Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's a good thing we have two (moms, that is)

Pregnancy has not done much for my toddler parenting skills. Way back when, believe it or not, between the two of us, I was "the patient one."

With so many of my mental and physical resources going towards the end of this pregnancy, I have a much shorter fuse than I'd like with Leigh. It doesn't help that any attempt at hugging or snuggling with her inevitably involves intense negotiations about where, exactly, she can sit or lay so as not to be kneeing or pushing uncomfortably on my belly. Nor does it help that my head is in another space. I often forget to listen at all when she's speaking directly to me, which forces her ramp up demands to an extremely aggravating level, further wearing on my patience and leading to more and more negative interactions. She's a smart cookie. She knows things are changing around here, and it's not easy for her.

Yesterday morning, she was particularly testy with me. She didn't want me to get her up, or eat by her, or get her any breakfast, and was more or less being a total snot. Nothing would make her happy if I did it. Maybe a third of the things Gail did were satisfactory. She even pulled out a nice new trick, saying something along the lines of "If you get me yogurt, I be angry and cry." I was chalking this up to the regular state of affairs right now; she's been testing lots of things with both of us. By the end of the morning, she and I talked about both of us trying to be nicer to each other, and she decided that it would be nice if she and I took a shower (our usual bathing method for her, usually my job, and one of our more pleasant interactions since she loves playing in the water, and I'd be happy in a shower 24/7 if you let me stay there). So we did make up a bit and at least have a bit of a pleasant interaction.

But later, as she and Gail were out for a walk and chatting, she said out of the blue "Ima, my feelings are disappointed right now."

Gail responded "Oh. Why are your feelings disappointed?"

After a bit of a pause, Leigh said "Mama yelled at me."

We're pretty sure she was talking about an incident two days ago, when she was helping me make breakfast, but wasn't really keeping it together to listen or cooperate with proceedings, and ended up getting all riled up and spilling egg all over the kitchen floor (and yes, my current lack of toddler parenting skills contributed substantially to the incident). While I did not yell at her directly, I did holler in surprise as the bowl of egg soared through the air, and told her very sternly that she was no longer going to help with breakfast. In retrospect, she was more upset than I realized, because she was completely silent for about 5 minutes. The kid almost never shuts up, so that should have given me a clue. Based on what she told Gail, it would seem that she was still "disappointed" about that, a full 24 hours later, and it was strongly coloring our interactions.

As they continued their walk, Gail asked Leigh if she thought there was anything she could do to feel less disappointed. Leigh said that if she ate lunch she might feel better, and that maybe she and Mama could have another shower (She's onto something. Showers are the time she and I are least likely to squabble right now). Gail suggested she maybe talk to me about it, but she wasn't too keen on talking to me directly. Even so, we were able to have a much more pleasant afternoon. Gail filled me in on some more of the conversation details while leigh was "napping," and we thought together about some strategies to work on getting Leigh and me have more pleasant than unpleasant interactions during the next few months, because really, this problem won't end with the pregnancy.

So, on this mothers' day, I'm particularly grateful to be parenting with Gail, who did a beautiful job helping both Leigh and me through this little tussle. She relayed their conversation to me in a way that contained absolutely no judgment of my parenting. She was respectful of Leigh's feelings, and found ways to help the two of us reconnect. I am indeed grateful to be mothering along side such a great mom.


giggleblue said...

it's great that you have an open forum where your child can come to you when she is upset. when i was a kid, i was seen and not heard. my feelings didn't mean anything to anyone and that was made quite clear. if i had ever been upset, i could have never stated to my parents why, regardless of how respectful the approach was.

you two are awesome parents! it's awesome that your daughter feels empowered and that her emotions are valued. and i think as a couple, you two handled the situation perfectly as a united front. may i have such grace when our time comes.

amy said...

i can totally relate to this. my daughter and i butt heads more often than i'd like to admit *already* and my wife rocks at helping smooth things over quickly. i wonder if this good fortune that our children are receiving will make them better adjusted adults than their peers who grow up in traditional homes like the ones most of us were raised in?

Lyn said...

Amy-- I don't know that this is specifically a two-mom perk, but maybe it is a two-clued-in-parents perk. Any family in which multiple parents are really involved in the day-to-day life of their kid(s) and in which parents are at least to some extent on the same page and supporting each other, should get the same benefit (pending personalities of all involved I suppose).

Cindy said...

E often says, "If you (leave for work, get me dressed, don't give me that food, etc.) then I will cry." (Clearly, he and Leigh are in cahoots.) D's example has helped me to say nicely, "I understand you want/don't want this. That will be OK with me if you cry." He doesn't, by the way; I think it's just his way of saying, "I don't want you to do that."

It is great to see how both of you interact to parent Leigh.... Gail's ability to be non-judgmental as well as your ability to accept some responsibility. And Leigh totally benefits by having two loving, involved, caring moms.

ButchMommyDaddy-Something said...

This post could have been written at our house right now & probably at anyone of the almost 3 year old crew. I am finding myself apoligizing or explaining raising my voice often & asking Blasto if he understands why I got loud with him "did you hit the dog & make her cry...that scared momma..."
Nothing makes me feel crappier though than him looking up at me with tears brimming & saying "don't yell at me..." But as long as we're all human & he is testing many, many boundaries its going to happen.

I suppose the good side is that they can say to us now that they are mad, dissapointed, hurt etc and can start to work those feelings out with us.

Sarah @ said...

It sounds like the relationship you share with Gail is so special in so many ways, not least because the two of you are able to discuss these parenting ups and downs. I know so many couples who struggle with this, and I love how supportive you both are not only of your individual relationships with your daughter, but also of one another's parenting.

Pregnancy is a tough job. Parenting is a tough job. Put the two together and you're bound to run into some difficulties. It sounds like the two of you are doing a great job of finding a middle ground =)