Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Ruts

In two months, the transformation between William and I has been extraordinary. We've both changed, for the better, and hopefully permanently, and my gratitude has no limits for how much cleaner the air is between us. We still have setbacks, however, where we fall back into old routines, and picking up the kittens yesterday was one of those times.

We got the kittens from an acquaintance who lives in the country and has at least four dogs. Simply getting out of the van was stressful for William, which by extension became frustrating for me. I carried him while the two huge dogs sniffed at his feet, and he screeched and climbed higher, calling out, "They are going to eat me!"

When we got inside, we found two small dogs running among the kittens, and the hyperactivity of the dogs seemed to make William tense and jumpy. He clung to me, and whined, and I was not only embarrassed by his behaviour but also angry as I had a mental idea about how the kitten choosing process would go, and he was ruining it.

So much of what I do, with William in particular, seems to be driven by my preconceived notion of how I want something to go. Inevitably, William messes with my plan, and I become frustrated. I've been slowly improving where it comes to accepting him as he is, naming his fears and trying to help him find strategies to manage his anxiety, but when I feel pressured in a social situation, I end up back in my old rut of browbeating, eye rolling and apologizing for him.

My friend asked how old he was, when he pointed out some Halloween decor in her house which he considered scary, and I said, "Four and a half, not that he acts like it." Immediately after I spoke, I realized what I was doing, and that is a step forward from how blindly I used to act with my son.

Ava makes everything seem so easy, with her "anything goes" nature, and I end up contrasting her with William which is not helpful for anyone. Accepting both of my children for who they are is critical to how well our relationships function. I want the health of our family to run deep, and not be strictly on the surface or for any kind of show. If we don't work it in organically, it won't be a permanent thing. Just because it's easier with Ava doesn't mean it's any less important for the same relationship to develop with William.

I wish I hadn't been embarrassed of him yesterday. If I could do it over again I would change my words and my reactions to his fear of the dogs and the Halloween decorations. I would be kinder and more aware of my feelings that I was being judged, when I probably wasn't. So much of my parenting comes from my own fears and hang-ups, and not those of my children.

I'm supposed to be the mature one in the relationship, and I know I can do better. At least I'm aware of making these mistakes now, instead of being angry and not recognizing why I feel that way. That awareness is making me a better parent, moment by moment and day by day, and if I fall back into old ruts I can learn to identify that, forgive myself and improve on it going forward.

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