Q and O were utterly spoiled by ex husband this weekend. He gave them their own room at his mom’s new house covered in Frozen propaganda, threw Q a garden party birthday complete with tea cups, heart shaped sandwiches, and cookie decorating. And to top it all off, he gave the girls their own precious kitten to remain at grandma’s house for whenever they visit.
Before they left for the weekend, I threw Q’s birthday cake away in front of her and made her sit in time out.
I’m feeling like a real loser.
I’ve been really struggling with Q and O. These wild little toddlers have blossomed into passionate, goofy, boundary pushing monsters that leave me befuddled and begging for a parenting solution.
Realizing Q would now be spending her 4th birthday up north after ex husband randomly asked to have them this weekend, we made arrangements to celebrate her birthday as a family a few days early. The girls and I bought the ingredients to make Q the chocolate cake she’s been talking about for months. Q loves to help in the kitchen. But following suit with the behavior she’s been exhibiting lately, she refused to eat her lunch that day and I wasn’t about to let her off the hook. So she sat staring at her bowl of soup while I starting making her cake without her.
I didn’t just buy a boxed mix and stir some stuff together. I separated, sifted, melted..I dirtied nearly every dish in my kitchen to make this cake even though I detest baking. But it was for Q and it was worth it. After cooling and frosting the cake as Q sat there and watched, I set it aside and went upstairs to change for the pool.
Minutes later Q came to my room, her little face covered in chocolate, and told me O was eating her cake.
I went downstairs to find the cake picked apart by little pecking fingers and my heart sunk.
What does every parenting book say about punishment for toddlers? Instant, relatable punishment. I walked over to the cake, lifted it from the counter, and tossed it in the trash. I didn’t yell. I didn’t spank. I didn’t shame. I said “Bummer. I’m sad you chose not to listen and that you ate the cake we were saving for Q’s birthday party. Now we won’t be having cake.”
Honestly, I’m still questioning my actions. Am I a witch of a mother? Was that too much? Did I go too far?
Minutes later, Olive dug through the trash to eat some more cake.
THAT is when I lost it. I contemplated all the times they’d told me “no” that day and the weeks prior – all of my futile attempts to correct “bad behavior.” I wondered why we even crave children in the first place. Yah, when you don’t have any and don’t know the horrors in store, of course it’s easy to fantasize about having children and growing a family. But even in the last few weeks with two tiny terrors running around our house Mr. Wilson and I have been talking about when we’d have a baby together. Am I crazy to want more of this? I obviously have no clue what I’m doing. I’m obviously goofing things up somewhere. Why do I still want to add to the chaos?
I love them. I got over it, like I always do. But we implemented a new plan for helping the girls recognize the type of behavior that will benefit them. We started bean jars. The girls can earn beans for any kind of favorable behavior – helping, loving, listening, cleaning, eating the right foods, exercising, sharing…literally anything. The beans are their currency for buying treats and tv time. Without bean payment, tv and treats aren’t happening anymore.
I shared this plan with ex husband who was totally (and shockingly) on board. Wow! Okay. Great.
The bean thing has been successful the whole two days we’ve been doing it so far. Q takes initiative to do tasks that will earn her a few beans without prompting – that’s never happened before. The girls have even forgone spending their beans on TV time and decided to save them for treats later. That was a shocker.
You know those kids and the marshmallow experiment? Let’s just say I’ve never pegged my children for the types of kids who would wait for two marshmallows.
So when we took the girls to ex husband, the beans went as well.
I’m always worried when they go to his house for the weekend. What will they see? Who will they be around? What influence will he have? Will they be safe? Will he pay attention to them? Will they feel loved and safe? I worry. I might not have a need to, everything could be totally fine. But I worry, because I’m their mom.
This weekend, he went above and beyond for them. He was SO GOOD to them. He spoiled them, made plans for them, worked hard for them, spent money on them. He made this weekend all about them. It makes me happy to see pictures of them and see how excited they are. But…
I’m jealous. I wanted to do those things for Q’s birthday. Mr. Wilson and I had even discussed getting a kitten for the girls but ultimately decided not to since we aren’t in a home of our own yet.
I’m scared. Are they even going to want to come home?
I’m the monster. I’m the one they spend every day with. I’m the one that has to teach them right from wrong. I have the largest impact on their learning. I’m the one that sticks them in time out, that gets worn out and stressed, who yells and takes their toys away.
I’ve earned it. I’ve earned their love and admiration, right? I’m the one that hasn’t abandoned them. I’m the one that takes care of them. I’m the one that sacrifices everything for them. But when they’re sitting in time out because I’ve put them there, they cry for dad. It kills me. And yet I keep earning it, because I sit there and take it. I let them cry for him and I don’t tell them all the reasons why they shouldn’t. I keep earning it.
AT LEAST he is trying though, right? His ‘valiant’ efforts are still, in ways, making my life harder; but he is putting in the effort. I’m grateful for the effort.
This is one more hurdle that we get to figure out – add it to the list.
Makes me wonder, what’s next?