I think I’ve been fooling myself that I am sort of a successful parent. My kids are competent, generally well-mannered, somewhat conscious of personal hygiene, often thoughtful. And it hasn’t been without a great deal of effort on our part. We even reminisce, “Boy, that Mary Claire sure gave us a run for our money as a little one,” or “When he was five, Henry’s energy level was right off the Richter scale.” And, of course, we’re still cutting our teeth with all-things-crazy, keeping up with Lillian’s imaginary universe…
… but then there is Cliff.
I know, I’ve blogged about the hitting. I’ve blogged about the throwing.
By now, I feel like I should be able to blog about some success story. You know, how we taught him to stop hitting us and whipping hard and heavy objects at our heads. But, I’m embarrassed to say, we’re not anywhere near there.
Yes. I know he’s only 19 months old. But I thought we’d turn some sort of a corner and at least see some improvement. The only improvement is in his aim. Which is freakish. We’ve pretty much stripped the play area and house of blocks, trucks, cars, anything that may draw blood on impact. (Learning today that books are also on that list, since he whips ‘em like a Frisbee. Bam, right near Henry’s eye. Yikes.)
We bought a bin of light-weight balls hoping for less damage. Yes, he throws them, but not with as much satisfaction, so he’ll quickly move on to canned goods or something weightier. I found some heavier Nerf-type foam balls. Those are okay. But a little big, also not as satisfying. And I’m afraid he’ll bite them. We finally came up with the idea to make small polar-fleece bean bags, with a little stuffing for head-and-face cushioning. They offer a little weight but soften the blow (just in case).
We’ve been trying to teach him what he can hit (a punching bag, a pillow, a blow-up bop bag) and what he can throw and where he can throw it (you know, like not at my head or at the TV). He’s already dented the fridge, the stainless garbage can. The walls. The dishwasher. My ego.
Setting him up with stuff he can hit and throw feels counter-intuitive to our parenting style. We would really like to teach him NOT to throw things and not to hit altogether. But Richard and I have discussed, that it seems as though he actually needs to swing that darn arm. He spreads out his legs, cocks that arm back and gets ready to let it rip. Maybe a hundred or more of times a day. If his hand is empty, he swings it at something (or someone) and hits it, if he’s got a grip on something, he aims at a target, swings his arm back and ka-pow. You’d better duck. Nine out of 10, your battleship is sunk.
So, since the time-out trick is generally useless at this age, after a non-regulation hit or throw, I pretty much have to sit down at that moment and hold that little anaconda in my arms in sort of a human straight jacket for a minute or two. I calmly tell him not to hit or throw ____ at ______. And if a human target was involved, instruct him to “apologize” (which, for him, is a sweet lovey head lean/cuddle). All this stopping makes for very productive days.
The good news: the hitting and throwing doesn’t seem to be rooted in either malice or aggression. (That isn’t to say he doesn’t glean some satisfaction from the whoops and wails that follow after he’s clobbered an unsuspecting bystander.) The bad news: I’m exhausted and, wait, (did I mention this?) pretty much feel like a completely incapable idiot.
Case in point: Tonight after dinner, I presented Cliff with his milk, and in a fake-out reach, he cocked his arm back and clubbed that sorry plastic green-lidded Toy Story cup out of my unclenched hand and clear across the room, smashing it into a wall. And here’s where the idiot part comes in, I should have known.
From the other side of the dinner table, my dear spouse looked at me and calmly recommended that perhaps I leave the house for a little while. Then he added a sympathetic, “If you don’t come back, know I’ll be sad.” Then he glanced at Cliff, “But, I’ll understand.”
St. Monica. Pray for me.