Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Just Call Me Hamlet

When I became pregnant, it was a foregone conclusion that Scott and I would practice intentional parenting, as opposed to accidental parenting. I read books and telegraphed the information to Scott the best I could. I carefully weighed every decision from what to feed him, where he should sleep, and what he should eat, to less obvious choices like what he should wear.

I felt much more capable of making the right choices when he was an infant. There's not that much to it. You feed them, keep them clean and dry, help them learn how to sleep, and love them. It's pretty hard to screw that up.

With each progressive stage of childhood, however, my decision-making ability has been eroded. Despite having pretty good instincts, I choose to second-guess every move I make and end up stymied by my inability to decide. I read books, parenting web sites, talk to friends, ask my mother-in-law, ask my sisters-in-law, discuss it all with Scott, and then find myself so overloaded with contrary opinions and advice that I just don't know what to do.

Why do I do it, then? It might seem obvious to anyone else that I should just shut up and take charge. Maybe it is obvious. But I am just so dag-blasted worried about screwing up my child that I worry about every little thing.

Take potty-training, for instance. Brendan is three. I am mortified that he isn't potty-trained yet, despite having friends all around me saying that three is the right age for training. I should have done it when he was two and not as stubborn. I wanted to, but I tried a little, he didn't respond, and after listening to everyone around me, I decided to back off. Now he's freakin' three-years old! And not trained and it's all my fault.

And I'm mad at myself. And I'm mad at him. He's so stubborn (just like me, as Scott pointed out last night). I can't even get him to sit on the potty, much less use it.

So, today, I had the genius idea of showing him the new Thomas train I got for him as a reward. He immediately jumped off the bed and ran to the potty, sat down, jumped up after only one second, shouting, "I pee-peed! I pee-peed!"

When I tried to calmly and rationally explain that he did not actually pee, he FREAKED! I finally got him calm by distracting him. Gave him a lot of liquids and hoped we'd have some success. He sat on the potty for about 10 min. and nothing happened. I gave him lots of praise and affection only to have him freak out again when I said he couldn't have the train until he actually successfully used the potty.

Ultimately, he had another accident which I tried to use as a teaching opportunity. Instead, he freaked out again when I tried to get him to practice walking to the potty. He ended up crying himself to sleep, begging for the dog-gone train.

Mind you, I was calm. I didn't even raise my voice in anger or frustration this time. And still, I have failed. I wish I had not tried to bribe him. What the hell was I thinking? I wish Brendan were less stubborn and I were more patient.

And I wish for once, I could make a parenting decision and KNOW that it was the right one and not wonder if what I have done has crushed my child's soul and marked him for life.

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