A few weeks ago, my daughter brought home a book she borrowed from her school’s library called, A Unicorn Named Sparkle. It’s a cute book that ultimately made my son assume we were giving him away.
I read it a few times to both Reagan and Grayson but the story is a little hard to grasp. After answering my daughter’s twelfth question, I decided to just break it down for her. The story is about a girl who dreams of getting a beautiful unicorn she can show off to all of her friends. In her daydream, the unicorn is calm and well-behaved. He is loved by everyone. She orders a unicorn for 25 cents. When the unicorn man drops him off, he’s anything but what she thought he would be. He’s not very beautiful, he gets into a lot of trouble and the little girl isn’t proud to show him off. She decides to send him back to the unicorn man. Ultimately, she grows to love the unicorn and can’t live without him.
Satisfied with my summarization, Reagan put the book away and went back to playing. My husband was outside mowing the lawn, so Grayson headed over to the window to watch him. I heard him narrating my husband’s mow pattern, back and forth and back and forth, and then I heard Grayson semi-hysterically scream, “Oh no, the owl! THE OWL!” I headed over to the window and saw the plastic owl I use to scare chipmunks (FYI – doesn’t work) had been knocked over by the mower.
Grayson told me daddy was bad because he pushed it over. I chuckled, told him it was okay and that we can put the owl back together after daddy was done mowing. Then he gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “I don’t want to go away. I stay here with you. I scared.” Cue mommy sobbing.
At first I had no idea why he thought we would send him away. Then I realized he must have related to the out-of-control unicorn in the Sparkle story and assumed we didn’t want him. Reagan always calls him bad (I always insist he is not bad when I hear her tell him that) and we’ve had our own fair shares of breakdowns. He must have connected the dots thanks to that damn unicorn.
After explaining to him that he was stuck with us for life, I knew things needed to change. But how? Obviously not yelling as much and telling Reagan to stop calling Grayson “bad” isn’t enough. He still feels shame for his sometimes not-so-great outbursts even though it’s all done out of impulse and confusion.
Prior to this, I already researched every parenting method out there. Every psychologist, every blog, they all contradict each other. According to each parenting style, there are grave implications if a parent doesn’t follow that particular method. If I put him in a timeout instead of hugging him, he’ll turn into a psychopath. If I coddle him instead of punishing him, he’ll grow up to be an law-breaking asshole and if I don’t speak to him as if he and I are on the same level, he’ll be someone’s doormat in adulthood.
I even brought up his behavior and my reaction to the doctor during a wellness visit. Our pediatrician told me timeouts are really effective (but that’s another form of shaming). She also told me if he hits or kicks his sister, I should calmly explain to him why we don’t want to hurt her and ask him to apologize. Obviously, she doesn’t have a fiery two-year-old. Grayson hit Reagan during that same wellness visit. As I started to tell him no hitting, the doctor stopped me mid-sentence. She then told Grayson we don’t want to hurt Reagan and asked him to apologize. He replied that he had to hit her and refused to apologize. The doctor just looked at me dumbfounded; incredulous that her rational approach didn’t work. Yeah, thanks for your help.
I know eventually he’s going to grow out of this irrational stage. In the meantime, I’ve pretty much decided to just continue doing the best I can while also reassuring him that we love him and aren’t giving him away even as he beats up his sister, chases our poor, old dog around the house and screams his way through a million more tantrums. And here’s to hoping we aren’t ruining our children as these contradictory parenting styles suggest we’re doing.