This post comes to you from a much calmer version of myself and no, I’m not being sarcastic. Thank you for knowing me so well though. I can’t say this was entirely true a couple weeks back when a very tired and anxious version of myself walked in to your pediatricians office with both you and Miles in tow for your yearly physicals. Which, for the record, you and Miles will not be having combined doctors appointments again. That was by far one of the most hectic experiences I have encountered as a parent. I love your pediatrician so much and in fact I have known her since well before you came in to existence because I used to work for her. She is very popular and very well-received by all her patients and it’s clear as to why–she can connect with anyone and everyone. There isn’t this stuffiness about her or this air about her that you need to be a medical school graduate to understand what she is trying to say. At the end of the day, she is just a parent like the rest of us and she makes it very clear that we all make mistakes, even doctors. I always leave the office revitalized with a new hope that yes, I can be a parent and it’s ok if I’m lousy at it!
She is always very honest in her advice. I was explaining to her about an incident where you ran in to one of your preschool friends at the zoo and as your friend ran up to you to say hi, you in turn blatantly ignored her and ran away. She was standing right in front of you and you straight up pretended she wasn’t even there and continued to try to hold a conversation with us. As I tried to figure out what the hell was going on, you began to cry. I in turn asked your doctor if there was some anxiety component to this? Why is my child acting like a psycho? She replied with, haven’t you ever been in public and saw someone you knew but decided to pretend like you didn’t know them so you wouldn’t have to talk to them? I reply, of course, I do this all the time. There you have it. You just did what I do in public all the time. She didn’t try to find some psychological component or suggested ADD, she found a basic human reaction to what we all do and calmed my anxiety that I was raising a sociopath. I still think that at times but for different reasons.
My usual high-strung parenting style continued on through the better part of the appointment. Your doctor must have gotten her fill of watching me try to hold a conversation with her while I wrestled the two of you because she calmly referred me to a book called, “Screamfree Parenting.” She apparently knows me well too. She gave me a bunch of other great advice and told me to take a deep breath and read this book. It surely won’t cure all my problems but just take a look at it. Now, I have read my fair share of parenting books and I can’t wait to see how much parenting advice changes by the time you become a parent. That is if you still want to after I get my hands on you. Most parenting books provide some guideline or offer a promise that if you follow x, y, and z, you will notice a change in such and such behavior. I’m not necessarily looking for a behavior change with you, in fact, I like the idea that you are a strong, opinionated, independent five year old. Obviously, there is a time and place for it and you need to learn to control your outbursts. I just need to figure out how to help you have control over your behavior and how to obey me when I ask you to brush your teeth. This book is brilliant and I’m sure your dad is already bored with me sharing whatever it is I learned from the chapter I just completed.
It’s so funny when a parent has an epiphany because when they try to describe it to another, the idea always sounds so obvious but it’s funny how when you’re a parent and your knee-deep in shit, how muddled everything gets and things that should be so obvious are lost. Case in point, the whole idea of this book is centered around the parent always taking a look at their own behavior. When we get upset and find ourselves in a situation that is quickly escalating to a place that you don’t want to go to, stop and ask yourself, why am I so angry. Most of the time, I get angry because I’m not in control. I find myself trying to make decisions for you instead of using the independence you crave. When you sense I’m trying to control you, you fight back and suddenly I’m screaming at you because you want to wear hot pink leggings to school instead of the jeans I picked out for you. The book then continues on to explain the misconception that parents should be raising robot children who do as their told, act how we think they should act, and say what we would like them to say. Truth is, you’re an individual. Our place as parents are to help you grow up to be good natured, self-reliant adults. That right there was the light bulb. I don’t want you to be a yes ma’am kind of adult. I want you to be a strong, opinionated, independent woman who can stand up for herself and make her own decisions with confidence and pride. I have felt so much resistance with you because I have been trying to control you instead of guiding you.
Now, I’m only a few weeks in and it sounds like it’s smooth sailing but it has actually made my job a bit more difficult. As you can imagine, I’m trying to change my behavior and my parenting, something that has been the same for the last five years. There have been difficult moments where I’ve been forced to watch you struggle with certain things but I’m yelling a lot less and that right there is worth its weight in gold. Perhaps this will be deemed an entirely ineffective form of parenting one day and may even be a model as to what not to do but it’s working for me at this moment and I think we can all agree that a screamfree version of me is far better than what you had a couple weeks ago. It’s still not better than a drunk version of me because let’s face it, I’m pretty damn fun when I’m drunk but that’s not really appropriate in this case.
