Thursday, July 17, 2008

Like Apples and Oranges

I am pretty sure that I couldn't have two more opposite children when it comes to the world of emotions.

Hobbes is the epitome of strong will and control. He goes through most of life happy and laid back, but when he chooses to exert his will, there is not mistaking it. "Chooses" is a good word. He rarely has emotional outbursts that are not calculated, and he often lets us know that he wants to cry just a "lil' bit mo." That doesn't mean that his emotions aren't valid, just that he is in amazing control of them for a two year old.

A story from today. Right before dinner, Hobbes bit Calvin as they were fighting over something. I instantly disciplined him, as biting is one of those things I can't tolerate in a child about to begin preschool. He looked at me in anger and/or surprise, and began crying in protest. I asked him if he could tell Calvin he was sorry, and when he responded with a definite "no," I told him to sit in the chair until he could. The rest of us sat down to dinner while he protested that he was too tired to sit in his chair. I told him he could go to his bed until he was ready to apologize. After about five minutes of controlled crying in his room, he came out, happy as a clam. He apologized to Calvin and then proceeded to tell me that he would come eat in just a little bit. He returned to his room, did a puzzle, and then pranced into the dining room, pleasant as could be, to eat his dinner.

Now we turn to Calvin, whose emotional waters are so deep that I often can't navigate them. In fact, he rarely knows how to himself and often ends up shipwrecked and crying beyond control in his bed.

The boys were playing with a marble run toy this morning, and I gave them plenty of warning that we were going to pack it away soon to clean up the living room. Both Hobbes and Calvin seemed to be helping me put the pieces up, but when I told Calvin that I needed the pieces he was holding, he became hysterical. I could not control him, though he finally managed enough to give me the pieces so that I could put them away. He then ran to his room screaming and crying, presumably angry that I had taken his pieces away. We battled for some time over the need for him to learn to obey. (We've had a long few months of defiance that we are trying to curb.) Finally, he ended up in my lap, telling me that he needed to start over and put the pieces away or, in his own words, "We are going to have a very bad day." I am starting to figure it out. It is not anger that makes him lash out, but guilt and shame at himself, his desire to please contradicting his developing preschooler's mind that wants to exert independence. His boat is fighting through some powerful waves of emotion and instinct, and he gets scared of the loss of control.

Such different dispositions, but each with their own strengths, if we can only teach Hobbes to use his strong will and charming personality for good and help Calvin to learn to master his emotions without losing his sensitivity and compassion. This is why parenting is so hard!


Farrah said...

That must totally exhaust you emotionally! I can't even imagine. I have no idea how this baby's personality is going to be different than Lucas... I just hope he sleeps better. Then, maybe, I'll be equipped to handle whatever other differences pop up! :)

wheelsonthebus said...

It always amazes me that they are who they are from the very start.

Tipper said...

Parenting strong willed children is so very hard-but in your last paragraph you got it-they were born with those strengths and they will use them for their entire lives as assets. If we can just survive to see it!!

L M said...

That was a beautiful post.