A guest post by IP.
The long weekend has just come to an end, and I must admit I am looking forward to going back to work. At work I am in charge, I call the shots, I control what is going on, and I enjoy empowering my staff to be their best. When at home, well that level of authority and influence seems to have little or no meaning. My twins don’t seem to understand that daddy is the boss, and the level of influence used at work has little or no effect on 2.5-year-old twins. I have come to understand that your children will not obey and respect you just because by default you are their parent. This is something that I am wrestling with. Growing up for me was completely different. We respected and almost feared figures of authority. I remember having an overwhelming respect and fear for the police. We were taught that the police took care of bad people, and somehow that involved bad children too.
My memory takes me back to when I threw a tantrum just after moving into my parent’s new home. I was about three. I didn’t want to go to sleep and stamped my fists hard against the wall. I then proceeded to throw myself on the floor and did that well known kicking regime we as parents dread. I also remember my dad coming into the room and swiftly giving me a good hiding. Neither I nor my parents have any recollection of any tantrums thereafter. So why does this not work in my home? I ask.
When it comes to our twins’ personality, one is more pliable and obedient, willing to engage in reason and negotiation, and the other kicks against any form of authority. She is very strong willed, determined to complete what her mind has set out to do and nothing will stop her. This is quite a challenge for any parent when emotion and lack of reason dominates the mind of a 2.5-year-old.
Just this weekend the scene of the battle of wills played out in many ways, which left me feeling rather defeated and threadbare.
For instance, a simple outing to the shops can become a complex web of emotions devoid of any logic. While loading the pair into the car, the stronger willed twin goes ballistic because she is not in the correct seat. I was unaware that there was a seating arrangement in my car! In such cases I am largely detached from my emotions, and I silently whisper my disgruntlement under my breath. Take 2, I calmly, while very irritated, unclip each twin and proceed to put them in their correct seat. The strong-willed twin scuffs her pants on my car rim in the process, soiling her pants. This is proving to be too much, and she does that thing I love to hate by throwing herself on my dirty and dusty garage floor. By now I am really worked up. Back in the house I run, baby wipes in hand to clean dirty clothes and mentally trying to keep cool. The twins are finally buckled up and I am ready to go. The other twin decides she wants her stuffed toy lying behind the driver’s seat from the day before. The other twin is now screaming because that has now suddenly become her stuffed toy and she wants it back. You can picture steam starting to emerge from my ears. I run back inside and get what I believe will be a toy that will calm her down. It works, but now I don’t want to go to the shops anymore. I am beyond angry, and I hate everyone.
On the way to the shop, willful twin decides to climb out of her car seat straps. I bellow for her to put her straps back on. She listens, but three minutes later, the game starts all over again. We finally arrive at the pet shop. We look at the rabbits, we look at the snakes, we look at the birds and we look at the fish. Then, both twins decide to run in different directions and I am left running around a large shop looking for two very fast twin girls. I see one, I run, but this is now a game, and she runs faster. I catch up managing to grab her by the arm and hurl her up to my shoulder line and tell her not to do that again. I now proceed to run with willful twin on my shoulders who is doing her utmost best to do another escape while I am running around frantically looking for twin B. This naturally creates quite a commotion as daddy is running around with a twin that has moved from shoulder to daddy’s ankles while trying to look for her sister. Most patrons stop and stare. Most people say, “Ag shame man, you seem to have your hands full.” Other patrons look at me in disgust looking on very judgingly while I try contain the situation. I finally find twin B. She was hiding under the skinny guinea pig display. Why did I not look there first? I thought.
We proceed to buy cat food, but unfortunately, we had to walk past the dog and cat toys. Willful twin insists I need to buy her a ball. I explain that this is not a ball for children, but for dogs. I can’t explain the amount of whining that proceeded. Now twin B sees a gap and makes another break. Damn it man, and some other words are mumbled as I make another dart to bring order to the situation.
