06 March 2008

Blog Therapy

Riley slept through the night last night. He cried briefly at 3:00 a.m., enough to wake me, but he was just fussing, not screaming, and he put himself back to sleep. Until 6:45 a.m., when he awoke happy and chatting with the Mads. Hallelujah.

There's no way to know why things were better last night, but I really think that writing that letter to him was a big part of it. My attitude about things was so much different last night after getting all that out of me. I was more patient with him, less rigid about getting things done my way, and just more relaxed in general. We had a great evening of fun, and both kids ate well at dinner. Riley had a minor meltdown before dinner, almost certainly caused by being tired, but instead of just verbally reassuring him that dinner would be ready soon, I got down on the floor and gave him a big hug, then picked him up and let him "help" me unload his backpack from school. Then he was ready to get back down and play with Maddie while I finished up dinner prep. At bedtime, the two of them chatted for about 15 minutes after I turned out the light, but went to sleep peacefully.

What was really different about last night is that my actions felt more genuine, and I think Riley could sense that. When I was consoling him, I was 100% present, not giving him a hug while thinking, "Riley! This is so not worth crying over!" (which I confess I've done in the past). This kids knows the difference between real and "fake it 'til you make it," and I think that by getting to a place where it was real for me, it helped him feel more secure.

Or maybe I'm just overanalyzing things and it was the Motrin and Hyland's Teething Tablets that I gave him before bed. Three o'clock is about when that Motrin would have been wearing off . . .

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about what my triggers are. What things do the kids do that tend to really set me off? From there, I thought about how I could change my behavior around those things to improve things for all of us. Here are some things I came up with, big and small:

Not listening when I ask them to do something.
FIX: Remind myself that they are 20 months old and that if I cut them a little slack, it's not going to create lifelong bad habits. For example, we spend a few minutes picking up toys each evening between getting PJs on and reading stories. I already know that it's better to say, "Maddie, can you put that truck away?" rather than, "Hey! Let's clean up!" They need specifics. But even with specifics, they sometimes ignore me or get distracted. And you know what? That's OK. I can be really rigid, and I worry that if I don't make sure they are helping, they will not be good helpers as they get older. False! I need to chill out.

Playing with/touching the diaper pails. 
FIX: They are fascinated with the diaper pails (one for the disposables we use at night, one for the cloth). They love to just touch them, turn the handle on the diaper champ, lift the lid on the pail for the cloth, etc. Yuck! I get so tired of asking them to leave the diaper pails alone. The easy solution is to get the diaper pails out of the playroom. Easier said than done because our house is so small. So instead I ordered a hanging diaper pail that I can put on a hook over the door to the playroom, right by the changing table. It will be too high for them to mess with, and I can get just rid of the diaper pails. I'm also going to start using cloth at night so we'll only need the one hanging bag for the cloth. Yay! Bag has already shipped and should be here soon.

Pulling cords out of/plugging cords into the electrical outlet by the TV.
FIX: This is the one outlet that is easy for them to get to and interesting because so many things are plugged in there. It's in an awkward spot, but I covered it up with a cardboard shield last night. It's ugly, but serviceable, and neither of them tried to get behind it this morning.

These things seem so obvious, but for whatever reason, I had just not taken the time to change things up so that I could stop wasting my time being irritated over things that I can actually control. 

So I'm feeling good today. Amazing what a full night's sleep will do for a woman. And I thought American Idol was pretty good last night. I still like the guys better than the gals, but I thought that Brooke White was the best of the night with her acoustic "Love Is a Battlefield." Looking forward to results tonight . . . I predict that Danny Noriega and Luke Menard are in danger for the guys and Kady Malloy and Syesha Mercado could get the boot among the girls. Bonus: Blake Lewis from last season will be on tonight! I love Blake Lewis.

22 comments:

mlg said...

it is truly amazing what a full night's sleep can do for you! The clarity and stress reduction is awesome… better than any drugs!

When Bailey as a kid the only time she got temperamental was when I got rigid. Trying to stop her from doing things or tensing up made her respond with negative reactions. I swear kids are like dogs in that regard. The more I just let her be and do the things she wanted, the easier she was to parent. Of course making little changes like you made is a must, but it is really just a battle of the wills. The good news is that you are smarter and can always remove/change/manage the battle.

Arwen said...

Sounds like you are starting to find a groove! Awesome.

I'm afraid you are right about Luke Menard. He can't sing a lick... but he sure is pretty. (I'm embarrassed to say I've voted for him just so I can keep ogling him.)

Jolene said...

SO, SO happy for you! Yey to sleeping babies! That's so great. Here's so many more nights and mornings like that. Guys were better than the girls and I'm predictions are in line with yours.

glove said...

I love the new banner, too!

Your strategy is something I did for myself at work actually. I was getting majorly stressed about the interruptions that picking up the phone brings. So I quit picking up - I let it go to VM and deal with it when it's convenient. I rarely answer my personal cell phone either, unless I want to. It is AMAZING how just that tiny detail reduced my stress level.

Call me silly, but it's kind of a revelation that the same can be done when dealing with wee ones. I'll try to apply that same methodical thinking once our baby arrives!

Snickollet said...

Arwen--

That Luke Menard is quite attractive, I agree. And I don't think he's a bad singer, I just don't think he's a great singer, either. We'll see tonight . . .

-snick

Julia said...

Ah! The lovely potion of a good night's sleep.

If you can plug a strip into that outlet, I have a somewhat not ugly strip-encaser you are welcome to, since we are not using it at the moment.

