Morning traffic lights

So, a little while ago I posted about a rather rubbish school morning we had. Well, I didn’t get around to saying that the evening before I’d planned to try a new system but was too tired to do the prep. Needless to say that evening, despite tiredness, I felt suitably motivated to get my act together and do the prep. So I wrote this poster.

Morning traffic lights

Morning traffic lights

This is stuck to our bathroom door. It’s my latest attempt to help with mornings and its the best so far. It’s not 100% successful, what is, but it is definitely an improvement.

What it is is a list of jobs (on the left, in black) that need to be done on a school morning. This in itself is not new, I have previously tried a tick sheet of jobs for them to cross off as they complete them. The new bit is the traffic light columns relating to what time the job is finished by. The aim is to be in green, when we’ll be ready in plenty of time and there’ll be time left over for playing before school. Red means we’re probably going to be late, grumpy and not have time to “just go and get my/do” at the last minute. And in between, there’s amber, a sort of, we won’t be late as long as we concentrate on the task in hand but there’s unlikely to be playing time.

There is no associated reward sheet. This is just a framework, a reference point. And it’s helping them understand what the consequence of not getting dressed now means in an hours time. Because clearly, me saying “we’re going to be late for school” an hour before we have to leave was either too abstract or just not believable.

But also, this is a fluid system. You can move between states. You can be in red and work your way back to amber by getting on with things, or into green. There is room to turn things around. And to let things slip.

They refer to this, talk about zones. It really is helping them understand. And helping me to explain to them, for example “you have 10 minutes of the amber zone left to get dressed, if you’re not dressed by then then we’ll be in the red zone”.

The other day he got ready so early he declared himself to be “in the golden zone” as he had a whole hour of free time. Which he then spent some of washing up for me. (He is one of the sweetest most generous people I know.)

However, it still doesn’t prevent the unexpected last minute stresses. I have had him ready in advance only to fall down at the last moment at the leaving the house hurdle because something (I can’t remember what, his coat hurt maybe?) is suddenly and irredeemably wrong and nothing I do or say will help.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. Because often, this blog is where I write out all the negative stuff in my life. It’s not that what I say isn’t true or is exaggerated, but it isn’t the whole picture. It’s my dumping ground for my failings and struggles and frustrations. And I thought it was important to acknowledge that sometimes I get stuff right. I’m not completely crap. I can do stuff. I can have good ideas (this wasn’t from a book or a website, it was my own plan. Based partly on my experience of what works and partly on approaches I’ve read – the aim was to give him the tools to understand what he needs to do so he can take responsibility for himself).

So, I am sharing this primarily as a self esteem exercise for me. But also, I would be very happy if this idea, or an adaptation of it, or something else inspired by this approach, helped someone else. Because I wouldn’t one less tantrumy morning (or indeed any other time of day) in the world can only be a good thing!

And while I’m at it, this is as good a place as any to make a note of an interesting resource I stumbled across recently for fidgety children – which he sometimes is. I have yet to try any.

So, do you have any triumphs, parenting or otherwise, to acknowledge?

typical school morning

So, Contemplative Chaos has mentioned me in a blog post and thereby highlighted the fact that I haven’t posted in a while.

I was musing on this last night and drafting a catch up post in my head. Then this morning happened. We might as well jump right in because that was what this morning was like.

First, I had a nightmare. Not sure why, I don’t get them often. The details are a little hazy but it was something to do with being chased by that nasty man from Psi Corp, what, you don’t remember Babylon 5, could that be because I was watching it nearly 20 years ago. Hmm, no idea what brought that on.

Babylon 5: Psi Corps by VeilaKs

Anyway, nightmare over, finally back to sleep and at 5 something the boy comes into our bed. I’m not really up to coping with this “properly” at this point. Scratch that, I’m not even sure what the proper response is as if he wakes at this time he rarely goes back to sleep and if I try and put hm back into his bed I generally have to do it more than once until he eventually gives up and wakes his sister up and then nobody gets any more sleep. So, I lie there, sandwiched between wriggly boy asking me questions and my convalescing husband who I’m trying to make sure I don’t squash (he has a broken rib and broken bone in his foot and is feeling unsurprisingly fragile at the moment). Strangely my quality of sleep is low.

At 7am the alarm goes off. I ask boy to get dressed. He goes away. I fall back to sleep. Amazingly for the first time in a fortnight my husband manages to get up and make me a cup of tea. Along the way he asks children to get dressed. I finally surface around 7.45. The next almost hour is spent persuading daughter to get dressed (fairly easy), finding my son (hiding under his bed so quietly I searched every other room in the house before I worked that one out), explaining to him about the need to get ready now and the consequences of not doing so, repeatedly, having a shower, removing a book from son and hiding it, getting myself dressed, making daughters packed lunch, packing son’s bag and finally bullying son out of house by threatening to start walking his shoes to school without him in them (an idea from a teacher).

