Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-One

Dear Gwen,
Today you are fifty-one months old.

The main thing that's different about you, these days, is that you're kind of bossy.  You heartily refuse to accept the reality that Mom and Dad are the actual bosses, as you would really like to run everything yourself.  Sometimes this is cute or funny, sometimes it's breathtakingly rude, and we never know how it's going to look or what other lucky friends, family, or even perfect strangers are going to be treated to a healthy dose of Gwen Attitude.  What I find challenging about this is that I'm not sure if I'm supposed to (figuratively) beat this behaviour out of you, or whether time will smooth out the edges and I merely have to duck and cover and make sure we all survive that long.  I really hope it's the latter, because your alpha female personality + my alpha female personality = some real humdinger fights!
One example of your newfound desire for authority is that you have started to threaten me and Dad, except you don't actually understand how this works.  I say things to you like, "Gwen, if you don't get your shoes on, you can't go outside."  And your translation of this, when you want me to do your bidding, is: "Mama, if you say no to me one more time, I'm going to go to sleep and not talk to you anymore."  Um ... OKAY!  Interestingly, you don't get too angry or frustrated when your threats don't have the desired effects.  Thank goodness!

Another 'charming' new habit is that you like to blow raspberries at me when you don't like what I'm saying to you.  I understand that you get mad or frustrated with people or events, and that you want to express those feelings, but I'm trying to help you understand that some expressions are not appropriate.  Of course, it's hard to get this message across to you when you are already angry - and when you're not angry, you have no interest in discussing it.  A couple of weeks ago, you had been rude to me two or three times over the course of the morning as we prepared to go spend the day at the beach with a friend.  Finally, the bag was packed, the beach toys chosen, the picnic prepared, and it was time to go.  The only thing that needed to happen was for you to put your shoes on.  Unfortunately, you and I disagreed about which shoes were appropriate for you, and you blew a big raspberry in my face.  I felt I had no choice but to send you to your room and cancel our beach outing - I just couldn't condone that behaviour.  On the other hand, I regretted leaving our friends in the lurch, and I was disappointed both for myself and for you that we weren't going to spend an enjoyable day at the beach.  Looking back on it now, I still have no further wisdom to add and no idea how I could have handled the situation differently.  It's frustrating for both of us.

On the other hand, I do have some good new tools that I really like, thanks to a parenting course I've been taking and some conversations with my friend Heather, whose nephew is very close to your age.  Heather has given me the gem of "Are you asking me or telling me?", which is used like this:

Gwen: I want a piggy back ride!
Me: Are you asking me or telling me?
Gwen: Asking.
Me: Let's hear it.
Gwen: Can I have a piggy back ride, please Mom?

From the parenting course, I learned to frame every instance of discipline in a relational way, that is, to tell you how your words or actions affect those around you.  Instead of just saying, "Don't jump on the couch," I can say, "Don't jump on the couch, because it could break and I don't have money to buy a new one."  Or instead of saying, "Don't blow raspberries at me," I say, "Don't blow raspberries at me because it's really rude, it hurts my feelings and makes me not want to be around you."  The other brilliant tool is that after a time-out or other discipline, I say, "You know I love you no matter what, but please try to remember that we don't (yell at people) because (it hurts their feelings)."
I have noticed a couple of new awesome habits, too, that are just starting to pop up sometimes.  In general - and much like me - you like to get your own way.  There are many times that this is just impossible, for example when you tell me you want a sandwich but forget to tell me that it should be cut in rectangles instead of triangles, and the problem only becomes apparent after the sandwich is cut.  Most of the time this is cause for great weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  However, a few times lately similar events have happened and you have just ... rolled with it.  A couple of days ago we were visiting Uncle Mikey and I had brought along a colouring book and a selection of crayons you had picked out.  You wanted black, but hadn't brought it, and I braced myself for the storm.  Then you decided, "Oh well, I will just use blue instead."  I was stunned!  Naturally I praised you for your flexibility and resourcefulness.  Hopefully this trend will continue!

You are often in your own little world and it can be very hard to get through to you to get you to do the 4,715 million things we need to do each day.  Often, I will give you an instruction such as "Go get your shoes on," and you will rush to the front hall, then forget what I've asked (or perhaps you stopped listening after the word 'go'?) and instead spend 15-20 minutes playing with whatever objects strike your fancy, making up silly songs, you know, DAWDLING.  Then all those minutes pass and I happen by and am stunned that you haven't managed to get your shoes on.  But an awesome new thing has happened a couple of times, and I sure hope it starts to happen more.  Recently, I asked you to bring your dishes from the dinner table to the dishwasher.  You rushed off in your usual frenetic fashion to the table, then stopped short and said, "...Mom? I don't remember what you asked me."  WOW!  I was all too happy to remind you, and again praised you sky-high for your honesty and effort to stay on task.  Perhaps there's hope for us after all.

Other than that, you continue to careen through life at full speed, once in a while even paying attention to what direction you're rushing off in.  You are still crazy, creative, hilarious, and full of joy.  You love picnics, ponies, butterflies, rainbows, unicorns, and the colours pink and purple.  You think green is yucky and plaid is too handsome for you to wear.  You adore fruit, especially watermelon, and are enjoying the great variety available at this time of year.  Your dislike of protein infrequently abates and we even managed to get you to eat a hamburger recently!

As always I love you a million billion kajillion and four ... no matter what.


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