Monday, May 28, 2012

Transitions Are Rough

Yesterday I spent much of the day on Ila Time. That is, we played or read or walked around the house with her little shopping cart and stroller as she wanted to. Despite this, she was extremely resistant to transition to other activities when I had to enforce them. I had a doctor's appointment, so we had to go over to Grandma's. She didn't really want to get off the potty to do that. Then, once we were at Grandma's, she didn't want to get out of the car. This is a hot car in Tucson in May. The appeal obviously wasn't the car itself. We went to the library in the early evening and she didn't want to get out of the car once we got home, again. I remember that, at one of the schools we visited, the director making a comment about “gently moving the kids inside” after being outside, after which she said, “transitions are rough.” I guess that's what we're facing here.

We've been reading parenting books that emphasize “non-coercive” parenting strategies. Say you want your child to put her clothes on, any clothes even just those little bloomers that go under a dress and that shirt that is so small it looks like a bib, you need to get out of the house to make it to an appointment and you've been trying to gently get her ready for an hour. Now, you may be tempted to force her to put her clothes on or bribe her or give her an ultimatum and practice “love withdrawal” (isolating her – time out her until she does what you want) or in some other way assert your authority, but that would be coercive parenting. Even called “violent parenting” by some books.

I get it. I mean, I think some of this might be a touch overblown, but I like the love and reason style parenting (or teaching)'s just NOT efficient. Non-coercive parenting techniques are generally the slowest way to do things. In addition, I find that I have to frequently readjust what I think we need to do.  This is, I suppose, the slow parenting movement.  (I imagine there is one out there.)  For example, I think, “Oh we have two hours before we need to be home again, we can run to the store to get paper towels and sun screen in plenty of time.” Only to decide, after an hour of slowly moving at Ila speed toward departure, that maybe I don't really need to go today; maybe we should just stay home and draw and read. It's sort of like when she was tiny and I didn't really want to bother leaving the house...we've come full circle.

I try to remind myself that each phase of childhood has its own natural rhythm and time. Toddler time is very slow when it comes to abandoning a perfectly good activity, like reading Olivia Saves the Circus 17 times, for a hot car ride to some boring grocery store. I can't blame her, I guess. It's just a balancing act – getting done the things we really need to, being realistic about the things that don't really need to happen, and just generally slowing down enough to be present and available for her. I can't say I always do it with grace, but I am trying.