My kid is one of the most stubborn individuals I’ve ever encountered. For a week, we had been trying to ween him off the binky. We dropped down to naps and bedtime, and holy freakin crap, it was not a fun time in our life. This child wants what he wants, and he has no problems speaking up for himself (or more so screaming his head off for what he wants.) It was brutal for right about a week. Two nights ago, after an entire day of mostly screaming at me for his “minky,” I found myself hiding in my room trying to get my composure back while Erik handled the situation for a bit. Many people would have us “lay down the law” and punish him for his tantrums. The goal being to break “bad” behavior to get the result of “good” behavior. However, that is not what we chose to do. As a go to, we try to lean towards compassion instead of strictness or aggression which is not always popular as our kid doesn’t always behave like a perfect angel. For us, it comes down to a few main points. First and foremost, we want Eli to know that he is important and his feelings are worth understanding. Second, we want him to know, that his Mommy and Daddy are in his corner always, and if he feels supported now, he will know he can come to us with the big things as he gets older. Third, while it was/is difficult, we were given the opportunity to get to know and appreciate our child in a whole new light.
It seemed simple to us. The binky could ruin his teeth. He was also using it as a vice. He couldn’t get over an emotionally trying situation without the comfort of the binky. We don’t want him to have bad teeth, and we want him to know that he is capable of sitting with himself and handling tough situations without a crutch, so we have to take steps to get rid of it. It was not that simple to Eli at all. This was an earth shattering experience for him and his limited life experiences. When I slow down and think about it, I actually understand and sympathize with his plight, and I want him to know that.
This was his source of comfort when he was uncomfortable, sad, scared, hurt etc., and now, all of a sudden, he can’t have his trusty “minky” at will? At twenty-one months old, the explanations we give him fall flat. He doesn’t have the capacity to understand that as a teenager he will thank us for not having messed up teeth, and as an adult, he will thank us for encouraging him to believe in himself enough to handle tough situations without a vice. The best I know to do is let him know that he and his feelings are extremely important to me, and I take him seriously while gently but firmly holding to the boundary we set.
So many people get trapped in codependent behavior myself included. We become so focused on other people that we forget that we matter too. About five years ago, I had an epiphany that my needs, thoughts, hurts etc. actually mattered. I genuinely did not realize that, and it’s been a journey ever since. I still actively struggle accepting that what I am experiencing matters especially when I look at other people that may have it worse. My pattern is that I stuff down my own needs and try to be there for and fix the problems of everyone else while my unaddressed issues build and build inside me. I am slowly learning to re-parent myself in this way. I am learning how to give myself permission to feel all the feelings, show compassion and gentleness to myself, set boundaries, and even ask for help from time to time which feels like failure, but it’s actually not. We need to put our own life mask on in order to be okay for everyone else. Ultimately, not giving myself permission to feel or reach out for help, led to random outbursts of overwhelmed anger. I am trying to heal this and do better to not pass the wound on to my son. I want him to know that he is allowed and encouraged to feel through what he is experiencing even if that makes me or other adults uncomfortable, so he doesn’t have to do the work of re-parenting himself in this way as an adult.
The Bible calls us to be kind, gentle, and good listeners, numerous times. “Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” James 1:19. The Bible does not exclude children from the ways in which we are called to behave towards others, yet so many people treat children like they are second class citizens doing things like ignoring them, belittling them, and talking down to them. This isn’t done intentionally by most. I believe that it is a generational blind spot. People can’t do better until they know better. I want Eli to associate us with love, compassion, being heard and understood so that he feels supported and safe with us and will trust us to come to us with the big things as he gets older.
When I was a kid, I hated mashed potatoes with such a passion that I thought I was allergic to them. I have a weak stomach, and every time I even just smelled them, I started gagging. In my kid mind, this meant that I was allergic to them. Everyone poo pooed this and laughed it off. Then one day, I told this theory to my great grandma, and she actually took me seriously. She asked me why I thought that and truly listened while I talked. Gram thought I was important enough to slow down with and understand. I couldn’t have been more than seven, but I never forgot that moment or the support I felt from Gram. It really does make a difference.
Slowing down with anyone when we think they are obviously wrong is really hard. As I am writing this, I realize an error in my ways with my marriage. When I am convinced that I am right and Erik is wrong, especially in the heat of the moment, I tend to not let him fully speak. Learning that we are safe and caring enough about ourselves to actually be able to sit with our big emotions is essential to being able to sit with the people we love when they are provoking uncomfortable emotions in us. We must first be able to love and parent the child in us, to effectively love and support those in our lives.
While this binky situation has been extremely unpleasant, I have grown to understand my boy more than I ever did before. Two days ago, after almost a week of tantrums and protests, it reached an all-time horrible for Eli and me. If Erik wasn’t my backbone in the situation, I probably would have given in. Somehow, all by myself, all day, I stood my ground and did not give in. By the time Erik got home, both Eli and I were crying and an emotional wreck. As I hid away in my room, I sat myself down to write and clear my head. Once I got past how stubborn he is, my eyes were opened to so many other wonderful traits in Eli that I may have missed if I didn’t endure a day of sheer mom hell. All of a sudden, I realized that my boy is strong. He’s passionate. He’s fierce. He communicates his wants and needs. He knows his own mind. He’s not a follower. His convictions are not easily swayed. In this challenging past week, I have discovered, that Eli has some wonderful qualities that I am so grateful that he possesses.
Every day, I learn more about and from my beautiful boy. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” The Bible doesn’t say to be like the mega preacher, the educated, or the successful. It says to be like children. We have so much to learn or more so to unlearn by watching these little people navigate life. I also was reminded that just before a break through, things often feel hopeless. We just have to remember that what we are experiencing is just a moment, and it will get better! It’s been two days since our peak horrible day. Eli is adjusting to no binky during the day life, very well. When it’s time to get up, he places it on the dresser and has been matter of fact in saying “bad for teeth.” He’s asked for it a few times during the day, but we talk about how we will see it when we go to bed, and by the grace of God he is accepting that. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5