I am now truly convinced it cannot get any worse, when willful twin decides to take her clothes off in the middle of the pet shop with nappy in hand, shouting at the top of her voice, “I need to poo daddy!” What the hell man, I run with a willful naked twin under my arm, willing twin B to follow suite. Cat and bird food dumped as is as I make a run for it. We get to the disabled loo as it seemed most appropriate at the time, while I position willful twin on the toilet. She executes what she told everyone she wanted to do minutes earlier. High fives abound. Twin B sees this as a competition and does not want to be left out. I position her on the toilet. High fives abound. I pick up willful twin to wash her hands. Twin B washes her hands, but willful twin is now super upset because there is no towel to dry her hands. This causes much commotion as she throws herself on the dirty toilet floor. The germaphobe in me is disgusted. Wash hands and repeat….
We leave the pet shop. I proceed to hold both girls’ hands as we cross the car park. Willful twin refuses to hold my hand. I now have one twin holding my hand, another being dragged across the car park as I insist this is for her safety and a balancing act ensues whilst trying to keep my cat and bird food from dislodging from my armpits.
Off to Builders Warehouse. I am now asking what I did not learn from the pet shop experience?! This will be much easier. They have trolleys I say to myself. I can put both in the trolley and push them at pace through the shop’s aisles which will entertain them and minimize damage to all parties. After all, it worked before right!? Out the car, and off to the trolleys we go. Both twins safely loaded into one trolley. Twin B decides that she wants to sit in the trolley seat. Willful twin is now throwing a tantrum in the trolley because she too wants to sit in the seat. She is insisting she has her own trolley. Picture it, two trollies being pushed by one weary dad through Builders Warehouse…I was going to have none of it.
Back home and bed time finally approaches. Mommy and daddy are sensing the anticipation of sitting down with a glass of wine, but not before a struggle through supper trying to keep dirty feet off the chairs and constantly reassuring that one’s bum is meant to be on the chair and not dirty little feet. Twin A tells willful twin that her bum is full of poo. My wife and I laugh. This happens all amid a very important disciplinary lesson, but we cannot contain ourselves any longer and we laugh. The situation is now ruined and a riot starts as one twin starts to chase the other with a piece of meat in hand. This unfortunately leads to a lot of running and chewing at the same time and twin B starts coughing which leads to three strikes of projectile vomit all over the floor, and all over my wife and the clean washing she just brought in from the washing line. Wash and repeat…
The house is in a mess, and smells like vomit. I proceed to clean up while my wife baths the twins. I hear shrieks of laughter while naked bodies dance around the house. Story time and an easy bed time brings on a quiet sense of relief as we strap ourselves into our beds feeling rather weary from a very challenging and comical long weekend.
So where does this leave us? Well, I shamefully admit that my strict disciplinary approach works only 50 percent of the time. It has left me rather confused.
Secondly, two children, same disciplinary approach, two different results. This leads me to a crucial point. Human beings are super complex. One size does not fit all.
Parenting takes work and lots of it. I find myself becoming lazy as I am just so tired of repeating myself. I mean, how many “say thank you” and how many “say please” and “take your feet off the chair” must a parent utter in his children’s lifetime?!
Thirdly, I think one must be constant, and unchanging no matter how gatvol you are. We must follow through.
Lastly, I am encouraged to read an informative book I read some time back called, “The Five Love Languages for Children” by Gary Chapman. The book explains how each person has a different love language and to get the most out of a child, or adult for that matter, one needs to communicate in that person’s love language. I think discipline cannot be a blanket approach. Much understanding and thought needs to go into it.
As parents, we unfortunately do not receive a manual when our children arrive. We are like a deer in the headlights. We lean on our own experiences and upbringing as a point of reference and when that does not work then we become disillusioned. Raising children is complex and our approach to raising well-mannered, well rounded responsible children takes commitment, effort and lots of blood, sweat and tears. I don’t profess to know it all. I write this knowing full well that I have a lot to learn.
Tenaciously I will attempt to do a better job tomorrow, as I venture into the unknown and do it all again.