Anger

I never learned appropriate methods of dealing with anger.  I have spent my life bottling it up until I can’t take it anymore, and then lashing out with the fury of five scorned women.  I realize that’s what I do, and I don’t like it, and I am continually searching for better ways to deal with anger. Especially in my relationship with my ever-patient Kullervo, I try on new tactics for better (taking a break to cool down and get perspective) or for worse (calling him names* and being bitterly sarcastic).

I want to do better for my kids.  I am sure that there are good strategies out there for dealing with anger, and I want to teach my kids appropriate mechanisms. Oliver has gotten to an age where he is testing boundaries and trying to assert his independence.  This results in a lot of anger, which, in my opinion at least, is totally normal and a good time to teach him good ways to deal with those feelings.  The big problem with this awesome parenting that I’m going to be doing is… I have no idea what to tell him.

I decided to get some advice.  The first person I turned to was my mother.  Sure, I don’t have good strategies for dealing with anger, but I was a stubborn child and maybe I just never learned them.  I mentioned that Oliver has started getting angry a lot about stuff, and her response was that he doesn’t get anger from our side of the family, because we aren’t angry people.

And I’ve looked in magazines and online, and it seems like nobody is talking about how to help your kids deal with anger.  I know what I’m supposed to do when my kid throws a tantrum.  I’ve read about things to do to help prevent tantrums.

Maybe nobody knows.  I mean, anger is pretty darned powerful, and nobody seems to want to admit to having it.  And it’s all well and good to prevent anger as much as possible, but the fact is, we all get angry.  Multiple times a day, even!

The things that I do now with Oliver include the following:

1. We talk about how he’s feeling, and put a name on the feeling.  (Anger, frustration, fear, feeling overwhelmed, etc)

2.  We talk about what NOT to do–we don’t hurt ourselves or other people, and we shouldn’t break anyone’s stuff, including our own, because we’ll regret it later.

3.  We talk about what to do next time.

The problem is, when I get to number 3, I wind up telling him to do things that are unrealistic when he’s angry.  I mean, how likely is it that anyone who is really mad is going to have the presence of mind to stop and ask for a pillow to punch?  Seriously.

So, I’m on a quest to find good ways to deal with anger.  We talk about talking it out and using words and stuff, but when you’re mad, you still have all these feelings and you feel like you need to lash out.  What do you do with all that energy?

Someone help me!

*In my defense, sometimes I call people funny names when I’m mad and it deflates the whole situation.  However, this is unusual.

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Teach Me! Teach Me!

One of the best surprises about our new place is that it turns out that we live in the district for what is considered by many to be Chicago’s best public elementary school. They also have a preschool, and give preference to kids in the neighborhood (us!). Which is great news.

The bad news is that they didn’t have any openings for the current year, and we don’t know (and won’t know for a couple of months) about next year. It’s possible that Oliver won’t be going to preschool at all, and it is definite that I need to get in gear and get applications in at some other places if I want him to go next year, just in case this school doesn’t work out.

Going hand-in-hand with this, Oliver has begun refusing to take naps. This is incredibly frustrating for me, because naptime has always been me-time. Both kids are really demanding of me–they aren’t content to be in the same room with me, they want to be sitting on me, climbing on me, playing with me, etc. So from morning til night, I don’t get a break, either mental or physical. So, after spending a few days being frustrated with Oliver’s naplessness, I decided to be all Serenity-Prayerful about it, and accept the things that I cannot change.

Which means that while Hazel naps and Oliver doesn’t, I spend some time with him one-on-one doing preschool activities. And he loves it. I’m no teacher, and I think I might actually be quite terrible at what I’m doing, but he comes with a lot of raw potential (i.e. he’s kind of brilliant), which helps. I’ve been printing out alphabet and numeral handwriting sheets and really simple word searches, and we’ve been taking them a letter and a number at a time, tracing them and practicing writing them. He really enjoys it (we only spend 15-30 minutes every day, depending on how excited he is about it, and I try not to push him too hard on any of it). And during preschool time, he insists on calling me Teacher.

Oliver has had a good grasp of numbers for awhile, and even surprises me sometimes with his basic math skills. Last week, I was making lunch for him and Hazel, and had put five chicken fingers into the microwave to heat up. Oliver asked how many I was heating up, and I told him that I had made three for him and two for Hazel. And he said, “Oh, so you’re making five?” It blew my mind a little. In a good way. 🙂

Along with getting comfortable with writing the numbers and what the numbers mean, I was curious about whether he could actually recognize numbers when he saw them, and put it together with what they represent. So I decided to try making some matching games on his chalkboard, drawing goldfish crackers and having him match the number of crackers to the number. As you can see, he did a great job. Also, I am terrible and drawing.

Movie (Snuggle) Time!

The kids love the movie Cars. We had a busy morning of playing outside in the really, really cold (I was hoping to freeze Oliver into a nap, unsuccessfully), and this afternoon I had promised Hazel that we could watch a movie. It’s really hard to say no when she asks to “wotch a mooooooovie”.

I put on the movie, hoping that I’d be able to get some unpacking and organizing done, but Hazel said she wanted me to sit on the couch with her. I figured her attention span wouldn’t last too long, so I would sit with her for a couple of minutes and then when she got up to wander around, I’d get up and get to work.

But she just melted into me. She put her arms around me, lay her head on my chest, and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

So I watched her beautiful face while she watched Lightning McQueen, noticing her nearly-translucent skin, the way the light from the TV reflected in her eyes, how her face shape is so similar to Oliver’s, and just enjoyed the feel of my incredible daughter snuggled up with me to watch a movie. And I hoped it would never end, because one day she’s going to grow up, and I don’t know that I’m ever going to be ready for that to happen.

