Saturday, January 12, 2013

Crazed Motherhood

There are many times in a child’s life when parenting can be frenzied, and the torment seems never-ending.

Truly, a screaming infant is a severe test of patience and endurance. But it usually doesn’t last more than a few months. 

Likewise, changing diapers can push a frazzled mom’s buttons. Particularly if there are two in diapers! I once told my nearly three year old grandson that I thought we were done with messy diapers! He looked hurt. “Grandma, I’m only a little kid.” 

a crazed mom
But the longest-lived, most trying child behavior is when siblings fight. I don’t have an explanation for it.  Normally delightful kids can get cranked up for accusations, unkind remarks, intentionally hurting their brother’s feelings, and disagreeing about ridiculous things.

I knew I had reached the point of crazed motherhood on a particular afternoon when my girls were 5 and 8. 

I picked them up from school and we were ten minutes into the drive when the bickering started. It was low-level at first, and I could ignore them. I didn’t even know what the issue was. 

They escalated to louder voices, the younger one claiming “it” was unfair! She whined. I focused. What was unfair?

The older one tried to out-shout her little sister. She refused to share. I looked at them from the rearview mirror. The seat was empty, except for their two bodies. What was there to share?

Sarah indignantly announced “I don’t have to share my cookies with you!”

 My ears rang, their wrangling was out of control. But I was no more reasonable than they. I had reached the state of crazed motherhood.

“Oh for crying out loud, give your sister a cookie!” I shouted over them. 

They were silent. Maybe they understood the absurdity at the same moment I recognized it.

The last few blocks were devoid of conflict. But I had a doozy of an internal dispute to settle about my own behavior. Did they learn such nonsense, and meanness from me? Did they see their dad and I carry on in a similar way? What would a mature, loving response had looked like? 

It was a pattern of behavior with them that didn’t stop there. By late elementary school I was so tired of it I scoured the library for self-help parenting resources. One suggested that if unreasonable squabbles while driving could not be stopped with a warning, the car should be pulled over at a safe place near the home, and the children ejected to finish the trip home on foot.

Like a hunter on a big game trail I waited for an opportunity. The weather wasn’t too cold. We were within a few blocks of the house. They knew their way home. I warned them of the consequence of continued conflict. They didn’t stop. We put them out at the side of the road, and told them we’d see them at home. We knew they were home safely when the front door slammed and they stomped upstairs.

It never took more than a warning after that to stop car-contained caterwauling. 

Since then parenting experts have defined the problem more clearly and proposed effective solutions to replace my desperate measure. 

Read here, 6 Ways to Stop Sibling Fighting, which explains common reasons for the fracas.

And a blog Family Matters by Britain's super nanny has practical suggestions. 

You don't have to be a crazy mom - there's help at hand.

If you have other ideas that have reduced the friction between your kids, please share them. Or, if you're willing to share your own crazed moment, I wouldn't feel like such a fool!  

Thanks to the following blog for the "hair raising" photo.

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