Live and Learn

My sister Sarah asked me why I say that my transition of bringing home Carly is so easily marked in my memory as having been more difficult than introducing Koen. The third delivery was my most painful, rendering me so dependant on outside help and cooperation from my children–I *needed* to sleep and did so for about two weeks straight, yet I feel in comparison it was easier than bringing home that second child.

With Diederick I had a whole different thing. In theory I knew parents and children aren’t supposed to be buddies, a it’s a reality of power hierarchy. Through my Early Childhood Education classes I know that the children can easily become the head of that relationship–kids have increadable built in means of manipulation. Think about it, how many times have you seen a child exceed at the playground the number of, “just one more time down the slide, honey, then we’re leaving.” It’s so easy to be that Mom or Dad. Who wants to look pushy to other parents, or hurt their child’s feelings?

Diederick and I never argued. I accomplished that my making his world a Yes Environment, as did every other mother I knew did for her young one. Example–if my son enjoyed pulling out pots and pans, I found another place for those noise makers (living in a place where we weren’t allowed to make noise indoors or on the property) and filled the cupboard with toys, even when that meant my walking to another room to retrieve my pots. If he didn’t want to leave the park or McD’s I settled down to read another chapter in my latest book until he was to tired to resist being put back in the stroller. We always packed snacks, plenty of diapers and juice boxes so there was no need to pressure any level of opportunity to test me.

Both Daddy and I believed that Diederick was a good boy and given the opportunity to please, he would.

In July of 2007 Diederick’s Mommy got sick, and was very happy about it. Then suddenly in mid-August, just as the leaves were beginning to fall something even stranger sadness came. I think Diederick understood somehow that we’d just experienced loss and he changed a bit. He stopped nursing and wanted to play alone, as I’d lost a baby in utero my buddy was without asking permission growing out of his 18 month old outfits and pushing me away just when I felt like I needed him more than ever.

Diederick 1st birthday came and went, Darren and I are to this day embarressed when we remember how many pictures we took of our son on that first cake experience. Two months later I discovered that the Lord was blessing me with a third pregnancy. This time I wasn’t sick, or tired, just hungry and bloated! Constantly I worried and prayed for the new baby, interestly Diederick returned to wanting to be close to me. He started nursing again and once again we spent every moment together–happy just to be.

If he reached for dishes on the counter, I placed them further back. When he fussed during devotions, I put him down for nap time. If he wanted to drink over and over from a water fountain I’d find someone who didn’t seem to mind holding him up for minutes on end as I wasn’t able to handle that!

Diederick’s 22 month update came around and with that the delivery of a beautiful baby girl, blue eyed with a head full of dark whisps. My son stayed with a friend all day while I labored at home, but unexpectedly had to come along to the hospital birthing center. Refusing to be taken out of the delivery room by the nurse, he witnessed the whole birth.

The next day when Darren brought Diederick in to officially meet Carly, he gave her kisses and sat side by side with her while we watched Dragon Tales on TV.

It was when we got home that all and any selfishness that my son had came into plain view. Just about anything harmful that you can imagine a little boy trying on his newborn sister, Diederick did that. I couldn’t believe it! Throwing toys at the baby? Holding a pillow over her head? That couldn’t be my Diederick. And since I’d never spanked or really repromanded him, I was beside myself on how to combat this problem. I asked about it in the local Mommy and Me class and the leader called my problem Sibling Rivalry, assured me that it was exceedingly common and would pass. She suggested I demonstrate for him, “gentle touches” by calmly withdrawing his hand after he hits the baby, stroking his little arm and saying “soft, gentle, nice touches for baby” She said it was fool proof. I felt like such a failure when this didn’t work. I even took away all his hard plastic toys and board books and bought cotton stuffed trucks and fabric books. Didn’t help–I felt like the fool who disproved a perfect loving theory.

August came and I was finishing packing up my life in Vermont into a 28ft trailer, and craming two carseats into a ’94 pick-up truck. Diederick sat up front so that he wouldn’t get motion sick or both his sister, Carly and I sat in the back of the cab so that I could breast feed her on demand. This set up worked really well, and after a few mechanical difficulties we were off on our very long journey! With the carefully planned Yes Environment of our large apartment gone, Diederick’s fairly unaddressed behavior problems were pouring out. Positive re-enforcement and all of those other wonderful things were vastly falling inseficient, continually crumbling my illusion of perfection.
At one of those truck stop diners the waitress said, “what’s the magic word?” to Diederick and it was then that I realized I’d never told him to say Please or introduced him to the idea of saying Thank You either. I’d always just been thankful to see my picky eater accept what I prepared for him. When she saw the blank expression on his face, she turned to me and said, “Good luck with that one, Sweetie!” Where was the comment that I was used to, the one about how cute my son was? I don’t think I left a tip, but I remembered what she said and always will.

