Thursday, July 14, 2011

Terrible Parenting: Lessons learned

Raising kids, you have to learn as you go. I have no previous experience raising a three year old. It is all new to me. Every phase, every lesson, every food preference is a surprise. It is almost as if Liam is teaching me how to parent at each new stage. I wish I was more prepared, but mostly I'm just flying by the seat of my pants here. But I sure am learning a lot!

I thought you might enjoy reading a few of my more memorable lessons learned over the past three years. Lessons that, perhaps, someone with previous child-rearing experience could have avoided, or through an unfortunately similar experience, already knew about.

1) Two year olds don't wait for you.
We have a steep back yard. It could be described as a ravine, with a lawn trail winding down the middle of it. There is a small plateau area near our deck before the drop off leads down down down to the bottom of our yard. Liam brought his tricycle in the back yard one day while Andrew and I were pulling weeds out of the lawn. Andrew was at the bottom of the yard and I was at the top in the plateau area. Liam was happily peddling around near me and then said he wanted to go down the hill so I said I'd take him and told him to "wait for Mommy" and I turned around to lean my dandelion puller tool against the deck. No sooner had I turned my back then he started to head for the edge of the hill and down he went. I turned around and he was already too far and going too fast to grab and I started to scream and yelled "Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!" and he looked up from his weed pulling and saw Liam on his tricycle streaming down the hill towards him at a frightening speed, legs spread out while the pedals span faster and faster all on their own. Andrew immediately ran towards him, but the trike was going too fast. From my vantage point at the top of the hill looking at the back of Liam's head I saw his bangs standing straight up from the incredible speed and then the tricycle hit a bush and Liam flipped over the handlebars, trike went flying and suddenly he was upside down, facing me again and then spun back around and hit the ground with a thud. Andrew was at his side in a second and Liam had a face full of dirt and was screaming and crying but miraculously he was OK. I ran down the hill to hug him and the first words out of Andrew's frightened mouth to me were "What the f*@k were you THINKING???!!!" Um, I told him to wait, was all I could say. I told him to wait for me.  As the words came out they sounded so stupid! Apparently little boys are not good at waiting. Lesson learned. And a new house rule: The tricycle is not allowed in the back yard.

2) Beware of loopholes in your instructions.
Liam likes to run through the aisles of the grocery store. He's fast. Most of the time I have to keep an eye on where he goes and then wait until he tires out a bit before I can catch him (I have Adeleine in a sling so he knows I'm slow). Every time we go to the store we have a little chat about not running. This will keep him near me for the first 10 minutes and he is a little angel helping me pick out fruits and veggies. By the time we get to the first aisle, he's bored and the running begins. After yelling Stop! and Freeze! and doing the 1-2-3 counting business I feel like the entire store knows my kid doesn't give a shit what I say, he's just going to run. So, one time I catch him and say "Liam we talked about not running in the store. NO RUNNING." and he looks at me with his big brown eyes and says quite honestly and innocently "I wasn't running. I was skipping." He found a loophole. Lesson learned. PS If anyone has any idea on how to keep a kid from running down the aisles let me know. I think he just finds them irresistible. Like puddles.

3) Don't leave three year old unattended with (safety) scissors.
Caring for plants is one of the things Liam does at home, which includes watering and taking out the dead leaves. He is also excellent at using safety (ie not pointy) scissors, having perfected this skill at Montessori school and home craft days. This week he was trimming the dead leaves off of a large plant in the living room and was quite into this task. He had on his 'concentrating face', a certain look he gets when he is super focused: eyes soft, tongue half out of his mouth, drool falling from his chin. I'm not gonna lie. It's not a pretty look. BUT, it means he's focused and occupied. After popping Adeleine in the excersaucer (aka circle of neglect) I took this opportunity to jump in the shower real quick (it was after noon so, hey, gotta get ready for the day). I was in the shower (in the next room, within earshot) no more than two minutes (thinking about what a stupid idea it was for me to be in there) when Liam banged on the shower door and said something quietly. I gathered it was fairly important, so I quickly finished up and opened the door and he said proudly "I cut Adeleine's hair". Lesson learned.

With every crazy thing my kids do and every stupid thing I do, I learn something. Which may mean, when my kids are grown, I'll be the smartest person in the world.

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