The same energy that works for me professionally, does not quite do it for me, personally. I am not much of a laid back person. I’d like to think I am but I am really not. I just don’t work that way. I get annoyed easily. I lose my patience quicker than you can say patience. I have no age-appropriate inner serene space that people my age seem to have found.
I tend to get anxious when things don’t go as planned. I am not a naturally nervous person but when things need to go just right and they don’t, that’s when my stress levels hit the roof. For example, I pride myself on punctuality so if we are late to anywhere which is often these days with kids, I get extremely agitated and angry until we get to wherever we are going and then of course, I put my public game face on as if everything was always just fine.
late 30s, I am still learning to manage my emotions better. I am still learning to control my uncontrollable urge to throw things around when I can’t bend them to my will (e.g., when I can’t put the lid on a sippy cup with its many parts, when I can’t get the lid of another one open, when something I am cooking refuses to turn out the way it does online or in the recipe book, you get the point). In other words, I am sometimes, a toddler trapped in an adult’s body.
I never learned to completely regulate my emotions. Yes, I do fine in public and learned enough social skills to do well in life but it is in the private realm that my “true” self comes through. Some of those times are when I am with my family and I am challenged with disobedience from my son. Now I don’t expect him to be a servile little child who hangs on to every word I say and does exactly what I tell him to do.
I want to raise an independent thinker who stands up for his beliefs, one who is perfectly capable of holding a respectful and logical discussion when people don’t hold his views, and someone who is a masterful rhetorician with an enviable finesse to his eloquence and ability to debate. See…I don’t ask for a lot from my kid. 🙂
I don’t fall into that stereotype of a parent demanding absolute and unquestioned obedience from her or his kid although I do have times when I have said to Aaron, “He is a child. Don’t ask him. Tell him” or “He is a kid. Too many choices will confuse him. Give him two to pick from” (which I think is fine) or when Aaron asks TJ, “Are you ready to go to bed?” and I say, “Is it okay for him to say no? Asking him a Yes/No question is not an option here. He HAS to go to bed right now” (this is also fine, I think). Who made me the parenting expert that I seem to keep telling Aaron how to raise our son? Sheesh! Some of this definitely has to do with the different cultures in which we were raised, American-Canadian and Indian.
The point is, having been raised in a different cultural context with parenting styles that did not always believe in giving children choices until they are much older and with good reason, I do not always default to presenting choices at will to a 2-year-old. I expect him to do as I say because obviously I know better (do I?). Period.
Which is why when we were eating lunch the other day and he kept crashing his toy fire engine into our plates of food and water (first of all, why did I even let him bring the toy to the table. That one was on me), I repeatedly warned him to stop doing that. In the midst of feeding both kids, I had little patience for his disobedience. He kept ramming the ladder of the fire engine into our plates and running it on the table, albeit gently, but now it was slowly becoming an ego thing with me. Finally, when he crashed it hard on something, that I can’t even recall now, I angrily said, “Stop doing that right now or I’ll take it away”.
He just looked at me with some food still in his mouth, fire engine still on the table, and quietly said, “Calm down”.
“What did you say?” I asked without emotion and not angrily, somewhat in shock over what he might have just said. Also, he can’t utter the ‘ka’ sound so the calm sounds more like talm.
“Calm down, mommy”
“Did you just ask me to calm down?”
By now he probably figured he had said something off limits for him to say even though he’s only just heard his dad say it to me like a million times since he was born. He looked at me with a cheeky
smirk grin on his face, food all chewed and swallowed by now, fire engine still in hand, and this time said,
“Calm down, Suchi” in the exact same intonation as when Aaron says it.
I just stared at him, not knowing how to feel and almost smiling, almost proud of having heard him use these words in the absolute right context when less than 4 months ago, he couldn’t even say his name.
A few thoughts – First of all, if my TWO year old thinks I need to calm down, there must surely be something wrong with me and how I process emotion. In other words, I most definitely need to be calmer.
Second, did he really call me by my name? Does he even know that’s part of my name or does he just think that’s a word like any other word that only makes sense in the right context?
Third, I refuse to raise a kid who calls his parents by first name. I am Indian and proud and we DO NOT call our parents by their first names. Never. Heck, as kids, we don’t even call random people we’ve just met and been introduced to by their first names – everyone is always an uncle or aunty. He better call us some version of mom and dad till the day we die. Mom, Mommy, Mum, Mummy, Amma…I’ll take any of them.
I am not sure there is a grand point to this post. I just wanted to document the “Calm down” moment here. Perhaps it will be a turning point in my journey to better process emotions. Perhaps not. Never know.
As always, parenting is a journey of self-discovery or at least it is turning out to be, for me.
What has your child said to you lately that has made you stop and think?