So, we leave for school and my very unhappy stressed boy is feeling rushed and outraged as he’s had no breakfast (and I now realise no drink either, eek, bad parent). He stamps and complains all the way to school, shouting at his “Mean Mummy” who is making him go out without breakfast. When we get to his class he takes a shoe off and complains his foot hurts. I explain situation briefly to his teacher, in more detail to the Teaching Assistant, hang his coat and bag up for him, put his book bag and snack away and finally, try and help him put his shoe back on. He refuses, so I carry him to his place so he can do what he’s supposed to be doing – cue outraged from him (apparently I scratched him) and giggling from his classmates (quickly quelled by teacher).

Then I try and rendezvous with my husband and daughter outside her classroom (her start time is later than his). I meet my neighbour there, who’s locked herself out of her house, and as I’m recounting my morning to her I realise I’ve lost my husband and daughter. I explain this to my neighbour and as I go in search of them (thoughts of husband lying in gutter with his crutches unable to get up etc in my mind) I notice a couple of other mums a couple of feet away apparently laughing at me. I go home, find home empty, do not pass the rest of my family on the way, get spare key for neightbour, go back to school and eventually locate husband. Daughter is safely in class but she did have her own tantrum about jumpers (sorry kid, you’ve got a long way to go before your tantrums rank as highly as your brothers.

I’m guessing that some people would be horrified at that tale. I don’t know. A lot of people say that they have a tricky time getting their kids to school, I suspect not hiding under the bed, stamping tantrum all the way tricky, but maybe I’m just self important. This is where the potential ASC thing fogs my sense of perspective. The things that he finds tricky aren’t that unusual. It’s the reaction that’s out of proportion. And working out how much out of proportion it is is what I find hard.

Anyway, I’m awarding myself a gold star this morning. I stayed calm the whole time and didn’t raise my voice one, hurrah! The only thing I would change in hindsight is to tell him I’m about to lift him to his place unless he does it himself. Oh, and I’d take a bottle of water for him to drink on the way. I didn’t even get internal demons at people laughing in my direction when I was recounting my woes.

So, here at Aisfor, life is going on, messy, loud, unpredictable as ever, it just keeps on going on. I wouldn’t say this kind of morning was typical, we don’t get it every day, but its certainly not unprecedented and not as unusual as I would like. (I’m still wondering what happens the day I can’t get him out of the house and have to ring school).

PS Didn’t finish editing this before I brought the boy home for lunch (which he likes to do each Wednesday). He apparently had a good morning, although he did hop to assembly and back with only one shoe on. He seemed to have forgotten all about earlier. He was also more interested in sewing than eating lunch.

Monday Morning Rantathon

Today I am resenting my unexpected new position of Person-Most-With-It-In-The-Morning-in-Our-Household.

I am not a natural morning person, not an early riser. I like staying in bed for as long as possible. 9 o’clock? Fine. 10 o’clock? Even better. This has been my inclination for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s something to do with having Glandular Fever as a teenager, maybe it’s just how I am, maybe I just never grew up and got my act together. Whatever, I am rarely the first person up in my house. Add into that the habit of hiding under the cover because I don’t want to face the day and I’m hardly ever the first person up. Plus my husband struggles to sleep in late, he just wakes up, and my 2 children, well, they are fairly typical, they wake up early and loud.

So it is somewhat a shock to the system when on a Monday morning I am the first out of my room and trying to organise everyone else. Unfortunately this is not due to some amazing leap forward by me finally getting my act together but rather a reflection that everyone else seems to have slipped below my rather minimal standards.

This morning I had to try and persuade my children to stop rolling around on the floor and get dressed, whilst trying to make the grown ups their morning kick start cup of tea. Which I want to happen at the same time, but the kitchen is not near the kids bedroom and the kids are rather reluctant to get their act together (weeks of settling late to bed (despite our deperate best efforts) due to the light hot evenings are starting to take their toll). I sort of manage. Then I have to persuade them to eat some breakfast. This proves tricky. My son is easily distracted and would undoubtedly benefit from living in a minimalist household with everything not currently needed neatly stored away out of site in an elegant cupboard. Whereas our household has piles of unsorted Parent Trap (our very own Cockney Rhyming slang) everywhere ready for him to become fascinated with, pick up and start fiddling with. Then there is the negotiation over who has what bowl. I manage to steamroller him through that, helped by the knowledge that he is so much easier to be around once he’s eaten. Then the incomprehensible complaint about the lack of the right kind of breakfast cereal, except it’s unclear what the right kind of breakfast cereal would be, althought it’s clear we don’t have it. I just about manage to hold it together whilst being shouted at in the manner of someone with a justified complaint who had clearly requested this cereal in a timely and polite fashion and is now at the end of their tether. I resent being shouted at like that the first time an issue is raised.

Finally, they are both sat eating breakfast. I take the cups of tea upstairs hoping to sit in peace and drink half of mine on our bed before geting dressed. Except that it’s starting to become clear that my other half is struggling to make it out from under the covers. I want to find out what’s wrong, is he tired, hayfever, stressed, but an almighty fight breaks out downstairs, I try to ignore it but it migrates onto our rather steep stairs and sounds like it might get violent any minute so I go to intervene.

