Monday, May 9, 2011

How To Be Good

Lesson One:
How To Be a Good Mother.
I decided to take it upon myself last week to stop using phrases with the words, “strangle”, “dug 3 holes in the garden” and “they are driving me insane” in my sentences relating to the kids, in an effort to fast track my path to good mothering. It had occurred to me that perhaps I should stop using such emotive terminology in reference to the kids on yet another day that I silently or perhaps not so silently muttered something about strangling one of my offspring. I think it was after the littlest one pulled the milk out of the fridge showing a herculean strength that belied his small frame and then promptly spilt the entire contents all over the floor. Yes, I think it was then I muttered something about strangling him. Or maybe it was when I texted my husband to declare he was required home as soon as humanely possible because his offspring, his spawn, had driven me to the point of total exhaustion and I was ready to finish them off and just for the record, I’d dug three holes in the garden. No I think I declared digging the three holes the day the eldest child tormented the middle child and the youngest slammed the scooter into the eldest and the middle child screamed blue murder because the youngest had drawn in texta all over her doll, her bed and her favourite book. Yes I think that day, the same day the middle child decided to lay down on the floor of the supermarket and scream her head off, was the day I was going to dig three holes in the garden. Actually no, I think that was the day I muttered something about strangling them. Really, it’s hard to keep track some days. Some days, all you can think of is strangling yourself. Anything for a bit of peace and quiet.

But the point is. Somewhere during those days, it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons I don’t see myself as a good mum is that I could utter these concepts at all, let alone about my own children. Surely, good mothers do not say things like that about their kids? Yes, for me, good mothering had to do with how you handled yourself in the down times as well as how cheery and Laura Ashley you could be in the ‘UP’ times. My point I guess is that I was noticing that the turns of phrase, the word selection and the way I spoke to them was all hampering my ability to be a good mother.

Just the other day, as I was barking orders to my three little cadets, it occurred to me how I would react if someone yelled at me, “In the car, NOW!”
I tell you, I’d bloody well tell them to go get knotted.
And then I heard myself at dinner time calling out to the kids in the living room, “TV off. Dinner is ready.”
Usually followed with something just as warm and fuzzy along the lines off.
“Lola! TV OFF! NOW!”
And then, naturally I’m just as sensitive to their wails of protest that they don’t like what I’ve cooked them for dinner.
I mean, if you start to string it all together, I’m hardly Mary Poppins in the kitchen, no spoon full of sugar helping any dinner in my house to go down.

It occurred to me as I ordered them into the bathtub, demanded them to get into their PJ’s and yelled at the little one for taking the lid off his orange juice drink and pouring the bright orange liquid down the back of the couch, that really, in the scheme of things, I was hardly a soft and fluffy mother. But more to the point, if anyone dared to speak to me in that militant, JUST DO IT NOW tone, well I’d be hard pressed not to tell them where to shove it.

So I attempted a new thing the last week.
The first was to talk to my children the way I would like to be spoken to. And that was much more difficult than I imagined. I was so used to barking orders and making demands and generally running the house like a military operation that it took a bit of awareness to really recognise not only what I was saying but how I was saying it.
I was trying to the get them dressed for school one morning and Ella the 6 year old was dawdling along in her usual way.
Now my standard approach is to bark at her, “Ella! For GOD’S SAKE, put your shoes on! How many times to I have to ask you to put your shoes (insert, socks, knickers, dress) on?”
Ten minutes later one tends to find Ella, still shoeless, sitting on her bedroom floor playing with her dolls.
This particular morning, whilst I was busy trying to be more aware, more nurturing, less Sergeant Major, the conversation went more like this.
“Ella! For GOD’S SAKE, put your shoes on! Darling.
And then finding her in her room, still shoeless.
“Ella! SHOES! SHOES!  SHOES! NOW! Princess.”
And so it’s continued. I’m still shouting and carrying on like proverbial pork chop but it seems that by adding darling, sugar-pie, and princess to the end of the demand. “GET IN THE BLOODY CAR HONEY PIE.” Does seem to soften the blow.
And whilst I’m not pretending to myself that I’m up for any Hallmark mother of the year awards, I do feel a softening of my language towards the kids. The more I make the effort to remember that they are little people with feelings too, and that if any adult spoke to me the way I spoke to them I’d deck them, well, it’s really woken up a side in me, in terms of respecting them.
“If I have to tell you to share your toys one more time you will go to your room. Do you understand me? Got it! Sweetheart.”
 And so, I think I’m really getting the hang of it.
I think sometime in the next year I may even be able to say, “Honey, can you put your shoes on for me? I find it really frustrating having to ask you ten times to do it? So sweets, can you pop in your room and find your shoes. Thanks hon.”
Instead of just slapping hand to forehead and rolling eyes at no-one in particular whilst yelling, “SHOES! SHOES! SHOES!”