Stay at Home Mom

Today is my first official day of being a stay at home mom. Kullervo began his job today, and left at 8 this morning to catch the bus. The kids and I are at home, trying to figure out what our new routine will be.

Oliver is going to take a gymnastics class today, and we are going to work on some arts and crafts. Oliver was disappointed when we took down the holiday decorations, so I decided that we would make new decorations for winter to put up. And, if Oliver decides that he doesn’t want to nap today, we are going to have some at-home school, and work on reading, writing, or math.

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Hazel is continuing her love of tutus, and has started letting me put hair pretties in her hair. In other words, she looks adorable… pretty much all the time. Add that to her super-expressive face, and she’s just magical.

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I still have some unpacking and organizing to do, and we haven’t even begun things like painting the walls or hanging pictures. I also need to figure out what I want to do and focus on so that I am still Katy, and not just Mommy.

In other words, today is the first day of our new adventure, and I can’t wait to experience it all! The photos aren’t great, but they will have to do until I take some with something other than my iPhone.

gDiapers – Our Journey Continues

I am a huge fan of gDiapers, but haven’t had anything really new to say since last year or so.

However, gDiapers has begun offering an auto-ship for their refills.

This is fantastic news for a few reasons:

1.  It’s freaking hard to find medium/large refills in stores.  They are always sold out.  (Good news for the gDiaper folks, though.)

2.  Free shipping.

3.  You can set the frequency and change it as necessary.

Super idea!

Now to go back to separating the mediums and the larges so that Hazel isn’t swimming in her G’s.

Time Out for Oliver

I feel like there’s something LDS related to Time Out (Time Out for Women?  Time Out for Love?), which I have no idea what it is, but the title stuck, and that’s why I titled this post what I did.  (Oh, and it’s about time outs, too.)

So, time out.  I mentioned here that the way that I do time out is different than it used to be.  Most books and magazines that I’ve read recommend giving time out for a minute per year of age.  I’ve also heard theories of letting your kid be in time out until they’re ready to get out and behave.  I don’t really do either of those.

I’m going to illustrate the way that I do time out with a couple of typical examples in our home.

1.  Oliver gets angry that Hazel is playing with one of his toys.  He snatches it from her, and then hits her.  Hitting is one of those ‘don’t pass go’ cards straight to time out.  He usually gets really upset about having to go to time out, and I often have to carry him over there.  He sits in the designated time out spot by the door, facing the wall, and I usually st behind him and hold him while he’s crying and carrying on.  I try not to talk to him until he’s managed to calm down a bit, and if I do talk to him, it’s usually to say  (or whisper) that we’ll talk when he’s calmed down.  (Aside: Sometimes he’ll shriek that he IS CALMED DOWN, and I have a hard time not laughing.)  When he stops freaking out about being in time out, we talk about why he’s there.  I ask him why he got sent to time out, and he’ll tell me that he hit Hazel.  Sometimes he tries to interject with, “I hit Hazel, but…” and I interrupt him and tell him that there aren’t any buts because we don’t hit.  And we talk about why we don’t hit–that it hurts people, that we don’t want to hurt people, that he loves Hazel, even when he’s angry with her, and that she is smaller than him, so hitting her isn’t fair, and that there are better ways of dealing with a problem than hitting.  If I still have his attention, I try to talk to him about what he could do instead.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

2.  I ask Oliver to please get his shoes so we can go outside, and he yells at me, “No!  YOU do it!”.  Now, my problem here isn’t that he didn’t obey me, but the way that he told me.  If he had asked me politely, and I wasn’t doing something else, I wouldn’t really have a problem with doing it.  But I won’t let me three year old boss me around.  Then we’re stuck in a battle of wills where he’s said he won’t do it, and I won’t back down because that wold be a parenting nightmare.  So, we often wind up with a statement of, “Oliver, if you don’t get your shoes by the time I count to five, you’re going to go to time out.”  I don’t love putting him in time out for this, but I’m not sure what else to do when it’s a stand off.  So, I wind up having to carry him to time out if he doesn’t do it.  Again, I sit with him, and when he’s ready, we talk about why he’s in time out, and what he could have done instead–he could have politely asked.  Or he could have said, “Mommy, I’m in the middle of putting my cars in my bookbag; can I do it when I’ve finished?”  Here, it’s a matter of learning how to speak to each other respectfully, so we talk about why we don’t talk to each other that way.

It sounds kind of touchy feely, I guess, but maybe that’s okay.  Mostly, we try to adapt our punishment to make sure that we and the kids know why they’re being punished, and also try to modify it so that they aren’t being abandoned and forced out of the family because they acted out.  I don’t want my kids to feel like we don’t love them as much or want to be around them when they’re behaving badly.  I don’t want them to think that my love is conditional on perfect behavior, because it’s not.  So, I love them harder when they’re rotten, and try really hard to stay calm.

And I apologize when I yell at them or snap at them.  Because I want to treat them with respect too.  And I want them to know that they deserve to be treated with respect.

Today’s Oliverism/Hazeliloquy

Oliver and Hazel were arguing over a toy, and Oliver got mad, and said, “Hazel!  Go to Time Out!”

Hazel, who has never been sentenced to time out, walked dutifully over to the time out corner and sat down.

… I had to have a conversation with Oliver about how he doesn’t get to be the boss of Hazel, and certainly doesn’t get to send her to time out.  I am pretty sure Hazel was just excited to finally get some punishment around here.