We are in a new developmental phase – age 6. The power struggle my daughter and I have had since day one has escalated and I feel like I am losing most of the battles these days. Being a highly energetic, curious and exuberant child she is on the go from the moment she wakes up at 6am to the moment she closes her eyes at 8:30 (and lately 9:30) at night. Plus she knows what she wants. All the time. Her energy level and constant instructions leave me spent. Summer has been particularly tough because camp hours are shorter than school hours, and she is always looking for something else to do once camp ends. Plus, mommy is also trying to keep up with running her business while still being available to her. Spent isn’t the half of it. So, no, I have not been holding my ground as much as I should and I’ve been giving in, a lot these days.
Bottom line. I feel like I have been falling down on the job and I need a little help. So when I packed my bags for a recent trip to visit my parents I popped Dr Robin Berman’s Permission to Parent into my bag, hoping I’d find time to read it. Funny how that stack of books by your bedside never seems to get shorter. As luck would have it, I grabbed just the right one to crack open. Dr. Berman gives it to you straight.
Right away Dr. Berman delves into the over parenting phenomenon we are seeing today. I get it. We don’t want to parent in the strict almost harsh way parents of previous generations did. We want our kids to feel loved, understood, valued – but somewhere along the way we are losing sight of the fact that discipline is love. Children need boundaries. I am well-aware of this as a parent. I took Baby Group classes and learned from some of the best about why rules and guidelines are instrumental in child development. But lately the guidelines in our home are more like waxy bands that slip and slide and curve as needed. I completely get that this is not helping my daughter.
As I delved into the chapter on “Trash the Trash Talk” bells were going off. Here I am wondering why I’m struggling with my daughter’s stubbornness and unwillingness to follow instructions and I realize, I’ve been setting her up for failure. I know better. I know to encourage through positive reinforcement and positive commentary, but lately I’ve been so worn down I feel myself slipping into verbally defining exactly what I don’t want her to do. Thank you Dr. Berman, I am turning another page. I am going to take a beat and think before I speak.
I was reading this book while visiting with my parents in their bayside condo in the panhandle of Florida, our annual “low key, old fashioned Summer vacation” where my daughter trudges through the shallow warm waters outside their building collecting hermit crabs or chasing the dog. Where we spend hours fishing on the pier, swimming in the pool or simply watching the boats in the channel from my parent’s balcony. I love these vacations because they’re all about enjoying the moment. This summer she learned to knit and crochet. And Grandma knitted her a really cool hat.
I have to pat my parents (and myself) on the back as we were definitely “remembering the pauses” and enjoying simple moments during this week. Something Dr. Berman highly recommends. I was watching my mother with my daughter during that trip and thinking back to all the amazing memories she had created for me as a child – visiting museums together, snuggling in the covers at night reading books, baking in the kitchen. My mother taught me how to sew. She also inspired in all of us, my sister, brother and myself, an appreciation for the written word. We are all writers, including my mother, who penned many a meaningful letter and card to us throughout our childhood. It was really easy for me to be critical of the parenting I received as a child, until I became a parent myself. I always thought they had dropped the ball in so many ways. We weren’t disciplined enough, there weren’t enough rules, we got away with too much. But now I get how that can easily slip through the cracks. You have to really work at it. What they did do was love us and let us make mistakes and opened the world up to us, exposing us to other cultures, ideas and opportunities.
And now here they were opening their home to us, creating memories for my daughter that will last her a lifetime. That’s pretty cool.
Back in LA, we are days away from a new school year starting and a more structured schedule getting into place. I have already implemented a new bed-time routine and required everyone to eat at the table together tonight. And I caught myself today about to say something negative and I stopped. I’m taking it a step at a time. I also underlined a lot of passages in Dr. Berman’s book so when I feel like I need a bolster I can just flip to that page. What I do realize, for the few things I could improve upon, I am also doing a lot right. My daughter is loved. She knows she is always safe, that Mommy and Daddy are always her #1 fans, that we do set limits and that she has responsibilities too. Reading Permission to Parent helped me remember the things I should give myself credit for. It’s not always easy. In fact this is the hardest and most precious job I’ve ever had. But I welcome every challenge. And I just hope every time I stumble I will learn next time to do it better.