Scarlet Letters

If you have actually seen MomBrain in the flesh, then you know I am not one of those extremely cool 20-something dude-moms snowboarding with her kids and sporting a nose stud. Alas, I am not nearly that young, hip, or energetic. Also snowboarders scare me.

What I am is most kindly — or at least euphemistically — worded by the big red words on the chart my OB carried into each appointment with me while I was pregnant: Advanced Maternal Age. Those big red words still feel like a hot embarrassment, my very own scarlet letters, as if I had sinned by getting pregnant when a smart woman my age would be helping her teenagers with their college applications. But in fact, my pregnancy was a triumph, my own personal miracle. After eight years of failed infertility treatments, I had somehow become pregnant the old fashioned way — despite the many reasons my body couldn’t get pregnant, and despite my “advanced maternal age.” It was mind-blowing, like waking up one morning and speaking fluent French when I’d never uttered so much as an ooh la la.

That force of nature was so much bigger and more powerful than me. So it’s hard not to believe in destiny, that I was fated to be the older mother of a single child. Does it make me ungrateful that I question it? That I still mourn for the second child I never had, the child that destiny never intended for me? All these years later, I still have trouble looking at the empty fourth chair at dinner; sitting in an awkward threesome at a square restaurant table; looking in the rearview mirror at my son, alone in the too-wide back seat. My family is not complete. And yet it is.

The Discipline Pearl

MomBrain wears many colorful hats. The orange one with the large peacock feather is my MotherTalk hat, the one I wear when I’m wrangling bloggers to review books for a Blog Tour, or — like today — running a Blog Bonanza. So, in honor of No-Cry Friday, here is MomBrain’s single pearl of wisdom when it comes to discipline. Yes, I have only one pearl, but it’s a big one and the Little Guy likes it a lot. This is because my pearl keeps me from totally losing my cool, yelling, and saying or doing things I regret later once the temperature has cooled down. Here it is: are you ready?

Discipline is about control, not punishment.

When the Little Guy misbehaves, he’s out of control — usually because he’s tired, hungry, overstimulated or emotional. When he cannot control himself, I do — I declare quiet time, feed him, remove him from sensory overload, or help him name and manage his emotions (in time out if necessary). Later, when everyone has calmed down, we talk about what happened and ways to handle it better next time. But punishing him just doesn’t work — it pushes both of us into emotional overdrive, and — more importantly — it doesn’t fix the underlying problem. Okay, maybe spanking or yelling would make him stop throwing rocks at the playground, but he’s still hungry and overwhelmed, and now he’s crying and embarrassed and confused on top of it. Far better for us to just leave the playground (a natural consequence), get something to eat, have quiet time at home and then talk about it (including what will happen if he ever throws another rock again).

Ultimately, my goal is to teach the Little Guy to control himself and his environment so that I don’t have to — to recognize when he’s hungry and feed himself well, to find a quiet corner or room when he’s overwhelmed, to go to bed early if he’s tired. In other words (this is big), to have self-discipline. But until he can do that, I will have to don my Captain’s hat (the navy blue one with the rank insignia on the brim) and take charge myself.