I was doing it wrong.

Parenting.

Not for the weak.

Seriously.

Before you decide to parent, go the local human society.

Hand them all your money you have liquid and then promise to continue to pay them 155% of your take home pay for the rest of your life.
Then ask them to punch you as hard as they can. For a more accurate comparison, make sure it’s in the underwear area.
Then ask them to show you the most annoying, non-house trained, wild, impossible, persnickety and again… for more accurate comparison, rapid cat.

Take that cat home with you.

When you get home, duct tape it to your face.
Don’t ever take it off.
Yes, that is correct.
Let it defecate on you. Let it eat whatever you are eating. Let it attack you at all hours of the night and keep you awake. Let it scream and snarl into your ear. Let it lick you (and make sure it pays special attention to your ears.) Make sure you continually give it everything it needs and much more. In fact… go ahead and let it scratch up your face and take away your youth.

Do that and then…

Maybe then… You will have a 10% idea of what it is like to parent.

Sweet Moses I wish I was kidding.

I gave birth to not one.

Not two.

but THREE “Spirited Children.”

What is a Spirited Child you ask?

The definition of a spirited child is, “MORE.”
More everything.
Really, it’s a nice way of saying, “You got the hard kid sucker!”
I LOVE my children. SO much.
They are nothing I expected, but everything I needed.

Everything I needed…

When we become parents we naturally default to what our parents taught us in our childhoods.
This obviously can be good or bad.
In my work as a Foster Parent I see the generational problem where parents pass on their faults to their kids over and over and over again.
In my case, my parents were generally GOOD people. I had a great childhood and am a decent adult.

However, I was NOT prepared, nor did I have the tools to face the three children, especially my eldest, that I gave birth to. I was given standard issue 80’s discipline. I’m pretty sure a pamphlet was handed out to all parents leaving the hospitals that looked like this:
( please read in sarcasm font)

Hello! Congratulations on your brand new human being!
Now we know as doctors that right now you are feeling nothing but joy and exhilaration on the new addition to your family; but trust us. In about 6 minutes after leaving the hospital, you will be wondering what on earth you got yourself into! If you follow these basic instructions outlined here, you should have NO problem raising your child into a perfectly functional and successful adult!
#1. If your child ever does something that you do not agree with, put them in time out. Isolating a child will make them think about what they have done wrong and will help then know exactly what they need to change for next time.

#2. If that doesn’t work, spank them. Inflicting a good spanking will jolt them into fearing you and they will never repeat the behavior again!

Thank you for your time and again we wish you a hearty congratulations on the birth of your new baby!

It’s not that my parents were wrong when they used they techniques and YES sometimes they did help me learn, but…
Something happened when I tried to use that same pamphlet with my kids.
It backfired.
Big time.
Instead of progress I got a Spirited Child who fights me on EVERYTHING.

I’ve spent the last 6 years figuring out,

I’m doing it ALL wrong.

Spanking doesn’t work.
They feel demeaned and ashamed and clearly… it hurts.
Sometimes I spanked out of anger and spanked too hard!

I know… shocking. (I’m eye rolling the trolls who think they would never, nor can’t admit to themselves, that as parents we sometimes make ugly mistakes.)

Time outs don’t work.
I mean seriously. Sitting on a stool to “think about” what you did wrong?
If you can’t expect a three year old to think about what color shirt he is going to wear today, than this approach ends up in him scooting the stool across the kitchen slowly in order to punch his sister in the face or throw a toy at her.

Bedtimes have always been difficult with our #1. Something about him won’t shut off at night and we have tried EVERY sleeping technique and suggestion thrown at us.
From about 4 months onward, it has taken TWO hours on average to get him to sleep.
He stopped napping at 18 months.
He didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost 4.

And people wonder what happened to my looks…

BUT. There is hope.

In just the past few months I have changed how I handle bedtime. I have make it more about them, and less about me AND reduced the average time it takes to get #1 to sleep.

Tonight bedtime wasn’t going well. Instead of yelling, or spanking or loosing my ever lovin’ mind, I took a breath and went into the boys room.
I took turns and sat next to each of them. I asked them their favorite parts of the day. I listened. I hugged and kissed. BUT most importantly, I spoke to them in their languages. I told them how proud of them I was on this day. I spoke of the things they did well. I spoke of how much I loved them. I spoke about the good choices they made. I encouraged. I uplifted.

And you will never guess what happened.

They went to sleep.

#1 fought a little, but it only took him 30 minutes.

I’m not saying I am an amazing mother.
Some nights still look like a reenactment of the first scene in Saving Private Ryan.

I’m not saying I figured out the key to your kids.
I don’t know your kids. You might have the opposite of Spirited kids and they just fall asleep on the floor.

What I am saying is that I was doing it wrong.

And sometimes in our parenting, and lives, we need to take an entirely different approach than what our default is to make things work.
Not just work… to make them successful.
I’m proud to say that I was doing it wrong.
Failing is only part of the search to do it better.

My children are nothing what I expected and everything I’ve needed.
They’ve forced me to fail enough to figure out how to succeed.

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