Goose turned two in July. Since then, he has welcomed the "terrible" with open arms. He has become a yelling, pouting, hitting, throwing, crying, stomping cliché.
In turn, he has turned me into the clichéd fretting mother, constantly wondering where I have gone wrong and how I can save him from himself. Looking for stopgap solutions so that we can all just make it through the day, for crying out loud.
When, in truth, what I need to do is back away, put the cookie back into the cookie jar, and let him work his way through it on his own. Tough love and all that jazz.
But damn if that isn't hard.
Goose started attending preschool two half-days a week this month. Nicely coinciding with that was the introduction of separation anxiety that arrives so conveniently at his age. The result is an undercurrent of mutteringly-hostile "I no go school" chants under his breath any time I look like I might put shoes on him. Or brush his hair. Or look in the direction of the garage.
A weaker mother might give in to his sad eyes and pouting lips as he proclaims that he is, in fact, ready to go back to bed at 7:45 a.m. because he "no go school." A weaker mother like, say, his father.
But no. We are going to tough this out. We are not going to decide that he's just two and doesn't really need to be in preschool, anyway. That he can stay home another year and risk even having a spot in the impossible-to-get-into preschool that we love because they are not overly competitive or encourage over-scheduling.
We are not going to decide that this is too hard for Goose.
The surest way to make life hard for your kids is to make it soft for them.
I have said that before and I'm saying it here again because I need it as a reminder. I will not bail out my kids just because they are uncomfortable.
But damn if this isn't hard.
None of us likes to see our children struggle or in pain. Particularly if we can help them. But by helping them, by bailing them out, by protecting them from disappointment, what are we truly accomplishing in the long run?
We are depriving them of pride.
I used to watch Supernanny all the time. One of my favorite episodes focused on a mother that had slept in her son's room every night since she brought him home from the hospital. Take that a step further and you realize that she had not spent the night in bed with her husband since she brought her son home from the hospital five years earlier.
Not that she hadn't tried. She had tried to persuade her son to sleep alone, but the resulting tantrums and visible emotional pain were too much for her to bear. So she caved. Night after night. She caved.
Needless to say, this kind of weakness extended into other areas of their life to the point that they had to bring in Supernanny, Jo Frost.
One of the first things Jo did was walk the mother through getting her son to sleep through the night alone for the first time. Her technique is simple and boils down to that after some measure of comfort, you simply return them to bed each and every time they try to leave the room and you do not engage them. After hours of this tortuously stoic approach, I'll be damned if the little boy didn't sleep in his bed alone. For the first time in his life.
The next morning, he entered the kitchen and displayed something his mother had never witnessed so purely before: pride. He was proud of himself for having slept by himself.
Despite all of her best efforts to protect him from pain and discomfort, his mother had been surely succeeding in doing one thing that would last longer than any amount of comfort that her presence in his bedroom could provide: She had been depriving him of pride.
This realization was stunning, to say the least. It was also not nearly as dramatic as I am making it out to be, but it dramatically impressed upon me the importance of allowing our children to, in essence, learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. Regardless of how hungry they may appear at that moment.
So tonight, when Goose came out of his bedroom in tears for the fourth time in as many minutes, I caught myself engaging him. I was literally in mid-comforting hysteria (you know the kind, as you are on the edge of breaking down but don't want to let them know that you might have to throw them out the window), when I stopped mid-sentence and saw Supernanny in my mind.
Crazy as that sounds.
I stopped talking, or, I should say that I stopped pleading, closed my mouth, scooped him up, delivered him to his bed, and walked out. I only had to do this one more time and as I sit here, he has still not left his bed. Sure, there was some sniffling, but if you can't handle some sniffling and mumbling about "no, Q's bed!" and "no go school," then you might want to reconsider having that second or third child.
Well, I'll be damned.
I just heard Maguire, my husband, leave Goose's room.
A weaker mother would have snuck in there and lain on the floor until Goose fell asleep.
I appear to have married a weaker mother.
I'll be damned.
Consider this to be continued...