Sunday, March 21, 2010

Child Rearing: Are There Lullabies in Lockdown?

I think we have established that I was never a candidate for Mother of the Year. But, in my own defense, I do believe that some of our children’s behavior is out of our hands.

After having my son, I did some research in order to determine how much time should pass before having another child. Okay, that’s a lie. I decided to have another child when my memory of childbirth went from “Holy Hell, I’m never doing that again!” to “It wasn’t that bad.” That took three and a half years.

During my second pregnancy, I gave my son as much attention as I could. I wanted him to feel secure, and not threatened by the arrival of a sister or brother. By the time my daughter was born, I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. On the day the doctor said she could start having visitors, I was amazed at my son’s behavior. He would greet our friends and family, introduce them to his new baby sister, give her a tender little kiss on her forehead, and go to his room to play.

After the last visitor left, I started gathering up the baby gifts, and my son came into the room and offered to take them upstairs to the nursery. I just beamed as I thought “This is my calling. Being a mother is what I do best." I went into the kitchen to wash some dishes.

When I came back into the living room, I noticed there was a leaf on the floor. One of my friends had brought a plant for the baby’s room. I looked around to see where it was, and my eyes went to the coffee table. Sitting there was the plant, or should I say what was left of the plant. Every single leaf had been cut off. Next to the naked stub of a plant was a pair of little scissors....shaped like a stork. Hmmm.

My instincts told me not to make a fuss about it. I was sure this was more about him being four, and less about the baby. Until, I went upstairs. One of the items my son volunteered to take to the baby’s room was a basket of bath products. I was stunned to see that he had shaken baby powder on every square inch of the room, including in the crib. The empty container sat on the changing table. It took four days of vacuuming to finally get rid of the powder. I couldn’t even bring the baby in there until the last of it was gone. My son’s explanation of why he did it? “I don’t know” was all he said.

Weeks later, with no further problems, I was convinced that whatever aggression my son felt, he had dealt with it. He was back to his sweet self. My daughter was in her infant seat, my son was lying on the floor pushing around a little toy car, and I was folding laundry. “What a perfect little family I have,” I thought. I went downstairs to get another load of laundry out of the dryer, and I heard the baby start to cry. “What happened?” I yelled up to my son. “I don’t know, she just started crying!” I ran back upstairs. My son was still pushing the car around, and there in the middle of my daughter’s forehead was a perfect little red handprint. “Okay, this is serious” I thought, and called the pediatrician.

“This sounds pretty normal to me,” he assured me, but suggested I don’t leave them in a room alone together. “Have you ever had a case where one child really hurts the other?” “No, never” was his answer and I breathed a little easier. “Except the once.” And there was a long pause. “I did have an older brother stab his younger brother with a fork.”

I got light-headed. I tried to remember if there was a chapter on murder in any of the child-rearing books I had read. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a handcuffed four-year-old being led to a police car and then strapped into a booster seat. I thought of the Clue game I played as a child. It was Junior in the nursery with the stork scissors.

It was that day that I grew a second pair of eyes in the back of my head. I am happy to say there were no more “incidents” and brother and sister learned to peacefully co-exist. So well, that after a few years we started using real silverware again.

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