Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boot Camp

We've made some progress. We haven't had a time out longer than five minutes in the past few days. It took some time to train him, but Peter seems to get that the sooner he gets quiet, the sooner he'll get out.

He also seems to get that I will put him in time out anytime, anywhere, including Cracker Barrel.

And putting him in time out for his tantrums has been absolutely liberating! I've never know quite what to do with those tantrums, and my past attempts have always failed, from the cave-man empathy a la Karp to spanking a la Dobson. Sending him to his room always made me feel a little guilty, but it never seemed right to have him blowing his top in the living room either.

After a week of boot camp, though, when I put him in time out, he quickly settles down. (I should add that the time out is in a patch of the living room, so he's not isolated from the rest of the family.)

I've long known that time out was originally created as a way to help an overstimulated child settle down. Whether you see it this way, or as a punishment, the result for us has been the same: Peter does settle down. It's like pulling the stinger out of the wound.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Remedial Parenting

If Peter weren't such a firecracker, I don't think I'd ever have started this blog. It's been my therapy.

We've had our good phases and bad phases, but the past month has been unlike anything we've experienced yet. Instead of peace with periodic interruptions of strife, we've had continuous strife with periodic moments of peace. I began to worry something might really be wrong with my child. Three tantrums before 8:00 a.m.? That just can't be normal.

Stuck at home without a car, I set up a phone appointment with a counselor who works with young children.

After setting this up, I realized something: my mother kept Peter for five nights and swears he was absolutely pleasant the entire time. Furthermore, he's never been to time out at school, he learns easily, makes friends easily... These are not the marks of a child with a mood disorder or some other cognitive issue.

The problem (gulp) is me.

I talked to the counselor, who felt that Peter's recent issues have to do with Charlotte-- that Peter is fighting for attention and control. She said everything I described falls into the normal range for a very spirited three-year-old.

Come to think of it, in the past month I have been somewhat absentee. When we first brought Charlotte home, I did all I could to assure Peter of his place in my heart. As we fell into a new pattern, and he showed nothing but affection for his little sister, I slacked off.

Per the counselor's instructions, I am to do two things:

1) Spend thirty minutes of uninterrupted playtime with Peter while Charlotte is asleep. (This has been... amazing... and I'll have much more to blog on this another time.)

2) Enforce a stricter consequence for tantrums and disobedience. I had been spanking (which worked great until lately), sending Peter to his room, or putting him in time out, depending on his infraction. Now I am to do a time out that doesn't begin until his fit is over-- and that starts over if he talks or screams during it. Perhaps this is how time out was supposed to work all along? I missed the memo.

Anyway, I'm glad she warned me that as I start this program with a child like Peter, it might take an hour to get one 3-minute time out, since he'll be fighting to have the last word. We did have one 56 minute time out. Other time outs have ranged from twenty minutes to, amazingly, just three.

This has been hard work, because I'm not always in the mood to enforce it the way I have to. But as the counselor warned, if I slack up even once, a strong-willed child is going to take advantage of me fast.

I know that she is right.

So now I'm left with mixed feelings. I do believe that I can get things with Peter back to a good place, but I don't know how long it's going to take. And sometimes, I just feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew with this child. I keep repeating Philippians 4:13, asking God to give me the faith to believe it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Eventful Week (and Evening!)

There's been so much going through my mind lately, blogging can't do it justice.

And as I was typing that sentence, I had to stop and watch Charlotte grab a toy and put it to her mouth for the first time. So glad we'll soon have more ways to keep her entertained, since my "victory" with the pacifier lasted less than 24 hours.

So, what's been going on: we dedicated Charlotte to God last Sunday. Our new church doesn't do infant baptism, but that's quite okay with me. It was a joy to stand before the congregation, though, and publicly proclaim our intent to raise her in a godly home and prayerfully lead her to Christ.

I must pause to say that she is now hugging her doll! Must get a picture...

Also, last Thursday, I drove to the Big City for a haircut. On the interstate driving home, we were sideswiped by an 18-wheeler, which spun my car out of control. I really thought I might die. Peter and Charlotte were in the car with me, and hearing their cries was as beautiful as the days they were born, because I knew they were okay before I could turn around and see them. Not a scratch on any of us.

I have been trying not to think about the incident too much, and yet I think about it constantly. Peter, too, has replayed it with his matchbox cars more times than I can count.

But my thoughts on that will have to wait, because Charlotte is being so darn cute. Just look at this:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Victory is Mine


Notice anything?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Symptoms of the Firstborn

- He knew his colors before he could intelligibly say them.

- He could recognize all the letters of the alphabet by his second birthday.

- He's been read to so often, he can recite entire classic Curious George stories by heart.

- But for all these "academic" accomplishments, he cannot, at the age of three, put on his own coat. Or pull up his own pants. Or take off his shirt without getting it tangled over his neck.

After speaking to a mother of five, who said that her method of teaching her kids to put on a coat was to hand it to them and say, "Put it on," I'm on a mission. This morning, after changing his diaper (yes, you read that right), I made him pull on his pants alone.

Next up, getting his own water.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Three Cakes

Every mom has her issue, and mine is a determination to make my children's birthday cakes. Of course, I have no particular talent for this.

For Peter's 1st birthday, I wanted to replicate this:


I ended up with this:


The decoration of his 2nd birthday cake, a garbage truck, went more smoothly


but I was going through this brown flour stage and was ridiculous enough to use it for baking a brick. I mean, a cake.

This year, though, I nailed it. Finally, a cake equal to my skill:


The gummy earthworms were a particular hit with his class. And, yes, his only party this year was at school. Because if you are going to give a scoop of chocate cake, brownies and icing to two- and three-year-olds, someone else's turf is a nice place to do it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Undomestic Housewife

I don't keep a clean house.

When I have company, I find myself scrambling to make the house presentable. I don't mean dusting off the tables. I mean throwing away fantastically large dust bunnies that might honestly make my friends puke. With my mother and aunt coming for an overnight stay tomorrow, I've got more than the living areas to clean.

In times past, I could pull the house together in a day or so. Now that I have Charlotte, though, I'm failing. She's nursing in my lap as I type, but will I be able to get the bathrooms clean? Not if I want to get dinner on the table, plan a menu for tomorrow's trip to the grocery store, change the sheets, put away the laundry... Feed a baby, feed the family, change diapers, put little ones to bed...

I try to keep the clutter picked up, stay on top of the dishes, not let the laundry build up-- but between that, childcare, running errands, and keeping food on the table, I have no time to clean. None. I've not even found time to sew lately, which is saying a lot.

How do other mothers do it? Am I missing some basic organisational gene? Am I supposed to be staying up late to mop the kitchen floor? Or are other mothers more like me than I realize, so that too they can't remember when they last vacuumed?

Honestly, I'm not sure where my vacuum is. The garage, maybe?

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's Not a Fluke

My little experiment, that is. I will say it here plainly: changing my tone has changed his moods. Oh, he still needs corrections and sometimes punishments, he still has occasional crankiness, but we're not sinking into the deep miry pits of prolonged irritability so hard to get out of.

I've realized that while I've always sought to avoid yelling at my child, I've never thought much about speaking impatiently. I assumed that as long as my voice wasn't loud, I was being gentle.


A cranky act from him, followed by my cranky response, would only make him more cranky. Which would make me more cranky, then him more cranky, and so on. Someone has to break the chain, and I am the adult.

At least I'm trying to be.