If you read my blog last week and/or listened to my vlog, you heard about my beautiful, sweet, strong willed 8 year-old daughter Lillie. I had moms reach out to say thank you for sharing. I had moms tell me thank you for helping them know they aren’t alone, (my main goal in this whole Whinypaluza venture) and I had moms reach out to give me advice and support. I appreciate all of you. I know that I’m not alone in this crazy, hard, and wonderful adventure in parenting.
I had a moment today (Saturday), where it all just felt like too much. My children’s school supplies were everywhere, and they were all asking for food. It’s as if they all always ask for food. You have heard me say more than once that I feel as though I live in the kitchen. After feeding Max and Ella lunch, Seth walked in from raking leaves. He heard Lillie ask for lunch and he just knew to take over. I took the help. I said yes, thank you, and I headed to the basement sauna. I took fifteen minutes to myself in the basement and felt so much better. We have to take the help. We don’t have to do everything. Fifteen minutes alone can do wonders for all of us. I also organized most of their school stuff and felt so much better. Papers everywhere never works for me. The cleaner my house is the more calm I feel. Clutter and messes everywhere makes me feel anxious. Spending some time getting organized can make us all feel so much better.
Thursday, I headed to school to help with school picture retake day, and Seth took over being teacher for Lillie. I took my time at school and didn’t rush home. I needed the break from being Lillie’s teacher. I came home to Seth saying they were done, and I smiled and enjoyed the day off from schoolwork. We all need breaks. That is one of my biggest lessons in parenting. I used to feel guilty from taking breaks from my children. I have learned that breaks make me feel recharged and able to be a better wife and mother. I am doing my family a service every time I take a break. They don’t deserve stressed out tired mommy. I want to give them my best.
The next day I gave myself a giant pep talk. I had my new tools and new perspective ready and I was determined for Lillie and I to get through this independent work day smiling. “I can do this,” I told myself. Our self talk all day is so important. I started by asking Lillie what time she thinks we should begin. I was ready at 9:30 AM to start but I could tell she was still waking up. She determined that we would start at 10:00 and then she started with no problems or complaints. She picked the time. I let her pick and I gave her a warning before it turned 10:00. Just because this worked on Friday doesn’t mean it will work again, but it is a tool for me to put away in my toolbox for Lillie. We need a big toolbox for parenting with a lot of options for us to pull from. One of the things I try to remember is that Lillie needs warnings for transitions. For example, schoolwork is in ten minutes. Bedtime is in fifteen minutes. I like to give her warnings so that she knows what’s coming and it helps her to make the transition easier. I continue to learn what works with my children.
I showed Lillie her list and asked her what she would like to start with. She started at the top of the list with math. Math can be very challenging for Lillie, but she got through it. I even found more worksheets in her folder for her and she completed those too. Giving her the option of what she wanted to start with seemed to give her that sense of control that she craves. Control seems to make her feel more confident. When I asked Seth how to make Lillie feel more in control of her day, he suggested giving her choices of what work to do. It’s a great suggestion and it worked very well with her. If I give her options then it becomes less of a power struggle with her.
We move on to her next assignments and she’s starting to fade and get irritated. I found myself becoming annoyed and walked away from her to try to stay calm and cool. “Mommy, why do you look annoyed? Can you smile and be sweet? I need my sweet mom,” Lillie is pleading to me to regroup. I hear everything she is saying. The baggage of all these hard days with her have added up to my emotional exhaustion. I hear my daughter pleading with me and a light bulb goes off in my head. Lillie is asking for something and I’m not giving it to her. I am a huge part of this problem.
What am I doing wrong:
- I’m being grumpy and cranky.
- I’m not giving her sweet mom, with a big smile that she needs so badly.
- I’m short with her.
- I’m impatient. I like things done quickly.
- My expectations are way too high.
- I’m not being flexible.
- If I start to get cranky or annoyed, she follows along with me. If I can keep myself in check and stay sweet and calm, then she will work hard to stay there too. She’s following my lead. I need to be a sweet and positive role model for her.
- If she starts to get frustrated or annoyed, I need to stay in a good state and not follow her down a bad road. This is so much easier said than done.
I had the moment that I needed with myself. I started to realize how much it really does take two to tango. Lillie may be strong willed, but she also is asking for exactly what she needs from me. When she starts to be difficult, I go to a negative place quickly. My emotional stamina is too low. I feel as though I am running on low gas.
Lillie continues to plead with me, and I push myself off the counter and go over to her sweetly and calmly. I understand why I am cranky, but I am upset with myself. I decided today was about looking in the mirror at myself and how I was contributing to the problems, and today was not about shining the light on Lillie. I also needed to realize that my daughter was struggling, and I needed to be the calm adult to help her through her struggles. It isn’t an easy task. If I can have more empathy for the struggle, then I can be more patient with her. If I label her as difficult than I get annoyed with her. If I see what she’s having a hard time with and want to help her, then my state of mind is much better. It’s all how we look at things. Again, this is easier said than done but the first step is awareness.
She continued to do a couple of things and then told me she was toast. Can we do the rest Sunday she asked me? My initial response in my head was no. This was her list for today and she needed to get it done. I didn’t want to do more over the weekend. She also had a couple things from Thursday that she didn’t get to with Seth. I decided I needed to be flexible. I heard Lillie communicating her needs and I was willing to give her what she wanted. She had two more days to finish it. It wasn’t due until Monday.
