Sunday, December 1, 2013

Of leashes and liberties

I really enjoyed reading the different posts over at PAIL bloggers about the "big picture" approach to parenting and how your ALI background has or hasn't influenced your parenting. I enjoyed them so much you're gonna be stuck with my belated contribution! Suggested topic questions have bullets because I like lists and it's almost finals so I'm ready to think fast and get onto the next thing.
  • Does your ALI background make you feel like you need to spend more time being exclusively focused on your child?
Yes. I think secondary infertility kicked me hard and made me realize that if I meant it that children were a priority, then I needed to be there with my kid more often. This comes with the caveat that I'm the secondary parent, mostly by necessity because of the omnipresent school (only another 500ish days, but who's counting?). My goal now is to spend more time with the kids when I am with them, and when I'm not mentally with them, to actually be physically somewhere else so I can focus better on one thing (school or kids or work). Mostly this happens (ok, not in the latter half of the semester but I did pretty well the first half) but sometimes I am plopped in the living room with a screen or two glowing and ignoring the baby climbing toward me. It was interesting to me to read that so many other moms felt it hadn't influenced their parenting, and cool too. I wish I didn't feel so guilty hiding in my study cave, but it's there. Then again I get less guilty as time goes on because I know I'm using my time with the girls better when I'm not half studying during my time with them.
  • Are you more “hands off” as a parent than you thought you’d be? More of a “helicopter parent?” Are you happy with the type of parent you’ve turned out to be?
This is interesting. I'd say my instinct is helicoptering but I know it. I love to control every stinking thing, or pretend I control it, so I would love to be right there keeping the girls totally safe from all the scary and/or bad things. BUT I know myself enough that I saw this coming so I am very actively hands-off whenever I can get away with it. If I'm at the playground, I have a book and I am reading it. That said, I now have a super anxious child who is terrified of... well, most things. She demands we go with her often, even across the room to get something if we aren't at home. This makes it more of a priority to pry her off of me/us to get her to be independent. 5 year olds can and should walk around the block without needing a parent, and she does that fine, but she won't leave our sides in some situations and it's a struggle. Up until we moved and/or the bullying/playing the "I'm not your friend anymore, but now I am your best friend again, but now I won't talk to you" game that went down at daycare last year, the kid was very independent and secure most of the time about it. Now she is constantly upset about not knowing what's going on in any setting, yet she ignores anyone who explains things (especially if it's us parents) and also pays no attention to what is going on in an effort to figure it out. This leads to more of her clinging and us pushing her to be more independent and take responsibility for herself, and more tantrums on her part when anything doesn't go exactly to her (generally top secret) plan. Also me rage eating candy and glugging too much soda late at night because UGH who is this kid?

So I suppose I'm getting at that right now, I am incredibly frustrated with my parenting skills. Whatever we try fails and often with spectacularly bad results. The other week the kid refused to go to her room upstairs, and refused to stand in the corner for a time out instead, and refused to go punch the punching bag downstairs, so she got carried upstairs. This was met with much protesting and shrieking and throwing things at the spouse and me and then the spouse's glasses got chucked downstairs and a lens vanished. Then the shrieking about how "you are so mean and made me throw that stuff at you!" commenced. UGH. She spends all her time blaming others for her choices. I really hope it clicks soon that she decided to do things and nobody made her and if she stops, looks for the perfect thing to throw, and then throws it, she can absolutely control herself... Bad phase, nothing is working, I think we need to see if someone can help us figure out how to fix the anxiety because I'm going nuts trying to cope with her. And I need more skittles.
  • Does your child do well with independent play? If so, did you have to consciously encourage this or did it just happen?
Right this moment, oh no the older one does not and the younger one has discovered separation anxiety and is attaching herself to me whenever she can see me. If I'm gone, Little Monster is fine and will happily play alone or with the kid or anyone else around. If she hears me or catches a glimpse, there is a baby attack. She crawled down a long hall to find me last week, and really fast. Speedy baby, getting all huge and stuff.
  • If your child doesn’t do much independent play, do you simply focus more on group learning and activities?
Right now we are prodding for more independent play outside of our house, along with willingly interacting with kids and asking what the rules of the game are instead of being hurt nobody will play with her (but she claims she's too SHY! to ask what the rules are... hmm...). I think a group activity that she could enjoy would go a long way in helping her have friends she trusts, as would really understanding more about how friends work and that just because you decide someone cheated at a game (it's not cheating just because you lose at tag and are "it" but my kid is SURE it is, causing major life crises) it doesn't mean the person doesn't want to be friends.
  • Does the length of your “leash” change depending upon if you’re at home or in public (e.g. at the park)?
Nope. We aim for as long a leash as possible. When the kid started walking we got her a backpack with a monkey and tail, and the rule was that she had to wear it any time we were out. Eventually when she behaved and stopped when we asked and didn't run off where she couldn't see us, we gave her the tail to hold for herself and she loved that. I just wish we spent less time these days pushing her out of her dwindling comfort zone. It's typical at our faith community that the kid is off somewhere for a half hour at a time without checking in with us because she's good at taking care of herself and doesn't need us. I'm hopeful that she'll get back to where she's a bit more comfortable other places and isn't forever dragging us over to play with her instead of meeting new kids at the playground.

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