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A Bright Spot Amidst The Bullsh*t

The past week has been, how shall I put this…

fucking shitty.

So I’m just going to take a moment to shamelessly brag because hidden in the bullshit there have been a couple of memorable moments. Good memorable moments.

This past weekend we had a swim meet.

Numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7 swam in it, and I also coached it.

If you aren’t familiar with swimming, the spring/summer season is referred to as long course season. It’s  called long course season because most of the meets are held in a 50 meter pool (the same size they swim in at the Olympics). During the winter season, you swim in a 25-yard pool.

So the pools for summer meets are more than twice the distance of the pools you swim in in the winter season.

Sunday was Number 7’s first long course meet. At 5 years old, she was the  youngest kid there.

She was very excited to be at the meet.

“MOMMMY! This is SO FUN!” she said to me Sunday morning.

She was pretty  psyched to be at a “big kid” meet with her older brother and sisters.

 

It was chilly when we left the house at 6:30 a.m. It was only around 45° outside.

So I didn’t have her get in the pool for warm up before the meet started. She would have frozen her butt off once she got out.

She was in her pajamas until her very first event.

Number 7 has swum in this pool for fun many, many times. But she has never actually competed in a race. She has never tried to make it from one end to the other as fast as possible in a meet with a bunch of big kids where she is the youngest and the smallest.

It was her decision to swim in the meet. I asked her if she wanted to, and I let her pick her events. But I wasn’t sure what would happen when it was actually go time. In fact, I asked all my mom friends if they wanted to place a wager on whether or not she would actually swim.

When she got up to the blocks for her first event, the 50 breaststroke, she totally freaked out. She burst into tears. She shook her head. No. No no no no no.

Standing at the end of a 50 meter pool is intimidating for me. So I wasn’t surprised by her reaction. It was a holy shit this is a fucking longass pool kind of reaction.

She didn’t end up swimming.

She was upset. And sad.  And probably a little bit embarrassed.

But she was also pissed.

And after she stopped crying, I asked her if she wanted to try again when it was time for her next event — 50 meter backstroke.

She nodded her head yes.

So we went up to the blocks.

Let me say something before I get to the rest of the story.

Coaching your own kids is both a gift and a challenge.

I feel very lucky to have been able to coach all of my kids. Being a part of getting Number 4 to Zones this past season and helping her fulfill her biggest life goal to date was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

But holy shit is it hard.

My kids don’t listen to me the way they listen to other coaches. And it’s difficult to stay calm and patient when they are screwing around at practice (yes, they definitely screw around) or when they are overly dramatic or when they aren’t performing to the level I know they can.

But on the other hand, I get to be right there with them for the successes.

As a coach and a mom and a former swimmer who has been in their shoes and who gets it, that’s a pretty special experience to have.

So when it was time for Number 7’s next event, she was determined.

She got right up to the blocks.

She hopped into the water.

And she swam the cutest little 50 meter backstroke I’ve ever seen.

And you know what? She didn’t even come in last! She beat two nine years olds.

Ha!

She’s a little badass.

And she’s a reminder, too. Fall down seven times stand up eight.

So amidst the bullshit of the past week, that happened.

I’m a proud mom, for sure.

And to be able to stand behind her — both literally and figuratively — every step of the way, well, for that I am super grateful.

 

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What I Learned Over Spring Break

Last week was our spring break. It was the first spring break in about five years that we haven’t had major money problems.

Where we weren’t in danger of losing our house, where the Man from CL&P wasn’t coming to knock on our door on an almost monthly basis, where we weren’t on food stamps, where we didn’t have to return cans and bottles or hold a tag sale in order to pay for groceries.

We aren’t anywhere near rolling around in bags of money. We aren’t in the position to do whatever we want whenever we want. We are nowhere near that. We still have to be frugal and cut the fat wherever we can.

But we aren’t destitute.

Being in a terrible financial black hole for years had put me into the mindset that I couldn’t relax. That I had to spend just about every second of every day working or trying to find ways to make money. And so for the past four of five spring breaks and Christmas vacations and summer vacations, I have basically ignored the kids.

Going away anywhere was clearly not an option. But I had also convinced myself that taking time to do just about anything with them wasn’t possible. Or allowed.

