And I find myself more inspired to write when I am excited and have something positive to say, which makes me feel bad for contributing to that cycle.
Here's the thing though. "Positive" in this context is not all that pretty. It's just that the bad stuff is so bad that I don't want to admit it or document it. Note that I haven't written here all month. And this is the blog where I use psuedonyms, and only about four people, none of whom know me, have ever read what I say. And I STILL don't want to write about how stuff is going.
It's not that the kids are doing badly. Considering their lives to date, they are amazing. It's my own behavior that shames me. After four months of almost weekly therapy, it's finally starting to sink in that the goal is not to change the kids' behavior so parenting them will be easier. The goal is to change my behavior, so that when parenting them is hard, I don't do stuff that:
a) adds to their trauma
b) makes me hate myself
Just to clarify, I don't beat them or swear at them (out loud/in their presence) or waterboard them. As a teacher, I'm a mandatory reporter for child abuse, and I make damn sure I don't have to call CHS on myself. But
So here's my positive story:
This morning I woke up early so I could get all the breakfast/lunch making done before I had to get the kids up, since I figured they might need a little more support than usual, what with it being the day after their first Halloween. (Which was freakin' fantastic, but I'll save THAT cuteness for the family/friends blog.)
When I went in to wake them at 7:03, I discovered that Oak had wet his bed because he had firmly rejected my request that he pee before going to sleep last night, and then the Winemaker had turned out the hall light in an effort to save energy, forgetting that Oak is so afraid of the dark that he'd rather pee the bed than get up in the dark. So that threw me off a little, as I started stripping the bedsheets. But I remained calm and cheerful, and Linden was getting up a little quicker than usual, so I thought we were under control. Then Oak couldn't find his belt. This would be because he spent yesterday afternoon in the principal's office after taking off his belt and waving it around like a whip, so the belt got carried home instead of worn home, and none of us could remember where we'd put it. He sat on his bare bed in his underpants calling out suggestions, while I hunted around downstairs. In the meantime, Linden apparantly sat on the heating vent in her room and waited for me to come tell her what to do next, which sort of removed all the benefits of her getting out of bed so easily.
Oak finally decided to work on getting the elastic band inside his pants pulled up to its tightest level (little boys' pants have this system with elastic and buttons that is incredibly clever, especially when you have a little boy with a waist as big as your forearm), and Linden pulled on a t-shirt and short skirt that will leave her freezing and wet all day long, possibly as a way of informing me that she NEEDS me to tell her what to do in the morning. We got to the table and started eating. They wanted to know how many bites they should take. This is a new bit of nonsense, started yesterday when they were both "not hungry" at breakfast, so I told them they had to take three bites. Once they started eating, they both decided to finish it. But now apparantly I'm going to need to assign them their bites each morning to get them to start. Oak finished at 7:29, and I sent him up to brush his teeth.
Some backstory here. Two weekends ago, Oak got a haircut, and the stylist spiked up his bangs at the end. He LOVED it, and asked if he could wear it like that every day. Knowing that transitions out of the house are always hard for him, I said that every day he could be ready to go--dressed, packed, breakfast eaten, place cleared, and teeth brushed--by 7:30, we'd spike his hair.
You see where this is going? And you remember this is my version of a positive story?
At 7:32, Oak asked me to spike his hair. And I refused. Linden was taking her dish out to the kitchen, and I was trying to get her into at least some warm socks, and the Winemaker was just sitting down to eat, and by God it was after 7:30, and I was not going back on my word.
Tears. Wailing. Begging. Shouting. But mostly tears and begging, which was smart of him, because I am pretty tenderhearted. But I held firm. And I did two things, or rather, I didn't do two things. I didn't give in. And I didn't freak out.
I made it clear that if he missed the bus, we'd walk to school. (This from an earlier policy decision that screwing around all morning would not be a way to get a ride to school.) He was beyond caring about that. The Winemaker took Linden to the bus stop. I washed up dishes and told Oak I couldn't listen to him when he whined. He actually took a deep breath and said in a normal voice, "Please Mama, can you to do to my hair?" (sic) I was proud of him, but I still held firm.
"Sweetie, tomorrow morning I know you'll be ready by 7:30, and I'll do your hair then."
"Mama! All the kids smile at my hair!"
"Honey, nobody is going to laugh at your hair. It looks just like it did the first seven weeks of school."
"Mama, please!" in a whiney wail.
"I can't listen to you when you talk like that."
Etc. Lots of etc. At 7:55 I was getting worried. I really didn't want him to learn that if he stages a fit in the morning, he can miss some school. But I also didn't want to mess with my wonderful "non freaking out" vibe by stuffing him in his shoes and literally dragging him down the street. I've DONE THAT and it results in that self-hatred thing.
At 7:57 he said, "Mama, could I have a little piece of my candy?"
And with all apologies to his teacher, I said, "If you go get your shoes on right now, I will put a piece of your candy in my pocket, and you can eat it when we get to the parking lot at school."
We walked the 1.1 mile to school. It was raining, what we in the northwest call a drizzle. That means that when he rejected both raincoat and umbrella, I didn't overrule it, and although his hair got wet, he didn't get soaked through his coat. We noticed which trees sheltered us from the rain, and which dumped down extra big drops, as if they were rain magnifiers. We stopped and looked at some blackberry bushes growing up a grapevine, and noticed one tree that was completely, 100% bare of leaves already. He pushed the button for the walk signal at the intersection. We chuckled at the ducks bobbing and dipping in the marshy waters behind a housing development. When we reached the edge of the school property, he had his bite-sized piece of candy. When we entered the building, kids were still straggling down the hall, so we didn't check in tardy, but went straight to class. Two classmates greeted him with smiles in the library, and I thought--maybe he's not The Weird Kid to them, at least not yet. I let the teacher know about his morning and his fears, and he gave her the bookmark he'd made her yesterday as an apology for the belt-whipping incident. He confessed that he'd snuck a second piece of candy into his pocket, and his teacher, overhearing but playing it cool, announced to the class, "If you brought candy for a snack today, you can just leave it in your backpack, because I am not letting you eat it in school." Then, like a good teacher of non-native English teachers, she clarified, "No candy in my class." I assured him that I would put it right back in his trick-or-treat bag, and praised him for telling me the truth about it. I gave him a kiss and his (wonderful, wonderful) teacher a smile, and headed back into the wet.
Full of energy. Full of cheer. Knowing that even though the morning didn't go smoothly, not at all, I had handled it without losing my sh*t. I didn't add to his trauma. I don't have to spend the rest of the day hating myself. His behavior? Well, it will go up and down, although I suspect he'll be ready by 7:30 every single day until the thrill of gelling his bangs wears off. But my behavior? That I can change. And THAT is what will make me feel successful.