August 16, 2010
The last post about Lucy and grieving the loss was one that reflected quite well on me as a parent. I portrayed myself as thoughtful and careful and sensitive, gently guiding my child along the road of life.
Lest anyone assume that I am always a competent and knowledgeable parent, I must now blog about my youngest child, Bridget.
I confess myself utterly at a loss to know how to raise this little girl at times.
When Bridget was born, we gave her the name Bridget, which means “strong.” Later, when it was too late, we saw another meaning that had more of the sense of “strong; with the strength of fire.” She has lived up to her name. Lucy came out of the womb mellow and obliging. Phoebe came out a little spunkier but still wanting to please. Bridget came out strong. And determined. And now she is five and I have to acknowledge that there are days I am powerless against her schemes.
She is adorable and cuddly and loving. She’s got an amazing sense of humor, and she makes me laugh a lot. But this other part of her really really wants to be in charge of the world. I have used the “1-2-3-Magic” method of disciplining our other children, and it worked! The guy who wrote the book claims “too much talking and too much emotion get in the way of good discipline.” You keep it short and sweet when they disobey, whine, badger, hit, whatever. The thing is, with my older girls, I’d have them do a time out after they got to “three” and that was it for at least a few days. Bridget requires “constant vigilance.” Time outs really bug her, but not enough to deter her from disobeying, whining, badgering, and hitting ten minutes later. I am not a spanker by nature. And I kind of think five years old is a little old to start spanking. So, in desperation, I have started grounding her. Whoever heard of grounding a five-year-old?
One of Bridgie’s greatest joys in life is playing outside with neighborhood kids in our front yard, or in our cul-de-sac, or across the street on a shrubbery-covered hill. All the kids love her! Even ten-year-olds come knocking at our door asking, “Can Bridget come out and play?” They’ll take the other kids too, but Bridget is an always-willing, fun, lively and sought-after companion in our neighborhood. So I’ve grounded her for an hour, which produced amazing contriteness of spirit. I feel like I need to do it for longer, or hold that over her head as a threat – a whole DAY of not playing outside?! Gasp! – but part of me feels sorry for her. She’s only five doesn’t have a clear concept of time. Plus, I’m afraid of having her inside, moping and complaining. I guess the thing I fear is – she is stronger than me. I’ve come a long way in my people-pleasing tendencies, but I just don’t like conflict, and don’t want to willingly inflict it on myself, knowing she’s going to be mad at me. That sounds so wussy, I know. But I feel the need for full disclosure as I contemplate the challenges of parenting this kid. I guess I just need to be one degree stronger than her, or at least until Dave gets home. But it does get tiring. And I don’t want to resort to shaming or belittling her. Another confession: I’ve been tempted to shame and belittle her into good behavior. I sometimes bug my eyes out at her or explode in shouting, which always brings her to sudden, genuine, hurt-feelings tears. Ugh.
Oh Friday I found a little tool that I haven’t used in awhile. The Mean Maraca.
I saw this idea on a blog a few years ago, and went out and bought a maraca and then Sharpied a mad look on it. Whenever I get mad, I shake the Mean Maraca and the very act of shaking it at the offending child makes all of us laugh. It worked beautifully on Bridget on Friday. She started whining and I shook it. We both laughed and she snapped out of her whine. I know the Mean Maraca is not a permanent discipline solution, but maybe it’s good for those days when I’m tired and don’t have the “strength of fire” within myself to do battle with my fiery little girl.