Why Is “Not Settling” So Difficult?

I have been asking myself this question a lot lately.

I find myself wondering if I ask too much of people, if I set my standards too high. I always come back to the “No, your standards are right where they should be” response.

But then, I recognize how easy it is to settle. How it can be stress-free if you don’t put any real thought or emotion into it. Anyone can settle for less and in truth, most people do.  I did that once, though, and it did not work. I simply could not endure it any longer. My self-esteem and self-worth are too high to settle the next time around.

Yet, by not settling, I find myself more often than not by myself. That is not so much a bad thing at this particular point in my life. I’m going through a transition, on the tail end of full recovery from an emotionally brutal marriage. So, I don’t exactly need someone right now, this very instant.

But… I always think about the future. I am a planner. I am organized. I have a son to think about so my future is his future. I have to be sure that if I do end up with someone, the person is someone I trust completely around my son and with his childrearing and upbringing.  I’m not 100% calculated in my actions, but I do like to have a handle or understanding of what is to come. So maybe I’d like to begin laying the groundwork for something. It’s been a year since “we” ended. I have done a lot of introspective processing and I’ve come to know what I want, what I need, and what I expect from a partner.

Honesty, loyalty, respect, honor, love, dedication, companionship, these are standard things I think anyone seeks when they want a partner. That’s not asking too much, is it? Or maybe it is…

Particulars like age, race, height, socioeconomic status, education are somewhat negotiable, but not really lol But I think we’re entitled to preferences because those are what we want and so long as they are not too extreme, we should be able to have what we want.

I don’t think I’m too particular. I just think I’m anti-settling and what I view as settling, others might not agree.

Having “been there, done that”, I know it is impossible for me to ever be truly happy by settling for less. I just wish it were not so difficult, because I would love to have someone take me to the movies and buy me ice cream every now and then.

And truth be told… I don’t think I can do this mommy thing alone.

The Pre-K Shuffle

I’m currently trying to figure out a plan for Pre-K for my son. I thought I had it all figured out, but things fell through. 

Here’s the conflict:

In NYC, public pre-k is free and open to any child born in 2006. However, there not enough slots for every child in the city to attend Pre-K. This is not that bad because there are many day care centers and private schools that have Universal Pre-K programs. However, entry into these schools is done by lottery, with preference given to children who reside in the district. You can select up to 12 schools and wait and hope that your child not only get into one of your top choices, but into any school at all. They let you know up front that they do NOT guarantee placement.  They notify parents of placement about two weeks before children need to register. Ok…

The affordable Pre-K programs at various centers or those run by Community-Based Organizations are a slim option because they reserve most of their slot for children in the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) system or Human Resources Administration (HRA). The former are usually foster children, abused children, etc. The latter are children whose parents are on welfare or are so low-income they qualify for financial assistance for childcare from the city.  The reserve these slots for them because that money is guaranteed and they receive incentives for accepting more of those children.  That leaves private payers like us out of those affordable options. Ok…

Specialized schools are an option, but there is a lottery there too AND they cost more money than I’d feel comfortable paying. However, those lotteries aren’t fair lotteries and it is really about who you know. We could pull some strings, but I know I’d always feel bad about going about it the “wrong” way.

Private schools cost a GRIP!! One places was $383/week, another $1700/month. And this is for 9-3. Extra if you need coverage from 8-6.  Whoa… Ok…

The main issue: I’m moving. I’m not renewing my lease and my heart is set on moving one state over. Its a lower cost-of-living, it gives me more distance from his father, its a new fresh environment; I can truly start over. However, with this Pre-K situation in limbo, I’m not sure I can do that. For the public lottery, I put schools by my job and schools by his dad’s home and job. I dont LIVE in any of the districts though, so I’m not feeling too great about this. The schools by my job are SO amazing!!! It would mean G living with me full time though, which wasnt the original plan.  It would be a dream to get him in there, but its highly unlikely. The schools by his dad are so-so, but I figure its only Pre-K so he won’t suffer too much. PLus that would go along with the plan for his dad to keep him until he starts Kindergarten, giving me time to get settled, hit the reset button, and get things in line for him.

