Friday, October 31, 2014
You can tell how swamped I am by how long I'm absent from the blog. It's not from lack of things to write about or lack of desire to get here -- I've got plenty of both -- it's just... no chance to. Taking care of the littles requires most of my time and energy and recent photo gigs (the editing and album and slideshow and dvd making and envelope printing and whatnot) have occupied the little I have left over which is normally dedicated to writing and sorting through my personal photographs. So here we are.
I've got lots simmering in the little old brain but let's begin with a few notes on things that have been helping lately.
I've just finished reading two books by Janet Lansbury and I totally recommend them both. Her respectful parenting philosophies resonate so strongly with me, partially because I've seen the effects of disrespectful discipline first hand (and second hand). Some of what Janet talks about I find that I already do naturally and easily; other points have really made me think and changed specifically the way I do things.
Let me offer a few recent examples of how truly respectful parenting is helping things sail more smoothly around here lately.
Let's start with me, because that's always a good place to start when looking for solutions, right? So: I'm a fun loving lady, and I like to see my kids doing what makes them happy, and I don't like to yell or be a naysayer... which has led me to be a bit of a permissive parent in some areas. Not in the sense of: sure, have cookies for breakfast! run into the street! punch each other in the face! But more like: what do you guys want to do next? sure, jump on the couches! don't want to get dressed yet? fine! another project? ok!
There are a couple of ways that boundaries and limits come into play here. The first is this: I, like everyone, have my limits. Although I might have more patience with my kiddos than many do, my patience does run out. I'm realizing the importance of recognizing my triggers -- like hour three of the complete Star Wars saga score (nothing against John Williams... that is some awesome music, we rocked some of it in band way back when and I respect the boys' appreciation for it, but it gets intense and things get hectic around here) -- and the need to set a limit before we get near those triggers. Like: we are turning this music off and moving on to a table activity before I am pulled over to the dark side. Key there: before. Before I'm too harried to calmly handle the likely aftermath of putting the soundtrack and adventure of the day on pause.
I'm learning that although not matters of life and death, these grey-area limits are just as important to hold firm for the kids' sanity as well as mine. Sometimes it's almost funny how blatantly the littles can beg for a boundary. The other night I was cooking dinner and Owen was hanging around at my feet, tired and hungry. He started messing in one of the cupboards, opening the door and looking like he wanted to climb. My response to his choice of activity was at first very vague, something like: O, I don't really want you-- well if you're going to hide in there do not step on the white rack... And of course, he immediately goes to step on the white rack. Not because he was being bad or even defiant but because I was sending mixed signals and what he needed was a clear message. And fortunately I was aware enough to realize that was what was going on. Rather than getting annoyed --Owen, I just told you not to step on the white rack!-- I put down what I was doing and bent down to him. I see you're trying to step on the white rack; I won't let you do that. I'll help you out of there and we are going to close up the cupboard. You may draw at the table until dinner if you like. In this case, there wasn't even a murmur of a complaint. I chuckled aloud at how clearly he asked for a limit and breathed a sigh of relief when I held one firm for him. Had he been a little more tired or hungry or feeling some bigger feelings, things might have gone down a little less pleasantly, but that would have been okay too.
We've had some whiny times with Bob in recent months that were seriously baffling me. Lots of moping, complaining, being generally disagreeable for every reason or no reason. It's occurred to me as I've taken a close look at my methods that I had found ways of tiptoeing around some of his issues -- giving in on things or just automatically doing them his way, because I was thinking that they didn't really matter or to encourage his autonomy, like the whole thing about getting changed out of pajamas for example. The problem with this approach is that avoiding the big explosion, which seems like the plus side, is really the minus side because it allows all those feelings behind the minutia to sit and simmer inside, rather than being let out where they belong. So while I might feel like I'm helping our day go easier by giving in when Bob refuses to get dressed or only wants plain cereal for breakfast, it may be that he just needs me to hold firm and insist, and lovingly help get him to the task if necessary, and hug him while he wails and maybe just say, You REALLY want to keep your pajamas on. You wish you would wear them ALL THE TIME. And then, after he's had a good cry and gotten all those icky feelings out, he'll proceed with getting dressed, and we can move on with our day free from all the simmering sadness.
Halloween I've found brings up lots of feelings -- being able to choose whatever you want to be but having to decide on just one thing? big stuff! -- and it's important to let those feelings be ok, and let them flow. We had a little breakdown at Grandma's over the weekend when Bob saw some costumes in a sale flyer and wanted to buy one. That we wouldn't be buying one was a tough blow and while I could have snapped, You already picked a different costume. That's how it goes, now get over it and quit crying! You're being selfish! that wouldn't have helped one bit. It would have shamed him, told him, You're bad for feeling this way, for wishing you could change your mind. No, he needed me to take him to a quiet place where we could be alone, and let him cry, and tell him, I know, it's really hard to choose just one thing to dress up as for Halloween! I wish I had a magic wand and I could just POOF you into any character you wanted to be. I have some sad feelings about Halloween sometimes, too. It was a beautiful little heart to heart we shared in the back room. We both shed some tears, we hugged, I dried his eyes. We connected. In those difficult, emotional, sometimes-wish-we-could-skip-over-them times -- those are when real connections are formed.
Food for thought, eh? I'll be back with more, promise.
And... because a return post isn't a return post without a buttload of photos, here you go. (From Tuesday, a much lovelier day than the past two have been.)