Monthly Archives: November 2015

a tale of two tables

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

there were two seated tables catty-corner from each other at the nearly empty restaurant on sunday night.

whispered snippets overheard from the other table
….myanmar just had an election, but…
…philharmonic orchestra…new conductor…
…i just read that new book by her…

and, stage whispered from our table
…leave your brother alone. you are not listening. i SAID, leave your brother ALONE.
…(above high pitched anguished wails from the baby) but, i mean, how did he manage to twist himself backwards in his highchair like that? is his leg stuck?
…i hope you are off work friday (this may have come off more as a hiss, and less as a stage whisper)

a pyrrhic victory (but i’ll take what i can get)

as it happens, i ALSO have a strong willed 7yo son. apparently there was something in the prenatal vitamins circa 2007-2008.

this morning, said child spent an ungodly amount of time laying on the floor, naked, pontificating the universe. he was apparently struck unawares by an inescapable wave of speculation between taking off his pajamas and putting on his clothes.

which, sure. i think many of our noble ancestors have spent an hour or two, naked, musing about their place in life. BUT. it is the morning. we have to go. i try not to nag, but i do remind E that he is leaving the house in 5min, in whatever state he’s in, and he may want to be wearing underpants.

right as we’re about to head out of the door, E suddenly realizes he has to color in his math homework. “Or I’ll get a zero, mom!” erm. too bad, so sad? perhaps this could have been accomplished during naked floor time? Or, last night during homework time? “Well FINE then mom, I’m going to throw my homework out!” balls up homework, starts towards the garbage. Me: We are leaving the house. NOW. E–retrieves crumpled homework ball, starts yelling because it’s wrinkled, and now he needs something to make his paper flat again, mom. But, he also gets his jacket and leaves the house of his own screaming, yelling volition.

the victories are tiny, but, i’ll take what i can get.

 

 

 

Parenting Class Vs. The Strong-Willed Child

I have an extremely strong-willed second-grade boy we’ll call Twin2. The first six years of his life were fairly uneventful, and then, at age seven, Twin2 figured it out. Why were these tall people telling him what to do? Didn’t they realize he had been on this planet for seven whole years, and could dictate all the terms of his existence? Once his epiphany happened, everything became a battle: getting out of the door in the morning, brushing his teeth, getting him into bed. Feeling outmatched and not wanting to turn our house into a daily cage-fighting battle, I decided to take a parenting class.

The class was offered at our local community center and is based on the Love and Logic rules. You may have heard of them: inundate your child with choices, offer them empathy instead of telling them what to do, and give them independence without rescuing them. Parents had to set limits and hold kids accountable.

The day after our first class, Twin2 went into the basement to do his homework and yelled for me to bring down his spelling words. Let me also clarify: we don’t live in a castle or a manor. We live in a perfectly normal sized middle-income home with a basement. In addition, this request had an impression of fetch to it – the type of entreaty that would have had me reprimanded for days if I asked my parents to do it thirty years ago (once they finished laughing). So I held my ground and politely told him no, he could get his own spelling words.

Twin2 responded by screaming, crying, kicking his feet, dropping to the floor and feigning muscular paralysis. The class says that when your child is melting down as a response to these tactics, what they really feel is love. They know you love them enough to set limits. So, as all of this was taking place over the course of forty-five minutes, I tried to remind myself that even though he was threatening to leave the family, live on a train in Siberia by himself and never speak to us again, what he was really feeling inside was a profound sense of my love for him.

During the second class, we were told to stop nagging our kids. Nagging was taking responsibility away from them, robbing them of the ability to figure things out for themselves. This particularly resonated with me, because most mornings sound like this:

Me: Twin2, make sure you get dressed and eat your breakfast. We’re leaving in 10 minutes.

Me: Twin2, have you eaten your breakfast yet? Need to eat your breakfast. We’ve leaving in 8 minutes.

Me: Twin2, you need to eat your breakfast. Can you eat your breakfast please? We need to leave in 4 minutes.

Twin2: Umm, Mommy, what do you think it’s like on Saturn, and which planet is closest to the sun, Mars or Mercury?

Me: OH MY GOODNESS CHILD!! EAT YOUR BREAKFAST ALREADY! WE ARE LEAVING IN TWO MINUTES!!

Sitting in this class, I resolved that I wouldn’t nag Twin2 anymore. Instead I’d trust him to figure out what he needed to do.