This is stressing me out!!! All this just to make sure your kid is on the right path. Jumping through hurdles, possibly sacrificing peace of mind, just so he gets off to the right start. Boys have it harder as it is… so I’m being really proactive about this. I just want what’s best for my son and my city is leaving me few viable options. Too rich to be poor, too poor to be rich! I think he will thrive in any environment, but I can tell more and more that he needs to be challenged.

What 3 y/o responds, “Why… certainly, mommy” when you ask if he would like something to drink??

Crossing my fingers and waiting for August…

Only The Lonely?

Time magazine recently ran and interesting article on “Onlies” or “Only Children” also known as children without siblings. The point of the article was to debunk the long-standing myths of “single children [being] perceived as spoiled, selfish, solitary misfits”. The article caught my attention because I was raised an only child and my son is being raised in an interesting situation where he can be the “only” child 80% of the time.

Here is an interesting trend of note:

“The recession has dramatically reshaped women’s childbearing desires,” says Larry Finer, the director of domestic policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a leading ­reproductive-health-research organization. The institute found that 64% of women polled said that with the economy the way it is, they couldn’t afford to have a baby now. Forty-four percent said they plan to reduce or delay their childbearing — again, because of the economy. This happens during financial meltdowns: the Great Depression saw single-child families spike at 23%. Since the early ’60s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, single-child families have almost doubled in number, to about 1 in 5 — and that’s from before the markets crashed.

I admit that finances are a major part of why I have no interest in having another child. I can’t imagine taking on the added responsibility of having another being to feed, clothe, entertain, educate, etc. right now. And I’m not poor! I can’t imagine being working class or living in poverty and having multiple children. I know many rely on government assistance, but even that does not make for a comfortable life. Some feel the benefits of having more children outweigh the downside of financial struggle. I’m not one of them.

The interesting thing is that the information about only children that so many people have sighted come from the flawed work of Granville Stanley Hall in the late 1800s. His studies have since been proven to be based on flawed data collection and other issues. His work has also been debunked several times over throughout the years by newer, more accurate research, but for whatever reason, people still hold onto this idea that being an only child is a fate worse than death.

“Generally, those studies showed that singletons aren’t measurably different from other kids — except that they, along with firstborns and people who have only one sibling, score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement. Of course, part of the reason we assume only children are spoiled is that whatever parents have to give, the only child gets it all. The argument Judith Blake makes in Family Size and Achievement as to why onlies are higher achievers across socioeconomic lines can be stated simply: there’s no “dilution of resources,” as she terms it, between siblings. No matter their income or occupation, parents of only children have more time, energy and money to invest in their kid.”

I was often called “spoiled”, though I disgareed then AND now. I was always smarter than those around me and I often was involved in more activities, given more opportunities, and received more parental attention than others. My parents had no other focus, so it was all on me. Sure there were various times of struggle, but as life progressed, everything, the good and the bad, came to me. I’m not sure I would have been able to attend the private schools, summer camps, have the latest toys and clothes, etc. had I a sibling. My parents were by no means rich or close to it, but as the article says, socioeconomic status is irrelevant; undivided resources benefit only children.

The only time I felt like I needed siblings was when my mother died and I was left with the responsibility of tending to her affairs. I would have loved to have a sibling to help assist financially, emotionally, etc. (For full disclosure, my father had a son when I was 13, but we never had any real relationship with him, so that’s why he is referred to as my father’s son. By age 13, the characteristics of being an only child are more than likely set in anyway, so it didn’t really matter one way or the other.)

