It’s been a busy few weeks. Between work and being silly enough to check my work e-mails while I’m at home, I’ve been busy, stressed and having sleepless nights in equal measures. But I’ve now put in a temporary measure- No checking my work e-mail at home unless someone actually rings me and tells me to. Which has never happened before, so fingers crossed.
On the home front, we’ve been dealing with the “D” word with Roz recently. The D word being discipline. Boy is it hard to know how to deal with an explorative fifteen month old. Oh yeah, did I mention we’re not calling it being naughty or misbehaving? No? Well, we’re not calling it being naughty or misbehaving.
I don’t do self help books or motivational speakers on any given day, but I do know this: that words have power. And the way we look and think about words has even greater power than most people realise. Words have killed and saved people, and changed the way people think. Need I go further that “I had a dream” by Martin Luther King jr.? Words are powerful things. I remember that in my previous place of work, we had affirmations that we were encouraged to say everyday
“I belong to the best financial team in the world”
kind of crap. (I never said it…probably why I was so Shiite at the job – ha!)
And there was once a woman sitting next to me on the bus to work reading and repeating affirmations off her iphone, real cheesy ones,
“I am a confident, strong woman; the right man will be very lucky to get to spend time with me”
I hope they worked, because judging from the look of the poor woman, she really needed them! But that’s a story for another day.
Anyhoo, that’s why we don’t call Roz naughty. Because I firmly believe, and am lucky enough for Krys to agree with me, that children Roz’s age cannot be naughty. They are surrounded by all these new things around them and want to explore and get to grips with their world. we simply say she’s exploring. When I find her in the kitchen surrounded by all the Tupperware, she’s exploring. When she tips over a whole plate of pasta onto the flood and starts to smush it, she’s exploring textures. Tons of exploring goes on in this house.
I think the only reason adults say a child is misbehaving or being naughty is because it takes the adult out of their orderly world and makes them have to deal with something the child has done, that they don’t like. It’s got nothing to do with the child. And most importantly, I think as parents we are under so much pressure to make sure that our children are “well behaved”. And “well behaved” is a societal definition that does not look at each unique child nor each different household. In truth, society still wants children to be seen and not heard.
In case that was as clear as mud, let me give you an example. Whenever I leave the bathroom door open and Roz manages to get in there, the first thing she does is get the roll of toilet tissue and pluck each sheet off the roll till they are in a lovely, messy heap around her and she’s sitting there all proud of herself.
The first time she ever did this, I went in , saw her, she looked up at me with this beaming smile on her face and then her face went all puzzled when she saw that I was frowning. I immediately said,
“Aah, Roz!” and picked her up, dumped her in the living room, then went back to clean up the mess. I really honestly didn’t believe there was anything wrong with what I did. I didn’t yell, I didn’t go on about it, I just took her away from the scene of the crime, as one of my books encourages, and then cleaned up.
But the next day when she went the room got quiet and I went hunting for my little girl and found her plucking a fresh roll of tissue apart, the first thing she did when she saw my shadow fall over her was shriek in (unpleasant) surprise, the try to hide herself and the roll of tissue, and shut the door on me all at the same time.
I felt so bad!
I mean, here was a little child not even a year old and she already felt constricted by her mum? Did I really want her as a teenager, eating cookies under her bed, or hiding her skimpy clothes under her school uniform so her mum wouldn’t get that look? Yes, I know I’m going a bit overboard, but I’m speaking from personal appearance here.
So I had to take a long hard think about what I was doing. What’s the big deal with the shredding the tissue? I could still use it in its UN intact form. If someone came to visit, all I need to say is that Roz got to it, and if they didn’t understand or were disapproving, well then in the words of the late, great Elvis, ain’t no friend of mine now are they? Of course, I’d never let her do that in someone else’s house, but this is her home. And I think the biggest failing to children is when parents believe your child has to fit into your environment entirely.
When you have a child, there has to be some compromise reached on our side as adults. Krys and I now share our apartment with one other human being who never asked to be here, so we have to let her feel comfortable about living here, and we have to show her that her existence here is just as valid as our own.
Ten minutes of her discovering about the tactile strength of tissue paper, about cause and effect, about how many times she can take exactly one strip off the tissue roll, is only equal to one minute’s work for me in cleaning up. Now I just let her get on with it and we’ve gotten to a point where she knows she can gleefully pull the tissue apart and I will just keep reading my book. And let’s face it; if I really don’t want her doing that, I can just make sure the bathroom door is constantly locked. Out of sight, out of mind.
So I guess you’re asking, but what about discipline? To be honest, I don’t. She’s still exploring her world and any negative acts are usually to get my attention. So the best way to avoid her doing stuff like stomping on her apple and throwing back her head and wailing (as she did last week) is distraction. When she wails for something, I weigh the pros and cons of her having it. If it’s valuable and may break, I let her hold it for a second, then distract her with a book or song and put the item away, never to be seen again. If she just wants my attention, I stop what I’m doing (even when it’s cooking) and see what she wants. She is going to be so little for such a short time, I don’t want to look back and say I missed anything because I didn’t think it was important. Or worse, because i thought material things were more important. Nor do I want to miss out on this very important attachment period just because I couldn’t make the time.
Yes, it is hard and some days I just want to say ‘please Roz, give me five minutes to myself!, don’t touch that, don’t eat that, for pete’s sake my lotion!” And various others but I don’t – at least not out loud. She didn’t ask to be here and it lasts such a short time, this lovely stage. The most important thing is for me to be here and for her to learn to trust me.