06 April 2011

Pour Your Heart Out: Self perceptions and parenting

Almost every time I go into a store with my children, screaming and yelling ensues.  

Teddy will throw a fit because I don't let him get something he wants or do something he wants to do.  He'll try to stand in front of my cart and push it in the direction he wants me to go.  He'll yell at me and hit me.  I'll try to talk to him, but he's usually anger locked.  There've been a few times when I've had to put him into the basket of the cart as punishment.  Then I have to fight to keep him in.

Or Peter will decide he can't stay near me when I let him walk rather than ride in a cart.  He runs around corners, hides under clothes racks, climbs on shelves... all the things that I continually tell him NOT to do.  And when I get fed up warning him and telling him to stop running everywhere, I put him in the cart.  I have to buckle him in very tightly because otherwise he WILL stand up and he WILL try to get out of the cart on his own.  And that's when the high pitched, full voice screams start.  The ones that I'm convinced the whole store can hear.

And as I walk through the store, with either Teddy hitting me and trying to force me to do things his way or Peter screaming as though I was putting hot pokers under his fingernails, I feel like everyone in the store is looking at me with disapproval.  "What kind of mother is she to let her kids act that way?"  When they look my direction, I am convinced I can see the contempt in their eyes.  I know that they have to be annoyed with the way my boys are acting - I'm annoyed with the way my boys are acting.

I've had many friends, online and in person, tell me not to go shopping with them.  That they don't "deserve" it and it's better if I wait until I can go on my own.  But I don't WANT to wait until I can be alone to shop.  Not only is it inconvenient for me, because of the hours that Rich works, but I want them to learn what is and is not acceptable ways to act in public.  

The second doesn't seem to be working, though.  And I'm not sure why.  I  never give in to whatever it is they want, until and unless they prove they can behave (for example, if Pete wants to walk, he has to be quiet in the cart for awhile before I'll let him back out of the cart again).  And I'm incredibly consistent with that.  I've tried to talk to them, but usually they're so angry that they don't want to listen. When I try to talk to them later, they SAY they understand, but it happens all over again.  I take things away, but they don't seem to care.  It doesn't matter what punishment I give for bad behavior, or what reward for good behavior, they still act the same way.

Then there are the two things that I do that worry me the most when it comes to how I look in others eyes.  The first is when I ignore their screaming.  Today, when I was in Target with the boys, Pete pulled his usual running everywhere and refusing to come back when I told him.  The third time he ran around the corner at full speed and I had to chase him, I got him, picked him up and put him in the cart.  He tried to climb out, I sat him back down and buckled him in.  And that's when the screaming began.  The screams to wake the dead.  And I ignored it.  I just went about what I was doing, looking at the things I needed to look at, pushing my cart as though I couldn't hear the deafening cries that my child put forth.  But all the while, even though I knew it was the "right" thing to do, I kept wondering if people were looking at me and thinking, "God, can't that bitch shut her kid up?  If I were in her place, I would have left by now!"  And there's really no reason for me to think it, other than my own insecurities.  Because everyone that ever has come up to me when Pete's been upset like this has been understanding and kind.  But I can't help but wonder what the people that AREN'T saying anything are thinking.

The second worry is when I spank them.  If they refuse to behave or listen to what I'm trying to tell them, I warn them that they will be spanked.  If I get to three, I hold the offending child in place and place three quick swats on their bottom.  I don't beat them, I don't hit hard enough to leave a mark.  I hit with just enough force to have a little sting.  And if they correct their behavior before I get to three, no spanking is necessary.  But I sometimes worry that someone is going to call the cops on me for child abuse.  Because there are some that believe that you should never lay a hand on your child, ever.  And I respect that, for them and their children.  But I'm not drawing blood, I'm not making it impossible to sit down - I'm just letting them know that their behavior will not be tolerated.  And usually, it works. But just because it works doesn't mean that someone won't claim I'm abusing my kids and try to have the cops come and take them away.  And I only do the spanking when they're physically not doing what I ask.  Like when Pete refuses to sit down after he's been punished to have to ride in the cart rather than walk, or Teddy keeps trying to run away from me to do what he wants.  It's not my first reaction. It's usually my last resort.

I know that most of my fears during these times are my own worries rearing themselves in my mind.  I know that most people, particularly people with kids or grandkids, know exactly what I'm going through.  But I can't help but worry.  Because I've always wanted acceptance.  And I've always wanted to BE a good Mom.  In times like these, though, I feel like I must be the worst mom in the world.