Week 9 | Try Something New


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It could be anything. A new road to travel. Sign up for a new e-course. Read something you’ve never read before. Eat a new food or go to a new restaurant. Spice things up. See what happens.  

--Shawn @ AA/P52


 I understand that the spirit of this prompt is to try to inspire us to do something different, maybe with respect to how we go about our routine.  To mix it up, and to see that things will be okay without the comfort of the ordinary.


I started a few days earlier than this prompt, with getting BANGS!  That is new for me!!  Haven't had 'em since Junior High, I'm pretty sure.   This change feels good, and dare I say, somewhat fashionable!


I made peanut butter cookies with the girls on Monday morning, since I didn't work until noon.  I try hard to limit how much sugar and junk they eat, so I usually would have tried not to do something to add more sugar to their day; but in the spirit of "Trying Something New", I thought, why not view it as making a MEMORY with them (rather than focusing on making COOKIES with them)?


But tonight.  In the grip of Maycee's most intense emotional outrage to date, and with some guidance from a book I've been reading lately, I tried something waaaay new.


The book is called Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham.  I am about 3/5ths through it, and have a bit of a torn relationship with it.  Dr. Markham is big on the idea that  when kids misbehave (tantrums, defiance, not listening, attention seeking, etc), it is a sign they are feeling disconnect and that it is when they need connection, love and understanding the most.


To write it, to read it, it is a understandable philosophy.


But then I started applying it to past scenarios in my head…and a whirlwind of feelings started to come over me.  


  • Don't kids naturally go through these phases whether we as parents give them appropriate attention or not?  
  • Is she insinuating that each tantrum is more a reflection of my parenting than their phase of development? 
  • If I show my child love, when they are throwing a tantrum, likely over something that they can't have or got taken away, then will they relate their poor decisions with the end result of me showing them love and affection??  Wont this just perpetuate their behavior?


I also reflected on how I react in these intense moments.  Well, some tantrums we as parents can see right through and we can find comedy in how they are handling life in that moment.  Other outbursts are the final result of intesne interaction that involved a lot of energy and thought and restraint (or lack thereof) on everyone's part…and we all break down a little…we all need a break. 


I will admit, that usually when my kids work themselves up to that tantrum phase, my instinct is to give them space.  To give them time to calm down.  And admittedly, to give myself space and time.


So the thought of actually staying in their presence, show them love and tenderness in a time when their behavior hadn't necessarily "deserved" it, was not just a foreign thought to me, but…to be honest, a little bit insulting.


Time went by and I started wondering if their tantrums in general meant that I/we wasn't/weren't connecting enough with them.  


And I got in a bit of a funk about it.  Actually had to take a break from the book for a bit.


But.


I found myself being more interested in what was starting their outbursts in the first place.  And I was finding that when I really paid attention, the spark of their frustration was usually different, smaller, than what their reaction to the spark was portraying as the issue.  


So tonight.  Wow.  Tonight.  Maycee lost it.  In a big way.  Bigger than I have ever seen.  I was mostly in control with my reaction to her, but have to admit, there was a point where I got scared.  I had seen her upset, lost in anger, but never like this. 


May had finished her dinner.  Hadley had 2 bites of her banana left.  I have learned, with Hadley, that she does best when she is told she needs to take those two bites, but then is LEFT ALONE.  She, on her own terms, will finish it.  She will cry and get frustrated when we keep telling her to finish her dinner.  

Maycee was trying to help her finish, encouraging her.  Hadley wasn't responding well.  I asked May to stop.  She tried to help her again.  I asked her to please stop, and to let her finish on her own.  The third attempt led me to ask May to go sit on the couch.  She was done with dinner anyway, and I thought it would be good for Boo to have to sit alone a little, understanding that we were waiting for her to finish.  

She gave me attitude, as she has been doing more of lately.  She started to argue with me, "Butt, Mommmm" me, and I called her over to the kitchen.  I firmly explained myself again, and why I was having her go to the couch.  And she got stiff.  Her lips pursed.  Arms straight down to her side, tensing up.  She went to the couch and started to read a book but was more intent on watching me with stern eyes. 

