If I Could Parent on Track, We’d Be There By Now

A friend, neighbor and fellow blogger is a big devotee of Parenting On Track, and last week I persuaded her to loan me her cds for in-car listening. She has three kind, thoughtful and independent girls (at least they look that way to me) and I know she’s followed the program to the letter. I’ve known other people who’ve gone to seminars and raved about them, and I’ve felt in need of some guidance lately. I lose my temper too often, nag too much and find it impossible to focus on any one kid when all of the others are present and needy.

Parenting on Track is helping, so much so that I’m feeling like I may well invest in the cds myself (I feel a little guilty mooching!). The first cd is mixing in with Katherine Ellison’s Buzz, A Year of Paying Attention (which I wrote about for XXFactor here) in my head and, somewhat miraculously, helping create a kinder, more patient me. “Bomb them with love,” says the frustrated Ellison of her sons. one of whom has ADHD to an extraordinarily frustrating degree. Work on the four Cs, says Vicki Hoefle of Parenting on Track: Connect. Make them feel Capable. Let them know they Count. Give them the Courage to try and fail and try again.
Those are kind of grandiose goals. What really resonated with me (and brought me back to the bombing them with love idea) was her question, early on in the first cd: when they push your buttons, what are you afraid of? What do you think the behavior will lead to? If say, you have a child who follows you around constantly demanding your attention and just wants to sit in your lap? Are you afraid she’ll still be doing it in middle school? That she won’t be able to get a job as a young adult because she’s still hanging on your leg and pretending to be a baby?

Well, yes, yes I do. That’s exactly what I fear, on some level–or maybe, more accurately, I fear that the immediate consequence of giving that kid what she’s asking for–love, attention, a big snuggle–will be a kid demanding more of the same. Constantly. A kid who won’t let me sit down without trying to get in my lap. A kid who wants to be with me in the bathroom and in my bed and in my bedroom when I get dressed. Every one of my kids went through this stage. I HATE that stage.

Rory’s been largely out of it, but last night, inspired by both Ellison and Hoefle, I thought, why not say yes to my lovely, loving daughter and let her spend Sam’s hockey practice sitting in my lap? Why not give her the attention she so obviously needs? Why not bomb her with love?

Well, among other things, because I didn’t think this through. Because I didn’t listen to the next part of the cd, which talks about how to deal with an attention-seeking child, one who’s convinced that her place in the family depends on her keeping you busy at any moment that you could conceivably be doing anything else. Because I didn’t think through the way I gave her the snuggling, and allowed her to link it with one of her old favorite habitual games “baby,” which she loved on some level and which i loathed. Because I’m dumb, dumb, dumb when it comes to parenting.

I snuggled Rory for about twenty minutes, and we both enjoyed it. And it went downhill from there. How horrible am I that I can even write that sentence? Eventually, all snuggling must end, and it became Rory’s mission to resume snuggling. We went out to dinner, and I sat next to her while she tried persistently to crawl into my lap. Breakfast today was uneventful, but after school it all started up again, and eventually, when hours of leaning on my leg or stroking any part of me she could reach failed, she turned to the “baby” game again. Got down on all fours, and followed me. Into the hall, into the garage, sat and waited for me outside the bathroom, sat under me in the kitchen, down into the basement, back up out of the basement…

In the abstract, and obviously in context, it’s not like I don’t get or sympathize with what this arguably means to Rory. I imagine that yes, she missed out on a lot of physical affection. I can see that giving it to her cements our bond. I try. I do. She gets lots of picking up and kissing and head rubbing and what not. But with the snuggly baby business I triggered something in her that she couldn’t end on her own, and I, in all honesty, can’t handle. Do I fear that if I pick her up, she’ll never, ever, ever let me put her pack down> I do. Because experience suggests that she won’t. I’ll say I don’t think that’s good for either of us, but really, it’s not good for me. I am a human being who needs a lot of personal space. There is no surer way to make me utterly and totally insane than by following me around and watching my every move.

And now we come to the only moment of the evening that I was proud of–the thank you Buzz, thank you Parenting on Track moment. I noticed that Rory was not actually doing anything wrong. I noticed that I was the one who needed her to change what she was doing, and thought about how I could do that without either a) rewarding the annoying baby behavior or b) making her feel like she’d done something bad, and I thought–I’ll give her a job!

I’m such a good parent at this moment that I have a job ready.. I’m going to help my kids feel capable and confident, after all, and I need their help with dinner, and so Rory gets a pile of sliced french bread and some softened butter and some parmesan and the job of making toasts to go with the soup. Rory is happy. I am happy. All is temporarily well.

I blew it an hour later, in the midst of an attention-getting power grab and while completely taking out unjustified annoyance at my husband and at a piece of one child’s behavior that had no effect at all on me or bedtime or anyone else but nonetheless annoyed me on my various children. I stomped upstairs, irrationally refused to read Skippyjon Jones (actually that’s totally rational, but it’s not why I did it, made everyone, including myself, miserable and then made us all go to sleep that way. I’m still miserable. ANd I have a headache.

And that was my day.

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