Recently I've kept returning to an article titled "The 12 Building Blocks of Discipline" by Thelma Harms, Ph.D., coauthor of the public television series Raising America's Children and director of curriculum development at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (more about her publications here). One of her building blocks is about sensible limits. The part about sharing is what strikes me the most:
"We have to be realistic about the behavior we can expect from children of different ages. Toddlers need a few simple safety rules and a rule against aggression. Most of all they need close supervision.
Preschoolers, whose world is more extensive and independent, need some rules about observing safety guidelines, treating others kindly, and respecting property. Sharing, taking turns, and not interrupting adults, are hard behaviors for preschoolers to learn. So it is best to try to limit situations in which preschoolers must constantly exercise these difficult skills."
This thing about sharing, though, isn't a challenge just for toddlers and preschoolers. For them the actual sharing is a challenge; for parents it might be finding the appropriate time and space to share the challenges of parenting.
I like to share. About motherhood. Parenting. Cultural differences. And everything about my daughter. From the most precious to the most abysmal moments. However, whereas it used to be, for me, that getting together with other moms would be a life savor--I could vent and she was happy with the other babies--I find that now it's become more of a pent up situation. Because she picks up on everything that I say, even when she seems completely absorbed in play.
And it makes me so sad to see her stiffen up when us moms talk about how hard it is to take our toddlers shopping. Or how challenging the sleep situation has been lately. Or how difficult meals can be.
So I've vowed not to talk about her in front of her anymore. And to find a way to refer to her that's more respectful of her growing sense of personhood.
It's hard. For me. Because now as a full time mom again, my life revolves around her. And so when she's finally in bed at night, there's so much I want to do that would feel a little more constructive than bitching. Including talking with my husband.
But if I talk with my husband without including all the downs as well as the many ups of the day, I feel like our conversation is phony.
For now we've reverted back to doing things side by side at night (the way we typically did before her arrival when I put in about 70 hours of work a week as a college prof), either on the couch, or on the porch if weather permits. And we do what we love to do. We read, write, correspond with friends. And each other. If not in so many words.
It's pretty good. If we could only have a little more of it.