Lost Child, Lost Mom

IMG_4054Let me tell you this story of what happened the other day.  While we were out, my son disappeared from my sight for about 10 minutes.  I tell you, not because it’s entertaining, or to share my experience as a warning that “something like this could happen to you someday, but because when this happened, I didn’t react the way I thought I would.  It seems like my AP skills went out the window, and I’m trying to rationalize that.  For a few moments, my child was lost, and I lost myself as a parent.

One second he was there, and literally the second after I stooped to pick up my bag he wasn’t.  We were in the locker room of our health club, just after a swim, getting ready to leave & go to lunch.  Did he run ahead to wait for us? Sometimes he runs to wait by the basketball courts, but when I got there, he wasn’t.

Did he go into the men’s locker room?  Sometimes he thinks it’s funny to run in there because he knows I can’t follow.  My daughter was with us, and while I don’t think she should go in the men’s locker room anymore, she is under age 6 and technically allowed in.  So she went through the men’s locker room, looking for him, calling his name, checking the showers.  No brother.

She and I walked around downstairs, checking places he might have gone to watch exercisers or wait for us. With still no luck, we went upstairs through the restaurant, thinking that maybe he assumed we were going up there for lunch after swimming. Nope.
Continue reading “Lost Child, Lost Mom”

Time for Friends

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Last night I got a glimpse of my parenting future.

Elia was out with friends riding bikes around the neighborhood.  We had worked out a plan as to where she could go, and what time to be home, but it was nevertheless HARD to send her out there with only her friends for guidance.  Fast forward about 10 years and substitute the bikes with cars, the neighborhood with the whole city, the playgrounds with cool hangout spots, and the elementary school friends with high school friends.

Right now, this custom of hanging out with friends is new to both her and I, and I’m not sure I’m feeling entirely welcoming.  OK, I know I’m not.  I am just not in love with the new position of importance friends have taken in her life.   I don’t love that when she sees friends riding their bikes outside or playing at the playground across the street, there is suddenly someone more important than me.  When she hears voices outside, she will fervently jump up from the couch, out of the crook of my arm, abandoning our book in mid-sentence, the words spilling out of her mouth, “Can I go play with my friends?”

Oh.

As her life begins to shift from “mom-is-my-everything” to…well, “mom-is-not-my-everything”, she has new preferences and new interests.  I am seeing her friends’ mannerisms, quirks, voices, and word choices in her.  Their influence is visible, which is quite a shift from up until now, only seeing my own influence in her.

As she is still young, this is just the beginning of The Age of Friends but I’m well aware that over the years, friends will take more precedence in both my children’s lives.  And the changes are permanent!  We’ll never go back to the days when Elia’s needs were so simple (easy? not at all…but simple, yes).  Our days are no longer about cuddling, reading, sleeping, eating & exploring the wonders of life together.  Our relationship will never go back to me being her everything anymore.

Gordon Neufeld’s book, Hold On To Your Kids has new meaning for me now.  I read the book and loved it when my kids were infants; it is one of 4 books that I consider to be “cornerstones” for positive parenting.   Now, as Elia gets older, it becomes more difficult to Hold On, and this has honestly taken me by surprise!  When she was little, I felt so securely attached, so genuinely connected to her. I couldn’t imagine one of us without the other.  Now that she has friends in her life, the Hold I have is weakening.  I see a future in which Elia and I don’t snuggle every chance we get, and she doesn’t want me to read to her anymore.  One in which she prefers to go places and do things by herself, and she doesn’t need me to hold her hand.  One in which she has more in common with her friends than she does with me, and prefers their company to mine.

Now is when AP becomes more of an effort for me.  The infant techniques were very instinctual, whereas now that friends are entering the picture, I have to find new ways to Hold On.  We’ve had family meetings to discuss concerns about spending time with friends and to work out a plan to set some guidelines on friend-time, family-time, and alone-time.  I’m polishing my “How to Talk” skills as daily conversations become an important means to maintaining connection.  I seek out opportunities to put my arms around her, my hands on her skin, my fingers in her hair.  And, probably most importantly, I listen.  I listen without judgment using words such as “Hmm”, “Oh yeah?”, “Wow”, “Interesting”, “You did?”, “Uh-huh”, “Ah-ha”, and “That sounds ___.”

