Thursday, November 8, 2012

This is not uplifting. It's pretty much just whining. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So, today.  Today was crappy.  I'm really glad it's over.  We put the kids down early, which normally we are not able to do.  I expected to put my young kids to bed at 8:00, maybe 8:30.  Hee hee.  During the summer we struggled to get them to bed by eleven freaking o'clock.  ELEVEN!  School and less daylight helped us make a shift, but I find that no matter what time I start the bedtime routine, they are climbing into bed between 9:05 and 9:15.  This means Linden is asleep between 9:06 and 9:16, and Oak is asleep between 9:30 and 10:00.  It may not help that I am an Over-Optimistic Time Estimator (say that in your head like it's a super hero's name being announced), so each night when I decide how many books we're going to read together, I give them too high of a number.  And once the books are chosen, man, there's no going back.  The order of reading has already been set, and it's a complicated algorithm of which stories are more peaceful and should go last, splitting up the multiple Olivia books, wrangling over who's books are ALWAYS first, so now it's YOUR turn to go first...

But I digress.  Tonight Linden was asleep by 8:30 (well, the shrieking may have woken her, but she was in her bed with her eyes closed), and even Oak, who was the shrieker, and is always the master staller, was finally horizontal at 9:00.  This tells me that they were as ready for today to be over as we were.  And/or that exhaustion was playing into their behavior.

It started a half hour after they left the house with a phone call from school.  The phone call itself started, "Now, she's okay, but..."  This is not a good start.  Nobody is going to say, "Now, she's okay, but we've decided to give her an attendance award," or even "Now, she's okay, but someone stole her coat."  That "she's okay" means the opposite--it means she's NOT okay, but she's still alive.  The "but" was that she had a contusion on the side of her face, a blue bruise, swelling before their very eyes, and while they were not comfortable telling me to come get her and take her to the doctor, that's the subtext they were hoping I was getting. 

Oh, and the injury?  Came when her brother slammed her into the gym floor.  That's what they said, not "tripped" or "pushed" but "slammed." 

The injury was obvious from across the room.  In the midst of all of it, I treasured the way Linden leaned into me and took comfort from me. The assistant principal was politely horrified by the whole thing.   She said they would follow my lead in how to respond to the incident.  I asked if he would normally be suspended, and she said yes, but...with it being his sister...she knows how siblings fight...and she wasn't sure it would be good for me to have him home if Linden needed my attention. 

I was afraid that if I saw him, I would hurt him, and I don't mean with my words.  So I agreed that my priority was to take Linden to a doctor, and I'd deal with Oak when he got home.  For the four day weekend.  Lots of time for...thinking things over.

I called our doctor, and got an appointment two hours out.  I needed to drop the Winemaker's paycheck off at the bank so we can pay our house taxes, so we swung by the drive-through ATM on our way home.  I rolled down the window, and my phone rang--the Winemaker checking in.  I rolled up the window, because it was cold, and updated him.  Linden wanted to talk to Papa, so I handed her my phone and rolled the window down again to make the deposit.  The ATM spit the check back out and told me to talk to my financial institution.  I sighed and went to pull forward so I could go park. 

The car wouldn't start.

All that window-rolling had drained the battery.  Yes, our car borders on being a piece of crap, but it's also a Honda, so it has it's awesome side as well, like getting 34 MPG and being reliable.  Or not.  Whatever.  We're not getting a new car, okay?  It was lowered when we bought it and we had it raised.  We're committed to this car.  

I put it in neutral and let it roll forward.  This let another person pull in behind me, but I didn't have enough oomph to actually get out of her way and let her leave.   Two more cars pulled up behind her.  I was trying to explain to Linden what was going on, trying to ask the Winemaker for advice, trying to decide if it was worth putting things in the trunk before going into the bank to ask for help.  The lady in the car behind us, who was 55 if she was a day, said something about needing to push it further forward.  Then suddenly she was leaning on the back of my car.  "Take the hand brake off!" she hollered at me, so I did, and she rolled me far enough that her car could now get by.  Teach ME to judge the AARP crowd. 

Moving right along...I went into the bank and two guys came out to help me move it to a better location.  But then it started, so we all cheered, (one guy actually said, "What?!" like the young folk do), and I went back in and deposited the damn check.  When I let the Winemaker know, he said he'd already gotten the day off, so he would still come home and see how Linden was.  According to the doctor, she was fine.  Well, yeah, swollen and bruised, but not concussed or otherwise brain damaged.  I bought her a princess ice pack, and a princess purse for good measure, then I took her to See's Chocolates, because we were having a bad day, dammit, and Mama needed some chocolate. 

So that was the morning.  Things were going okay.  We came up with a plan, which is essentially that Oak does all his own chores and all of Linden's for the next three days.  When he gets home from school and sees her face, he apologizes, and when we tell him the plan, he quietly agrees.  He offers to give her some of his Halloween candy, and we say that will not be necessary.  He does a VERY typical, "But what do I get?" when he sees her new purse, but quickly swallows it.  The Winemaker takes him on an errand, and I sit down to put together a plan for the evening, focusing on the restorative justice of chores.