Being an only child made me more creative, more independent. I started writing stories at a young age, I had imaginary friends, and I wanted to do everything by myself. The article (extended version in the magazine) made a point about how only children are more used to engaging in conversations with adults, so their vocabulary is more expansive and their thought process and conversation skills mature earlier. I would agree with this, at least it was my experience, and one I’m witnessing in my son. That is a good and bad thing. He doesn’t understand that when adults are having a conversation, it isn’t for him to jump in. He does anyway, though, because he doesn’t make any distinction; he thinks we’re ALL just talking. He also has a more expansive vocabulary than other children his age, from what I’ve witnessed. He is often complimented for “speaking well” and he uses words other kids generally do not. I love this (I’m a nerdmom) but I can see how it might lead to playground issues lol

I was able to put my son in gymnastics classes at 2 and not have to worry about enrolling another child. My step-daughter did not factor into the equation because she spends the majority of her time with her own mother. As I said, my son is in a unique situation. He has a sister who is the youngest of 4, so she has the experience of sharing resources and attention every day. He only sees her maybe 2-3 weekends a month and while he enjoys that time with her, she is not really much of a threat to the attention and resources focused on him. He can still take expensive classes, get new clothes and shoes regularly, eat out at his favorite restaurants, get new toys, go to the bookstore for new books weekly, etc. We would not be doing these things if I had another child after him.

Is this the best choice for him? I don’t know, maybe. It’s certainly the best choice for me… and others.

“Most people are saying, I can’t divide myself anymore,” says social psychologist Susan Newman. Before technology made the office a 24-hour presence, we actually spent less time actively parenting, she explains. “We no longer send a child out to play for three hours and have those three hours to ourselves,” she says. “Now you take them to the next practice, the next class. We’ve been consumed by our children. But we’re moving back slowly to parents wanting to have a life too. And people are realizing that’s simply easier with one.”

So, if you’ve read any of my previous blog entries, you know that it is really important to me that being a mother doesn’t consume every single inch of my life. I enjoy it, wouldn’t trade it for anything, but being ME is important too. Other people are feeling similarly it seems. I’m not alone.

People need to get past this idea that children MUST have siblings to turn out “OK”. Some of the most famous successful people in history were only children. These negative ideas need to stop so that parents don’t feel pressured into having more children that 1) they can’t afford and 2) they really don’t want. Only children are not being doomed to some social purgatory by not having siblings.  Family planning is a private choice, from every perspective.

What are your thoughts? Have you had to weigh this in your own mind or discuss with your family? How does your partner feel? Do finances impact your thoughts on this?

Mommy Wants To Party All The Time

I felt for the first time, in a long time, I got to spread my wings and live a little. My son was cared for, safe with his father. I had money in my pocket. I had few cares in the world and it felt great.

 

Well, not exactly.

I’ve always been the party girl type. In my younger days, I loved going to parties, drinking, dancing, having carefree fun with my friends. I looked forward to the weekends when I could unwind, either from a long week of classes or a long week of work. Some nightss I would get totally wasted, some nights, I wouldn’t drink at all. But, each night I had FUN!

Fast forward 6-10 years and I find myself not engaging in that kind of behavior very often. In fact, it is so rare, I’m convinced that maybe my party days of old were a figment of my imagination and I never really did anything like that. Oh but I did… and there are pictures and video and a hole the size you my butt in a wall somewhere lol

I went out this past weekend with my friends. For three straight nights, I stayed out late and didn’t go to bed until around 4 am. It was simply AMAZING!!! I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my friends as is, given busy grown up schedules, distance issues, etc. So the opportunity to reconnect and have a great time was warmly welcomed. I also don’t have a lot of free time, being a mom who spends weekends with her son. When I do get a free weekend, which is about once per month, I try to spend it one of two ways: laid out in bed on the couch regrouping and resting; or having a fun, exciting time with people I don’t get to see too often.

Lessons learned this weekend:

  • It doesnt matter how long you’ve known someone or how they came into your life, you know deep down who your true friends are and it is important to cherish those people.
  • Being a mom means having a child-set body alarm clock. Although I went to bed at 4 am three nights in a row, two of those mornings I was up and wide awake by 8 am. The third morning, I slept in until 10 am.
  • Try as you might to escape being a mom, somewhere along the line, at some point in some evening, you WILL bring your kid(s) up. You can’t help it. It happens. More than likely, you will also show pictures. And maybe even video.
  • You envy you childless friends in some ways and they envy you in some ways.
  • You can’t mix alcohol like you used to. It’s just not something your old body can handle. Hennessy + Jose Cuervo + Bacardi gold + Sangria + Wine Coolers = Asking yourself 18 times the next morning, “What the f**k was I thinking???”
  • You’re old. At least one point during the night, you think to yourself, “I’m too old for this s**t” and you shake your head at yourself a few times. You look around and see all the young folks in their carefree early 20s behaving wrecklessly and you feel REALLY old.

