on permissive parenting & communication

i think ramona uttered her longest & most comically detailed sentence to date this morning. we were walking downtown because jared wanted to go to the fabric store (!!! usually i have to drag him there, but this time he actually wanted to buy a new zipper for a pair of jeans he’s repairing). ramona said, “i’m pretending i’m peter rabbit & i’m running away from mr. macgregor & looking for the gate & hiding in the watering can!” if you’re foggy on your beatrix potter, that’s pretty much the entire plot of the tale of peter rabbit.

her talking is really exploding these days. it’s really fun that she can talk to us & tell us stories & let us know what she needs. also for the first time today, she told me she was hungry, instead of just asking for a snack. she said, “hungry. i’m hungry. snack? penguin sip?” we bought her a new sippy cup last night that is shaped like a penguin. she’s obsessed with it. she calls it “penguin milk”.

we bought the sippy because we were at target buying a potty. because it’s time to potty train. or at least introduce her to the concept. i’m not super-looking forward to this, but once she’s potty-trained, we can enroll her in preschool if we want. one of my mom friends just enrolled her daughter (who is about six months older than ramona) in preschool. she made it sound kind of awesome & i was temporarily caught up in the idea, but then i actually thought about it more & returned to ambivalence.

my friend said she interviewed a couple of different preschools & the choice came down to the one that has the most structure & discipline. i was a little surprised because the preschool she chose is the same one that i kind of thought i’d like for ramona if we stay in lawrence for another year or two & decide we want to try preschool. just because it looks really cute from the outside & has a co-op element & seems reasonably priced. but i am not really into structure or discipline. my friend had been leaning toward a different preschool, but she nixed it on the grounds that “it was pure chaos. the kids were just running around doing whatever they wanted.” that sounds awesome! perfect for ramona!

is this weird? so many of the moms i know with kids ramona’s age spend a lot of time talking about discipline & how to mete it out to toddlers. & to be fair, at least one mom i know is struggling with a kid who has a tendency to hit & throw things at other kids. she obviously can’t just shrug her shoulders & let that happen without consequence. sometimes i feel weird that i pretty much don’t discipline ramona at all, but…she also doesn’t really do anything to which i object. she’s a toddler, so of course she sometimes gets into things i don’t want her getting into, but just in a normal exploratory kid way. & it’s almost always my fault for leaving something out where she can get at it.

i did get really frustrated with ramona the other day because we went for a walk & she wanted to bring her riding car instead of the stroller. i know some people probably look askance at me for still using a stroller so much with a two-year-old, but i really just do it because she’s too heavy for me to carry on those rare occasions when she refuses to walk. & unfortunately, once we got about four blocks away from home (ie, eight times further than i can carry her without my arms falling off), she refused to walk. or ride. she just kept throwing herself at my legs & saying, “up? mommy, scoop! scoop up ramona!” i carried her as far as i could but then i really needed her to walk & she wouldn’t. even just putting her down for a little while so i could rest my arms resulted in her screaming & wailing.

i very rarely lose my patience with ramona. it’s probably happened fewer than five times since she was like six months old. (the first six months were a different story. there was definitely a lot of frustration while i learned the ropes of caring for a baby.) unfortunately, this was one of those times. i knew–i KNEW!–that if i just pretended like us running together was a game, i could get her to walk. i knew that if i got down on her level & matched her tone & mirrored her feelings back to her, i could make her stop crying & maybe even see a bit of reason. i know because this is how i take care of her & i use these two tools nine million times a day everyday. i know this kid, i know what makes her tick, i know why she gets sad & i know how to fix it.

but i just didn’t WANT to pretend it was a game. i didn’t WANT to mirror her emotions. i just wanted her to accept that i can’t carry her all the time & that she needed to walk.

of course she just cried & cried until i gave up & pretended it was a game & then we ran home. we had a nice lunch & she had a good nap & i got some time to recharge.

i was mad at myself for letting all of that happen. the main reason i don’t really “discipline” ramona is because i just don’t need to. i know how to communicate with her (& the fact that she’s a precocious talker definitely makes things way easier), & she’s still at an age where she really wants my approval, so she mostly does what i ask of her. we just don’t have situations where i feel like she’s being willfully naughty. we’ll see where we’re at in a year or two, i guess, but for now, the idea of putting her in an environment where she has to, say, sit on the rug for circle time just because someone has told her it’s circle time really bums me out. who knows, maybe i’m too permissive. i just try not to make her do things just because they’re what i want her to do in that moment.

