Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hyperparenting Success

I read this a few days ago and was just giddy with excitement while reading.  Why? Because we've been working our tails off on being more loving and less controlling over the last couple of years.  And we never saw a post like this ahead of time.  And I felt PROUD.  After posting it for my friends to see on Facebook, I realized that this is cause for celebration.  Jon and I have rocked it.  We still have lots more to go, but we've done great in recreating our parenting and our kids' lives.

So, I decided I'd come here and put it down on "blogger paper" what we've done.  No need to wait anymore, I'll go right along with the aspects of that article that we've succeeded on.

1. When you get angry, pick them up and hug them.
I used to yell a LOT when I was angry at Zane.  I really got tired of hearing my own voice so I started on this habit.  I still yell and am not done with this, but I'm better than ever.  Often when I am angry and I want to yell I'll whisper instead.  Or, I'll sing some ridiculous song.  Or, I'll do a dance.  Or, if I'm just THAT angry I'll walk away.  When I'm angry at Stori and I begin to lash out I see it right away and I do pick her up and hug her or hold her.  When I see it in Zane I either hug him or do something goofy with him.

Through doing this I've realized that most of the time I'm angry at them because they want something different than me and ::stomps foot:: I want it MY way, damnit!  Should I really yell at my kids because I'm not getting things my way? Um, no.  Glad to be stopping this one and so proud of the steps I've taken thus far.  I won't stop until it is my nature to hug, love, and listen rather than yell.

2. Make this your mantra: treat them with kindness; treat them with respect.
Sometimes we really like to indulge in a Hot & Ready from Little Caesars.  It's cheap and easy and yummy in that gross-yummy way.  We always get Pepperoni because we figure if it's the same price then get the one with the most flavor and extra topping.  Zane always wants cheese.  We always tell him he can pick the pepperonis off and then he'll have cheese.  He always tells us it's not the same.  He always accepts our refusal respectfully and always voices his opinion respectfully.  We always ignore his desires for ours, disrespectfully.

I don't know what it was that hit me a few weeks ago when I stopped by to get one, but in the moment I was walking in the door to buy one I saw the situation as it really is; as I explained it to you above.  What arrogant assholes we've been, really.  Because what we want is more important than what he wants?  I got a cheese and walked through our home door with it as excited as a schoolboy the day after Christmas break.  I was THRILLED to show him a cheese pizza and he was THRILLED to get it.  He feverishly thanked me and enjoyed that pizza so much.  I told him it wasn't fair what we've been doing and that I was sorry for that and that sometimes we'll get pepperoni and sometimes we'll get cheese.  He enjoyed hearing that and I enjoyed saying it.

I could fool myself all day long with excuses as to why we should get pepperoni instead of cheese, but what it comes down to when I'm getting real with myself is that it's not about a topping.  It's about control.  I want to be in control of the pizza because I'm the adult and this is my break from cooking, damnit.  Jon wants to be in control of the pizza because he worked for the money for the pizza and he wants pepperoni, damnit.  But, we don't really need to be in control of the fucking pizza, we need to be in control of ourselves because we wanted the children and we'll take them ANY day over a freakin piece of fake-ass meat.  'Scuse my cussing, but when I looked at what was really going on I got mad.  It's not okay for our childrens' opinions to be less important than ours just because we CAN control what we're doing.  For a very, very long time Jon and I told Zane "screw your opinion kid, take off that pepperoni and while you're at it lose the cheese you wanted too, cause it sticks to the meat anyway!"  And that's simply not the message I want to send to him.  Over a $5  crummy old pizza.

3. Drop your expectations of the child.
Zane has a funky sense of style.  So does Jon.  So when Zane gets dressed there will often be one-piece footy pajamas under shorts with a shirt (or sometimes not) over it.  Of course he also squeezes his feet into flip flops (remember, footy pajamas...).  He's also not a fan of haircuts and sometimes he picks wild styles (like when he shaved the left side of his head but left the right side long).  When Jon gets Stori dressed there'll usually be a tank top and capris in winter or ya' know... stripes on a shirt and pants with boots or something wild.  And he's REALLY CONVINCED it's SUPER CUTE!

