Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time to Regroup

I've opened up the new post screen several times since my post on Monday, but I haven't been able to bring myself to start typing. I don't have any bad news to share. It's not that I've been too busy. I just didn't have words to describe how I was feeling.

Last week I posted about the epic battle Michael and I had over putting a pair of pants on before daycare. It really shook me up. I was upset over the fight. I was concerned about why Michael didn't want to go to school. I was frustrated because I felt that I was failing at something, but I didn't even know what it was.

This past weekend was nice, and it let me trick myself into thinking that Tuesday was just a fluke. Maybe it really was all about a pair of pants. Maybe this Tuesday morning would be fine. Nothing to worry about.

Of course, it wasn't fine. It was bad. Horrible. Out of control. Nothing I said or did could get Michael to uncurl himself from a ball on the sofa and get him moving towards the door. Nothing. So, after 15 minutes of Michael resisting I finally gave him a choice. Either you walk out to the car, or I carry you.

I ended up carrying him, although, it was more like wrestling him. I swear, he grew extra arms and legs for that battle. He managed to kick me in the face at one point and at another he managed to get his foot and leg all the way down the front of my shirt.

I'm going to be honest here folks, and it's not going to be pretty. I cringe just thinking about it, but I've since learned I'm not alone, and that knowledge really helped. So, here goes.

Once I got him strapped into his seat he screamed, "I'm going to kill you!" at me.

(I'm really unresisting the urge to delete this post right now.)

I just sat down and cried. I drove to daycare crying. I did my best to pull myself together for drop off, but I'm pretty sure my bright, red nose was a dead give away that Michael wasn't the only one crying.

I got Michael settled and tried to leave. He clung to me with such desperation that it broke my heart. "Mommy, don't leave me!" After 15 minutes of this I finally managed to peel him off me, get him into the teacher's arms, and then run from the room as I broke down in tears again.

I spent a lot of time hiding in the bathroom on Tuesday as I tried to cover up the fact that I had periodic crying jags.

When I got home, Michael was in a great mood. He had a great day at school, played with his friends, and was enjoying spending time with Andy. When Andy and I had a few minutes to ourselves, I confessed that I didn't think I was going to make it until Michael turns 18.

Andy and I spent some time talking that evening. We also started digging into some of the parenting books that deal with spirited children. Then, we talked some more.

The first thing I realized is that we haven't been managing Michael's spirited needs very well lately. I also haven't been managing my spirited needs either. As a result, Michael and I are just feeding off of one another and it's pushing us both into the red zone.

So, we are making some changes. More baths. More water play. More parental attention when Michael first gets home. Both Andy and I desire downtime after work, but Michael needs us then. So, we'll work together to give all of us a chance to get what we need.

Another change is a little more structure. The nice weather has been great for allowing more outside time, but it's ruined any sense of routine that we had going. This was throwing both Michael and I off. It has also pushed bedtime a number of nights, so Michael is not as well rested as he should be. That needs to end as well.

Having a plan helps. Having a partner to work with really helps. Andy and I can cover for one another when we need a break.

Sleep was the goal for Michael last night. His stalling has really gotten bad in a short period of time, and it's robbing him of much needed sleep. We did the bedtime routine, I got him in bed, and waited in the hall to make sure he was asleep.

"Mommy, I want the light on."

Nope, I'm not going there. I tried to compromise and give him a night light. He refused. I kept my calm and realized that this was about get my attention, not about getting a light turned on. I calmly cleared everything off of his dresser and cleared out the room of projectiles.

"Mommy, why are you clearing off my table?"

Why indeed. He found out as I kissed him good night, left the room and closed the door.

He cried.

I went in to kiss him again, refuse the light request, and back out again.

He cried...but not that hard.

A few minutes later I came back in and he asked for a story. I agreed to one book, read to him, turned off the light and tucked him in. Didn't hear a peep from him all night.

The real battle I was concerned about (by concerned I mean so worried about my tummy was upset) was getting him to daycare today. It didn't take long. He said good morning and then started right in on not wanting to go to school.