And I have to trust that that’s enough to Hold On!  I’m not entirely comfortable with this current shift in dynamics and the impending presence of friends in my daughter’s life, but I think our family’s relationships and our new roles in them will reestablish themselves soon.  In the meantime, I have a renewed appreciation for these last moments of my kids’ early years.  I am going to cuddle them as often as I can and hold them tight, for although experienced parents have warned me, I am now, more than ever, realizing that this opportunity certainly doesn’t last.

Kelly is an API Leader and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor in Portland, Oregon.  She blogs at Parenting From Scratch.

An Episode in Positive Discipline

The other night, my husband and I were talking in the kitchen, and Elia (5) & JJ (3) were in the living room when we heard Elia shriek, scream & start crying.  It is instantly followed by “SOR-RY!” from JJ.  We look over and Elia is getting up from the floor, holding her neck & crying and JJ has hidden himself between the ottoman and the couch, with his face buried on the floor. Elia said that JJ kicked her.

John comforted Elia, and I picked up JJ and carried him into the front room, intending to “deal with him” (oh, doesn’t that sound nice?). There, he flopped to the floor crying, and I said, “You hurt her!”  I had been intending to continue yelling & berating, BUT… realized that I had Flipped My Lid; my prefrontal brain (where the logic & reasoning skills are) was no longer communicating effectively with my middle brain (where emotions are regulated, as is the “fight or flight” reflex). So I walked across the foyer into the office and stood there…the computer was right in front of me so I checked Facebook.  This took all of about 20 seconds before I felt calmer and walked back into the room where JJ was still crying (and he could still see me this whole time).

I sat on the couch not knowing if I felt calm enough to say anything yet.  But when I did that, he crawled right up next to me and laid his head down on my lap.  He stopped crying & sucked his thumb, and I put my arm down on his shoulder.  IMG_3743Then I was sure we both were calm, and our conversation went like this (I was trying to “Listen for Understanding”):

Me: Why were you mad?

JJ: I don’t know.

Me: Were you mad?

JJ: No

Me: Were you frustrated?

JJ: No

Me: Were you sad?

JJ: Yes!

Me: You were feeling sad about something?

JJ: Yes because Elia was making scary faces  and I didn’t like that and I told her to stop and she didn’t!

Me: Ohhhh…..you were sad that she was ignoring you.  You didn’t like the scary faces, and when you told her to stop and she didn’t stop, that hurt you; your feelings were hurt.

JJ: Yes

Me: Oh, OK.  You know, Elia got hurt too.  When you kicked her, that hurt her neck.

JJ: Mm-hm

Me: Right now she needs help feeling better.  What could you do to help her feel better?

JJ: Give her a hug.  But I don’t want to do that.

Me: OK.  What else could you do?

JJ: I don’t know.

Me: I think you could either tell her that you’re sorry, or you could do something nice for her like color her a picture, or do something else she would like.

JJ: Yeah, I could color her a picture. Will you help me? (Just an aside here, coloring is something JJ rarely does.  He never asks for me to get the crayons out, and even when crayons are out and Elia is coloring, he wanders away and does something else. He’s just not too interested.)

So I get out the crayons and paper, and help him get situated at the counter, and he decides to draw a fairy for Elia.  He wanted to do it “right” so he kept asking how to do it…he drew a head, body, wings, and then colored it “pretty colors” like pink, yellow & orange.  It was so sweet, because he was clearly thinking of her the whole time!

He gave it to Elia, and I was nervous that she would say something about how it didn’t really look like a fairy, but she didn’t.  I asked her if that helped her feel better and she said, “Yes, a little bit.”  I thanked JJ for helping Elia feel better and he went to sit down & watch basketball with John.

Well, then Elia sat right down at the counter and used the crayons to draw and color a picture of a tank for JJ!  I think she realized that she was not so innocent in this whole situation; it was true that had JJ triggered the outburst, but she was the one who had been doing the “poking” all along.  She gave him the picture, and he was surprised and said that he felt better too!

