Conditioned like a Seal


“I really should be better at this by now. I’ve been doing it for twelve-and-a-half years.” This is what I’m thinking to myself as I open my computer to write a little post. A completely different post than the one I’m currently writing. It was going to have some updates on the current situation inside my head, some references to the gems I’m currently using to treat myself, such as Braving the Wilderness, The Happiness Trap (basically the non-spiritual version of The Untethered Soul), Intuitive Eating and, of course, The Book of Joy, and some thoughts on other things.

All those thoughts left my head as the one above entered. The catalyst for that thought was the banshee screams issuing from the bedroom the little banshee had been banished to for crying and flinging herself in the floor when asked to pick up twelve sheets of paper. Oh, and also for refusing to accept the reality that “rice” is not an acceptable and complete dinner. And more floor-flinging and wailing ensued. The result of this was her tired and stressed mother, yelling, in a very un-Waldorf voice, completely devoid of any trace of gentleness or sing-song cadence – but much more in the voice of the dragon who’s going to eat the witch after her broom broke in two – to GO TO HER ROOM!

This is the four-year-old. The one I’ve had the most practice for. She’s number three. That means I’ve had two other four-year-olds to practice on. Maybe they were slightly less…challenging. I remember being pregnant with her and feeling totally confident. I was a baby pro. I had already done it twice and number three was going to be a piece of cake. In reality, the first two were training so I had some conditioning (like a Navy Seal) so I didn’t drown myself within a month after she was born. I mean, the other two were never nicknamed “The Tiny Tyrant” by my friends and family. But still. She’s mostly a delightful little fairy child. Spending time with her makes me feel better and happier. But then there are those moments like tonight where everybody loses their temper and Mommy yells like an evil dragon. Maybe we’re both tired. This kid can’t sleep. She does ok once she gets to sleep but it takes forever. Until she was eighteen months old I spent an hour and a half nursing her to sleep every night, and usually she still wouldn’t go to sleep. Now she will tell you, “I don’t know how to go to sleep.” I believe her.

Sometimes well-meaning people who witness the occasional moments of tyranny suggest that a “good spanking” or a “smack with the ‘ole wooden spoon”‘ might be helpful. I maintain that my un-spanked kids behave as well as, or perhaps better than kids who do get the “ole wooden spoon”. I believe anybody who has been to a restaurant with them, or has listened to them agreeably go off to perform an assigned task (this evening’s events notwithstanding) will concur.

But times like tonight, I wonder, “Why am I not better at this? Why is it so hard? I should know how to get a four-year-old to do the simple task I’ve asked her to do.” And then I think about her biggest sister. She has the worst mom of all of them. She’s the guinea pig. When I had her I had never even changed a diaper in my life. And now she’s twelve. And I haven’t had to deal with any twelve-year-olds other than myself, and that was a long time ago. I mostly just remember it sucked, I cried a lot, and felt like I would never fit in anywhere. Perhaps this is a phase we actually go through several times in our lives at various intervals (based on recent data I’ve acquired). I don’t know what to do with this either. I’ve stuck her in therapy with basically the rest of the family. I figure if I’m at a loss for how to help, it’s time to call in the professionals. Hopefully, when the other two get to that age I will have had more practice and know how to handle it all a little better.

I guess all this is just to say, that this is hard, and some times are harder than others. Sometimes I get frustrated because I want to be better at it than I feel like I am. I try and offer my clients gentle and unconditional nurturing and understanding. I want to do that with my kids. Of course, I don’t live with my clients, so that might have something to do with it.

I do know I’ve learned a lot since I started all this craziness of trying to be a mom, and I’ve had some really excellent resources and mentors and teachers, for whom I’m eternally grateful, and the Waldorf model to help give me structure and a for real parenting philosophy. Maybe I’m not a lost as I feel like I am sometimes. When we fall off the boat, we just look for the lifeline and pull ourselves back on deck.

Or however you get back on a boat after you fall off.

After the banshee had been wailing for a while and I had opened my computer to start writing, I heard her crying, over and over again, “I want Mommy!” I went into her room and asked her why she wanted me. She asked to cuddle. So I lay down with her and held her close to me, and stroked her little wispy hairs. We talked about why Mommy yelled and what we both could have done differently. We talked about how turkey is basically chicken and compromised that turkey and rice would make an acceptable dinner. We talked about the importance of cleaning up the messes you make, and why. We also remembered how “many hands make light work”, and ways to ask for and receive help. The wailing ceased, smiling happened, and picking up occurred while dinner was plated.

Maybe that’s how you get back on a boat after you fall off.


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