How is it that my kid is wonderful with everyone BUT me?
Jennifer Ginsberg: One of the best pieces of parenting wisdom I ever heard was from Betsy Brown Braun, a best-selling author and parenting expert. Out of desperation, I went to her for a consultation. Yes, I know how neurotic and indulgent it may seem to run to a parenting expert for advice about how to deal with your 4-year-old! But I was completely frustrated that, despite my training as a psychotherapist, I could not figure out how to deal with my sweet, smart, sensitive child who morphed into a demanding, defiant, contrarian brat the moment we were together.
I asked her, "Why is Shane an angel with everyone but me? His teachers love him ... other moms are always saying how well behaved he is ... but all I seem to get is the bratty, whiny, worst of him!"
Betsy replied with a smile, "You are your child's garbage can. And this will never change."
I thought of Shane as a newborn, hungrily nursing away. When I burped him, he spit up in my hair, leaving a big, tangled wad on the back of my head that I didn't notice until the next morning, when I finally tried to run a brush through it. Mom equals garbage can.
I remembered Shane as a toddler, running through the park and finding "treasures" all over, like cigarette butts and spit-out gum, and proudly handing them to me. Mom equals garbage can.
Last Friday night, Shane climbed into my bed. "Mommy, my tummy hurts," he said, right before he puked all over me. Mom equals garbage can.
Just now, he blew his snotty nose and walked right past the actual trash can to hand me his goopy tissue. Mom equals garbage can.
But being a physical garbage can is one thing -- I can shower off the puke and dispose of the butts. I have yet to find a receptacle for the emotional barf he spews onto me day after day.
I recently went to his parent-teacher conference. "He is such a sweet and cooperative boy," his teacher beamed. "He always listens. Enjoy him!" she said.
I got home and asked my sitter, "How was he?"
"Oh, good, Jenny," she replied. "We always have fun. He never gives me any problems."
Shane descended on me. "Mommy, can I have my vitamins? Not four, but five vitamins ... because I am going to be five in 11 days. Can I have my Popsicle?"
"Yes to the vitamins, no to the Popsicle. And you always get three vitamins," I responded, as I always do.
"But whyyyyy?" he whined. "I want five. And I want you to take the training wheels off my bike right now. Don't forget for my birthday I need a blue Spiderman on my cake -- not black or red -- but blue, yes or no?"
I took a deep breath and said, "Hi Shane, it's nice to see you."
He continued, "My birthday is in 11 days, right? I want a Nerf gun, a Donkey Kong DSL, and don't forget my blue Spiderman cake -- not red, not black, but blue!" he repeated.
"Adam," I screamed across the house to his office, "has Shane been watching TV with commercials again?"
"And a Spiderman pinata and a SpongeBob umbrella. Can you get it for me now???"
"Shane," I said calmly, "I just walked in and I don't like getting a list of demands the second I see you. Let's play a game or read a book together."
He gave me his best scowl and puked out a day's worth of latent frustrations and stifled feelings: "I don't want a book. I don't want to play a game. Just give me my Popsicle."
I firmly replied, "No Popsicles before dinner."
"Then you're not my mommy anymore. I don't even love you!" he screamed, and ran to Daddy's office.
Mom equals garbage can.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles mother, writer, and addiction specialist with over 15 years of experience in the fields of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. After receiving her MSW from the USC School Of Social Work and MAJCS from Hebrew Union College, Jennifer served as the clinical director of a 120 bed drug and alcohol treatment facility. She also co-developed an addiction prevention program for Jewish youth, which has been implemented in synagogues nationally. Jennifer now works privately with people who are impacted by the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and writes about all topics related to motherhood, addiction, and women in politics. Read more about her life at angstmom.com|