November 2007 Archives

Chocolate and the ROOM

Dear Finn

Continuing on a similar theme, we are still as parents learning a lot about dealing with you when you're being less than nice. Long gone are those days when we could tell you what to do, and you would do it, recognising full well that we are the ultimate power. Mu ha. These days we are far more likely to psych ourselves up, dig our heels in for a possible fight and then ask you to do something, first nicely, then with a bit more encouragement and then depending on what it is, with bribery and corruption and/or pure physical force. It's for your own good we tell ourselves...repeating that oft heard parental phrase we probably swore that we would never use.

One of the disciplinary actions that leers ominously in your life at the moment is the threat of being put in your ROOM. We live in a two bedroom apartment and so our options are somewhat limited as to where you have your time-outs. Originally we were a bit worried about using your room as we didn't want you to get fearful of it for its usual uses. But there seems to be no issue. Somehow you seem to be able to separate the (at times) pleasant instances of going into your room to be cuddled or read stories or whatever with the times when you are put in your ROOM as a punishment. When it becomes some sort of dark mouldy dungeon at midnight with the sea rising inexorably...such is your fear of it.

I have only put you in your room twice with, I thought at the time, rather pathetic consequences of discipline as you cajoled your way out very quickly playing the cute, desperate and unbelievably heartbreaking cards all in quick succession. Finn 1 Mum 0. Or so I thought. Ever since then I have only to threaten the ROOM and all tantrums dry up. In fact the first time I used it as a threat, your screaming stopped as if cut with scissors and you stared at me with huge possum in the headlight eyes...scared stiff. I found it rather disturbing. The two short times you were put in your room seemed to me to be rather insignificant, but maybe to you they were anything but. Rather to you they were some hideous incarceration. Some monumentally horrible thing that should at all cost be avoided. It has shown me well what a sensitive person you are, and that I need to be careful that the punishment doesn't obscure the reason WHY you are being punished. That the ultimate aim is for you to realise that there are consequences to certain of your actions, rather than that you shouldn't act at all.

Of course having realised that the threat of your ROOM is such a good one, I have probably been using it a bit often. At least once a day, you get frustrated and throw something, and sometimes that thrown item hits someone. Once asked if you would like to go in your room, you tend to run somewhere else, sit down, burst into tears and say NO ROOM. It is VERY effective. The hilarious thing is your own realisation of being naughty. At times when you are doing something you know you're not allowed to and you look at me to see if I'm going to react, and for whatever reason I just give you a MOM look rather than say start having this conversation with yourself....ROOM, yeah? no ROOM, go ROOM? You know damn well you're doing something wrong, and you know what the punishment is likely to be and I'm not sure which one of is biting their tongue the hardest to keep from laughing...when I explain to you that NO, in this instance you don't have to go in your ROOM and what you have just done is not a ROOMable offence. I really hope I haven't scarred you for life.

The other night I skipped out and did some clothes shopping. A couple of years of breastfeeding and toddler fingers have reduced my wardrobe to the daggy remnants of overwashed undercared for items of never-too-fashionable garments...not including the many unwearable items that frankly strain in vain to cover my overdeveloped sense of chest. When I got back your Dad was telling me about how you'd gone ballistic because there was no cake, and you wouldn't go to bed because you wanted cake. Your Dad said that in response he'd done something really bad...which I thought meant that he'd hit you. He said it was much worse...
He'd given you a chocolate tim tam.

This morning, you got up in your standard morning-defying whingey state...and the first word that came out of your mouth was Chocolate.
More Chocolate, Dad?

Which goes to show that you're not the only one who will learn that some actions have serious consequences. And also that you're smart enough to have a spak attack at the parent who threatens you with chocolate. No ROOM indeed.

Finn 2 Parents 0.


Big Splash Dad

Dear Finn

Looking back over the last few entries there seems a certain ongoing tendency to rant about exhaustion and frustration and tantrums. Both mine and yours. I thought perhaps you were ill, what with all of your yelling, general unhappiness about being asked to do anything, and dissolving into tears at the slightest transgression from your frequent demands. But having done a small amount of reading, I'm very suspicious that the TERRIBLE TWOS are upon us. Your frustration at not getting what you want, when you want it is obvious. Your inability to use words to express this frustration is easily just as frustrating for your parents. To say that parenting has at times become somewhat stressful is an understatement.

We've started to institute a few discipline proceedings for when the tether end is reached. You mostly understand when you've done something naughty which I guess is the main point. You haven't entirely got the whole Consequences of Actions thing yet, but you do comprehend that being put in your room with the door closed is not a fun place to be. You try your hardest to cajole your way out, through the crying and the rage and all. Mostly this works, as my will is not nearly strong enough to take you a) trying to play Knock Knock whilst bawling, or b) attempting to ask me to Open Door ad infinitum in the middle of crying your little heart out. MY heart I have realised is not strong enough to withstand this sort of emotional turmoil. It may change I'm sure, but I have never yet been angry enough at you to keep you in your room for more than about 30 seconds. I really hope you're learning something from these time-outs. I don't like them at all.

I realise that a lot of your tantrums could be averted with endless distractions and one-on-one time. Sometimes I just don't seem to have the ability to hold/feed/rock Holly in one hand, and soothe you in some way with the other. You watch too much TV and I feel guilty about it. I'm not a huge TV fan myself, and I feel bad about the fact that the only way I can seem to placate you sometimes is by putting you in front of the most mindless puerile kids' program that exists. The problem is of course, that you just love it. Max ON, you say, probably 500 times a day. I wish I had never discovered Max. I loathe Max, his ridiculous uber-strine accent playing out the moronic storylines. Curious George at least had cute on his side. Max is just a git. Max is also where it's at.

Which is where your Dad comes in, with his ability and willingness to fill some of your day with Father Fun. There's a bit of a rarity value to this time, as he's not around a huge amount. Not to say that he's never here, he's just in your face a lot less than I am. The willingness in itself possibly stems from the fact that he gets to go to work. Real work with grown-ups. Adult company in all its reasoned multi-word vocabulary and lack of yelling just seems like heaven to me. Your simple and uncomplicated needs and love of rough-housing probably seem like heaven to him. Your Dad coming home is the highlight of your day. HELLO Dad, you say. Dad's HOME, you repeat.

On the whole your Dad and I don't seem to see a lot of each other these days, that's not gazing at each other over yours or Holly's head. When we're not either working, or feeding or putting kids to bed, we're eating, sleeping, watching a DVD or lying on the couch in a dreamy alcohol buzzed haze, each looking like the shucked husk of someone who used to be an autonomous member of a twosome with interesting things to say and someone else interested in listening. I'm not sure what we are anymore. Parents of two I guess.

You're lucky that you have such an energetic father who loves to run around with you, build Lego, show you the joys of escalators and be the Big Splash Dad that you enjoy so much. A Dad of tickle fests and circus tricks, a Dad who likes nothing more than to take you downstairs to play in the car while he cleans it. Taking you away from me, for a short time every now and then, is what makes your Dad extra special. Absence in a toddler can be a beautiful thing. Your Dad gets that, and that understanding is also a beautiful thing.