Now that we live in the future it’s really easy to buy any song you like. I do this often enough that my music collection is basically a bunch of random songs that I liked at some moment, and scrolling through it is a process of rediscovery. (What IS this song? Oh! Right! THAT song! I LOVE that song!) This happened to me today, and what with the human ability to find something that speaks to us in just about any random thing, it seems perfect for this month’s Parenting Challenge. I don’t know anything about this group–for all I know the song was written by a computer program designed to write songs that can seem meaningful in any context. ANYWAYS, here’s the part that felt right to me today:
Out of this noise, here comes the stillness.
Out of this chaos, here comes the order.
Two toddlers generate a shitload of noise and chaos. I am striving for stillness and order, and failing to achieve it. I mean literal noise and chaos, but I think I mean figurative stillness and order. I want stillness WITHIN. Order WITHIN. A more concise way of making my point would be to say: I feel like I had a handle on having a toddler, and now I have TWO. I am yelling at my children more than I would like and feeling highly ineffectual.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that some yelling is a good thing. Seriously, I don’t just mean not a bad thing, I mean actively good. They need to know that they can make me mad, and I need to be allowed to have some natural human reactions and they need to see anger, because they will see anger in their lives. But I don’t want it to be so common that they fear me, or that they don’t see it as unusual.
Also, it’s not like I don’t know a shitload of strategies for dealing with toddler non-compliance. It’s not like I haven’t researched this or thought about it. And I think I was doing okay (where by okay, I mean I had to go to therapy, and it’s a constant battle and waxes and wanes in terms of how I feel), but suddenly I’m feeling overrun by defiant children.
Partly it’s that Bun Bun is going through that classic phase of saying NO! to everything all the time. And Bunlet is imitating her. In his case, it’s mostly just imitation and not real non-compliance, but it’s still fucking annoying to have my life filled with NO!
So where does a mama turn when trying to reconnect with her more empathetic, patient self? Weirdly, for me it’s the primary source literature. Combined with the cocktail.** Reading papers like “The Role of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Parental Control and Coparenting in Toddlers’ Compliance” makes me ready to try again. Reading about normal family things described in technical ways* makes me laugh. It reminds me that it’s not that serious, this parenting project. And it also makes me teary. It reminds me of all the amusing little vignettes in my own home, the kind that are so precious.
It helps me find my way back to inner stillness and order. Whatever works, right?
*As in “[committed compliance] was coded when the child was wholeheartedly engaged in the clean-up task directed by the parent and needed very little or no parental intervention to maintain task orientation (e.g., the child eagerly snatches toys from the parent and puts them on the shelf while singing a clean-up song).” (the above study, p. 754).
**Last week I came home from work, and Bun Bun said, Does Mama want a cocktail? Not sure if I’m doing something well or poorly here…