Friday, July 18, 2008

When "time-out" Just Doesn't Cut It

Just as I was thinking about what fun things I would document about our trip downtown, and how I managed to get everyone home happy and in one piece, I catch Nourit hitting Avi on the head (repeatedly) with a hard object (a pitch pipe, to be exact. The one she had been playing a few minutes earlier when I had smiled at her adoringly.) I am consumed with rage at anyone who hurts my baby, and unfortunately, the only one who does try to hurt her on a semi-regular basis is her big sister, my firstborn. So, overwhelmed with this anger, I firmly pick Nourit up and put her in the corner - her usual time-out place. I pick up my crying infant and console her as I calm myself and try to decide what to do next. A simple time-out just seems weak and ineffectual at the moment, and I contemplate spanking. But Mike and I have agreed not to spank, and besides, it just doesn't make sense to hit someone to teach them not to hit. Duh. So, I march Big Sister down to her bedroom for an extended time-out, and tell her I'm very angry and that she will not play with any toys tonight. Again, I go into the next room to look at the purple welts starting on Avi's forehead and I just want to cry. It's my fault for staying out all day and skipping Nourit's nap. It's my fault for letting her eat snacks all day instead of insisting on full, regular meals. It's my fault for having another baby when she just probably would have been happier being an only child. Should I get a time-out for that?

I go back into Nourit's room and tell her to come and clean up her toys (which she does without any hesitation.) Next, I give her a bath without any toys and again, she's acquiescent. She even remains put while I give Avi a bath. At this point, my anger is fading, and now I'm just sad. Sad that Nourit feels like our love for her is threatened by this not-so-new-anymore baby, and sad that I can't just pour all my attention out on Nourit like I used to, and sad that Avi has just taken a beating by her older sister. (I FULLY remember the time my big sister laid one on me. I guess the good thing is that we are close now, despite our childhood sibling rivalry.)

Nourit was especially good for me through dinner (which she barely ate because of an overload of snacks all day) and didn't fight me to go to bed (2.5 hours ahead of schedule.) I hoped I had fully impressed on her little 2 year old mind that hurting her sister was a dangerous thing to do, but I imagine it will happen many more times throughout their childhood. That doesn't make me feel better, but how else do I lovingly discipline my child for these crimes? (I would love some advice here!) I realize more and more that we are not all born as sensitive and loving creatures. We are born selfish and needy and must learn how to react lovingly, regardless of how we feel inside. I guess I always thought the selfishness was learned, but I've changed my mind about that since having Nourit. (Perhaps this is all written up by the developmental psychologists that I work for.) She is my wonderful little girl, and it breaks my heart to know she's human, just like me.

So, I'm not sure what will stick in Nourit's memory today: the choo-choo train ride downtown, the happy woman with a guitar singing songs, having fun splashing in Crown Fountain, the dead deer hanging upside down in the portrait at the Art Institute (she thought that was hilarious,) or my anger and disappointment with her for not embracing the little sister we brought home.

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