It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

For me, anyway.

So this spring break, I made the conscious decision to be much more available to the kids.

I did this for a number of reasons.

First, Number 7 is five years old.

Five years old!!!

How did that happen so fast?

There are phases of life that have passed us for good.

We are done with diapers and highchairs and strollers and carrying kids. I find myself feeling nostalgic for some of these things that are long gone sometimes.

Although I appreciate where we are now. I am enjoying the kids having more independence. I am enjoying relating to them on a different level.

But damn is it going by fast!!!

I definitely have regrets. And I’ll see an occasional video show up on Facebook from five years ago and it’s scary how quickly I forget. I forget what the kids looked like and what they smelled like and what they sounded like. I know that happens.  But has it happened more for me because I’ve been letting so many opportunities with the kids pass me by?

I spend a lot of time with my kids. I mean, I’m the one who is usually home with them.

But I feel like I’ve been absent for a lot of that time.

I’m in the same place as them, but I’m not really present.

You know, like the stereotypical husband sitting across the table from the wife, reading the newspaper, and not listening to a thing she ways and just uh-huh-ing her without even looking up from the paper or actually listening to a word she says.

So there was that realization.

Then there is the fact that some of the kids are having issues with behavior. They happen to be the kids I spend the least amount of time with.

Maybe it’s just coincidental, but I don’t think so.

I am certain there is a direct correlation between kids behavior and the amount of or quality of interaction between them and their parents.

My kids need my attention. My focused, undivided attention. They don’t necessarily need hours and hours of it.

But they sure as shit need more than they’ve been getting.

So for the first time in years, I made the conscious decision to spend a significant amount of quality time with my kids while they were home last week.

And something ironic happened.

I didn’t get sick of them. I didn’t find myself getting pissed and annoyed and short on patience.

Don’t get me wrong. They did stupid and infuriating stuff. They still tried to annoy the shit out of each other and me. The are kids. That’s what they do sometimes.

But they started doing it less and less.

I spent more quality time with the kids than I have in a long, long time. And instead of me getting to the end of our vacation and feeling exhausted and exasperated and desperate for a break, I felt kind of sad that the break was over. I could have used a couple more days.

What the fuck?

I have never, ever felt that way.

I have spent every vacation for the last couple years desperate for the kids to go back to school so I could have a break.

And the kids (who are usually at least a little bit excited to go back to school and see their friends) were bummed, too.

Number 4 had no desire to go back to school. That’s never happened before.

At least ten times last week, she just looked at me — not in response to going on one of our adventures or in an effort to get something but just out of the blue — and she said, I love you, Mom.

Whoa.

I guess I am having one of Oprah’s proverbial light bulb moments.

I’m not going to stop working, drop everything I want to do, start homeschooling and construct a huge family bed.

But it’s clear that my priorities need to shift. Or at least the way I structure my time does.

Last week the kids and I had one of the best weeks we’ve ever had together. Possibly, the best week we’ve ever had.

I know we did some fun things. But it wasn’t really the fun things that made the break so great.

It was the fact that we did them together.

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If Power Struggles With Your Kids Are Making You Want To Rip Your Hair Out, You Should Totally Read This

If you guys have issues with your kids and power struggles, I have a little story to share with you.

But first, let’s just talk about this for a second.

Power struggles suck.

They are exhausting and infuriating.

What we may not realize, though, is that our kids aren’t creating this problem.

We do it to ourselves!

I know we don’t mean to do it.  And I know many of us don’t even realize when we are doing it.

But over the last few months, I have been realizing how many power struggles I engage in on a daily basis.

They happen multiple times a day.

It may be something like this:

Me: The bus will be here soon. Go brush your teeth.

*kid doesn’t go brush teeth*

Me: Go brush your teeth!

*kid doesn’t go brush teeth*

Me: GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH.

*kid still doesn’t go brush teeth*

Me: HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!!!!

*kid still doesn’t go brush teeth*

Now you are fuming, and your kid isn’t moving.

