Friday, April 4, 2008

The Demon and Zen

I had a revelation today.

The whole point of my spiritual practice is to simplify my life. Be in the moment. Simplify until it is me, my breath, the moment, my prayer. This makes life easier. I worry less (well, I'm working on that).

In Zen-ing my life, I am trying to de-clutter. Same principle. Simplify. I am trying to do things (like filing or organizing my closet) that allow my life to be calmer, less frenetic.

And then there's Demon. Here was tonight's dinner argument.

I set down one of those cutesy plates with a spot for his chicken, his rice, his vegetable. I got him juice. I gave him a fork and a spoon. ONE spot on the plate was empty. (i.e., there's a main dish spot and three sides, and we only had two sides).

He saw that empty spot.

"I want chicken in there."

"Fine." I moved two pieces of chicken to the empty spot.

"No. New chicken."

"Older Brother, give Demon Baby two pieces of your chicken." (Because I don't eat meat, I didn't have any to give him and Older Brother had a HUGE piece--growing adolescent.)

"No!" (Shrieking.) "I want my OWN chicken."

"But you haven't even eaten a BITE yet. Not one bite." (I am trying to waste less food and he already had PLENTY o' chicken . . . ).

"I want new chicken for that spot."

"Finish the chicken you have."

"No. I want my own. From over there." (Points to stove.)

"Eat the chicken or go upstairs and take a time out."


He gets up, goes upstairs, stomping his tiny feet the whole way up. I took the opportunity to move Brother's chicken to the spot rather than cutting into a new chicken breast. A few minutes later, I called him down. "There. Chicken in every spot."

"I can tell it's not THAT chicken." (Points to stove.)

By this time, since I only ate rice, I was done with my meal. I sighed. Got up. Started cleaning from dinner. He sat there and refused to eat.

"I want juice now."

"One minute."


And I realized . . . my entire day is spent like this. Nothing, not one single thing from waking up until he shuts his eyes is EVER greeted without an argument. Not one thing.

"I don't like this shirt."

"I don't want to wear shoes."

"I want these shoes not those shoes."

"I don't like this blankley, I want that one." (When he cuddles up with a blanket.)

So I had a lightbulb moment. I stared him down. "Demon . . . this is a very difficult way to go through life. Life can be easy, or it can be hard, but you don't EVER take the easy way. You fight your way through your whole life. That's not good, Demon. Pick your battles."

"I want new chicken."

And so . . . when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Demon is here to teach me how to master Zen. Because God knows, he makes it difficult.


conley730 said...

This sounds like deja vu to me! I even wrote a blog the other day about one of my kids not wanting to wear the chosen clothes for that day. Both of them are bad about dinner if every slot isn't filled, or if they suspect one has more than the other. I'm so bad I count how many pieces I give them so I know it's equal! Forget about telling mine "just a minute"! I get the same response..."NOW, Mommy". I've had to do the "eat or get timeout" thing too, but usually they choose to eat. They REALLY hate timeout. Let me know when you find that zen of motherhood!

spyscribbler said...

Mostly my goal this year has been to live more Zen-like. I swear to God, I feel like I fail every minute.

Erica Orloff said...

I don't use timeout--only lately because his tantrums are so insane he needs a breather. And that's the thing . . . my other three kids were all mellow, happy, easygoing. People would ay Terrible Twos and I had no idea what that meant. Well, Demon's Twos were awful, and this Threes ain't shapin' up to be any less conflict-filled.

Just breathe, Erica. Just breathe.


Erica Orloff said...

I fail each day. Each hour usually. But . . . progress, not perfection, you know?


Suzanne Perazzini said...

Erica, how about keeping a tally of how many times he ultimately gets his way. If it's more than 50% then the odds are in his favor that if he continues long enough, he will get what he wants. He's a smart kid and loves playing the game of who's stronger. My nephew was like that as a young boy (still a bit now too though he's 18). One day I asked him why he drove his mother crazy like that. He smiled and said, because I know that eventually she will give up and I will win. I told her that but she didn't know how to say no and walk away. She wanted to be liked by her kids and that can't always happen. I love Demon Child's spirit and imagination so I hope this doesn't sound like a lecture but a demon child will continue to be a demon child until he learns it doesn't gain him anything. Please don't smack me.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Suzanne:
I've been trying to really assess this situation (believe me, I hear your wisdom). What I am finding is I am choosing to pick the battles--outright hitting, rudeness, and so on, he gets sent right to his room. Spirited adventure . . . it is what it is. So it's coming down to . . . if he makes a mess because someone left milk out or he decides to fingerpaint with butter . . . I am taking it in stride. If it's . . . I have said you cannot hit anyone and he hits, or I have said specifically not to touch something because it could be dangerous and he does, there's no leeway. As I refer to it with my older kids, "It's not on the table." Meaning with them, there are some things they want that I initially say no to . . . but if they can give me solid, valid reasons to allow it, my mind COULD be changed--I'm not rigid for the sake of being rigid. But there are SOME things that will never go on the negotiating table. Drugs, for example. Or any of a list of things I don't care to be flexible on for reasons that are important to me or their safety or whatever.

Bottom line, I am re-learning how to parent with him. He needs a much firmer hand than my other kids, but also more patience and unconditional love. And . . . I am realizing that he, at least right now, cannot ever be left alone with a video or with toys. He's a 24/7 kid who needs his energy challenged safely.

So there we are. :-)

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Erica, I definitely hear you on the 'choose your battles'. It used to be my manta. Otherwise with a bright, active child, it becomes one endless battle. Demon Baby will probably push as far as he can all his life - it's a part of what makes him unique. I think kids very quickly see where the line is and know if you're flexible on an issue or not. Dario definitely knows when to continue a discussion or to back off. If he doesn't, he soon realizes he has made a bad judgement call. It's all preparation for 'real' life later when you work for someone else. Ugh!!