I stayed calm and explained that going to school is his job (thanks Laura!). He didn't like that, but it threw him off a little. It let us discuss how we don't always like going to our jobs. Then, I went in for the kill...I mean bribe. "If you go to school without a fight I'll let you shoot your confetti gun after school." Andy jumped in with an offer for a trip to get an ice cream bar after school.

Michael agreed and didn't say another word about not going to school.

To which I have to say, WTF? You mean I could have bought him off with ice cream and a plastic toy? Really?

No, not really. The bribe was only a small part of it. The more focused attention and the better sleep is a big part of it. And, to be honest, managing my high intensity is part of it too.

Now, we need to stick with the plan and hopefully things will go a bit better.


Steph said...

What a rough time you have had lately, I am so sorry! It's not fun when they say they don't want to go and then put up a big fight about it. Sometimes Cooper says he doesn't want to go to school, but thankfully it's not every day. Sounds like you have a plan in place and I hope that Michael appreciates what great parents he has!

Lindsay said...

I don't know how you do it. A "spirited" child would run right over me. Kudos for working with Andy to figure some things out and get help.

Are there "extras" at school like karate or soccer? It's so much easier to get JTC out of bed when it's "Flippers" or "Tumble Bus" day!

MyWorld said...

I've quit reading all the books and now turn to your blog for the reader's digest version. There are a lot of things in this entry that really hit home for me and quite honestly, make me want to cry, too.

The way my daughter and I hit each other's buttons, you'd think we were in a whack-a-mole game some days.

Thank you for writing this today. I needed it, too.

Deanna said...

Wow...Hubby and I talk about K-man being a strong willed child and I can't count the number of times we've had to huddle up and re-assess our game plan. Thanks to you, I bought the 3-year old book that you had recommended and bought the 2 year-old version to go with it. The one applicable to us right now has proven useful. Every now and then K picks it up and takes off with it. I yell behind him "READ THE NEXT CHAPTER!" If only it worked that way.

I think you and Andy are doing a great job as parents. Hang in there!

Beth said...

I'm so sorry Joanna! For what it's worth, William plays me like a violin every morning when I drop him off at school. He's perfected the art of the dragging-out-the-goodbye, that's for sure. And I play right into his trap. It has helped to talk about it the night before, to let him take make a plan on how the morning is going to go. So I'll say, "William, how are we going to make the good-bye go well tomorrow, without any crying? Because if you're going to cry and throw a fit, I'm just going to hand you to Ms. Pia and go to work." And then he'll map out the plan--"read one book, set the timer, two hugs, two kisses, push you out the door." When he follows the plan, he's super proud of himself. The key is following through if it doesn't go well. I guess for Michael, that would be carrying him screaming to the car and dropping him off at school.

This morning, he stretched it out by telling me that his stomach was hurting. I held him and asked him if his stomach felt crampy, or if it hurt because mommy was going to work. He said because mommy was going to work. Despite that, he still managed to push me out the door and he did it without tears or a big scene. I was proud of him. At any rate, you are doing a great job, and you and Andy are being proactive and that's important. I hope you can find something that will help. It sounds like you're off to a good start. Just know you're not entirely alone. William is not high-spirited, but he still gives me a hard time every morning.

LauraC said...

Hey you've already got some good feedback here. I did also want to mention that this is a fairly new routine for you guys, and it takes quite a bit of time to settle into any new routine. We always have a completely hellish month when the boys transition to a new room bc it's new routines, new kids, new teachers, and they act out horribly and are terribly overtired.

I've also found with my spirited kid that you give him an inch, he will take ten miles. So I have to be EXTRA SUPER FIRM with him about limits and rules. Sometimes that means battles but it is better than the boundary testing every single day (for me).

Lastly, we talk a lot about what we are going to do each day. Since Monday I have been hyping this plan:

Monday school, play in backyard
Tuesday school, new friend Morgan coming to play
Wednesday school, paint in backyard (that turned to hell)
Thursday school, paint in backyard
Friday school, family movie night... now GLEE
Saturday MEET KAREN (!!!)
Sunday church, go to Nina's house

It really helps Nate to be more cooperative in things he does not want to do if he knows he has something to look forward to. I also tell them about my job, tell them when I had a bad day, when work is busy, etc.

