nearby at all times.

Kid, if you are reading this someday- I love you.  Hopefully you eventually learned not to throw cups in frustration.  By the way, it was your mom's cup that Tom gave her back in high school so you may want to keep an eye out in the used stores for a cup with lots of penguins that says "One in a million."  It would make a great mother's day gift.

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