But, I felt good this weekend. I felt for the first time, in a long time, I got to spread my wings and live a little. My son was cared for, safe with his father. I had money in my pocket. I had few cares in the world and it felt great.  I never imagined being one of those mothers who felt tied down to that role. And yes, sometimes one can feel “tied down”. I’ve been criticized for this, and questioned why I even bothered becoming a mother if I’m still going to hang out and go partying and such. My answer is that being a mother is part of who I am, but if I lose the rest of who Michelle is, what good am I to my child? If I end up resenting my life because I don’t feel like I’m fully enjoying it, what good will I be to anyone?

It’s ok to go out with your friends and indulge in activities totally unrelated to being a mom or having children around. It’s ok to blow money every now and then on things you can’t see or touch the next day. It’s ok to dress like you did before you became a role model. It’s ok to knock back a few shots and dance the night away.  If that is a part of you, live it.

I plan to and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Not as long as these old bones keep creaking.

 

 

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Father’s Day is for Fathers. Period.

Father’s Day just passed, June 20, 2010. It was a beautiful day, for the most part, and it was so wonderful to see so many fathers out with their children. Their proud smiles beaming, happy children laughing… it was just amazing.

However, it wasn’t so positive for a number of people, mainly a lot of single mothers. Every year, I see more and more single mothers being wished “Happy Father’s Day” and every year, it really grates my nerves. Women are not and can never be fathers. It’s against every possible biological, emotional, mental, spiritual law known to us. It is an impossibility! Similarly, men cannot be mothers.

Father’s Day is already a diminished holiday as it is. The top day when greeting cards are exchanged? Mother’s Day, followed by Christmas. Father’s Day was created after Mother’s Day. Much of this dates back to the time when mothers stayed at home and took care of the children while men worked and remain somewhat disconnected from their children. Mothers have since been looked at as the primary parent, so giving special attention to fathers has not been something we’ve done as a society. The tide is changing, however, and more fathers are taking active, hands-on, equally nurturing roles in their children’s lives. More and more men are staying at home and more men are acting as single fathers. Fathers deserve their day and I don’t think we should do anything to take that day from them.

Yet, there are those women who are rather bitter about being abandoned and believe they deserve to be celebrated on Father’s Day in addition to Mother’s Day, because they believe they play both roles.

No, they don’t.

Single parents more often than not have to work harder, spend more money, time, and energy raising their children. Single parents probably experience more stress on a day-to-day basis. Some single parents may find that they don’t have a lot of support when raising their children. However, this does not mean they somehow have absorbed the role of the missing parent. They are just doing what they are supposed to do and what the other parent is not doing. Do single parents deserve kudos for not giving up in the face of adversity, when it is easy to do so? Sure. Should they receive special treatment for being the parent that didn’t leave? I don’t think so. Leaving is not the default; staying is. Therefore you get no extra props.

What is up with us congratulating parents on doing what they are supposed to do? Like, why do we give special props to Black men who are active in their children’s lives, when that is what they should be doing?

I read so many Facebook posts and tweets from some really bitter women! I kept saying, why are we focusing so much on the ones that don’t when we should be focusing on the ones that do? I asked a number of women to explain how they “play both roles” and I have yet to read a coherent answer that justifies those assertions. Nothing they described was any different than any mother who has an active partner co-parenting with deals with.

I understand being hurt. I understand wishing your child had a father around to provide that fatherly attention and support. I understand wanting to give up. I understand that the struggle is harder for most single parents. I’m sympathetic to that, really and truly. But there is no way a woman can fill the role of the father. Fathers bring something different to a child’s life, something that cannot be mimicked or reproduced by a woman. As strong as single moms might have to be, that strength doesn’t translate into some weird morphing into fathers.

I think wishing single mothers “Happy Father’s Day” undermines the spirit of the day for fathers. I think it steals something from them and I don’t think it is fair. I really hope that we move past this and we stop saluting mothers on Father’s Day. It’s just sad all around.

