Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My First Multiple-Children Challenge

So I've put myself on partial bed rest, and my condition is stable for now. My doc says to keep doing what I'm doing. I could develop pre-eclampsia any time, but as of now, I'm still technically not diagnosed with it.

We had some on-line friends come and visit today for the first time. (It was great to finally meet you!) I'm always a bit more sensitive about my parenting when around other parents, so I noticed something: I've started yelling at Sam. I'm not screaming at her in anger, but yelling her name to get her attention quite often.

She happens to be in a phase right now where she just does not listen. (Please don't tell me it's not a phase.) Both Adam and I have become very annoyed at having to repeat ourselves, and seeing her doing exactly what we ask her not to do (or not doing what we did ask her to do), even though it seemed that she had agreed since she didn't object verbally to the instructions. So we've been working on this in constructive ways: we've been teaching her how to look us in the eyes when we are speaking to her, and how to acknowledge that she has heard us, and how, if she doesn't agree with some instruction that we give her, she must first comply, but then she is free to tell us with words that she doesn't agree and why not. (So, if we say, "stop jumping on the couch," she must stop, and then tell us why she thinks she should be able to, if she disagrees.) We are careful to listen to her, and to model proper acknowledgement for her. And we've explained why it is in her interest to listen to what people say, to acknowledge them, and then to object politely if she disagrees. We're working on all that, but I know this is one that is going to take a very long time to sink in, so I don't expect immediate progress.

Still, when I tell her to stop grabbing another child's toy out of his hands and she completely ignores me, I must act. Normally, I would remove the toy from her hands for her. But now, I am physically limited. So what can I do but yell? I yell her name and it gets her attention. Usually, she'll come to me and discuss it after that - it's just getting her attention that is the problem. I don't really see what alternative I have right now.

But I'm worried that this will become a bad habit, especially since I'm still going to be tied to the couch much of the time after Leo and Zoe are born. This might be my very first parent-of-more-than-one challenge! I can't stand the idea of being that mom at the playground yelling out her child's name over and over. If anyone has any advice on other ways to grab Sam's attention without having to get out of my chair, or how not to let this become habitual, please let me know!


  1. Could you talk with Sam about this? Let her know that you don't like yelling, partly because you are afraid you will get in the habit of yelling. Then, you two could come up with a signal that gets her attention right away (in a fun way, maybe?) but that doesn't get you started on a yelling habit. Maybe a bell? Or a horn to honk? Or a bird call? And then maybe when she hears the bird call, she has to fly right over? Something that would be fun to her and not so screechy for you. :)

    My other advice, and I know this is completely ridiculous coming from a mom with one child, but I have seen Jenn do it a lot. Right now, you are on bedrest and literally shouldn't get up. But once you have the babies, it will be hard and annoying to get up, but it might help if you do. The babies can be held or put down for a second to deal with Sammy, even if it's a big old pain in the butt. I've seen Jenn put the baby down or take the baby off the breast and deal with something with an older child. I've also noticed that sometimes she just ignores the older child's behavior a little more than she might have if she weren't grounded with a baby. That way she isn't saying things she can't enforce.

    Hope that helps a little! Sounds like a hard problem, and one that I can only imagine!

  2. Kelly, your first suggestion is the only other thing I thought of - I thought of it then I forgot it when I wrote this! We've done this before - we call it a code word. I thought this might be another situation for a code word. Something fun that isn't used often, but will get the attention. (We use the code word "cobra" when Sammy is hiding from me but I seriously need her to come out because I don't know where she is and I'm worried. It works!) I even asked Sammy about it a few days ago, but somehow we got sidetracked and never thought of one. I'll have to get Adam on board, too, if this is going to work. I'm also a little worried that I'll overuse it. But it's worth a try.

    Yeah, I'm trying to reconcile Jenn's "get off your butt parenting" principle with the difficulty in getting off my butt. :) And luckily, I'm not officially on bed rest yet. I'm just supposed to stay off my feet as much as possible. Plus, it takes me a good ten seconds or so to get up off the couch. :) But I also agree that it's important not to call out commands that I'm not willing to enforce. That is a recipe for disaster. Thanks for the advice!

  3. I don't know if a code word would work. After all, your *name* is normally supposed to be your "code word" to pay attention to someone, and that is demonstrably not working. Maybe if you make some sort of whistling sound?

  4. Sometimes Adam whistles as for a dog and that drives me nuts. But seriously, a name is used so often, and for many purposes. The point of a code word or any special signal is to make it fun and to make it stand out as important. With Cobra,one could wonder why I just don't say "come out of hiding." But the code word tells her this is serious without any harsh words or tone. It makes it a game. And then, there is the buy-in. Since Sam helps decide on the signal and what it's for, she respects it.

  5. I'm glad you're taking it easy and resting! That must be really difficult in some ways; lovely in others. :D

    You've discovered one of the challenges of parenting more than one kid, alright. Feeling stuck with a new baby who is trying to nurse (and recovering from a c-section, which affected my mobility for a while) while trying to get the attention of an older child who is (deliberately?) not listening to you--ah, good times.

    Kelly mentioned some things I've done, and really it's one of those situations where there's no perfect solution. Sometimes it's a "I need to get through the next 10 minutes without losing my mind" issue, which is when I would tend to ignore the fingerpainting gone wild in favor of getting the baby to sleep.

    One of the most difficult things for me to do with more than one kid (and I imagine it will be more of a challenge with twins) is having to divide my attention among them. Because that necessarily means I don't know what someone is doing, and that often means they are doing something I don't want them to do! Lots of talking and problem-solving, and "get off your butt" (when you are able to) parenting is/was involved.

    And then, in the moment, making a value judgment: Which do I want more--a baby who is nursing contentedly or an older child who is not taking everything out of the refrigerator? Which do I want more--a sleeping baby who is on top of me and an older child who has done her own butt-wiping and is perhaps not actually clean, or a potentially awake/screaming baby and an older child who has a clean butt?

    You really find out a whole lot about your values hierarchy in those kinds of situations! :D

  6. Totally understand about being more aware of your parenting while around other parents. But as the other parent in question here, I did not notice you yelling at all. I actually found it kind of amusing that while you were telling Sam the same thing over and over (don't grab the toy), I was telling Charlie the opposite thing over and over (don't use someone else's toys without asking).

  7. Jenn, I was hoping you'd weigh in on this one. Thanks. Check out my post and comments How to Help My Child for a nice tie-in.

    Hanah, I'm glad you found it amusing! We really enjoyed your visit. :)