Hadley finished her banana.

I had orignially told Maycee that we could play hide and seek after dinner.  But I felt her tension.  And I'm not sure now, I made the right decision, but I felt at the time it was important to make sure we were all calmed down, and thought we could do baths before hide and seek.

She didn't like that idea.  Stomped up the stairs, "Mom, you are making me so mad".  "I am so frustrated at you". I stayed calm.  I tried to explain again what my thoughts were, but she was already gone, to that place.  That place that, once you give into it, can clamp it's jaws on you and turn into a beast of its own.  

Her anger was palpable.  Her confusion was loud but her words were few.  Grunts of frustration.  Fists clenched.  She started hitting herself.   I asked her calmly to stop, my own fear for what I was seeing was starting to kick in.  Hysterics set in.  Crying.  Hyperventillating.  

I tried to talk her through it.  I realized that talking or explaining the near past was only triggering her more.  


I.  Sob.  Just.  Sob.  Can't.  Sob.  Seem.  Sob.  To.  Sob.  Keep.  Sob.  It.  Sob.  Together.  Sob.  Mom.


Enter: Dr. Markham's words.  These are big scary emotions for her.  She is scared.  She doesn't know how to get through this.  She needs help.


And, so, I tried something new.


I reached into the tub and I gave her a hug.  Her hair quickly drenched my shirt, and she, tense and trying to catch her breath,  leaned into my hug, grabbed onto my arm and she instantly relaxed enough to let me hold her.  As if she was just waiting for a reason not to fight anymore.  Her breathing started to calm down. I did what any other mom would have done, having allowed myself to feel her fear.  I told her it was okay.  That I was there.  That she would get through this.  Shhhhh.   Shhhhh.


When she was able to talk about it, I learned more.  I learned that she didn' t like that I sent her off to be alone when all she was trying to do was help her sister.  (My adult mommy view led me to believe that she wasn't listening to me and needed to be separated from her sister).  She didn't like that I got stern with her.   Which is a tough subject for me. I am trying to learn ways to get important points across (like: you need to listen better to me the first time) without getting stern, without getting the ugly face, without yelling (I have done better on the latter!!).  I have not yet found that balance.  And to be honest, if I'm missing an important point while in the energy of being stern, then I get why I could be perpetuating Maycee's sense of disconnect with me.  Perhaps this increasing "attitude" I am feeling from her is a reflection of my disconnect with her needs.  Perhaps it's not how stern I get or whether or not I yell, but that my reaction to her behavior is too quick, is without fully reflecting on the moments prior to help her rather than heighten her.


Maybe if I had been more conscious of her trying to help Hadley.  Paid more attention to her desire to nurture.  To appreciate her natural inclination to help avoid any potential frustration related to Hadley not finishing her banana.  Maybe I would have reacted more warmly.  Maybe I could have complimented her on her help before nicely asking her to read a book on the couch while Hadley finished her dinner.   I could have asked her to help me leave Hadley alone to finish her banana, it could have been our secret trick.  Maybe a game of hide-and-seek would have been more appropriate than baths….would have allowed for playful interaction with them, would have helped Maycee get out of her funk.  


In the grip of her wet hug, she told me she loved me.  She asked me if I would hold her once she was out of the tub.   I did.  She wanted a movie rather than Hide and Seek; I agreed that she needed something to calm her down, to give her brain a break.   She was asleep, on my shoulder, before Peter Pan made it to Wendy's window.  


So.  I will keep reading Dr. Markham's book.  I will continue to try to find that balance between disciplining and coaching, between my perspective and their perspective, between reacting and reflecting.  And in those moments when things seem to be heading toward a volcanic erruption, maybe, just maybe, rather than sitting and waiting to see the lava, I could try to do that new thing.  Where I soften and let myself imagine that maybe what they need most is my love, affection and understanding.  


 © Houseman 2013