I think that Lillie and I both need to be more flexible. We can both be stubborn and want things to go a certain way. I was going to work on being more flexible and teach her how to be more flexible. Why did I feel like it all needed to get done today? I think the weekends get away from me and we had a busy weekend ahead. However, we fit in the schoolwork and it did get done. Actually, I went grocery shopping and Seth did the rest of the list with her on Saturday while I was gone. If I save stuff for her for the weekend, that doesn’t mean that I have to do it with her. I have Seth, Max and Ella to help Lillie complete all her schoolwork. I used my support system. I was being more flexible and using my supports. I need to look at what works well and what doesn’t work well. I was learning and growing as a parent. I sincerely work on my parenting every day. I will always work to be a better mom. I want to tell you all that I do a list of things right all day and I also mess up every day. I don’t expect Lillie or I to be perfect. I think the fact that we all keep trying makes us fantastic parents. Let us all keep trying and never give up.
I also knew that those were her last independent work days for a while. Our Governor has declared us in the orange zone (heading to red). School is closed as I write this, and my kids begin full remote learning today. I woke up very sad for my kids as this isn’t what school should look like. I would love for them to be at school with their friends and their teachers, but the reality is that isn’t possible right now. Again, I need to look at my role in this and how I can make this better for them. I can resist and dislike it with them, or I can go with the flow and make the best of it. Our children will take our lead with how we are handling remote learning and daily challenges.
I started typing around 11 AM. It is now 2 PM and I have written a couple paragraphs and have been interrupted countless times. Let me add that they have three different lunch times to make the day even more eventful. I take my hat off to all of you working parents who are trying to work with your kids home doing school. This is our new normal. I think instead of wishing for things to go back to normal we are just going to have to focus on adapting to whatever the new routine is for the week. I’m taking it week by week. I’m taking it day by day. I’m going to do my best to go with the flow and be a good role model for my children. Do I think this is ideal for them? No way. However, let us all do our best to make this as pleasant an experience as we can.
How am I coping and helping my kids cope?
- Focusing on myself and what I have control over. I have control over my own actions and words and experience. I can’t control what zone we are in. I can control my attitude.
- Realizing that when my children are upset, not listening, resistant, melting down, they are just having a hard time. They are struggling and they need me to help them get through this.
- Fill my toolbox. What do my kids need – we have a fidget box full of fidget toys that they use during all their zooms. It is very hard for them to sit still all day. Movement breaks. What else do they need?
- Find breaks for myself. Lille is done with her Zooms, so I am going to go walk my dog Tanner. Time out for me. I need a lot of breaks with my kids home all the time.
- Talk to my friends. I text my friends all the time. Text, make phone calls, face time, Zoom calls – talk to people!
- Remembering that we are all going through this. You and I are not alone.
- Being present for my kids. When Ella does art work she is proud of or writes something she is proud of she wants to show me. I am just a room away, so I hear her and give her praise for what she’s working on. It’s nice to be a part of it. Max has even shared things with me what he is doing. Today Lillie read her writing about baking to me. Showing interest and being physically present is helpful to my kids.
- Calling friends during lunch time. My friend made this wonderful suggestion. Ella did it Friday and Lillie did it today.
- My expectations for myself have changed again. I am having realistic and lower expectations for what can be accomplished during my days. Now my kids are home seven days a week.
- Count my blessings. This is the week for us to give thanks. Max’s health teacher had him do a journal entry on what he is thankful for and asked him to share it with his parents. Focusing on our blessings every day and teaching our kids to do this is a great way to keep us positive.
- Problem solve situations that aren’t working for you. Take steps to fix problems in your day. If your child isn’t able to sit still for Zooms all day, and breaks aren’t helping them, you need more tools. Reach out to a parent or counselor for some tips. Buy a ball for them to sit on. Buy them a stress ball to squeeze. Give them a pad and pencil to doodle on during their classes. What is going to keep them engaged and help them to focus? My problem was that Ella and Lillie both wanted to sit at the dining room table. Ella would like her own space. Seth brought home a desk from work and we are going to put Lillie in another room downstairs so that she can still be near me. I’m giving all my children their own space. Max floats between his bedroom, the playroom and the kitchen. Lillie will be in the family room. Ella likes the dining room table. We problem solve as things arise to make our days smoother.
As the mother in the family, I realize that we set the tone. You know the saying that, “If mama ain’t happy then no one is happy.” I think that rings true in most homes. It’s as though we are the heart of the family. We set the pace, the tone, the mood, the energy level, the feelings and so much more of how our days and nights with our families go. When Seth walks through the door he is so hoping to get a big smile from me. He deserves that. My kids deserve a happy mom. I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to have a good attitude.
I don’t think remote learning is what is best for our kids. I do think the teachers are doing the very best that they can, and I want them to know how thankful I am for that. I also think we all just need to make the best out of the situation that we have been handed. We need to take a good look in the mirror and think about what our role is in any problems we are dealing with. I learned that there is a lot that I can do to help my days with my kids go smoother. I hope that you can take a step away from your child’s behavior and think about how you are contributing and what you can do to make it better. I realize that when Lillie is struggling, she needs me to be the adult and help her through whatever situation she is dealing with instead of melting down before, during or after her meltdown.
I hope that you are hanging in there. I know that parenting is at a new level of challenging. I know that getting your work accomplished is at a new level of challenging. I know that you will rise to the occasion. I know that you can do it. Scream, vent, feel sad, get it out, and then pick yourself up and be there for your kids. They need you.
Let us count our blessings, have a good attitude, and give thanks.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R