I was contemplating the potential subject for my last Valentine’s Week post, when sitting here at my mom’s house, on my mom’s couch, with a stomach full of my mom’s cooking, it occurred to me that I have blogged about Valentine’s Day with Hubby and Valentine’s Day with the kids, but not about the person who I owe for giving me the ability to love (and of course, who I love): my mom.
After becoming a mom myself, I have a new found respect and understanding for my mother, who not only raised and cared for me, but put up with and deftly managed my rebellious behavior and, at times (okay, most times), wayward personality.
My bent toward misbehavior and a penchant for “the night life” started at the tender age of 3.
My mom reports that as a toddler, I climbed up into my parents’ hutch, took down the wine goblets, filled them with water tinted with red food coloring, and then sipped my “wine.”
In high school, I begged and pleaded to drive myself – and three boys – six hours to Reno to see Carlos Santana . . . in the middle of a blizzard . . . without chains or experience driving the winding roads through the Sierras . She let me go, divulging to me later as an adult, that she had to let me go.
“I handled you like a kite whipping in a furious storm: keeping the line slack, instead of reeling you in too tightly, in case it became too taut and snapped altogether. I would have lost you completely that way.”
Looking back, she was probably right. And she is definitely ingenious in terms of parenting.
Jane is going through a seriously trying phase right now – waking up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder when there is absolutely no reason for her to do so. Refusing to eat food. Refusing to get dressed. Still wrestling with the idea of having a second child in the house since Sam was born nine months ago.
So today, after suffering through several 3:00 a.m. bedtimes and refused naps, in addition to waking up in the middle of the night for Sam, I sought solace and comfort in the sanctuary of my childhood home.
For a few hours, I relaxed like a child, with my mother bringing me bits of food here and there while I took up at my old desk to finish a work project in the peace and quiet.
During a break, over heart-shaped lemon cakes, we got to talking about Jane and her rebellious behavior, and my mom reminded me of the kite analogy. She added that children should be respected and treated as human beings, not silly creatures with lesser feelings or intelligence – attributes we tend to ascribe to the infant and toddler set based on their diminutive size and limited vocabularies.
“Children are adults without experience. They are intelligent beings, but have not yet had a lifetime of experiences to inform their decisions and influence their actions. You have to explain to them, allow them to make decisions and exercise judgment on their own, and empower them. How would you feel if there were people towering over you and continually telling you what to do and saying ‘No’ at every turn?”
Again, ingenious parenting advice. It makes a world of sense. And I tried it this evening when Jane said, “I don’t like bedtime.”
I explained to her how great it was to lie down in a bed and roll around with your stuffed animals. That it feels so good to close your eyes at the end of the day when you’re tired. And that it’s so nice to wake up in the morning feeling better after a good night’s sleep.
At that point it seemed that the tactic was working. Jane agreed, “That’s a good idea, Mommy.”
Then I gave her a choice of reading a bedtime story or going straight to bed. She stated defiantly, “I don’t like reading” (which is completely untrue) and chose to play with a balloon. Okay, so that wasn’t a choice, but she was still engaged in a back and forth with me, so I didn’t scold her or take away the balloon.
Instead, I tried a partial ignoring, partial distraction method (as recommended by my mother): I read one of her favorite stories to her stuffed animal and talked to him, saying, “I love reading, don’t you? Yes, we love reading. Let’s read this book together.”
Jane nearly pounced on us and announced, “I love reading, too!” So the three of us read together.
When it was time to get into bed, Jane cried when I first put her down. When I asked why she was crying, she explained that she wanted to read a specific nursery rhyme book. I obliged because I had to reward her ability to express herself and engage in a two-way discussion. She was surprised, but her tense rebellion quickly melted into an easy smile. After reading the book she chose, she willingly complied when I put her in bed.
Although, it took quite a bit little longer to get her down, Jane went to bed happy and on her own accord; and I was happy to not go through the typical bedtime struggle.
As a mom, I now realize how much time, energy and effort my own mother put into raising me. (As she reminds me, it wasn’t an easy task). It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to be cognizant of the depth and breadth of the love that someone has bestowed upon you. And in the past two years, I have found that it is an even greater happiness to become a source of that kind of love for someone else.
Here’s to you, Mom. Happy Valentine’s Day.