When you enforce consequences, you kind of get screwed, too. Case in point: Out to eat with Norah and Auntie Sarah. Stipulation: Norah must eat half of her meal if she wants to go to Cherry Berry (a frozen yogurt joint). Doesn't happen.
Consequence: Auntie and I were clearly the ones who wanted fro-yo, and got screwed, as we ate half of our dinners. But going there and eating it in front of her seemed usually cruel.
Also, after watching Despicable Me in the theater this afternoon, Norah had a complete and total meltdown in the restaurant attached to the theater. We were there with our friends and Norah's bff Minta. I took Norah out to the car, as she was causing a scene. Apparently she was sad the movie was over, and wanted to go to another one. Stipulation: Norah has to calm down before we go back in. Doesn't happen.
Consequence: Ryan gets to drink the beer I ordered as I sit in the car in the rain with Norah screaming, and me nearly in tears because I usually start crying when she's inconsolable. And I feel like a douche for being firm when she's crying. I did try to console, but she was hysterical, so I sat there and tried to ignore it. I don't know how to parent.
Another situation. We went to a birthday party. All was well. I even let Norah pick out the gift. MISTAKE. ATTENTION PARENTS: don't let your preschooler/toddler pick out gifts for birthday parties. Maybe this is a big duh, but no one told me. She picked out things she loved, and grew an instant attachment to the items. So when the party was over, she obviously wanted to bring rubber frog home with her, as it was her friend. She named it Seesaw.
I made her give it back to her little friend, and carried her wailing to the car. "I want my fwoggy! I want my Seesaw!" Meanwhile, my heart is breaking over a stupid fucking rubber frog that she clearly loves and I am making her leave it behind like Sophie's Choice, and this sweet little boy runs up to us with the frog, freely giving it back to Norah.
What do I do? I say "Oh, you are so sweet. But you keep your frog, Honey."
Consequence: Norah is now hysterical, and I am torn. I wanted her to learn about giving gifts, but now I'm certain I screwed up. I don't want her to thinking tantrums are the way you get your way, but she loved that dumbass frog. We drive the entire way back home in tears. I get her calmed down for about ten minutes, when Ryan returns from the party again, because I left my purse and he happily volunteered to go back as Norah wailed, and Norah thought he had gone back for her fwoggy. Tears for what seemed like an eternity.
I really have no idea what I'm doing.
The next morning, I got Norah ready, had her count out some money from her bank, and we hit Target to purchase Seesaw II. We thought at least we'd show her about money and goods exchanging hands, and that lesson would offset the fact that we're total pussies.
So, I know that setting consequences and enforcing them is a good thing. Right? But I don't know when I should be doing this. Is it for eating food? Having tantrums? Or is it just for violence and dangerous activities? Or for smart mouthing? Or all of the above? I don't know. I have no idea.
I guess it should be for things that are important to Ryan and I. Hitting and such is bad. Bad manners is not good. But the tantrums... I'm not sure. A communications professor once told our class "Feelings are facts." And while this is a corny thing to say, it's true. Should I allow this behavior? Let her let it out? Or should I be encouraging self-regulation? Or would that teach her to hide her feelings and push them down until they become ulcers or time bombs? I don't know!
I suppose no one said parenting is easy. And my friend, Kristi, said something like if it is easy, you're probably screwing it up pretty bad. I think I'll cling to that for a while.