Thursday, July 16, 2009

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things

The past few days have not been very good in the Jedi house. I've come to expect Mondays to be extremely difficult, but when it hits on other days it's somehow harder. SkyWalker has been doing his best to get my attention by being a wild crazy naughty boy. He did the same after the Princess was born but I attributed it to other things. He's still very affectionate and wonderful with his sisters, but he's taking it out on me. He's doing bad things, I yell and yell and yell, he laughs when he's in time out and completely disrespects me. I don't have enough time/mental power to devote to him, Vader has worked late every day and has taken work home and has spent VERY little time with us, he doesn't have preschool anymore. There are so many reasons, but in reality these are just excuses. When it comes down to it he's treating me the way he is because I am allowing it. I have somehow lost my way. Somewhere in the lack of sleep and the desperation that comes with fitting a newborn into our lives, I have given up. I've become the nagging cajoling "don't do that again!" mother who is not listened to and is instead laughed at. It's particularly hard when I know that he is such a good boy and this is just not normal for him. He needs structure and I haven't been giving it. 

But that's all over. 

We hit rock-bottom (I hope) on Tuesday when lots of tears from multiple people were shed. Wednesday morning I had a bit of an epiphany thanks to MetroDad (who you really should be reading if you don't already) and then spent a lovely 2 hours at the beach with friends, watching my children play with my mother's helper and being so good, and listening to Chewie snore in the baby bjorn instead of scream, and I realized what I have to do. 

I have to get myself back. If I think for a second that I can't do this--that I can't parent 3 children--that I can't parent a 4 1/2 year old--then he's going to feel it and freak out. He needs reassurance that yes, Mommy actually is in charge, even if he claims otherwise. I've already implemented some new tactics, both philosophical and um, practical, for lack of a better word. In the interest of brevity (ha ha) and because I like lists:

1. Good behavior jar-- I have two little jars (I believe they once held chicken bouillon cubes in them), one for each child. It's mostly for SkyWalker, but the Princess wanted one too and it's good for her as well. When they do something good they get a bead in the jar. When the jar is full they will get a chance to pick a ticket out of another jar for a reward--special treat, alone time with Mommy, extra TV. I'm not specifying what they have to do to be good--my neighbor is doing this but with specific behaviors--not getting out of bed, not hitting, etc--but I really want to focus on overall behavior. Bringing his dishes to the sink gets a bead. Doing something nice for his sister gets a bead. Sharing. The number one thing is listening and doing something the FIRST time I say it. That is ultimately what I'm trying to get to. I'm doing the random reward so that he doesn't just always choose M&Ms. We started for real yesterday and he has over 15 beads already. 

2. Ignore the bad--I really need to focus on the GOOD behavior and ignore the bad. I cannot reinforce it by yelling and repeating myself 20 times. Time out doesn't work for him anymore. Threats don't work. He's looking for attention, I have to give it to him for being good, not for being bad. Even if what he is doing is terribly embarrassing or annoying or he's been told a million times not to do it, I have to not react. Yelling is the worst thing to do. I have to just say "Please don't do that" and then walk away. 

3. Solitude-- I get up at 5/5:30 every morning so that I can have some me time. I have to continue that but I also have to make sure it's ME time. It's not enough to have physical solitude because they are sleeping. I need to have mental solitude as well. That means instead of reading babycenter message boards or researching 6 week growth spurts or potty training or whatever, I need to do something not kid-related at all. My goal in getting up so early is to start the day with a clear head but I really haven't been doing it. So from now on when I get up after I eat breakfast and check my e-mail (I can't give that up), I need to sit on the couch and read a book. That's the only way I ever truly get out of my own head. I need to be engrossed in a book and just relax with a hot cup of tea. No exercise, no cleaning. No pressure. Just some nice quiet solitude. 

4. Quiet time/nap time--I had wanted to do the treadmill in the morning once Chewie is upstairs in her own room, but I don't think I will now. I think I will aim for doing it in the middle of the day when I need that pick me up. I'll shoot for 3 days a week, but once again, no pressure. Some days I will have other stuff to do and that's okay. I don't need to lose 50 pounds, I just want to be healthier in general and have more activity than before. 

5. Leave the crazy behind--our really rough time is after nap and before dinner. When we're really having a hard time I need to change the scenery. Put Chewie in the baby bjorn if she's awake and take them all outside, or to the library, or to a park or call up a friend. Some of this may also be SkyWalker getting bored and needing to burn off steam. I need to give him the opportunity to do so. We have to get outside and if that means dirty dishes and unfolded laundry then oh well. I need to get back on track with my kid and that's more important right now.

I have just yawned 3 times in the last minute and I think that's my cue. Getting up at 5 am for my solitude is important, but so is going to sleep early! 

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Bridget said...

I love the jar idea! I am going to try that. Maddie has the same issues. I have to tell her something 20 times and then I end up yelling and she laughs at me when I get mad. It is really annoying and frustrating.

judy said...

Jenn, I feel for you! I am knee deep in the teen angst years with my kiddos and I forget how mind numbing the toddler years could be. I remember the grogginess the most. I was a different person once I got to sleep a few nights in a row. Hang on....some day you will be like me, and saying, "When were they six? I dont remember them being six...." (that's why we take pictures, so I can go back and see faces that look familiar and say, "yeah, I guess they were six at one point...")Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. And know I'm rooting for you. You're a great mom, you just don't see it yet. :)Judy from the library

Bee said...

You are one of the most "together" moms I know, so I have great confidence in your ability to "fix" this problem... Please be sure to keep sharing all these things that work so I can use them once the baby is born!