I am at the bottom of a big black hole of parenting badness lately.
I have been losing my cool multiple times a day for weeks on end. 0 patience, end of my rope, etc. etc. etc. I am not being the parent I want to be.
Logically I can look at the situation and say, “All of this is typical behavior for their ages. This will pass and they really are good kids.” However, illogically I have two little tyrants who know every possible little way to get under my skin and no ability or desire to restrain their use of said irritating power. Every possible minute of the day is a power struggle; from getting them dressed, to getting out the door, to picking things up, to any other possible required action. All of this on top of a heaping helping of constant meltdowns and you have a recipe for disaster.
Each of them have their own fun little twists. Oliver is in a “no!” phase, as well as an “I didn’t do it!” phase. He’s also emotionally raw, with his heart on his sleeve and ready to sob at a moment’s notice. I think this last is part of just going through one of those phases where he feels like he’s having trouble expressing himself properly, or he’s not understanding why he can’t get/do whatever he wants. So I think he’s feeling a lot of frustration and not knowing exactly what to do with it.
For Evie’s part, she’s going through a phase where she feels like the queen of the world (well, she’s kind of always going through that phase, but it’s a little more right now). It’s like she’s just realizing how much power and control she has and just reveling in it. This is both power over her brother (usually physical power in the form of violence of some kind) and power over her parents (usually in refusing to do what we want her to do, especially if it prevents us from doing something, like going to the store).
Of course, when the two of them get together, it’s multiplicative. And with all this summer we keep having, they’ve been spending a LOT of time together. Always in the past, only one of them has gone through a difficult phase at a time, which is apparently within my grasp as a parent. Two at the same time is apparently not.
Parental authority relies on an elaborate series of bluffs. As soon as one of the children starts calling you on those bluffs, you both quickly realize that you have practically no leverage over them. We really can’t MAKE the children do anything. We try, oh do we try, but actually what do you do?
I make a lot of threats, which I absolutely HATE and always try to follow through on, but the problem is even with the follow through, the threats just don’t work. There’s nothing that we can threaten with. Our children already live a practically monastic existence to begin with; no tv, as minimal possessions as possible, no junk food, etc. We accidentally made our lives very difficult by already removing anything we could possibly use as a threat. And we’re very averse to using food as either a punishment or reward if at all possible (enough food and body issues in this world as it is).
So often I resort to “making” them do something, which is ultimately “defeating” them physically and not something I would like to set a precedent for. I would much rather reward than punish, but that’s not really helpful in the middle of a confrontation. It is very difficult to out-maneuver Evie, because she is so quick and perceptive. I feel like I’m stuck in a maze where every turn is wrong and every choice is a dead end!
Sara: “Just remember that you’re smarter than her. Er, well…at least you have more experience than her.”
Starting today we have a new strategy: Evie gets a sticker each day that she’s “good”. If she gets 5 in a week, one of her parents will spend a little special time with her (i.e. play a game or read a book). If she gets 6 stickers in a week, she gets to pick the parent (i.e Sara). Hopefully this will be rewarding (get it? rewarding?) for everyone and help us get through until she grows out of her current difficult state, rather than just turning into one more thing to threaten her with. For now it’s just Evie; Oliver’s a little young for that, but he’s a little easier to manage when he gets in an obstinate mood (basically you just have to distract him for 20 seconds or find the right way to word it, and he’s putty in your hands).
I’m hoping it will be enough to break me out of my parenting funk and get back to where I’d like to be.