So upon arriving home from class that night and seeing the time, I announced, “All kids who get into their pajamas right now and are back in the kitchen by 8:20 will get their milk.” Two of my kids ran upstairs and got into their pajamas. Twin2 hung around the foyer and examined his baseball cards, delivered a lengthy homily on the facial hair of the St. Louis Cardinals team and finally moseyed upstairs to get into his pajamas at 8:25. I bit my tongue but gave him no reminders or nagging.

“Can I have my milk?” he asked me at 8:30.

“I told you to be in the kitchen ten minutes ago. The window for milk has closed,” I responded.

“WHAT?!?!?!”

Twin2’s world subsequently shattered. He dropped to the floor again, kicking, shouting, crying. I need to give him choices, I reminded myself.

“Twin2, shall I carry you to your room or will you walk?” I asked.

His response was, “I’M GOING TO STARVE WITHOUT MY MILK!” so I carried him into his bedroom.

I need to offer him empathy, I told myself. “Twin2, I know it’s frustrating when you don’t get what you want. But I love you too much to nag you.”

His response was, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME ENOUGH TO FEED ME!”

I left him in his bedroom and closed the door. For the next thirty minutes I could hear him shouting invectives and taking out his anger on his bed. But eventually he went to sleep and didn’t even starve overnight.

A recent article in Aha Parenting touted the virtues of raising a strong-willed child. The article claimed these kids are impervious to peer pressure and often become great leaders. It also mentioned the need for empathy, giving choices and setting limits – strategies that mirror what I’m learning in the class.

I’m not quite ready to say whether these tactics are working for Twin2 and me. I’m certainly seeing a difference – a large uptick in tantrums and meltdowns – but that’s most likely not the type of difference the instructors intended. My hope is that even though it’s hard now, it’ll get easier as I consistently follow these rules. Only time will tell.

In praise of the breaded, deep fried, extruded chicken slurry

Hello Dear Readers!

Greetings from the East Coast, where your friendly blog co-contributer resides!  *waves hi*

This post is in praise of the much maligned, lowly, processed food product known as the chicken nugget. Now, I can see you already backing away from the computer, hoping my madness is not contagious. But before you get too far, consider this–chicken nuggets have protein. They have fat. They are widely available. If your child will eat a McDonalds nugget, this opens up the possibility that you will be able to feed this child in most places in the United States.

I write this because my back is up. I recently read a mommy blog diatribe from a friend who wrote that her Nigel didn’t even know what a chicken nugget was, so busy was he eating braised tofu on a bed of unicorn tears. This mama opined that perhaps the reason the Brutus’s of the world craved deep fried meat slurry was because their mothers fed them this nonsense. If mother had only stuck to locally sourced, organically grown, head of lettuce then Brutus would not have such despicable eating habits as evidenced by his nugget eating ways.

Perhaps. But I offer this–at the tender age of one, my oldest son, E,  would have readily and happily starved rather than let a morsel of non-preferred food pass his lips. (Preferred food: saltine). I was frequently advised by well wishers to wait him out: he won’t actually starve himself everyone from his pediatrician to his grandmothers advised me. But people did not take this advice into the weeds with me. I was  totally ready to let E miss a meal for the greater good. But, exactly how many meals was it ok for him to skip in the service of broadening his palate? Is it Ok if he eats actually nothing for a day because he would apparently rather die than eat a bean? Can a toddler have a weekly calorie intake of five and still have brain development continue apace?

Watching my already svelte toddler starve himself grew wearying. I also noticed that among my friends and relatives, I, alone, was the only one I knew scouring the intertronz for belts for a one year old. Only my child wore suspenders because without them his pants fell down.  I fed him the saltines–because calories!–and took a moment to regroup. What food might he eat that had some protein, some fat, and might not provoke him to tears just to look at? Dear Reader, I undertook it as a personal mission to get this child to eat a chicken nugget. And, it only took me a solid year of constant effort to get chicken nugget next to cracker on the acceptable food list. If someone had brought up braised tofu, I think I would have cracked a rib from laughing. Or maybe I would have crawled into an alcohol fueled fog for a month or two. Who knows? I’m glad no one brought it up.

So, little Nigel likes quinoa, or caviar, or jicama. I’m happy for you. After a long campaign, my little heathen will eat a chicken nugget. I can’t even tell you how happy that makes me–how liberated I feel, how successful.  I promise not to mutter under my breath about your judgey pants and your unexamined food privilege, if you promise not to clutch your pearls on the book of faces and tatter on about the poor Brutus’s of the world whose mothers only cared enough to feed them fast food. Because we’re all doing the best we can for our kids the only way we know how, right?