Neil has been on out of town on night shift at the power plant outage all week. Of course this means I’m on day and night shifts here, which is just another way of saying I’m the mom, but it’s definitely harder with no co-workers! On day 4 Simon is starting to enrage me. He isn’t listening to me, and it usually takes threats or time-out, yelling, or me dragging him to time-out (while feeding Jane) to bring about obedience. He’s also whiny, and I’m trying to keep in mind that he misses Neil too. This isn’t too hard to forget because every time I try to get him to do something, he cries, “I want Daddy!” Thank God it has been nice out so at least we can play outside and go to the playground.
So I was thinking during naptime, the only time I have uninterrupted thoughts, why am I getting so mad? I don’t want to yell at him all the time. It works once in a while, but we need to save that once in a while for when he’s about to run into the street. Growing up, my family yelled, slammed, and threw (soft) objects, but that’s not how I want our family to work. Yet I’m finding myself drawn to these tactics more and more as Simon’s will clashes with mine.
Also, parents represent God to their kids, and largely shape their children’s view of God, not so much by what we say about God as how we treat our children. We are the visible authority led by the invisible Authority. Since my wrath is selfish and controlling, I certainly don’t want Simon getting the impression God is this way.
Plus yelling scares Jane. And Simon just laughs, yells “Obey!” or “Don’s scream, Mom!” Sometimes I use this scary weird voice when I’m trying to not yell, which Simon just finds hilarious (luckily).
So why am I getting so mad? Because I’m trying to control him. Because I want to get something done. Like the laundry, or dishes, or getting Jane to sleep, or getting ready to go somewhere. In the moment I’m baffled about why Simon won’t cooperate so we can go to the playground. But of course he doesn’t get it; he’s only two.
My big naptime epiphany was this: my job is to teach Simon to listen. Calmly, patiently, creatively coming up with consequences for not listening, or motivation to listen. This is more important than getting the housework done, or getting to the playground five minutes faster, or even getting Jane to sleep at that exact moment. In the long run it will make all of those things easier, although I’m guessing this is going to be a long process. But I can’t lose this battle. Allowing him to be out of control and not follow our authority is not an option; that would just set him up for a lifetime of rebellion and unhappiness.
The truth is, there are no shifts on motherhood. Your only hope for a “break” is nap time (or a babysitter), and that is a hard-won battle every day! The battles are gruesome but the victories are sweet. Playing “this little piggy” with Simon and Jane today made it all feel worthwhile because we were all laughing and snuggling together. Motherhood is brutal and beautiful.