At first it seems to be going okay.  We watch several pieces of a video our therapist gave us, "Model Me Kids," which offers scenarios of normal social interaction.  We learn that you should turn your body towards someone when you apologize to them, and that we shouldn't push or hit on the playground.  I sit with Oak and write up an "incident report," asking him about the before, during, and after, then talking both about what his other options were when he got mad at her, and how he'd respond if someone else did that to her, as well as how other parents would feel if he did that to their kid.  We do a little roleplaying of responding to your sibling when they annoy you.  The Winemaker had them draw some picture cooperatively.  I started making dinner.

Linden had a melt-down.  I don't really blame her--even with the stress of the car fake-dying, her day was worse than mine, because she was in pain all day long.  But it was loud, and long, and annoying.  She was still whimpering a little when we sat down to eat.  Food seemed to cure her woes.  When dinner conversation got a little cranky, The Winemaker had us go around the table saying things we appreciated about someone.  First we went to the left.  Then to the right.  Then across the table, which forced them to say nice things about each other.  Oak said he likes playing tag and hide-and-seek with his sister.  Linden wanted to say the same thing, but eventually came up with the fact that her brother usually shares with her.  Things felt good there for a few minutes.

Oak, who'd been a bit amped up throughout certain parts of our before dinner activities, started veering out of control.  When he threw a wet washrag at me, the Winemaker took him out for a walk.  I did the dishes we were supposed to have done together, so when he came back, I assigned him a new job. 

Blah blah blah.  He kept being a jerk, I took him on another walk, he seemed to calm down and be rational, we tried again.  Here's where it ended:  after the traditional five minute's agonizing, he'd chosen the piece of Halloween candy he wanted for dessert--in this case a small bag of mini gobstoppers.  I was showing him how to clean the spots off the kitchen floor.  He said, "You want to see, Mama?" grabbed the rag out of my hand, turned himself bottom into my face and...let er rip.  And in case you're wondering, it was not unfortunate timing.  Trust me on this. 

I sighed and said, "10 pushups," then as he started, said, "You know what?  Never mind."  He'd been given pushups in increments of five and ten all evening, and these would put him at maybe 50 or 60, or possibly 6,000.  CLEARLY pushups were not improving anything.  "Let's just go to bed," I said, taking the bag of candy and putting it up.

And that's when he went beserk. 

You would have thought I'd taken his puppy to the pound.  Seriously.  Tears.  Copious.  Sobbing.  Wailing.  I know he has some food issues, but I did not see this one coming.  He pulled out all the stops to get me to either give him his candy back or freak out and lose my temper.  He got closer to B than to A, but I did okay.  Better than I would have a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago. 

I think we need to do a few days with no dessert, because sugar should not trigger that much rage and grief. 

I also think I'm a horrible human being who should have just let the poor kid eat his stupid candy.  No, I really don't, because one of my struggles is with consistency, and once I said, "Not tonight, but it's still yours and you can have it tomorrow," I absolutely should not have backed down.  But maybe the no dessert idea is more about punishing than teaching.  I'll have to discuss with the Winemaker. 

In retrospect, although it was so, so very crappy, I think he went from rage and misery to bargaining (Can I have some Goldfish?  Can I sleep in your bed?) to typical avoiding bedtime behaviors (I'm thirsty!) to settling down to sleep in about 40 minutes.  And that's about how long it usually takes us to get him to bed anyway.  Of course, today we skipped stories and brushing teeth (oops).  But considering how freaking worked up he was, it sure could have been worse. 

A little lost comment, wandering alone and friendless

So, I read this great blog post on this great blog, and wrote a really over-long comment, and it won't let me post.

This happened to me last week, on the same blog.  I don't know if Rage Against the Minivan hates me, or if comments are supposed to be, you know, short (but there were other long ones on there, I swear!) or if this is just one of the little jokes my laptop likes to play.  Last year, when I was doing Weight Watchers, it wouldn't load their website.  It was freaky.  So I'm going with the "My laptop doesn't actually hate me, but it has kind of a mean sense of humor" theory. 

Here's my "comment."  Check her blog for the amazing post that unleashed my flood.

I was raised Episcopalean (but I think I just spelled it wrong), and didn't realize until my 30s that anyone would find "liberal Christian" some sort of oxymoron.  Sure, I knew there were more conservative denominations--"Footloose" indicated that Baptists were against dancing--but I thought those were just fringe extremists.  Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians (e.g. most of my church-going school friends) all seemed to support the same values my family had.  It was somewhat of a shock over the past 15 years to realize that WE are the outliers. 

I no longer attend church (which makes my comments irrelevant to some of you, I fear), but I feel strongly that the values I have--kindness, charity, sacrifice, love--are deeply rooted in the faith I was raised in.  "Love thy Lord God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy might.  This is the first, and greatest commandment, and the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law, and the prophets."  You follow the first commandment by following the second.  And that whole Good Samaritan parable?  It's not about naming hospitals.  It's about how your neighbor is EVERYONE, even the people you don't actually like.  Even the groups you disapprove of.  That's why being anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-people on welfare seems distinctly anti-Jesus to me.

That being said, the administrations of Reagan, Bush, and the other Bush did not ruin my life.  Some of the best times of my life occurred while they were in office.  I hope those who passionately oppose Obama have the same experience.

Because while politics are important, other things (family, work, learning, chocolate and red wine all come to mind) are far more important.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We had a crappy morning. But I did awesome. You may applaud.

There's that thing floating around about how we all feel like crap because we're comparing our lives to other people's higlight reels.

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 you I can be awfully mean and scary without legally crossing that line. 

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.