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Raising A Boy To Become A Man

I’ve been a mother for about 3 1/2 years now, but before I even conceived, I’ve engaged in the conversation about whether or not women can teach their sons how to be men. On the surface, the answers may seem really simple: Yes, of course or No, of course not. Having engaged in this debate and heard many sides, I wanted to perhaps begin a discussion here on Cocoa Mamas about this idea.

This debate usually comes about when discussing single motherhood. The statistics state that 3.1 million Black mothers are single (unmarried or divorced) which means that at least 3.1 million Black children are being raised without a father figure in their home. This is not to say there is no paternal presence at all, it just is not in the home. In all fairness, that 3.1 million figure does not break down whether or not these women share custody equally, are simply unmarried/divorced (meaning they could have a significant other, male or female), or if they are even custodial parents. If you’ve read my blogs, you know that I’m not the primary custodian of my son, but I do consider myself a single mother.  For argument’s sake, let us assume they mean 3.1 million Black women are raising children on their own, as primary custodians.

So if we assume about 40-50% of those homes contain male children, we’re dealing with about 1.5 million women who have to figure out the best ways to raise their sons  to be intelligent, sensitive, caring, respectful, hardworking, strong Black men.  These will be men who will venture out into the world bearing with them the perspective and world views instilled in them by their mothers. Roughly 80% will carry these views into their interactions with women.  These mothers have to take into account all of the demands society places on men in general, as well as all of the negative statistics about Black men and the lowered expectations by that same society, and try to do their best to produce the most well-rounded, adjusted, positive men possible. 

As one might expect, this is a daunting task. 

Obstacle #1: Women are NOT men. We are physiologically, mentally, and emotionally different. Some things are purely biologically based while others are due to socialization. This creates a disconnect.

Can women overcome this in some ways? Yes, absolutely. We can teach our boys how to pee standing up. Can we relate to the external sensation of having to pee? No.  Can we talk to our sons about wet dreams? Yes. We can even explain how semen is formed, how is travels, and how it shoots out. Can we relate to the embarassment of spontaneous erections 15 times a day? No. The question is then: Are we inevitably disconnected from fully engaging in intimate discussions with our sons about things we have never experienced and cannot relate to? What say you?

Obstacle #2: Boys learn differently than girls. Women tend to teach their children things the way they process them themselves, which does boys a disservice.  Their brains are wired differently and if we cannot teach them along those lines, we risk alienating them.

Most of us do not realize this and we get frustrated when it seems our sons are knuckleheads when they begin to drift off in school. Or we are bothered when our toddler and pre-school sons are running on 150 tons of energy and seem to absorb more of what we say when they are in that state than when they are sitting still quietly, as we have asked them to do 1473 times in an hour. We want them to process what we are teaching as far as manners, respect, and social behavioral norms, but we are teaching them the way we see it and the way we learned it, which is not registering the same with them.  Does this mean there will inevitably be a disconnected between what we teach and what they learn from us? What say you?

Obstacle #3: Women cannot effectively lead by example. Boys and girls generally model their behavior after their parents and those closest to them.  A woman cannot role model being a man.

This is probably the biggest issue that comes up and pretty much encompasses the majority of the debates/discussions. We assume, of course, that there are set codes and standards of masculinity and manhood. (I reject that because I reject heteronormative thinking ,but that’s another blog). We assume that women cannot emulate those standards and therefor, they cannot effectively set the appropriate example of masculinity and manhood. (Again, this does not allow for varying gender identities that female-sexed individuals self-identify with).

Can a woman teach her son how to play basketball? Yes. Can she teach him how to change the oil in the car? Yes. Can she teach him to say “Please” and “Thank you” when interacting with others? Of course.  What she cannot do, as a single mother, is model how a man should treat a woman.  She can speak, write, teach, tell him on the telephone until she is blue in the face, but if that boy does not bear witness to his mother being treated in a positive way by an authoritative male figure, I posit that there IS a disconnect in his understanding of how to treat women (even with his own father or another father figure present).  That’s jsut one idea. What say you?

