Parenting, it just keeps on coming. Which is bad sometimes. And good sometimes also. Because you can get it stupendously wrong, and then you still get another chance to get it amazingly right 5 minutes later.
This afternoon was tiring. There was a lot of screaming and shouting, at me, by a 6 year old girl. I was doing a good impression of being calm and trying not to reward the bad behaviour with too much attention. Which of course led to more screaming and shouting. Eventually, it led to me saying I would not cook tea and storming off. (OK, I may have shouted the bit about not cooking).
She followed me and complained and cried and rolled on top of me. I was firm and stoical and counting down the minutes in my head until the reinforcements would arrive – I had decided that at that point I would go out and leave them all to it. But by the time he came in we had calmed down and kind of made up (without any actual apologising) and I had discovered that Small Girl found it rude when I answered “yes” in reply to her “Mummy”, thinking I was answering a question she hadn’t had chance to ask yet, rather than showing I was listening. This could explain why she rarely answers me. I set about explaining that one, I think it’s going to be a long haul.
Then I got tea underway. I tried to talk to hubby but he was tired and distracted and noodling on his tablet. I manged to explain my frustration rather than sulking and I handed over the reins of cooking to him. Then he came and interrupted my noodling, grr. But all in all it was ok. I, however, was exhausted.
After tea, which was quite late after all that, he went out (which I wasn’t entirely happy about but I had been warned in advance that it was a possibility and had agreed in principal, although that was before I knew how tired I’d be) leaving me to put the kids to bed. Which went quite well. Then I started tracing out a pattern – the start of a sewing project. I haven’t done any sewing in a couple of weeks and I decided I needed some me time.
Cue small boy appearing on the stairs to ask me questions about what is meant by the term British Isles. (Fairly random behaviour even by the standards in our house) I gave him as brief and vague an answer as possible (partly because I’m a little hazy on this myself, never having really been taught this at school), told him it was for the morning, and sent him back to bed. Then his sister came down asking. Repeat of before. Then he came back and asked some more. It quickly transpired they have different definitions in their heads and were arguing. I told him repeatedly that it was bed time, that questions were for the morning whilst he repeatedly interrupted me to start a discussion/argument. I got cross. I sent him back to bed.
Tried to settle back to patterns. They were still arguing. I went and shouted at them and told them that at this point my dad would have spanked me but I didn’t want to, but it was bed time now. This set him off worse (unsurprisingly) and he was really agitated and upset and talking louder and louder. So I shouted louder still. And stormed off. I knew it was a rubbish thing to do, but I was really cross.
I tried ringing hubby but his phone was out of range of a signal so I left a teary message instead. Then I posted an irritated FB status about children yo yoing out of bed. Then I remembered the last one I posted earlier this week and how instead of sympathy it prompted a lot of unsolicited unhelpful advice, much of it from young men without children (“don’t give them sugary food before bed”, “have you tried a reward chart”, “they should eat at least 2 hours before bed”, etc) and I deleted the comment.
Instead I started a really angry detailed venting blog post (yes, much worse than this mark 2 one). Part way through my mother in law rang up. Now I’ve been trying to get hubby to ring her for a while but he’s been too stressed out at the idea (he’s still quite pissed off with his Dad for his spectacularly bad “Don’t tell him, it’ll only give him another reason to try and get his own way” response to the news that we think our son might have Aspergers), I said I’d ring her with the kids when he was out at the weekend but life (and boys in particular) scuppered my plans. So, I answered the phone. And it helped. Amazingly, she was sympathetic and didn’t offer advice and I felt better. Who’d’ve thunk it.
So then, feeling calm and guilty, I went to check on the kids. One sleeping girl, one wakey boy. I gave him a cuddle and deferred questions/comments/complaints about The British Isles (definition of) until the morning. This took a bit of doing. And then I said sorry, and that it wasn’t fair that I was so cross with him partly because I was still tired from dealing with all the screaming from his sister earlier. We discussed how its hard to do the right thing when you’re tired or cross or hungry. And he told me I get grumpy with him like that every day. Ouch. I suggested he make me a reward chart for not being grumpy, but he wasn’t convinced.
Then I asked him why he was having such trouble getting to sleep. I see it as him not staying in bed. It’s been happening a lot recently. Once he finally stays in bed he goes to sleep pretty quickly, it’s just getting him to stay there. And he managed to explain that he feels scared when there’s no one there. Poor kid. We discussed animal brains and how they can feel scared or upset even when our thinking brain knows there’s not a good reason. And I cuddled him more. He asked me not to leave. And I thought about what I could do to help settle a boy whose scared for me to go, when I know that when I stay he doesn’t sleep (you’ve heard of I Think Therefore I Am? Well, he’s I Have Attention Therefore I Am, if you stay with him, then he stays awake, unless you fall asleep yourself). And I cobbled together my memories of relaxation techniques and breathing techniques and extemporised our own personal one there and then. And he calmed down and rolled onto his side. And I left him and I think now he’s asleep.
So, today has been long, with helping out with PTFA stuff at school and having workmen everywhere in the house and going to my first counseling session and being screamed at lots and trying to do the right parenting and getting it wrong and trying again. But everyone has survived. I’ve apologised for my mistakes. And I’ve learnt that I need to teach her that you’re meant to show someone you can hear them by answering. And I’ve learnt that he gets out of bed because he’s scared, and that I can help that all on my own, without buying any fancy book/cd/piece of kit on Amazon. So, despite my mistakes, I have done some excellent parenting.