Monday, June 16, 2008

Prepared for an Early Career in Cease-Fire Negotiations

We never had the terrible twos around here. Three, however, is becoming quite the challenge. We’re finding that we need to develop some kind of joint master strategy with allied adults in handling the little dude, because he is one tough customer.

Take potty training, for example. All sorts of authorities point to invoking a system of small rewards leading to a larger reward if the child is cooperative and uses the potty. However, there is nothing you can offer Q-ster.

Stickers? Not interested. Lightning McQueen underpants? Insufficiently motivational. M&Ms, cookies, other sweets? If we put a condition on having them, he declares that he didn’t really want them anyway. At the age of three, he’s gaming the system pretty well.

After a few too many bedtime delays last week, we said “Honey, if you come out of your room one more time, you can’t have any sweets tomorrow."
Fifteen seconds later, a small boy is seen running down the hallway.
“No candy or cookies tomorrow!”
“Ok, “ replies he, unruffled.

The next day, Q-ster desperately wants a cookie. At last, I think. It's an opportunity to show him cause and effect, action and consequence. I tell him that he can’t have one because he broke the rules yesterday.

He sees the trap and counters. “That’s ok. Another day." He turns to another activity.

Last weekend, the little dude expressed great interest in green socks (his favorite color), and I procure a pair, saying that he can have them if he poops on the potty. He now pretends that the socks have lost their luster. “Some other time,” he shrugs.

Negotiations are pretty much a non-starter at present, so we'll have to keep searching for the right motivation. In the mean time, the kid has a future playing hardball as a lawyer. I pity the opposing counsel.

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When I read that New Jersey Moms Blog was hosting a book club around the publication of “Writing Motherhood” by Lisa Garrigues, I was intrigued. I write about motherhood, sometimes poorly, and other times with more skill. What does the author have to say about it? I signed up for my free copy of the book.

The project assigned us to address one of two writing prompts, which I’ve done above (tell about a time your child broke the rules), rather than provide a review of the book, but I can’t help but give a bit of my opinion on that too.

Garrigues is compelling writer. She provides great anecdotes and makes me want to continue reading. However, I don’t know whether I’m really in her target audience. I’ve read the first hundred pages of the book, and there's a lot of time spent granting the reader permission to write. Um, I don’t need permission. I’m doing it every day.

The author makes a big deal about keeping a “Mother’s Notebook,” which she insists absolutely must be written by hand on paper, saying how a writer should have a callus on the middle finger and ink smudges. That might be the case in previous generations, but I know I think more clearly and write quickly at a keyboard. I can both capture fleeting thoughts before they disappear, and later edit to my heart’s content. True, you can’t bring your laptop everywhere, but anywhere I wouldn’t risk my laptop, I wouldn’t risk the one and only copy of all my writing either! I keep backup copies of my active writing files, so I won’t lose the scraps of sentences telling me what cute thing my son said, even if I never write it into a full story.

There are also sections on why it’s necessary to have a “sacred” space for writing and how to generate ideas. These concepts may speak to other readers, but I pretty much write where I do all my other work, and at last count, had about 30-40 typewritten pages of ideas I’d love to explore further when I get the time.

Based on what I’ve read so far, I’d recommend the book to someone who wasn’t yet writing or blogging, particularly to a woman feeling insecure about writing. I plan to finish reading “Writing Motherhood,” since the chapters ahead include interesting topics such as how to make quality revisions and sharing work. The book definitely made me think about how I do my own writing and why it's important.

Thanks, to NJ Moms Blog for hosting the book club!


Rugger Mom said...

We didn't have a problem with LR being 2 until a month after J. Frog and Missy arrived. He was fine that first month, but when they started spending more time awake, he really noticed. Wonder if that's what you're running into too...

Mayberry said...

I firmly believe that three is worse than two. I've observed it many times!

Thanks for the book review too -- I'd heard of that book and was curious.

Feener said...

i love blogging, but i still find writing long hand very satisfying. i have a journal and always have. blogging has taken that over. however after reading lisa's book i do want to go back to writing in my journal (although she does suggest not calling it a journal)

I think it will help with my writing, as i tend to blog thinking about what others might think. the journal might help get more out.

Damselfly said...

OK, I am laughing so hard about sacred space, finger callouses and smudges and the like!!

WritingMother said...

Hi, Monica, this is Lisa, author of Writing Motherhood. I really enjoyed the post of your family's feud over potty training. You manage to slow things down so we can see every skirmish in the battle, and you are very funny! As for your thoughts on my book, I appreciate your honesty. While the early pages of the book are, as you sensed, intended to help people get started, and to overcome some of the obstacles that interfere with our intention to write, the bulk of the book is topical, weaving together stories from my life as a mother with inspiration for readers to write their stories. Whether you write in a notebook or on a computer isn't important so long as you write. I do hope you continue to write, as you have much to say and the means to say it well. All best, Lisa

Damsel said...

I totally agree that the three's are harder than the two's. Jet is about to be four this weekend, and is a MASTER bargainer. If I offer two M&M's, he asks for five, or even ten. He's driving me NUTS with all of the freaking QUESTIONS, too! Sheesh.

As for potty training, is Q in underpants yet? I found that pull-up type things were useless - he couldn't FEEL it when he wet himself. It only took two or three days of being in real underpants for him to start regularly using the potty because he hated the feeling of the wet cloth on his skin.

Rose said...

If I read one more post about M&Ms for going potty... I'm going to have to run to the store and buy a big ol' bag of 'em. Never have I craved them as badly!

C was the same way about rewards. We're pretty lucky she decided to potty train herself or we'd be facing the same battles as you!

As for the longhand vs. computer. I write at both. I was an exclusively computer writer before picking up Writing Motherhood, but it inspired me to get a notebook (or ten). I find that the writing I do in my bed in my very private journal is very different, and sometimes more profound, than what I do on my blog knowing full well that my MIL, mother, step-mother, sisters, and husband will read what I have to say. Some of those journal entries have turned into my favorite blog posts - they just ring with a truth and honesty that is a bit different than my usual style.

I like to think of it as a way to tap into a different part of my writer's brain rather than an either or.

ewe are here said...

Ugh. Ramekin would quickly lose interest in stickers and other little rewards, too... the bike though, that got his attention.

BUt it still took almost a week.

I wish you luck.

Mamacita Tina said...

Ugh, we had terrible three's also. Very frustrating when they don't care about rewards. It's all about control, isn't it?

kittenpie said...

We skipped terrible twos in favour of a horrible year of three, too. I maintain that three-year-olds just have better PR guys.