It used to ruffle my feathers and I'd change Stori's clothes or I'd beg Zane to change (I never have MADE him change, as I've always believed he should have the freedom to wear what he wants and it's his hair, not mine).  I'd tell Zane how ridiculous he looks or how uncomfortable he'll be.  In general, I'd tell Zane that he made a bad choice and that he would feel terrible about it if he didn't change that choice.  That's a kicker for some good old fashioned self-esteem issues!  Now, when he wears craziness I breathe and recognize this is his outfit and his choice and if he thinks it looks great then who am I to tell him different?  I let it be.  Sometimes, if I'm in a particularly controlling mood it will get me annoyed and I'll say something but when I do I hear it coming from my mouth and I always retaliate (against myself) with "It's your outfit, not mine".  Also, I've found a love for Jon's method of getting Stori dressed and for Father's Day I dressed Stori the way Jon would have just to celebrate his Dad-awesomeness!  Oh boy, how I appreciate my husband being an active guy who doesn't mind trying to figure out skirts for our daughter and letting me off the hook of dressing people all the time.

While writing this one, I thought of something fun.  Since I went to the post office the other day in teal pajama pants, a pink shirt, a green-and-white-striped sweater, and my aqua vibrams obviously I have an appreciation for flair.  So, I think next time I'm in one of those controlling moods and he's wearing something that drives me bonkers I'll just march downstairs and wear and equally exciting outfit.  That'll show me!

4. Let her play, let her explore.
Thankfully, this is one I've always has a pretty good handle on.  I'm not one to condemn my kiddos to a life of misery-based reactions every time they want to do something challenging. "Don't climb that honey, you'll fall down."  "Spinning's not good for you, don't try it."  "Come inside; the world is full of molesters."  These things have never slipped off my tongue.  But, I do think there's room for improvement everywhere.  I've been known to say, "You've fallen 13 times in the last hour, just stop trying." or "Why do you keep doing that?" or, my worst!! "What's wrong with you?"  All these things I've said have been out of love, of course.  I don't want Stori to fall anymore, I'm frustrated with non-stop comforting a frustrated small person, I want to know what's wrong when someone's upset.  But the reality I'm creating for my kids with these statements is "You're not good enough" "You won't learn" "Something is wrong with you"

That's not what I want my kids to live.  These slips are getting fewer and farther between, but they still happen and I want to be the "I've gotcha' if you need me" "Practice makes better" "How can I help?"  Mom.  Because I think the more I instill that in them the more faith they'll have in me later in life when they've hit a tough spot.  I hope.

5. Say yes, or some version of yes.
This doesn't mean become a martyr for my kids and do what they say when they say and make sure I jump as high as they want me to.  Jon and I were very, VERY "no" oriented.  It was our gut instinct.  Anytime a question was asked we said "no" and then thought about if we should change our minds.  Not only did this set the tone that when we say no it doesn't actually mean no (which we're still coming back from), but I think now that this fosters a lack of self belief for our kids.  I mean really.  Think about it.  Almost anything Zane said he wanted or asked for we said no to.  Our immediate reaction to him was always something negative.  It was always denial.  How would he be able to feel confident in his own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, desires, anything?  He's always hearing "no" which means, "You're wrong".


I've super-improved here and recognized how many nos don't need to be nos at all.  And how much I was controlling him by saying no when I shot him down a lot on great ideas or perfectly acceptable questions.  I even said YES to ice cream for breakfast the other day! GAASSPP!!!!  But, they each got a small scoop of ice cream and while they were eating it they were able to find more healthful answers to my original question "What do you want for breakfast?".  So, after their couple tablespoons worth of ice cream we had oatmeal(real oats, not from an envelope, ya' know... we eat THAT stuff!) and bacon.  You wouldn't have guessed it though, because all those kids remembered about breakfast was MOM GAVE US ICE CREAM!!!  So, what's in their heads now?  Mom said yes and did something fun that she hadn't done before.  What's in mine?  I gave them a little and then got what I wanted as well, which was their bellies full of good food.  But oatmeal is a distant thought in their minds.  It's cuteness, really!

6. Stop trying to overeducate, and get out of the way.
Also, not a big one for me.  I think because I grew up legitimately neglected and am pretty stinkin smart I just have faith in a person's ability to learn.  I've not had to do much on this one and thankfully so.  Jon has though, but I'm not speaking for him.  Maybe someday he'll come post on here.  We'll see.

7. Just focus on making the next interaction with them positive.
I've spent DAYS worth of time saying, "hold on... wait a minute... not now... what do you need now?"  This is  my biggest struggle right now, in fact.  I want my kids' experiences with me to be remembered as when they wanted me or needed me I supported them or stopped for them.  I'm struggling with this one daily and while I do make sure to have happy, positive time with them daily I get tired of the same books over and over again and the same legos over and over again.  If YOU have any tips for me and my readers in this area please, please post them below!  I love them so very very much, but I'm pretty sure they'll have lots of memories of waiting around for me to "finish this" or "do this".  And, blech!  I don't want it.  I know where this stems, which is my being selfish and wanting my agenda to be top priority, I get that.  I see the undertone.  But, I need help in changing it.  Thanks!!

