Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Childhood Is A Period Of Transitory Psychosis"

Not my words.

In fact, they're not even the words of Thomas W. Phelan, author of the best-selling discipline-your-kids book 1-2-3 MAGIC. But he's the one who quotes them, attributing them to some anonymous author. I first heard them quoted to me on Friday, from my high school pal Jode, who's another late blooming mom -- of twins. When she said them, a bell went off in my head. Did it just ring in yours too?

It may sound like a harsh statement, but for those of us on the front lines of parenting toddlers, it's just the truth.

I freely admit I'm no model parent -- this blog can attest to how I've lost it and blown up at my kids, for example. But I try hard not to be raising little brats. I want to raise little mensches. (For those of you not familiar with Yiddish, a rough translation: a good, compassionate, giving person of integrity.) Nevertheless, the kids aren't born acting like mensches. They've gotta be taught. It's not that they don't have the sweet gene. It's that they also have the selfish gene. The irrational gene. And the persistent-to-the-point-of-intransigence gene.

I try hard to encourage the sweet gene. But there are moments when the others are just gonna win out, no matter what kind of parent I'm trying to be.

Last Friday I went on a parenting-book buying spree, out of desperation. For five solid mornings, our children were impossible when we tried to get them ready for preschool. (Our amazing part-time nanny, who usually helps me get the troops to school, wasn't working those mornings. Coincidence? I think not.) So this weekend I cracked open the first -- the aforementioned 1-2-3 Magic -- and began putting it into practice. So far, so good. The fits didn't go away. But they were of shorter and less painful duration. The sticker chart with all the morning tasks the kids need to accomplish, is doing us nicely too (the kids get a reward -- an inexpensive toy -- from the "treasure box" if they complete the tasks). I'm encouraged.

But I know not to get my hopes up too high.

"Sometimes," Jode reminded me, "they're just gonna be crazy." It's our job, as parents, to live through it. And our choice whether we do so gritting our teeth, or philosophically, calmly, waiting out the crazy moments. Sometimes, I hope to do the latter. But parenthood being what it is, I know I'll have my crazy moments too.

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