Turns out one of the things that were in a random pile on the dining table was a sheet of stickers that I had picked of the floor when tidying up last night but had got no further in their journey to where they belong (partly as I’m not even sure where that is). Bought as simple white dots, my son had coloured them in (over a week ago I think) and now they are the most important thing in the world and he has grand plans for what he is going to do next to decorate them. Grand plans that have been dashed by his sister stealing one. Getting her back to the table and breakfast is easy, she likes breakfast. Getting him to move on from Stickergate is harder but I manage it in the end.

Right back to my cup of tea. Except it is now becoming obvious that husband is really not feeling great and it seems to be all his, you know, stuff (gestures to one side). I have no idea what the right thing to do is. After a big hug I coax him upright and give him his tea and mutter something about coming to have some breakfast and seeing how he feels after that.

Then, now half dressed (yippee, progress for me) I make it back downstairs and do some more negotiating with little sister about not leaving breakfast half eaten to strew your box of precious things / small irritating rubbish (we have a difference of opinion on the contents of this particular box) all over the hallway and make husband toast.

Life continues in this vain, with me running from person to person, coaxing/cajoling/bribing/threatening them back on track and trying to get myself ready at the same time. One lowlights is having to rewrite a check for school dinner money as I inadvertendly signed in the amount payable box (the woman in the office who deals with checks appears to take great delight in pointing out errors in how they’re written which really winds me up, she came into the playground recently to tell me in front of as many people as possible that I’d written 2013 rather than 2014 on the check and not for the first time). Another is realising that despite having been brought toast in bed hubby is now hiding under the duvet again and not speaking. He manages to communicate that he plans to stay there and request I phone his work. This is really tough for me. Phone calls are the thing I find hardest when stressed and phoning in sick because you’re feeling stressed brings back some painful memories for me. But I manage it.

Finally we are on track to leave for school. And then my son goes to the toilet. This is his latest habit. Right at the last minute he goes to the toilet. And takes ages. And then more ages. And I get cross and frustrated. And then I feel guilty because bodily functions are not a sign of disobedience. And yet. I know some of the time he’s not doing what he should be in the bathroom. We are in no mans land. No longer in the parent assisted toileting, not actually reliable and trusted either. He shuts the door. I respect him. But sometimes I knock and open it and find him fiddling with the shower curtain having not even started using the toilet yet despite being in there over 5 minutes. Or opening and closing cupboard doors and then it transpires he hasn’t washed his hands yet. So this latest habit, of being a long long time just as we need to leave, is it a case of bad timing, or his infinite ability to distract himself, or a subconcious derailing of the going to school progress.

Today I decide it’s unfair on his sister to be late every day. I take advantage of another parent on site and give him a deadline, then leave without him. Maybe drawing a line in the sand will help. Unfortuantely rather than appreciating my efforts to get her to school on time and valuing some one on one time with her mum, instead she argues at me half the way to school about the contents of the bag of junk modelling stuff we’re taking in (I’d actually sorted that out the night before). When I refuse to argue further she sulks the rest of the way.

So, drop daughter off, explain sulking to her teacher, go and tell his teacher that I’m going back to get him now and he’ll be late, go home, get him, take him to the office to be signed in late, give in the cheque for dinner money and be told that I DATED IT JULY NOT JUNE. Agghhh.

So thank you, inerenet thingy, for listening to my rant. It helped. It made me feel better. For a whole minute and a half. And now Bitchface has started up pointing out how petty and small my problems are compared to real problems and what an insult I am to those really suffering…

Work In Progress

Instead of tea or coffee this morning I asked my wonderful and long suffering husband to get me cocoa. I’m now sitting up in bed drinking it,sun streaming through the gap in the curtains, listening to music on the radio.

Less than an hour ago I had my eyes tight shut, and I was curled up and hiding under the cover, nursing the pit in my stomach that I had woken to find knawing at me. I have no idea why. Nothing stressful lurks on the horizon.

The cocoa has helped. Forcing my eyes open helped. Looking at a parch of blue sky peeping through the curtais helped. Changing the radio from a weighty discussion of the disaster in the Philippines on R4 to R6 music helped. Managing a mumbled addmittance that I wasn’t quite ok when my husband asked helped. Reading a sewing blog to distract myself helped. They all chipped away at it. None was a solution, but somehow I have clawed my way out of the pit and feel ready to face the day.

I really need to work on mornings.

Hollow

I woke up this morning with a hole, like someone had lifted a tray out of me with all my guts in and just left a rectangular shaped space.

I was lying there trying to think about how to proceed, what to do, how to get the vital missing bits back or replace them or function without them.

And then my messy, noisy, irrational bundle of a son came demanding some parenting. What he got was substandard and shouty.

I have apologised. He is now eating his breakfast. I feel bad about it. Which I guess is kind of good, it means I care about getting things wrong.

But I’m still not sure how to fix me, get me started properly today. I’m trying to remember the order of life, dressed – check, eaten -check, drink – in progress. But not sure what the magic space filling, connections reattaching, me making task I need to do is.

As there are no jump leads available I’m going to try a rolling start.