Marcus has been especially challenging in the recent months. I have the impression that it all started to worsen since our return from London. I can't be sure why or if it has anything to do with the trip at all. Perhaps not.
Almost on a daily basis, he would deliberately disobey the simplest instructions. Most often, this has to do with the daily routine, like taking a shower, brushing teeth, changing into pajamas or eating his dinner!
Sometimes, the culprit is his habit to dilly-dally (which is very common in most kids since they have no sense of time or urgency), hence testing my patience. Other times, he seems to be just incredibly stubborn or defiant, determined to prove a point or two.
And then there is the almost-daily major bedtime battles which can drive me up the wall. I have announced the bedtime to be 9pm for the longest time I could remember, but the only days when that can be enforced successfully is when E is away on business trips.
It doesn't help at all that Marcus is not getting enough sleep, hence more easily irritable than his usual self. He rises at 7am daily regardless of the time he went to bed. Despite looking tired on some days, he would still refuse naps after school. His theory - less sleep, more time to play!
The brawling between the boys is also reaching a new intensity. There is always something to trigger a row that threatens the household peace. Now, the little Chip is not entirely innocent and angelic at all times, but he is the easier-to-handle child at this point in my life.
Friends tell me that all their 5 y.o. offer somewhat similar challenges, so I am not alone. Still, it is a huge energy sapper for me to have to wrestle with him over such routines. Being the main caregiver, it can be really tiring and frustrating having to deal with this daily, from morning to night.
I hate it when I have to get upset early in the morning and I dread how it will be like in a year's time when he has to be in school at 7.30am.
I keep reminding myself to pick the 'right' battles and let go of the unimportant ones. Some days, I just ignore the bulk of them. But it doesn't work everyday.
When I get upset with the kids, I get more upset with myself for losing control of my emotions. I know it is all normal to feel what I feel, but nonetheless, it still frustrates me because I don't want to be upset with them.
Sometimes, they push my buttons so much that I feel like bailing out. So much so that I started thinking - hey, I can save myself a lot of such battles if I just send them to a childcare centre and go back to work. Urgh!
I came across this quote a while back...
Of course it is much easier to be the lenient and most agreeable parent, so at least in the short-term, everyone is happy. But a good parent, in my opinion, is one who instills in her children the right values and good habits.
"The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days."
Disciplining is real hard work. To play the role of a strict disciplinarian and still be thought of fondly as the loving mother seems like a tall order. But I cannot imagine how I could settle for less or would ever want to anyway.
Whenever I have to hand out disciplinary measures for less-than-desirable behaviour, I make it a point to have a calmer talk with the kid(s) afterwards to discuss and explain the causes and effects and reassure them that I still love them so much, despite how upset I was earlier.
More often than ever, I have been hanging on to the thought - within that little body is a very sweet little soul and his love for me does shine through everyday. It serves as a good reminder which instantly melts my frustration and anger away.
My maternal instincts tell me I am not reading him right and I must connect with him more. There is something fundamental that I must grasp and change and it will all get better.
This is just a tough phase. And it will pass. One fine day, I know I will look back and beam with pride that we got through these months with resilience and optimism, and I emerged a better parent.