Lately, I feel like my son is like that "girl who had a little curl" in the poem. When he's good, he's very, very good! But when he's having a bad day, it's honestly horrid. He's not in charge of the universe, and he's finding that incredibly difficult to accept. When he can't get or do exactly what he wants exactly when he wants it, we often get tantrums, meltdowns, or endless repetitive negotiations. We also hear our own words parroted back at us – "Mommy you're being a bad listener!" "Daddy, you're making a very poor choice!" "Mommy, Daddy, you're in time out!"
Recently, my mother was a witness to one of these bad days, and given her grandmotherly desire to try to fix the situation, I wasn't surprised to find a new book on my kitchen table: "How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen, a Survival Guide to Life With Children Ages 2-7" by Joanna Faber and Julie King. I stubbornly let the book sit there for a few days, but after yet another day of constant struggle, I started reading.
With chapters called "Tools for handling emotions," "Tools for engaging cooperation," "Tools for resolving conflict," I was hopeful that this book would have what I needed – tools to better communicate with my son. However, reading the book has been very frustrating. I read paragraphs describing exactly what I've tried a hundred times before. These paragraphs are followed by stories of kids who sound just like my son, except that unlike my son, these kids respond beautifully to these techniques and transform magically from terrors to cooperative angels. Or, I learn about new tools, and enthusiastically plan to try them with my son- they work so well with the kids in the book! I try them, and it's a miserable failure.
Then I realized the problem – my son hasn't read the book.
That may sound obvious, but it's actually been a common thread throughout our journey of parenthood.
While pregnant, I read a LOT. Among others, I read "Mothering Multiples," "Twins 101," and of course "What to Expect When You're Expecting." I should have realized the disconnect between books and real life when my pregnancy got complicated and went into unchartered territory. But I felt prepared. I felt like I did all the reading, so that I should know what to do.
Then my babies were born – and they hadn't read the books.
I knew what I read, but they just didn't seem to respond how the books said they would.
So . . . I improvised. I used what I read as background knowledge, and then used trial and error to figure out what would actually work for my babies.
I write this not to say books are useless – far from it! But books are not the end of the story. Whether you want solutions for breastfeeding, sleeping, behavior, school work, sibling rivalry, or anything else, use whatever resources you have available. Read books, ask experts, brainstorm with your friends in NCPOMC, and learn all you can. Then, with this information in your toolkit, experiment. Some things will work, some things won't, and some things will work one day but not the next, and some of the most successful things you'll just make up on the spot.
You're still experimenting. I'm still experimenting. And our kids are experimenting too. We'll learn together, and with enough time and patience, hopefully my son and I will figure out what works for us – and you and your kids will too.
Just remember – they haven't read the books.
A good neighbor will babysit, a great neighbor will babysit twins - author unknown