Maria said...

I know that you are doing an awesome job with Michael, and that you are just the Mom he needs. It is so difficult when they play us! Lately, any time I go anywhere, Maya begs me not to leave and then tells me she will never forget me! Makes me feel like I'm leaving forever. Thus parenting thing is Hard. We can only do our best. I agree about routines. As much as spur or the moment is fun, structure tends to lead to less battling. I think an older version of CIO sometime has to happen, and it's so much worse when they have words! Keep at it and it will get easier, buy know that you are doing great, even when it doesn't feel like it.

Heidi O said...


Yesterday, I asked Max to clear the table while Maggie and I ran out to get dinner. It didn't happen and I got frustrated. That set him in a tail spin. Krismon ended up talking to him while Maggie, Harry and I ate. I am glad it was him and not me because I wasn't in a place to speak as calmly. Thank goodness for partners.

Karen said...

One thing that I think is so hard about this age is that you can act with consistency but get a different result each and every time.

I find that if I can keep my cool, my Michael responds much better to that than me yelling and having my own tantrum. And I have put myself in time-out too.

Hopefully Michael can get into the school routine sooner rather than later. I must say that is one of the hardest things about being a working mom. I don't look forward to that day with Katie one bit.

DesiDVM said...

Ugh, I hate when you feel like you're literally battling your children. To be honest...well, I don't think I could ever be totally "honest" about the darker moments between me and J over the past year (really the past 6 mths since a certain baby was born, hmmm...). I have said some things I REALLY felt bad about later, sometimes very, um, loudly. I have had to put myself in time so I wouldn't go off the deep end. He has said some disturbing things to me/us like "I want to punch you in the head" or "I don't love you anymore". We have both shed some tears, especially when TH has been travelling and my patience is thin to nonexistent. It sucks b/c keeping our set routine has become alot harder with the baby, they both have such different needs and schedules.

The sad part is...based on Jr's feisty personality already at 7 mths, I get the feeling J is nothing compared to the "spirited" kid coming up behind him LOL.

Julie said...

Oh Joanna, I read this entry earlier today and I didn't have time to comment, but you have been on my mind since. Having a spirited child is challenging, especially when it is a physical AND mental battle just to do simple things. I am always surprised at how strong Lana can be, how I have been kicked in the head, taken hits to the trachea, bitten, etc. in the midst of a tantrum or a "carry out" of a public place. I have many many times ended up in tears, tears of frustration, embarrassment, defeat, exhaustion, perceived failure. Sometimes I felt like Lana was possessed--it was that extreme!

It is essential and wonderful that you have Andy to team up with and come up with a strategy. It is also good that you can acknowledge your own spirited nature and how that contributes. Believe me, Lana knows how to push my buttons and irritate me and sometimes I respond in ways that are not exactly mature and parent-like.

I think this whole school thing is relatively new for you all and that it will get better over time. When we first started Lana in school it was high drama with the tears and prolonged goodbyes and now she just jumps out of the car. I think school has given her a lot of confidence, but it wasn't instantaneous. We always make a point to talk about our day at dinner and each of us have a turn. I think this really makes her feel like the things she does at school is as important as the grown up things that we do each day.

And I totally agree with Laura--give a spirited kid an inch, they take a mile!

Hugs to you--you and Andy are great parents and Michael is so lucky to have you both!!

JenFen said...

Joanna, I don't think I could top all the great advice and comments you have already received but it helps to know that we have all been there. Our individual situations vary of course but we have all been THERE. For me, knowing I am not alone in that gives me the confidence I need to move forward, which it sounds like you have. I hope that with your new routine, you continue to see improvements.

Bribery is my best friend. Jadyn is a master bedtime staller so she is now rewarded for each night that she goes to sleep without calling me for unnecessary reasons she gets stickers to put in her sticker book in the morning. I have also used a sticker chart for Jake when there was things he didn't want to do like get ready for school in the morning or wear his eye patch in the afternoon. What I found is that rewarding them for doing something they don't want to do works great for getting them into new routines and habits and contrary to what some people might think, eventually they start doing it without the expectation of the reward.

As always, I appreciate your honesty.