I love my stage of parenting. They are finally becoming rational. We can reason with them, present logical arguments, and they respond appropriately. They understand. They finally “get” consequences. All that pain and agony is finally proving to be worthwhile.
I have been thinking about this since yesterday, when I watched a little boy getting his hair cut. I would guess he was about two or three. At first, he sat nicely, but within a few minutes, he started fidgeting, which, I guess, caused hair clippings to work their way under the cape and down his neck. Soon, he was scratching at his neck and crying, wiggling constantly. Within a few minutes, he was wailing and pawing bits of hair from his mouth. The poor guy cutting his hair (barely out of his teens himself) was working valiantly to get it at least symmetrical before the kid lost it completely, but it was definitely a losing battle. By the time they finally gave up, no less than three stylists had taken a turn, his mom, his aunt and his cousins all tried their hand at distracting, calming and restraining him. They tried everything – they reasoned, they begged, they kept telling him he was doing great (he wasn’t) and it was almost over (it wasn’t). They took off the cape, and then his tshirt. He sat on cushions, then on his mom’s lap, then stood on the floor. They finally took the clippers to him while his mom held him. The kid was practically vomiting with anxiety. I expect he will be the first Caucasian his kindergarten teacher ever saw with dreadlocks.
Anyway, the whole scene was quite entertaining, if only because I was not his parent. It’s not that he was being a brat or anything, he was just really uncomfortable, and to her credit, the mom was suitably apologetic. I felt badly for them all. In a thank-goodness-it-wasn’t-my-kid kind of way.
And throughout the whole thing, I also watched my kids sitting very still and carrying on a pleasant conversation with the hair dresser. They were perfectly reasonable. It’s the stage I now realize I’ve been waiting for. They can control themselves to some degree. Even if they had been uncomfortable, they would understand that it was temporary and they would have been able (and willing, all the better) to suck it up for a few more minutes. “Almost over” means something to them now. Who knew life experience could ever be that valuable.
The way I see it, we are in the sweet spot. That tiny window of opportunity between when they finally become reasonable and when they get hormones and lose it all again. No more begging, bribing or cajoling to get them to do what they need to do. I can issue a directive and their consciences will inspire them to do what they know they need to do. Not without whining, of course, but it’s a token protest, born of a developmental obligation to push boundaries. Ignoring it makes it go away. And even when I do decide to beg or bribe, I can actually tell them that I’m begging or bribing, and it eliminates the guilt-ridden manipulation. Instead, it ends up being kind of funny.
There were days though that I truly wondered if I was raising a tiny sociopath (think Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son). Thank goodness we seem to have come through that stage relatively unscathed. If only I knew then what I know now…I see the traits that drove me absolutely insane a few years ago becoming things that will get them through life with flying colours, if only they can continue to use their powers for good and not evil.
I have nieces who are in the baby and toddler stages, and they are well-parented, wonderful little people with bright futures. I love them and will babysit any time their parents will let me. The proof I see in my kids that they will both become reasonable some day gives me so much more patience than I ever had when mine were those ages. For example, I am now impervious to any amount of inconsolable crying or inexplicable fits of temper. Hopefully those little girls will benefit from the hit-and-miss parenting experiments I tried over the years. I’m not sure if it’s sad or not that I will probably do less damage to them that I did to my own kids.
I went for a run today with Jack who rollerbladed beside me for 3 or 4 miles. We had a great chat about everything and nothing. Aimee is a lovely girl who I can now relate to on a whole different level. And to think I was always worried about the teenage years.
Of course, I am prepared to eat my words. I was probably a fairly hideous teenager. I was miserable, anyway. Soon enough, blackmail and threats (no car for you! – the teenaged version of Time Out) will be my only options again, once the hormones take hold and the reason fades into a distant memory. I hope I can deal with it with grace… it may be a pipe dream, but maybe I can take all this new found wisdom and apply it under pressure. Time will tell.
But for now, I will enjoy the fact that I can leave them alone in the house (or a public place) and not have to worry about whether they are sticking forks in the electrical outlets or riding shopping carts off the roof. The risk of the former has passed, and the risk of the latter is yet to come. Right now, we are in the sweet spot. And it’s great.