Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Difficulty and Guilt in Parenting

Ahhhh, Annabelle, Annabelle, Annabelle.

I've alluded to her mischievousness and her compulsivity (i.e., the hair-pulling/finger-sucking), but I doubt I've succeeded in conveying the true essence of Annabelle. She is t-r-o-u-b-l-e. She is by far our most challenging child - probably exacerbated by the fact that her cohort, Daisy, also brings some pretty difficult challenges to the table (i.e., phobias and high emotions). The two of them together? Fuggeduhbadit - they're going to be the death of me.

But back to Annabelle. I swear I spend 89% of my waking time saying, "Annabelle, don't do that," and "Annabelle, stop it." She is that child, the one who does everything she's not supposed to do. It all began to crystallize, from what I recall, when she was about 18 months old and started stripping down naked, including taking her diaper off, when she was supposed to be napping, and gleefully smearing poop all over her crib. No lie. I can recount so many incidents in which she was the main character - incidents involving coloring her sister from head to toe in purple marker, incidents involving stealing a half gallon of chocolate ice cream from the freezer and spreading it all over the playroom (that is, what she didn't manage to eat) incidents involving her climbing up on top of the swing set and convincing her two-year-old sister to do the same (we're talking 10 feet off the ground). Those are memorable incidents; on a typical day it's general mischief, misbehavior, and non-cooperation. Mostly harmless stuff, relatively speaking, but annoying as all hell, and exhausting. And frustrating.

This afternoon it was one thing after another when she got home from school. After many threats, I had finally had it with her shenanigans, and I told her she couldn't go to dance. Not only that, but she had to stay in her room while I took her sisters to dance. I left with Daisy and Lilah, dressed in their ballerina finery, with Annabelle having a good ol' tantrum behind her bedroom door.

When we got home a little over an hour later, I went into her room, where she sat forlornly on her bed. I felt really, really crappy. Maybe I was too harsh. I don't know.

Sometimes I really feel like I don't have the first clue how to properly parent Annabelle. She's not a bad kid. She's just . . . spirited. And stubborn. And out for a good time. And exhibits almost zero impulse control. She pushes my buttons and pushes my buttons until she pushes one too many, and BAM, I lose my temper and employ some rash consequence, because I really don't have a plan in place (clearly, I need one). And really, it's no wonder she doesn't take me seriously - I threaten and threaten and threaten, and who knows when or if I'll ever follow through. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. It's a terrible way to go about things. Talk about parenting by the seat of your pants.

I worry about her. And I worry about my relationship with her. It seems like we spend so much time at odds with each other - and she's only five, for goodness sake. And honestly? I keep waiting for some teacher or other "expert" to tell me that she's got ADHD or something. So far, though, she's never had anything but glowing reports from school - both preschool and kindergarten. I've been told how "focused" she is, how "helpful," how "cooperative." Really? My Annabelle?

I love her to bits and pieces, I do. Despite the trouble she causes, she's very sweet. She loves to be loved. She is the best hugger and snuggler in the world. And she has the most delicious giggle - seriously, I've sometimes wished I could bottle it.

Ahh, this parenting gig. It's not easy.


heather said...

I think you are my twin. I relate so much to your parenting posts. I react exactly like you did and am so inconsistent with my empty threats. My 9 year old daughter is going to be the death of me. But I don't think it really started until she was 6. So your daughter has an extra year on her. Good luck!

Angie said...

you've described my Harry. He will be the death of me, I swear. I kept putting him in a 'box' saying 'naughty' (well, ok not a real box, just one in my head lmao) I've recently started reading Parenting a Strong-Willed Child cause clearly I need some guidelines on this. I think the 5 week program they talk about in the book will turn him around (I haven't started it yet).

Talley Images said...

I think all parents have a tough-go at it at times... and those Pollyana-type moms just kill me... but I was curious if you have a normal routine at home? This is what helps my kids the most... when they are off their routine, then look out - they are tornadoes, but when we go through as normal, then they are a little more controlable (if thats really a word)....

I think you are doing a great job though... :)

Stephanie said...

I also have an Annabelle. He's 8 and his name is Nathan. The experts have diagnosed him with ADHD and ODD. He was on meds and went to therapy for awhile.

I stopped all of that. I didn't want that label and stigma put on him, especially by himself. He used to refer to "my therapist" in casual conversation and compare ADHD medications with one of his classmates. The side effects of the meds also scared me. I also didn't see any great improvement in his schoolwork although he did get into trouble less (his MO is talking to whoever happens to be sitting next to him).

I just try to stand firm on my disciplining like you did in this situation. Also, kids with ADHD have disorganized thinking, so it's good to have some type of chart or something for them to check off each night with their chores, homework, and other duties on it.

Another little trick the therapist taught me (Annabelle might still be a little young for this) is to have him fill out out a tantrum log. So everytime he flies off the handle and has a tantrum, firt I give hime two warnings first and if that doesn't work, when it's all over, he has to sit and write out what happened and how he could have avoided it etc.

Let me tell you this has done wonders for him. He absolutely hates to sit and write those things out. It's amazing how easily he can get control of himself when facing a certain consequence.

Well, sorry for rambling on, but just know I feel your pain. Sometimes, I find myself dreading the time he comes home for school, because as soon as he hits the door all hell breaks loose in the house. i feel guilty for feeling like this, but it's life and it's hard.

Hang in there Mama!

diane rene said...

I think your Annabelle and my Falyse are related ;0)
the good news - the school gives you glowing reports! this means that you have taught her how to behave when you are not the one in charge, and honestly, that is a HUGE accomplishment. I have worked with other people's children for YEARS and not all kids can behave when away from mom and dad.
the rest is finding something that works. it sounds like taking dance away made an impact, which means it is something that should be stored away for future use. Falyse's impact - take away after dinner snacks and bed time TV. she will do ANY THING to keep these, so I simply remind her that we have certain rules ... not finishing dinner will lose the snack. not following rules will lose the TV.
of course, following through with it and having to hear them cry or see them pout hurts us, because we never want to be the cause of our child's pain, but follow through we MUST. keeping consistent is difficult, but it's effective.
good luck!!