Wednesday, May 10, 2006

There's no problem that can't be fixed with a helping of self-doubt

There have been some rough days around here in the last week. For the most part, my offspring is a delightful child: he has learned some (suprisingly noisy) signs for certain things in the last week: he sniffs loudly when he sees flowers (so much so that every time he sniffles, I look around for tulips, lilacs, daffodils or--the clear favorite, probably because they are the only ones he is allowed to pick--dandelions), he pants when he sees a dog (or, frankly, any animal he really likes. Horses, apparently, are very large, cool dogs), says "mmm" while sticking his tongue in an out when he sees a frog and muttering "oo oo, ah, ah" sotto voce when he sees a picture of a monkey (monkeys, it may surprise you, are kind of thin on the ground in Central PA).

So for the most part, he has busied himself making towers of blocks and knocking them down, making animal signs, playing with the hideously loud Winne-the-Pooh bus we borrowed from his friend Jack, and eating every bit of fruit that isn't nailed down (as an aside, I think grapes are like heroin for babies--I keep hearing him on the phone saying things like "We need another shipment of Chilean reds" or "We're paying extra green for the organic Californian stuff" and "That bunch last week was FULL of seeds, do I need to switch suppliers?").

But there are times when he's tired, hungry, or plain short on charm, and things get bad really fast. He is, for example, obsessed with climbing on chairs. He is allowed to SIT on chairs but not STAND, and usually, we just tell him "no standing" when he stands up, and if he ignores us, which is often the case, we haul him down. Most of the time, this is fine with him, but occasionally, he finds the standing embargo to be a total infringement of his Toddler Rights and has a screaming fit.

Also, apparently, there are visiting hours for the inside of the fridge that we weren't informed about, and sometimes (but only sometimes, which is even more crazy-making) when we shut the fridge without his express written permission, he has a screaming fit. Since screaming fits make me want to run in front of the first fast-moving SUV I see, we've been experimenting with brief (20 to 30-second) time-outs in his room, which make me feel like a jerk and like I shouldn't even be allowed to celebrate mother's day.

And it was even worse when my friend and I were having a perfectly nice chat about it and, because I was crabby and she was tired, when she said "yeah, I don't think that would work for me, because I wouldn't want my son to think that his behavior made me love him any less," I of course heard, "But you, on the other hand, clearly don't care if your son thinks you love him or not. For which they should, effective immediately, revoke your Mother of the Year nomination."

Which of course isn't what she meant at all. I mean, we've been friends forever, and she has left her child solely in my care before, which is saying something, since I think it's only been family members who have cared for him thus far. So I knew she was just talking through it, exploring this new method of discipline with her friendly neighborhood momfriend, and then I went and got all defensive and nervous. I had pretty much talked myself off the ledge about it when she called in the afternoon and confirmed that she of course didn't mean to hurt my feelings and thinks I'm a wonderful mother and blah, blah, blah, and then it struck me that maybe, just maybe, part ("part," I said--not "all") of the so-called Mommy Wars isn't about Other People Being Nasty and Judgemental but about some of us (i.e., yours truly) being the teensiest bit defensive/underconfident/totally neurotic (well, in my case, anyway--I am sure you are fine). I mean, if I'd had confidence or more experience with the method I was using, I'm sure I would have been able to engage in the conversation instead of rolling up into a ball and spitting through my fangs.

The catch-22, of course, is that this is precisely why we need other mothers--to help us feel better about ourselves, to reassure us that we probably aren't emotionally scarring our child for life, even when we *gasp* make a mistake. I guess I'm learning that I'm going to have to start doing some of that for myself, especially since I'm going to be moving 2000 miles away from the two best real-live momfriends a girl could ask for. Any advice?