Friday, May 7, 2010

The Jekyll and Hyde syndrome

I'm a reader. I LOVE to read. Instilled upon me by my mom, who always brought home a new book from work for us to read. She read to us as children, she read with us as we got older and still encourages us to read in adulthood. It helped that there was always a wealth a material to choose from on overflowing bookshelves found in just about every room of our home. Im no sure how my mother ever managed to get a book, much less a simple article completed, raising the two of us. Having two of my own, I find it nearly impossible to finish a sentence without hearing, "Mommy, can I have a snack?" "Mommy, play cars with me." "Mommy, she's touching my stuff." On and on and over and over. Not to mention my own voices in my head nagging me about the dishes that are piling up, the laundry that still hasn't been folded, the bills needing to be paid and oh my god look at those floors! How can you let your daughter crawl on that filth?

It's amazing I ever get any time to myself at all. On the rare occasion that I do, I am sometimes found reading about, you named it, parenthood. Why? Because I am always looking to improve my roll as a mother. Most recently, this month's Parenting magazine. An article titled, Who is that?

We've all experienced it. Conversations with friends and fellow mom's at soccer class and this article, confirms this. My son was the perfect child from birth. We all referred to him as Angel Baby. Well behaved, good natured and to top it off his behavior was even improved (if it could) when out in public. Perfectly quiet at Restaurants, never throwing fits at stores and being so polite during play dates and get together's with friends. He was the type of child that made you want to have another. The child every parent dreams of having. And then he changed.

Gradually. Made more apparent by the birth of our daughter. Whining over trivial things, throwing tantrums in the middle of Target, hitting, spitting, battling over meals. All around defiance and making me absolutely INSANE with frustration. What happened to my sweet, well behaved little boy? To make matters worse, when I'd bring this topic up with friends and family they all gave me the same response, "Rachel, he is a good kid," " well behaved. You must be proud," and "he doesn't act like that when he's with me/at my house." All this left me completely and irrevocably confused. And I'm not alone.

Talking with fellow mom's at soccer class a few weeks back we noticed that all our kids were behaving much better (listened to coach, stopped tackling each other, etc.) and even seemed to be learning more this session, now that we were no longer on the field with them but rather standing on the sidelines (in the hallway). Why is that? According to Andrew Postman, the articles author, "It's common for young children to behave differently-often dramatically so-when away from parents or home." His reasoning, basically when at home, the louder and longer you whine the more attention you get. However, outside the home, if you attract too much attention (don't follow the rules or the crowd) you get left out. I get that. We as adults act differently in different situations and around certain groups of friends and family. I know I am guilty of this. Why wouldn't my kids? Besides according to Postman, "we want our child[ren] to treat different people differently. When [they] start to do's a sign that [they are] developing a social sense."

Still amongst all this evidence and proof smacking me in the face, knowing my behavior is the same, I have a hard time following Postman's advice, that I should feel proud that my child acts out in my presence. According to Postman, it shows my son's comfortability and security here at home. And his behaving in public, well that is due to him actually getting all the values I am desperately screaming at him on a daily basis. Maybe that should be making me feel good, but than maybe it's the crazy in me that would really rather not spend my entire day placing my son in time-out and going hoarse repeatedly begging him to just listen to me.
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