I did not dig as deep as I could have on this subject because I would love for people to weigh in and offer their own sides to the debate. I know where I stand and will respond in time.

Discussion questions:

Can women, single mothers specifically, effectively raise their sons to be “men”?

Does society’s notions of masculinity and manhood play a role in how women should be raising their sons?

If you are raising a son, what are you doing to ensure he is being raised with a strong sense of his masculinity (however you might define that for your family)?

Why do you think some women are successful at single-parenting sons and others are not as successful? What other factors do you think contribute to their successes or failures?


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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I’ve been mulling around this post for quite some time now. I think there is something to discuss when it comes to our diverse ideas of what makes someone a “good” or “bad” parent. I also think there are some things we can try to hash out as a group (and guests!)

Growing up, did we not always hear our parents say how they always want us to have more than they had, be better than they were? And did we not often have times when our parents did or said things that made us pause for a moment or made us think “Wow, but they said I couldn’t do that!”  The universal response has almost always been:

“Do as I say, not as I do”

I thought about this because I have a pretty foul mouth and my son has picked up some curses. I do not curse AT him or anything (I hate that), but I occasionally let a curseword slip by when I’m around him. It is usually when I’m driving. You understand. I am working on teaching him that he should not curse, but here iss the rub: I am not opposed to cursing, as a rule. I do not feel right telling him he cannot ever curse because I believe when he is older, he can speak as he wants to. I do, however, feel compelled to teach him that he cannot do so now, as a child, and as he gets older, I will teach him about times and place where it would be inappropriate to use such language.  Growing up, I’d never curse around my father. Now, we curse when speaking to each other occasionally. I’ll never forget when I was about 25, my dad dropped the F-bomb and said “Well, you’re old enough now. I know you curse, you know I curse.” Our relationship was forever changed by a four-letter word lol.  This is just one example.

There are things I do, that I do not think are necessarily wrong for an adult to do, but I do not want my son picking up or doing right now.  I battle with feeling like a hypocrite. Someone said I am too liberal a parent and that I need to keep it “old school”.  Here is the thing though… old school is not always right. In fact, “old school” includes a LOT of things I am very much against, with regard to child-rearing. I was called a liberal parent, as if it were a bad thing. I do not see a problem with making certain allowances for your child, if that is how you want your child to be raised. Understanding society’s limitations and expectations, however, I feel compelled to make sure my son learns certain ways of being so as to not get into “trouble”. As a Black male, he is “trouble” by virtue of his existence, if you let some people tell it. So I feel even more conflict in the things I let him do, the things I teach him, and how far I let him go.

When my son asks me about drinking, I’ll tell him, like my mother told me, he can drink when he can buy alcohol. I started drinking at 14. First time I got drunk, I as so hungover, my mother said, “Now you see what I mean”. She did not beat me, ground me, or anything. I did not drink again for at least three years. I grew up knowing my mother smoked marijuana. She supported its legalization, as do I.  She taught me that smoking it was not wrong, but that it was something adults should do. I do not think she was wrong for teaching me that.

So I bring it to you, dear readers… are there things you do that you do not necessarily want your children doing, but feel weird telling them that?

Are there things you are OK with your children doing now or in the future that others may frown upon? How do you handle that?

Black Weblog Awards

It’s that time of year again!

Nominations are being accepted for the Black Weblog Awards!!

While Cocoa Mamas is a fairly new blog, we’d like to think we offer insightful, intelligent, and relatable commentary on raising brown children in this world. We would love to get the word out about our blog and what better way than winning a Weblog award?

So, readers, subscribers, contibutors, pelase take a moment to go to Black Weblog Awards and nominate us in a few categories, namely Best Parenting Blog, Best New Blog, Best Group Blog, and Best Blog people don’t know about

Thanks,

Cocoa Mama Benee 🙂

Billy Bad Ass

*Deeeeeep Sigh*

I am having serious issues. My precious, darling, cutest baby boy in the world has morphed into a Creature of Badness. No, we’re not supposed to talk about our kids like that, but hey, I’m amongst family, right?

Right. So let the venting begin.