Days and days, what felt like months, later we were at my folks. I found a whole new thing; everywhere people were telling me I needed to, “handle these problems” asking if I ever spanked and how long I was planning on letting this go on. What go on? Certainly if I just give him space, he’ll listen to everything I ask. Someone told me I ought to use a harsher to tone when displeased. I’d NEVER been introduced to this idea–what if I made Deeder bitter? And it didn’t stop there. One time someone said to me, “Spank him! Spank him now! What he’s doing now is direct rebelion!!” I still couldn’t believe such a negative word was being even said about such a young child. And yet, I wasn’t winning and I knew it.

Just then something wild happened. All of the embarrassment, yes anger, and frustration powered up in my right arm. It spread across my chest and into the other arm, up my neck and infected my brain and I did what I’d never done before. I grabbed a wooden spoon, pulled down my baby’s pants and hit him harder than hard–once, twice and then I set him down and yelled “NO!” so loud that I could feel it echo back into me totally washing away everything making up the framework that I’d spent his whole life living within.

That day our world changed.
Never again did I fix him six snacks, and let him pick which one he wanted. For the first time, he had to leave the park whenever I told him it was time. It took time, but he learned.

17 months after Carly was born, I delivered another baby. This one a boy, and for the first time my mom was by my side. It was wonderful! The feeling of satisfaction was tremendous. I had my husband, my mom and family to take care of my two other children. When I got home the children were curious about the baby, and with little explanation they understood that he was here to stay. This time the house was mine, the rules such as Be Quiet Between 9 and 5 didn’t apply. I worried so much less, and had so much more confidence. Even much more, I had learned how to be the boss without being bossy. My kids seemed to accept me as the leader of their little pack and knew that they would be disciplined if they transgressed whatever it was that I was asking of them.

Obviously we have struggles! Look how infrequently I get around to posting blog updates. If I may cast a little blame, I’ll give credit for laziness in this area to FB. Facebook lends so much opportunity for staying in touch with friends with so much less effort than blogging.

My husband often says that I need to give the children more chores. The truth for me is that they’re not big enough to do much of actual help. Diederick and Carly are to put away all outside toys at the end of the day, and bringing their clean laundry up to their rooms each day (they’re supposed to put it away but that’s rarely done completely); Koen likes picking out his clothing and diapers, watering plants and just hanging out wherever his older siblings are.

Diederick wants a puppy. Carly loves pink. And Koen is always asking to have his jacket and shoes on!

Live and Learn? I’ve learned to say no and mean no. I never really added time-outs to my parenting style, per se. I like having real routine in punishment to the point where I don’t have to say, “If you’re bad, I’ll spank you.” I raise my voice too often, repent often, tell my children I need a nap, and let them know all day long that I love them without letting go and allowing them to act out to excess. If we’re shopping and someone is fussing, Darren and I let them know that we can’t go anywhere else because of the fussing knowing that we too have to live with that consequence, going without whatever we were going to buy at the next store. We’re OK now with telling our kids that they can’t go to McDonalds just because we went last time–with holding food isn’t a punishment, it’s just good to eat at home sometimes.
I want to be proud of my kids. Not because they’re cute, but because they’re pleasant to be with. It’s a journey, and I know it’s yet only beginning.

School starts next week. That’s Tuesday and Thursday mornings for Carly; Diederick Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then in Febuary Baby 5 will be here. Questions answered on why I have three children and call his baby Baby 5, answered here

Also, happy birthday to my dear sister Lydia today!

At the end of this post, I feel the need to say how much I’m thankful for everywhere I’ve been. I miss Brattleboro, and just so appriciate the wonderful people God put in my life while I was there.

Just for reading this, go ahead and re-watch my Happy First Birthday video that I made for Deeds. Check out all those pictures, and there are heaps more. I took so many pics, treasured each moment and took time to spend with him. We were happy, we are now and know every day is a gift.

Did you watch this a million times after I put it up and totally hate the song? Me too.

2 Responses to “Live and Learn”

  1. stephanie says:

    That was a very good post! I read it to my hubby. We agree with your present approach. I remember u telling me that u didn’t believe in spankings. Ever since then I thot she must have an unbelievable amount of patience (not that we spank b/c we’re impatient!) It says in proverbs foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.I was very encouraged when I read this post. I want to print it out and show my sisters. :d. I liked how u said ‘i want to be proud of my kids. Not b/c they’re cute,but pleasant to be with’ have u read “to train up a child”? What about “sheparding a childs heart”? Both are very good reading. keep up the good work,laura! Train up a child in the way he should go,and when he is old he will not depart from it.

  2. Laura says:

    The huge hard thing for me was learning how to spank, if I may put it that way. And of course that, no, my child will not just be obedient if only I give him the chance. Kind of a heart jerker!
    It’s good to get an understanding of discipline out of the way and move on with the fun stuff in life. Like starting school on Friday!! Hurray. :)

    Thanks for enjoying this post, I liked writing it. :)

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