8 thoughts on “on permissive parenting & communication”

  1. I am super jealous that you can get your kid in a stroller! Mine steadfastly refuses to go into a stroller. She will kick and scream and wail. And, she will not give up and give in. It’s just not worth it. I guess we’re pretty lucky that she’s still pretty tiny. I think she weighs all of 27 pounds. If she gets tired, I can usually carry her long enough to get where we’re going.

    Lilian’s daycare is maybe on the strict side. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that… but she’s only there 3 days a week and we’re pretty go-with-the-flow with her, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to have a few days where she has to sit still and do what her teachers tell her. I think the important thing for me is that they’re lovingly strict. They’re not just barking orders at the kids. I’ve seen them in action, and it’s more like “ok, kids, we’re all going to sit in our chairs and have a snack now.”

    When it comes to behaving, I try to set my kid up for success. It’s so much easier to limit temptations and situations where it will be easy for her to act up. She throws the odd tantrum, and she will occasionally do something to be naughty because she wants to see our reaction (I don’t react at all, which is probably the worst punishment of them all!). But, for the most part, she’s a really good kid. Sounds like Ramona is as well. 🙂

    I have also had a couple times where I just lost it with Lilian. I feel like, if you’ve got your shit together most of the time, it’s not that big a deal if you have one bad moment.

    1. ramona is a big fan of her stroller. she likes to walk too, & sometimes she cries if i put her in the stroller (which i do when we are in a rush to get somewhere & don’t have time for her one-hour-per-block pace), but once we’re moving, she chills out. & mostly i just try not to be in a rush very much when we’re out so she can walk or ride as she prefers.

      i took ramona to a story time once where all the kids had to be sitting & quiet & no snacks were allowed. it was so unreasonable to me. she’s just a little kid. if she wants to get up or shout, it’s not because she’s being unruly & wild. it’s because she’s a little kid who doesn’t really understand about being quiet & still. & no snacks…good god.

      i know some people are not wild about my parenting style, but oh well. maybe if i had a different kid, i’d do things a different way, but this works for ramona. i know someday she’ll be in school or whatever & she’ll have to do what people ask & it won’t necessarily make sense & people won’t necessarily make the effort to explain things to her & that makes me sad. i just don’t want to subject her to that before it’s necessary. you know?

      1. I have tried to outlast the stroller crying, but it will literally go for like 15 minutes plus. She’s mostly a very chill, easy-going kid, so I give her that one. It’s the only thing she will extended cry like that about, so I figure she must be pretty miserable in there. She likes to do stuff herself, I guess. She likes the jogging stroller for some reason, but only if I actually jog with it. And even then she can only take about thirty minutes or so. Maybe less.

        No judging from me! Parenting styles might differ, but almost all of them produce perfectly lovely people.

        1. i don’t know what i would do if ramona hated her stroller. never leave the house, i guess? i mean, i let her walk as much as she wants, mostly, but sometimes we’re hustling to get somewhere & we’d never make it at her pace, & she weighs over thirty pounds, which is just too much for me to carry for more than a block or two.

          maybe the difference is that we walk almost everywhere since we live right downtown. it might be a different story if she spent more time in a car seat, or more time going from car seat to stroller? & the stroller walks are never really longer than ten minutes because it doesn’t take any longer than that to get anywhere. if she was confined in there for like 45 minutes, i’m sure we’d be hearing about it.

  2. I’m not for discipline, but structure has been great for Emmett. This might be a chicken & the egg situation, because I love structure too. He has a regular schedule that we try to keep to it as much as possible. When we depart from the structure for a few days in a row, we pay the price in terms of meltdowns and whining fits.

    As for permissiveness, I pretty much let Emmett do what he wants unless I don’t think it’s safe, or if it’s plain annoying to me. I try to keep the things in the latter category to a bare minimum, but I don’t want him, for example, flushing the toilet for fun. Nor do I want him to play with my computer. I keep those things out of reach, although sometimes he gets at things. When he does, I just pick him up, say “not a toy,” and then put him down where he’s toys are. I don’t think he’s being naughty, he’s just doing what curious toddler do. Honestly, I think half of the need for “discipline” is avoided by babyproofing.

    1. oh, ramona definitely has a schedule. (it’s kind of loose, but we follow the same basic outline everyday.) kids at this age love routine, & i like routine too. i’m not the most spontaneous person, as evidenced by all the panicking i do every time we travel, or even when jared just has some time off school so the routine is upended to some degree.

  3. Regardless of your feelings about Ramona being subject to structure and discipline, I think you may find you very much want her to be in an environment where the other kids–particularly the ones who like to hit, bite and take toys–are subject to structure and discipline.

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