Me: IF YOU DO NOT GO UPSTAIRS RIGHT NOW AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH, YOU WILL NOT WATCH TELEVISION FOR ONE WEEK/USE THE IPAD/GO TO YOUR FRIEND’S HOUSE/WHATEVER..

At this point your kid may go brush her teeth. Or it may take a couple more massive threats.

Eventually, chances are they go brush their f*cking teeth.

But you are pissed, it took you five or ten minutes to get the the actual teeth brushing, you have lost your patience and you have already partially emotionally drained yourself and it’s only 8:00 in the morning.

You are glad you won’t have to engage in the teeth brushing games for another twelve hours.

Ugh!

We find ourselves in these situations over and over again.

If it’s not the teeth brushing, it’s getting dressed. Or it’s picking up toys. Or it’s putting away laundry. Or it’s packing up the swim bag. Or it’s…

The list could go on forever.

Ultimately the most frustrating thing is that no matter what you say, no matter how many things you threaten to take away, no matter how loud you yell,

nothing changes.

Our kids never get it.

And then we find ourselves in that definition of insanity.

Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

These power struggles always lead to the same things.

Resistance, rebellion, or approval junkie compliance.

That’s not what we ultimately want, though.

We sure as hell don’t want our kids putting up a fight every time we ask them to do something, but we also don’t want them to only feel good about themselves when we are praising them for following orders.

So how can we do it differently?

I told you I had a story…

I have come a long way in the morning with regard to these power struggles.

They actually aren’t much of a problem any more.

That’s due partially to getting more organized and prepared the night before to cut down on chaos.

And it’s also largely due to the fact that I have started communicating differently with my kids.

But sometimes I forget.

Actually, I still forget a lot.

Luckily, I  had just come back from a Positive Discipline certification course, and everything was fresh in my head yesterday morning when we weren’t quite as organized as normal.

Since I hadn’t been here on Monday and Tuesday, our routine was a little bit messed up. I also got sick, which didn’t help either.

The laundry had piled up a little bit, Number 7 didn’t have her outfit for the next day picked out the night before, and things kind of snowballed from there.

So yesterday morning, things were not running like a well-oiled machine, and that’s when Number 7, who is five-years-old, had one of her moments.

I am now realizing that her “moments” aren’t always her just trying to kill me with girl drama. They almost always make an appearance when I have (unconsciously) engaged in a power struggle with her.

(It’s funny — not haha funny but more like annoying funny — how you don’t realize it when it is happening. I had this a-ha moment regarding Number 7 when I was at the conference on Monday and Tuesday).

So anyway, Number 7 had a freak out over what she was going to wear about five minutes before the bus was going to be here yesterday.

I did not want to lose my shit.

I did not want to hand out any empty threats.

I did not want to say anything I would later regret.

I did not want to engage her in a power struggle.

(And I am fortunate to be in the position where I don’t have to be at work as soon as the kids get on the bus, so that gives me more options when handling these situations than parents who have to be at work at a certain time).

So rather than freak out, I told her I had to get Number 5 and 6 on the bus, and I couldn’t help her find clothes five minutes before the bus was coming.

She got pissed. She started screaming. She told me she wasn’t going to go to school. She told me I was the worst mom ever.

I told her I would be happy to talk to her when she was calm, but that right now, when she was screaming at me, I was going to walk away.

And I walked outside with Number 5 and 6.

Number 7 continued to lose her shit. She followed me out the door in her pajamas. I walked to the driveway with Number 5 and 6. Number 7 stood by the front door screaming.

Until she saw the bus coming.

Then she ran inside because she didn’t want anyone on her bus to see her. (I knew that would get her back inside).

After Number 5 and 6 got on the bus, I walked back inside. Number 7 was sharpening pencils.

“I’m not going to school because you won’t help me pick out my clothes,” she quietly said to me.

I asked her if she would like some help.

She silently nodded her head, yes.

We went to her room, found some acceptable clothes, and she quickly (and happily) got dressed.

After she was dressed, we went down to the kitchen, which is our normal routine.

She sat down on a stool while I brushed her hair and put it into a ponytail.

She was calm and it was a good time to  talk to her.

“What do you think we can do so we don’t end up in this same situation tomorrow?” I asked Number 7.

She just shrugged.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I offered her some suggestions.

