Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parenthood Is Like Acting Conservatories

A couple of days ago we hit a rough patch.  As the boys approach their second birthday there are definitely tantrums being thrown.  I try to breathe through the ear-piercing screams and sad faces but it is tough.  I have definitely slammed a few cabinets, raised my voice from time to time and possibly muttered a few choice words under my breath.  The most effective technique for me, though, seems to be to lock myself in my room and to play a game of Candy Crush.  That helps me calm down even though there are screams of "Daddy!" coming from the other side of the door.  And, about half the time, the boys are so shocked that I left them for 2 minutes they wind up being good for the next 15-30 minutes.

I have also come to the conclusion that when people say, "I don't know how you do it with twins" I should just respond with an "I don't know how I do it either.  I am pretty amazing."  I used to respond with something like "Well, sometimes it's easier having kids at the same age doing the same thing" but I have learned that doesn't hold true for most stages.  A few days ago Aaron woke up early from a nap and had a major tantrum.  It was so easy dealing with that tantrum without worrying if Jeff was standing on a chair to get to something on the counter or crying about the closed refrigerator or begging me to read a book to him.  I will admit at certain ages twins can possibly be easier, but right now having twin toddlers is like being pulled in 43 different directions at once.

So the recent bouts of tandem tantrums made me realize that parenthood is a lot like an acting conservatory. Conservatories believe that 95% of a student's time should be focused on the chosen field of study.  They tend to be very intense and believe that their particular techniques are the best way for students to learn.  Because of that, it also means that students' habits that they bring with them must be broken down and discarded and then built up again.  It is often not a very compassionate or supportive environment but admittedly a lot of students who make it through the four years without getting cut from the program wind up being relatively successful in a very difficult and cutthroat profession.

While it sounds a little crass this breaking down process feels like it's exactly what I'm doing with my boys.  Their constant cries for being picked up, staying up late, eating non-stop, etc. have to be broken down and their habits must be built up into more appropriate behaviors.

Experienced parents may laugh at my weak-willed and compassionate attempt to create good habits.  It's hard and frustrating and I wonder if I'm doing something good and right while I see them crying a lot.  All of the experts seem to say that you have to be strict and not give in.  I met a woman who had years of daycare experience who told me the same thing.  She told me that crying is OK and I shouldn't feel guilty about it.

So while I secretly worry I'm creating horrendously scarring memories for my kids, I know that this is the right thing to do and all children need to learn limits.  Hopefully, very soon, my boys will learn that screaming is not the way to go to get what you want.  They will learn that Time-Outs really do happen for bad behavior.  (We started those last week.)  They will learn to say please and thank you.  (We are getting that more often.)  And they will become award winning actors pleasant children.