Little A and I have been learning our ways around each other in this new world. We’re beginning to set rules .. together. House rules. It’s as though we’re starting from scratch. It’s funny because she recalls every single incident, person and event from her American life but can’t recall any of the rules, routines, likes and dislikes. It’s really weird. I mean ‘suddenly not liking egg, sweet potatoes, raisins having sat through a flight” kind of weird. On one hand I get it because this is an entirely different culture, weather and social setting than the one she’s used to. And she’s spent 3 months working hard on fitting in here that she probably slowly erased all her old rules, preferences and routines out of her mind. Even when she does recall events, people or places from back in the US, they are almost always contextual. Somehow related to what’s going on currently in her situation. On the other hand, I don’t get how she possibly could have separated the two so clearly. She’s too young for all of that to be a planned strategy. (Tell me yes, I’m screwed otherwise?!?)
It took me 2 months of that empty house madness and adjusting to the city, to begin realizing that I was probably not treating her as a little person. I was treating her more like a cranky baby the entire time (probably a mere reflection of the cranky baby that I was). So I decided a few weeks back to stop slacking and whining and start setting rules and boundaries again. It took me a while to realize that’s what we’d lost in transition. And I decided to do some of this rule setting together with her to deal with her growing tantrums rising from the frustration of the move and the new setting.
1. Every time there’s a tantrum or some screaming of sorts (that was not fun related, screaming and shouting during fun activities is kind of tolerated as long as it’s in the right context, in which case I guess I wouldn’t really call it screaming I guess), I take her to a room, sit her on the bed and sit beside her. She must calm herself if she’s still screaming or crying and apologize to the person concerned before leaving the room. This however, is almost always accompanied with hugging mommy and apologizing to her first. Something that was not in the rule book. I’ve never done this before, and unlike our 2 months of random time outs and screaming matches, this is working wonders. She feels really sorry, you can tell. That’s super new. And those tears .. they just come out of nowhere. And these are not those croc type ones. Very genuine. She’s just begun crying. She never used to. We’ve gone from that expressionless face challenging mine to crying in seconds and apologizing. This one’s for you dee, Meghs. I wish you could see this. You’d melt if you did.
2. Promises: I’ve taught her what a promise means. She promises a lot, fails to keep them up most of the times. It’s ok for now, she’s learning when it’s ok to not keep up a promise and when it’s absolutely not OK to break one. It’s helping with boundary setting really nicely. “Promise I’ll come back from AD’s house when you give me the 5 min warning first, then after 5 minutes I’ll come home mommy, promise”. She kind of dwells on the after .. aaaaaafter that I’ll come home. You can tell from just the way she says that, she doesn’t mean it. No really. This kid’s communication skills are unbelievable. And she’s super transparent. You can tell intention and result even as the words come out of her mouth. Our 5 min warnings and exits from friends’ are hard almost each day. But I know she leaves a minute early each day. There’s definitely improvement. Promises and boundaries before indulging in the activity certainly seem to be helping. Of course, she’s also learning the repercussions of not keeping up a promise – refer point 1 (appendix to the screaming clause).
3. Negotiating: “I’ll eat my mammam (food) aaaaaaafter building one robot (fill in bridge, bed and whatever else with her toys) with daddy”. When I say that will take too long, she comes back with OK I’ll build a kutti (small) robot. I’m proud 🙂 I’m seeing those negotiating skills slowly peeking out from deep deep down my little rowdy. She’s never felt the need to negotiate. She’s been the ‘my way or the highway” type. So she’s finally getting it.
Wonderful then, you’re job is done here you say. I kind of thought so too. These 3 things above are all I’ve been using these past few weeks with a huge difference. But uh uh. No. I’m kind of stumped on one issue.
Respecting her space: Funny that this is what I should be having trouble with, given my opinions on this. You’d think I’d have this down to the T. I still don’t know how to get her a haircut without holding her down at the parlor’s. I still don’t know how to give her medication without pinning her down and forcing her (not a single trick in the book works. She’ll notice if I stuff her medicine into any other food, instantly. She’ll notice if her food is slightly of a different color or has a pinch of extra salt. This is the same kid that knew the difference between baked and cooked pasta when she was 1!!). She cries non stop for 2 hours saying what I did to her was not nice. “That was not nice”. It tears my heart up. I absolutely hate it. I am totally messing with her in disrespectful ways that I don’t want to. I have explained the need for medication, need for her to do certain things. I’ve read several books on the topic. And I just can’t get her to do things sometimes that are for her safety, for her health. And it’s amazing how she remembers these things long long loooooong after I’ve done them. You can tell it stays with her, she doesn’t appreciate it and it’s not her style. And trust me, she’s not like most kids I’ve seen that get over it. She remembers. Those eyes .. they just look at you like you’ve just cheated her when she put all her trust on you. There’s no way around it. I feel awful .. really really awful. Those lessons on promises and negotiations are going to fade real soon, if we keep at this. Technically, I’ve made big changes with the above. But this last one, it feels like the worst of them all. I don’t know that I can continue this for a while until age catches up and she starts getting it. I fear it might be too late. Just hanging around .. waiting for the perfect answer to come by google!! I’m googling “respecting children while ensuring safety”, “respecting child while occasionally lying to them” .. you have no idea. The S*@# that I’m googling up. I don’t look to parenting books or google to help me get through rough patches with my girl, especially behavioral issues. For medical or biological issues — I’m totally into google. But guilt … it’s eating me up on this issue. We just forcibly thrust some medication into her after agreeing to not do it. She was out of control, in pain. And it was the only way to help her. Now I’m curled up on my couch feeling guilty, struggling to come up with an alternative!!