“Well, you could go to school in your pajamas. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about what clothes you were going to wear,” I told her.

“MOMMY! I CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL IN MY PAJAMAS!!!” she laughed.

I gave her a second.

“Ummmm… we could pick out my clothes for school tomorrow tonight!” she said to me.

“That sounds like a good plan,” I told her.

Then I gave her a hug, she put on her jacket, and I drove her to school.

There was no yelling, there was no shit being lost, and I hadn’t said anything I regretted. Even better, rather than getting into an epic battle, Number 7 and I calmly came up with a solution to the problem.

And that’s what we really want, isn’t it? A solution? So our kids do this stuff independently?

So what happened this morning? Did things go more smoothly?

I was a little worried.

Because last night by the time I got home from practice, it was after 8:30, and Number 6 and 7 were already in bed.

Shit! I hadn’t told my husband about our morning or the agreement Number 7 and I came up with.

But it didn’t matter…

This morning Number 7 woke up and walked downstairs. I was in the kitchen getting breakfast ready.

She sat down at the counter, looked right at me, and said, “Mommy, you don’t have to worry.  Guess what? I picked out all my clothes for school today already, and I know exactly what I’m going to wear!”

I almost started crying.

Why hadn’t I realized this sooner? By changing the way I dealt with the situation, the outcome was completely different.

All these times I’ve been engaging in power struggles with Number 7. We’ve both been getting upset. She’s been exhausted, and I’ve been exhausted. She’s been angry. I’ve been angry.

That’s no way to start a day.

And it’s not the way every day starts. In fact, most run fairly smoothly.

But who ever wants to start a day that way?

I don’t! And I sure has hell don’t want to put my little five-year-old on the bus like that  in the morning either.

Ever!

So I share this story because many of us wrestle with these power struggles so often, and we don’t realize that we are basically banging our heads against a wall.

By engaging in them, we aren’t teaching our kids to do the things we want them to do. We aren’t involving them in the process. We aren’t helping them to take responsibility.

We are just creating more chaos, and less independence and proactivity — the total opposite of what we really want!

If you find yourself in these types of situations often, I encourage you to take a look at your contribution to these struggles.

And then what do you do?

1) Involve your kids in coming up with routines. Ask them what they need to do to be ready for school in the morning/go to practice/get ready for bed.

2) Ask “curiosity questions” rather than barking orders. What do you need to do to be ready for school? What do you need to do next from your routine chart? This helps your child to start thinking for him/herself.

3) Give limited choices. “Do you want to wear your pink pants or your gray pants?” Your child now has some control over decisions that affect her.

4)Use humor when  you can!

5) Give your child  (and yourself) time to calm down before trying to come up with a solution to a problem. Nobody can make rational or logical decisions when they are in freakout mode.

6) Give hugs! Sometimes a freaked out kid (and adult) just wants some comfort!

I can tell you first-hand that these things work. They may not work in every situation for every child, but fortunately there are lots of other strategies you can use in these situations to avoid power struggles and avoid wanting to gouge your own eyeballs out or start drinking before noon every day.

If you are looking for help in specific situation, I STRONGLY recommend this book. It’s full of useful suggestions you can implement immediately for almost any challenging situation or behavior will encounter with your children. I have it, I refer to it often, and I love it.

Stay tuned for more tips, more examples of how this works in real life with my kids, and most importantly, try to stay positive!

XOXO~

Susie

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I’m still alive!

I know I told you all how I’ve been dealing with a round of depression. And I know I haven’t written a post in a couple days. And I know that’s unusual for me.

But I just wanted you all to know (because some people have asked) that I am still here!

I have spent the last few weeks and, in particular, days, trying to get out of this depression, get my shit together, and figure out what the fuck I’m doing with my life.

And now I have a (sort of) plan.

And I’m very excited.

But it’s also 3:29 p.m., and Number 5, 6, and 7 are getting off the bus in ten minutes. And I am really trying to commit to being 100% available to the kids when they get home from school.

So you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Then I’ll fill you in on everything 🙂

(Oh… and until then, could you all do me a favor and click on that banner down there and vote for me? I’m Number 4. Number 4 blows.)

 

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