Today, January second, marks the second day in a row I did not lose my shit.
This is due to a few deliberate changes. I mention this only because some days are just good days, but I can no longer just hope for those. Other times, I do the right thing through tremendous will power, and I don't want to count on that, since it's not always there when I need it, obviously.
I am deliberately not rough-housing with my kids. I think it revs up something feral in me.
I am deliberately asking my husband to step in when I feel my stress level mounting, instead of waiting until I explode before I ask for help.
I am deliberately watching the signals they send.
I am using deliberate words of love and joy. I didn't see Oak for several hours today (emergency visit to the therapist followed by almost as needed cup of tea with my sister, who'd babysat Linden for us), and when I came in the house, I made a point of sitting with him and listening to him and telling him how glad I was to see him again.
One thing our therapist said, which I've read before, is to praise them from your specific point of view, not generally. The idea is that kids from hard places firmly believe that they are worthless pieces of crap, so if you say, 'You are so wonderful and special!' they conclude either that they've managed to fool you, so you're not very smart, or you are deliberately lying, and not to be trusted. But if you say, "You are so special to me," or "I really liked the way you did XYZ," there's nothing for them to disagree with. This evening, I was reading with Linden, and we we paused, I said, "You are so special to me."
"Actually," she said (a new word she is using as much as possible these days), "I'm not special."
I love it when my therapist is proved right. Makes me feel like she's worth the time and money. I also love how transparent Linden is with her thinking. Oak never in a million years would have said that, but he might have suddenly started shouting goofy noises, or throwing thing, or something, to make the same point.
"You are special to ME," I said firmly.
"But not to me," she replied, a little sadly.
She remained cuddled in my arms throughout this exchange. I smoothed her hair away from her face and kissed her cheek. "I am really happy to have you with me," I said.
"Me too," she agreed.
Another thing our therapist said. The Winemaker was asking her if he had done wrong by telling Oak recently, "I have no idea what to do about this." ("This" being four hours of crappy behavior, defiance, and tantruming.)
"Oh, I used to say that kind of thing all the time," she reassured him, which is a very polite way of saying, "No, you're not supposed to do that." She went on to suggest that instead we say something like, "I am really struggling right now, and I know you are too, but we are going to get through this."
That's how I feel today. We are struggling right now. But we are going to get through this.