I couldn’t have been more proud of my kids, or pleased with the effectiveness of Positive Discipline.  Throughout the ordeal, I had used 3 PD techniques: positive time-out (for myself), listening for understanding, and not forcing an apology. The whole encounter started out tense, but ended so sweetly!  We all ended up in the living room playing Blokus, and I felt very thankful for my Positive Discipline skills!

Kelly is an API Leader and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor in Portland, Oregon.  She blogs at Parenting From Scratch.

Bedtime Conversations

Elia went to a 4-year-old friend’s princess-themed birthday party yesterday.  As you can imagine, it was very exciting.  The girls were to arrive dressed up in their best princess dress, and at the party would get their hair & make up done, craft fairy wands, make jewelry and have a tea party.  Elia was dressed and ready 5 hours before the party.

It was a day of friends, activities, sugar, and plenty of stimulation.  That night, as I turned out the light after reading a chapter of The Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives, and she flopped exhausted onto her pillows, she commented to herself, “Boy, are my eyes tired.”  For her to say that meant that her eyes were REALLY tired.

Now those are tired eyes.  We always cuddle at night and take the chance to talk about anything that might be on her mind.  Last night, there were a few things on her mind…

Elia: “Mom? I really like talking to Will & Zoe because they can talk well and they are easy to understand.  Some kids are hard to understand, like Aasha, I have a hard time talking to her because she doesn’t talk very well and I can’t understand her sometimes.  Even Will is hard to understand but mostly I can.”

Me: “Yeah, as kids grow, they learn to talk better and better.”

Elia: “Yeah, I can understand Hannah and Haley really well because they’re a lot older than me, so they’ve already learned to talk.  They’re big kids, and when you’re a big kid you already know how to talk well.  Mom? If Flash and Superman were at our house, at this house, at our house that we live in now, and they raced to Sophia Park, who would win?”

Me: “I don’t know.  Who do you think would win?”

Elia: “I think Flash because Dad said that Flash could get from our old house to our new house in 4 seconds.  I had a few things that were my favorite things today.  First, I really liked playing with Hannah and Will when they came over to  play with Brownie [our guinea pig]. And I liked playing Cadoo with you. And I really liked the chocolate cake we had for Dad’s birthday.  But what I didn’t like was when I was trying to get that flower to stick to the end of the stick and it wouldn’t stay on.”

Me: “Yeah, that was frustrating, you were trying really hard and it wasn’t working out.”

Elia: “Yeah, and I also didn’t like having to go close all the doors.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s hard when you’re in the middle of doing something and you have to stop to go close all the doors.  That’s not what you wanted to do.”

Elia: “No. I wish we could just leave all the doors open so we could just walk right through them all the time and I wouldn’t have to close them later.”

Me: “The only reason we ask you to close the doors after you come in or go out is because we don’t like flies coming in here.  They’re annoying. I don’t like them buzzing around my head and around my food.”

Elia: “Maybe we could just hang fly traps in front of all the doors so they could get stuck.”

Me: “Yeah?”

Elia: “Or maybe we could just hang a sheet in front of the doors so we could go right through and air could go through, but flies couldn’t.”

Me: “Yeah, or maybe close the screen door?”

Elia: “Yeah.”

At this point her covers are thrown off, her legs are waving around up in the air, and she is tossing her blanket up & down over her face.  It’s a long way from those tired eyes of five minutes ago.  But she is sharing so much!  She is telling me about who she is, what she thinks of the world, and how she thinks of the world.  And I am trying to take this opportunity to show her that I listen.  Without judging. Without providing The Answers.  I appreciate this moment for what it is…despite the increasingly late hour, I am (hopefully) encouraging my daughter to tell me who she is and paving the way for it to continue.

But the hour is getting later and later, so eventually I have to say, “OK.  Now it is time to put your legs down, [check] roll over [check, check], get comfortable [done], and relax [eyes closed].  I’ll lay with you for one more minute, but it has to be quiet and no more talking.”

We are laying nose-to-nose.  Everything is quiet for four seconds.  Eyes pop open.  “Can I just tell you one more thing?”

Yes!  Of course!  Please always tell me just one more thing!  Keep talking to me and never stop.  I want to know who you are, and I want it to be you who tells me, not me who decides for you who you should be.  So tell me everything!  I will always listen, and I will always love you for who you are.

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