8. Take a moment to pause and see things from your child's perspective.
"Sit down quietly and wait for your food" i a great way to get kids yelling and crying at a table in a restaurant. Jon and I downright STOPPED eating out several years ago because we were SO TIRED of the fits Zane would throw just because we wanted him to sit down and wait quietly.  Crayons and papers didn't work, trains didn't work, our phones didn't work.  The kid HATES sitting down to wait.  He hates it.  And we hated fighting and threatening and scolding.  So we stopped.  Then I remembered something I learned from my home economics teacher in high school.  **If a child wants to play puppies under the table why not?**  Gut reaction: "Cause it's dirty under the table and it annoys me when my kids aren't acting civilized."  Their floor is probably no dirtier than yours, in fact it's probably cleaner.  I know I mop my floors once per week and each time I've worked in a restaurant we mopped our floors twice a day.  So, that's B.S.

Than I had to get real with myself.  I want my kids to act civilized.  "I don't want to be 'embarrassed' by their childish behavior."  Sorry, what's that?  "I don't want to be embarrassed by my CHILD's CHILDISH behavior."  Oh, ok.  You want a grown up at the table with you?  Great, go to dinner with Jon, weirdo.  If you want your child at dinner with you then guess what?  You'll have your CHILD at dinner with you, acting CHILDISHLY.  Oh, ok.  Thanks, me!  So now, I'm totally the lady who's kids crawl under the table while waiting for food or waiting for a check.  And I giggle the whole time I hear another lady fighting her kids during their screaming fit cause they're supposed to be not acting childish.  It took me a while to get used used to having my legs knocked into every now and then because at first each time it happened it angered me to know that "my kid wouldn't behave" but in time it's become a reminder that "my kid's not screaming their face off at me and I'm holding a conversation with my husband". WIN!

Children are children and we are helping them grown into well-adjusted adults.  I think the more we can help foster their childish behavior while they're children the more likely they won't throw fits over pepperoni (see #1 and #2, I'm talking about myself here) as adults.  They get to get their childhood now so they aren't fighting for it later.  I hope.  I know a LOT of selfish adults who throw fits and I've yet to meet one adult who was allowed to crawl under the table.  I'll let you know how this pans out later. (Gimme a decade or so, k?)

9. If the kid is "acting up", try to figure out why, and meet that need.
Zane used to throw big fits and we'd throw equally big fits, fighting a non-stop battle of the time-out chair.  He'd pour chocolate into the gallon of milk, he'd sneak goodies out of the cupboards when we were sleeping. We'd yell, we'd fight him, we'd punish him, we'd do all the things we were "supposed" to do.  Hell, we even spanked him!  A lot.  That's all anyone could advise us to do.

I started this therapeutic parenting stuff over the summer, after recognizing that Zane had every.single.presentation of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  That's when I was introduced to this whole idea of asking your child what's up when they're all kinds of outta whack.  I've been BLOWN.A-WAY. since.  I can smell it now, before it gets too bad.  I know when they're "off" and it's almost always because they want one-on-one with me.  Which, Stori can verbalize but Zane cannot, ironically enough.  Probably because I spent a few years teaching Zane to shut it and Stori hasn't gotten that.  When I feel them getting frenzied (which is what happens before misbehavior, by the way... really.  Take a moment and notice it, it's like CLOCK WORK, people!) I can stop whatever I'm doing and we can play hide and seek or we can get a game from the shelf or we can sit with a book and them literally sitting ON me or we can jump into some other form of one-on-one play and I engage until they're bored and the rest of our day is swell.  I suppose as they both grow it won't always be time-with-me they need and I'll learn their new languages as they evolve but for the time being this has changed our lives in extraordinary ways.

I still need serious improvement in doing this when we're with other people.  I'm selfish-ish and I want to have my conversations, ya' know.  I want to visit with people.  But, I'm working on stopping in all situations to feed them.  Make a love deposit (Oh, the Michael Scott in me is screaming... "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!!!!") to their little hearts and let them know that if they need me I am here.  Even if I really, really want to be doing something else.

10. The kid is already perfect as he is.
Done.  Nuff said.  Get it.  Learn it.  Live it.  Love it.  They are perfect!

I'm proud of myself.  I'm proud of Jon.  I'm proud of our kids.  I'm grateful to have the family I have.  SO incredibly GRATEFUL!

***Again, I want to point out that these numbers and the bold sentences behind them come from this post and they are not my words.  They touched me deeply and helped me remember to celebrate our accomplishments but I, in no way, take credit for them.  That all goes to Leo Babauta.

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