Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Newden Days: Five And Counting

"Mommy, do we live in the newden days?" the boy asks as we read a bedtime story and I stop to explain that people sometimes wore hats to bed to keep warm "in the olden days."

"Yes," I say, after I stop laughing several minutes later. "We live in the newden days."

These newden days, I am getting used to having five-year-olds, and they are, indeed, very different from four-year-olds. The tantrums are fewer and tend to come only when someone hasn't had enough sleep. But they've been replaced by a near constant condition best called "selective listening," which is mostly not listening when asked to do something, but listening when there is the possibility of a treat, a new toy, or TV watching. Thanks to the inspiration of the president of the local parents of multiples club, I've instituted a sticker chart in which the kids earn a sticker if I only have to tell them to do something once. Fifty stickers -- a very big number for them to contemplate, but an achievable one -- will earn them a trip to the toy store at the Farmer's Market, and the chance to pick something out. We're only one day into the plan, so it's premature to say it's golden, but at least for now, it seems to be working.

The newden day sticker chart plan was implemented after a horrendous evening of whining and complaining that turned ME into a four-year-old. Yes, I was the one throwing a tantrum last night, the likes of which had not been seen since ... well, a week or so after Halloween, when another horrendous evening of whining and complaining had occurred. That's when I threw out all the Halloween candy in front of their little horrified faces.

I know Mel Brooks says, "It's good to be the king," but at that moment, it felt lousy.

Still, it had to be done. They behaved like angels for quite awhile after that incident. And as a result, I reverted to my middle-aged, mostly mature self, and haven't lost it too badly except for last night.

They say you're supposed to figure out the triggers so you can nip a tantrum in the bud. I don't always know my kids' triggers, though being overtired is the most obvious. But for sure I know my trigger: working hard to prepare a dinner, or more often, several, since the kids don't always deign to eat what Late Blooming Dad and I do, and then listening to the kids kvetch about what I've given them. The harder I work on a dinner, the more likely it is they're going to kvetch. And the corollary to this law is that the more they kvetch, the more likely I'm going to blow up.

Hence last night.

It isn't pretty, this forty-something person turning into a four-year-old having a tantrum. It usually involves my yelling and storming into another room. Sometimes a door is slammed -- something I've distinctly forbidden the kids to do. And this time I actually threw one of the boy's toys across the room.

In the words of Sesame Street's Grover, "I am so embarrassed." I turned into a lousy role model AND I felt like crap for the rest of the evening.

But I'm human. The kids forgave me. I forgave them. We all did so much better today.

One day, they may look back on these days as their olden days, and they'll be raising their own kids in some "newden days." At that point, I hope they heed the words of the great Bruce Springsteen, who gives the best prescription for how to deal with your parents: "Take the best, forgive the rest."


Unknown said...

You are so brilliant! You write in such a fluid way, before I know it, I'm at the end of your post wanting more. I especially enjoy your honesty. It is so genuine and it takes guts to admit that you're not the perfect parent 24/7. We are undoubtedly human: and sometimes it takes a pair of 5 year olds to remind us of this.

lateblomingmom said...

Jennifer -- thanks for "getting it." It's most gratifying when someone else recognizes the experiences and feelings from having been there. Thanks for reading and for the kind words.