Tuesday, September 4, 2018

No Fair! Parenting Woes

The title of this post is a phrase that my four-year-old utters on the regular at home. I hate it so much I'm trying to outlaw it.

(Other verboten phrases in our family: stupid, hate, and shut up. I also pretend I don't know what the word "bored" or "boring" means, but my kids still say it. Does every family have these Phrases or Words That Shall Not Be Said? What are yours?)

Anyway, we had a rough parenting weekend over Labor Day weekend. We had zero plans after a busy week and a super busy previous weekend. The weekend before Labor Day, my parents came to town, I spent Saturday morning helping my friend Beth set up for her Pedal the Cause fundraiser, then spent the evening working and enjoying the fundraiser. On Sunday we went to Tower Grove Park to the Festival of Nations, and then were part of the crew disassembling the festival, which meant that we drove around on a golf cart, picking up folding chairs and folding tables and relocating them to designated spots for the rental company to come and get them.

So David and I were ready to chill, but our children were ready to behave abominably. Nasty attitudes, complete defiance about the smallest of tasks or request, totally uncooperative in all ways. It's a good thing we didn't have any plans, because our children were unfit to be seen in public. I seriously had knots in my stomach on Saturday because I felt like a parenting failure and I was so disappointed that my kids were such jerks. I think this was a combination of a lack of sleep (they were up from 3:30am to 6:00amish on Thursday night/Friday morning doing "activities" for reasons no one can comprehend and that made me a total zombie on Friday and made them total gremlins on Saturday) and restraint-collapse. (Although I may have googled this explanation as well.) Sunday was an improvement, but not a huge one. Monday finally felt like things were back on track and my kids were more human and less gremlin, so I'm hoping that we were all just overtired and coping with the back to school transition by acting out and now maybe we can all relax a little bit?

After much consideration (and angst for me), we are taking a break from Kumon. I have huge mixed feelings about this... I keep thinking about the perception that Zuzu has won the power struggle. Plus I don't like the idea of quitting, I've seen such great progress and I believe the program really works. But it had started to affect my quality of life in that I dreaded even mentioning to Zuzu because of the ensuing defiant and ugly behavior (she literally ripped worksheets to pieces over the weekend). It had become far too emotionally loaded for all of us! So we are taking some time off and we'll see if we revisit.

Meanwhile, Zuzu has expressed an interest in learning Spanish (although she asked me, hilariously, if  learning Spanish meant that she would forget English). So we will explore that option. I just don't know when to Tiger Mom (if ever?) and when to not worry about it at all. Sometimes pushing or encouraging her into an opportunity is definitely the right call, but I also want her to have plenty of downtime. What happens when everything is a power struggle? When do you hold the line and when do you tell yourself it's not worth the fight? Also, just when you think you've figured it out, something changes. And by the way, the other kid is completely different, so there is not a one-size-fits all solution. Besides deep breathing and whispering a mantra like, "I am the adult here."

I really think that Zuzu and Coco miss each so much this year not being in the same school. They play together so intensely after school. They are in their own little world. All they want to do is play dress up or play with dolls or little characters. Of course this is sweet and lovely unless we need to run errands or something and they both act out. This teaming up like we are the enemy and they are against us might be great for sisterly bonding, but it aggravates me like no other! (Low point of the weekend, me yelling, "I am NOT going to chase you!" while chasing them because they were refusing to brush their teeth.)

I've been listening to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, which is great. In one episode, he talks about the personality measurement of how agreeable you are. A lot of being agreeable has to do with wanting approval from other people (or, conversely, not caring about the approval of others). In this regard, though Zuzu can be and often is a very sweet, kind, endearing child, she is also more generally disagreeable than many. It continues to surprise me how little she cares about upsetting David or me in order to make herself happy. If my mom told me that I was disappointing her with my behavior, I would feel terrible. Zuzu just shrugs.

(Another example: when we were talking about Kumon, I explained that her Kumon teacher would really want her to work hard and to continue with Kumon as good exercise for her brain. I asked her what she would want to say to Miss Ann about that. She thought for a moment and said, "Hmmmm.... That I don't feel like doing it?")

As Zuzu's kindergarten teacher told me, I am raising a strong, independent woman.

We have a busy week this week, and I'm glad it's a short one. This entire month feels busy to me--probably because I have two weekends out of town. One for my class reunion and one for a conference of sorts (more on that later). I'm trying to stick with some new school year resolutions, but I'm already dropping the ball on drinking water. Ugh. My other goals:

1) Daily yoga. Most days this is just 15-20 minutes in the morning before work, but it makes such a difference. I did a four week session of classes of Kaiut Yoga, but then I decided to buy a class card when the studio I went to in June with a Groupon ran a special pricing thing in August. I'm trying to commit to doing a weekly class, there.

2) Organize the night before. This is SO HARD for me, because I want to put the girls to bed and veg, but I'm trying to do all the things that will be helpful in the morning--make sure everything that needs to go to school is out and ready to go, get the coffee maker ready, pick out my outfit for the next day, confirm with D what time he'll be getting home and what the next day's dinner plan is, etc. I struggle with this, but it makes mornings SO MUCH EASIER, so I just have to get on it.

Classes so far are going well, but it's only been a week and assignments aren't exactly rolling in yet.  I'm most excited about my Craft of Novel Writing class, in which we will participate in NaNoWriMo. You should join me!

Okay. That's my parenting disaster failure of the weekend. Empathy welcome, but I don't think I'm ready for actual advice? Just solidarity, k thx.


  1. I think in like a year you will look back on the Kumon struggle and shrug. She's so tiny-- don't sweat it. But! I am not an authoritarian parent AT ALL and don't really think of things in terms of struggle or power and STILL I forced Cooper to go to soccer practice last night, making his private tantrum the public purview of the entire effing first grade. So what do I know.

    1. Public tantrums--my favorite! It's nice to know that even someone with level-4 parenting experience still questions herself.

  2. Solidarity with you on the "restraint-collapse". My 15-year-old seems to have outgrown it this year! Woo-hoo! So there is a light at the end of the tunnel, distant as it may be.

    1. Perfect! I'll just wait 9 years and let you know if we're past it! LOL.

  3. More power to raising a strong, independent woman! She's so deeply secure in your love and in who she is and what she wants, it's freaking amazing, and as nuts as I know you feel sometimes, and I know I've felt when my kids have basically blown me off entirely in favor of their own self interest, her confidence should (and I'm sure is) a source of pride for you!

    1. Yes! I should think of her as secure and confident rather than just giving zero f*cks. It does make me nuts, but I'm definitely proud of her. :)

  4. No advice because you’re not seeking it or in this mum of 4 grown kids, in need of it. It’s a tough tough job , harder than in my time, there’s too much info/ suggestions et al. Personally I think you’re doing a bloody good job, juggling career and family. Cut yourself some slack.... oh and wine helps;))