Circling back to your doctors appointment and pre-parenting epiphany, you had a physical that resulted in a couple vaccinations. You haven’t had a shot in a couple years and when you were younger, you always took shots like a champion. You would cry for a whopping five seconds and then you would be fine. Miles is a different story but he cries at everything. Since you both were getting shots, I had the wonderful choice as to who would go first. I decided to let Miles go first because there is no way I could wrestle him down after he already knew what was coming–he definitely needs to be ambushed. You decided to play the ever-supporting and empathetic big sister. You proudly stood next to him and held his hand while reassuring him that everything would be ok. You were very light and happy as if you’ve seen this play out before in a Doc McStuffins episode. Unfortunately, those episodes aren’t very realistic in depicting the pain and anguish that comes with a three year old receiving a needle to the thigh. I watched your face morph from caring to pure fear as the connection was made that you were next. Your brother meanwhile is hobbling around the office holding one leg of his shorts up while he screams, “MY LEG, MY LEG!” You sit in my lap and you begin to shake like a small dog. I have a horrible bad habit of smiling when I’m nervous, something I’ve done since I was a kid. I had an incident when I was a child where I went to the doctor’s office for a possible finger fracture and I remember the doctor in all seriousness asking if I were being serious–did I in fact break my finger or was this all an act? I can understand why he asked, I’m sitting there holding out my finger with a huge tooth-baring grin. I would have thought I was trying to fool the system as well. Turns out I never outgrew this habit and so there you are, staring at me with big eyes and you’re doing everything not to lose it right there and you’re asking me if you’re going to be ok and there I am with this horrible smile. You screamed for the duration of your two shots and I consoled you throughout with the biggest shit-eatingist grin I have ever produced. I am sorry.
You were incredibly traumatized after the physical and who wouldn’t be between the vaccinations and the creepy person trying to console you. For the rest of the evening and part of the day following, you would randomly start crying probably as you were recalling the events from earlier in the day. You constantly asked me if you would ever feel better. In my best parenting move, I tried to explain to you that I also have received lots and lots of shots. You inquired as to how many and I replied with, oh, I don’t know . . .16? Apparently that was the wrong answer because your mouth dropped open and you fell apart all over again. 16?! I DON’T WANT 16 SHOTS! You ran upstairs and cried in to your pillow. I decided to take a different approach and instead wanted you to witness first hand, me getting a shot. Just to show you that parents get shots and we’re ok with it. I didn’t suggest you go with your dad because he’s a fainter and that would negate everything I’m trying to accomplish here. I filled you in on my plan to have you go with me for support to get my flu shot. Again, you fell apart as you went on and on about how you didn’t want me to get hurt. I reassured you that I’ve done this many times and I’ll be just fine. A few days later, we go to the pharmacy, I sit down in the chair, roll my sleeve up and get my flu shot. What was nerves when we walked in to the pharmacy quickly turned when my shot was complete and I didn’t even flinch. You looked at me and without a lick of emotion said, well, I got two shots. There you have it folks, the most proud five year old there ever was.
I’ve had a few discussions with your preschool teacher already regarding your behavior and it’s pretty much what I’m dealing with here at home–helping you discover your place in this world and this independence you so dearly desire. You’re constantly testing your limits and when you interact with your peers, you definitely become bossy and a bit manipulative and try to control everything and everyone around you. Your teacher and I are always trying to find opportunities for you to exercise this confidence and independence that you are discovering. Your teacher, in a pinch during your preschool Halloween play, had a moment when the lead role decided at the start of the play that she no longer wanted to participate. All parents are standing there with cameras open in anticipation of this production that was promised to us. Most of these parents left work to come back to the school just for this play. You and all your classmates are on standby as she tries to coax this girl in to acting out what you’ve all been practicing for the last few weeks. Your teacher looks at you and asks if you would like to be the lead. Now, I’m not saying you had anything to do with the sudden change of heart of this other individual but you, without hesitation, set your prop down and immediately donned the attire of the lead role. Without a shred of fear, you stepped in to the lead and performed your little heart out. The way you ran out there and took the lead, it was as if you were gunning for that role. I’m going to try really hard to stop imagining that you sabotaged this poor little girl. This is how I am envisioning a certain conversation in the play yard beforehand, YOU: you’re not scared are you? Being the lead role–that’s a lot of pressure. How are you handling the pressure? Glad it’s not me up there in front of all those people! Ok, time to go in. Good luck! No, my innocent sweet daughter wouldn’t do that. . .
I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed right now having just read this book and who knows how long I can actually stick with it. It’s just a matter of time before you adjust your strategy in line with what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m sure we’ll be back to tossing words in no time but I hope that this illustrates that I’m really really trying to help here. I don’t want a relationship that is built on bickering and tension–I have enough of that with my own siblings and it’s not fun. I didn’t have my own family to replicate that and that’s the honest truth. I hope you look back and see a conscious and positive switch to helping you become the strong person you want to be without me getting in the way. So here it is, Olivia. This is where we draw the line in the sand. New beginnings start here today. Can you smell the aroma of parenting success because I sure can. By the way, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you’re going back to the doctors office in a week for another vaccination because they were out of this particular one at your last visit. You can rest assured, creepy me will be there to make all the pain go away.