Maybe I need to back up a minute and state, for the record, that I truly believe behavior is learned, either by mimicking the behavior of those in one’s immediate society, by direct behavior modifcation efforts from authority figures, or by indirectly picking up things along the way from more external sources, like media, for example. I believe that children absorb everything around them and it influences how they think, the choices the make, and, consequently, their behavior.

With that said, there are certain ages where children just begin to lose their ever-loving minds!!! This is one of those times I’m guessing.  My son went from being sweet-faced, obedient, always wanting to please to being angry, rude, disrespectful, disobedient, and just all around bad.

And it is driving me up the wall!

I spend weekends with him and he is with his father during the week. Its only about 3 days (from Friday evening to Monday morning) but it comes out to being more hours than his father spends with him during the week. It’s usually just he and I, one-on-one, mano a mano. I’d say maybe 15-20% of that time is pleasantly spent laughing, playing, reading, doing fun things.  The rest of the time is spent fussing, fighting, yelling, disciplining, dragging, popping, and all other types of foolish defiance-induced struggling.

I had to step back the past couple of weeks and think of what might be contributing to this behavior. I thought about his being 3 year old and how every article I’ve read says that its the 3s that are the real trouble, not the 2s. Ok, I’ll give him that. I thought about how rapidly he is developing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how difficult it must be to try and navigate all of these internal changes being only 3 years old. Poor guy, right? I thought about the separation, and how it might be causing issues for him as he tries to adjust to his family being separated and his going back and forth between two homes. That’s a lot to deal with at 3. I thought about how, in his new child care setting, he is allowed a lot more freedom and provided with a lot less discipline than he once was. His father’s step-mother is his primary caregiver, and let’s be honest, she spoils him rotten (like she did her own sons).

My son has become a demanding little beast who does not take “No” for an answer. Everything is a negotiation. He  went from always saying, “Mommy can I have some juice please?” to “Mommy. Juice.” I spent an entire weekend retraining him to ask politely for the things he wants. And then, when he does ask and I say “No”, his response is “But Mommmmmmmy, you can’t say ‘No’!” or he comes and hits me, scowls his face, and follows up with “You don’t tell me ‘No’!” or somehing to that effect. Or, he comes back 5 seconds later, “How about now?”

Wait… what? Where did he learn that mess?? Who is jumping at every demand that he puts forth that he ever got it into his mind that 1. it’s ok to make demands 2.  it’s ok to hit me and 3. it’s ok to yell at me and tell me what to do??

As the young folks say, “Where they do that at?”

I feel like I spend the majority of our time in disciplinary mode and it is wearing me out! It is making it very difficult for me to enjoy my time with my son and thus making it hard for me to connect with him the way I want to. Since connecting with him has been an issue since he was born, for other reasons, this concerns me a great deal. I feel like I’m playing Good Cop, Bad Cop, and guess which one I am?

Occasionally, I feel a sense of dread when I have to pick him up, especially if I know he hasn’t taken a nap that day (which happens often because his caregivers aren’t making him nap). I prepare for the inevitable evening meltdown that will ruin any plans I had for that time and I prepare myself for battle. When I drop him off on Mondays, sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief.  Then, I feel sad for ever feeling this way.

I’m doing my best to remain consistent in my disciplinary tactics, but little is working short of popping him with the “Bad Boy Stick” which is a wooden spoon. Even then, he stares at me like “So? That’s all you got?” and I feel horrible for having spanked him (I’m already against spanking). When I see how ineffective it is, it makes me feel like it’s not worth it. Someone recently said, “Hit him harder”, but is that the answer? Really?

He has always had an indepedent streak. I try to support it. He wants to do things on his own, so I allow him the space to do that. But with that comes often bad behavior that I have to correct, when I feel no one else is. The other day, I had reached a breaking point and I was in near tears asking him, “Why are you so mean to Mommy? Why do you behave like a bad boy so much? Why can’t we have fun and smile and laugh and play?”

He started crying and said “I’m so sorry Mommy!!” and threw his arms around me wimpering. He then said, “Because I want Daddy here”. I don’t want to believe that he understood what I was asking well enough to answer that way, but at the end of the day, I think I have my answer.