OTRgirl said...

Just catching up. I loved your letter to Riley! I do that, too. I write a 'letter never sent' and spill out all the junk that's been rattling in my brain. It's such a great mental purge. I'm so glad it helped as much as it did. I also like all your practical solutions to the little irritants.

I'm often impressed by your ability to self-analyze without getting trapped there. I guess I know people (including myself at times) where I start to wallow in the self-gaze. I like your balance of looking inward and acting outward.

It HAS been a rough three years. Don't fret if it stays hard emotionally for the next year or two. Not trying to bring you down, but I think the pressure to be 'over it' adds an unneeded level to the grieving process. I'm sure you know that already...

Anonymous said...

I love this post - you're so conscious and constructive. You do what you do so well, you know, even when it's hard.

Anonymous said...

A great book that would add to many of the techniques you've already discovered is Playful Parenting. I have a 20 month old daughter and I'm always trying to remind myself to avoid the power struggles and to have fun with her new-found independence. The book was recommended on Ask Moxie and I've just started reading it. You can check it out on Amazon- it got great reviews.

Kristin said...

I'm so glad you had a better night. I think you're hitting something on the head when you talk about "genuine" and "fake it till you make it." Not that the "fake it" is wrong or bad -- it's just what needs to be done, sometimes, in order to get by. And that's OK, and the kids will be OK. But I also sometimes feel like my Boy can tell when I'm feeling good and when I'm hanging on by my fingernails. Maybe that's me overanalyzing...or maybe it's just a reminder that I need to take care of me, get some sleep, vent -- something to help myself.

Meanwhile, I love this observation (after you mention the end-around "tricks" you figured out for making life easier):

"These things seem so obvious, but for whatever reason, I had just not taken the time to change things up so that I could stop wasting my time being irritated over things that I can actually control."

You said it. I find that if I get into a battle of wills with the Boy, we both lose. If I can think of a way to keep the battle from ever occurring, everybody is much happier. Sometimes I wonder if I'm being too soft as a parent ("He has to learn that he can't have everything he wants when he wants it.") Well, sure -- but if I'm setting him up by leaving that bag of cookies where he can see it, I'm the one who needs to re-strategize. But again, you hit the nail on the head: it's so much easier said than done - especially when you're tired, lonely, sad, worried. I can think of tricks like Supermom when I've had enough sleep and all is going well. (The "redirect" is our favorite at the moment, along with letting him think HE'S helping US. He'll happily trot off to do almost anything if I pitch it to him as doing something for Mommy.) The worst mornings the Boy and I have are when I'm too fragmented, and I try to bend his two-year-old behaviors into what I want when I want it.

So, kudos for you: you're finding ways to do what you need -- and I hope you can see (and thus be comforted) that your love for your children shines through in every word you write. It's a privilege to be allowed to read along.

Jboo said...

So happy to hear that things went better last night for you.

New banner looks cool!

Janet

Jen said...

rock on man.. so glad you had a good night and that the big guy slept well and ate well. i've written similar letters/journaled about stuff in the past covering everything from parenting, to my childhood and getting it written down helps SO much. I've never passed on a letter that I've written and I have a separate private blog where i can vent my emotions to myself.. i give you credit for being so open about your feelings.. i think you're helping a number of people who read your blog.

btw.. i saw the idol concert last summer and blake rocked! i have a tshirt with him on it.. yay! i'm psyched about tonite! i'm even more psyched about the time change coming up.. it will still be light after work again! i can't wait to hit the park with ben now that he's a toddler.

have you gone to the reservoir in the summer? it looks like it would be perfect for young kids.. i'm a bit squeamish about swimming in public spaces, i'm a germaphob and a bugaphob.. but i think we're going to get a family membership this summer for the hot nights. i've yet to find anyone who has actually been there yet though..*laff*

JAmom said...

De-lurking to say that you've inspired me to do the same for my 3.5 year old boy. We haven't been clicking as of late and I find myself losing my patience much faster than I used to. I can usually handle the high energy but lately he's been doing this new thing of ignoring everything I say. That drives me batty!

Anonymous said...

let me just give you a little advise from a senior mom....dont sweat the small stuff..if they have a "melt down" just ignore it.best thing to do is step over them like to dont hear or see anything...it works
at that age everything is soooo interesting to them....pails toiletpaper catliter and so on and on.i usually let them help me with the house chores..like empty out the laundry basket, garbage pail,dishwasher and so fort...this way they learn housework ( futher daughter-in law will be very happy)..and it keeps them busy start small and praise them a lot even if its not perfect....
good luck
irene

Anonymous said...

The other thing, and it is no help in the short-term, is that it gets continually easier as they get older. Once real, sustained two-way communication is possible things are just so much easier on so many levels. IMO the time between 1 1/2 and 2 is in many ways the hardest. Hang in.

Shelley

tousquireste said...

more sleep is always better. And sitting down and sorting out what you can do always feels good.

i am sad to hear that m. Menard is not shaping up so well. The former choir girl in me is still in luuuurve, but perhaps he's better suited to his a cappella gig.... alas.

Superha said...

the not listening to me thing kills me. only i'm not as cool as you in thinking of their future. i'm just mad that my little girl doesn't give me respect. i'm better now. ash cried last night at 12:20am for about 30 seconds. not bad. i think brooke white is so sincere and extremely talented. i hope she goes far in the competition. do you have "audio daydream?" :)

What A Card said...

I love that you have found ways to change the things that aren't working. That's such a good idea...one I often need to hear repeated!

And I love the new banner. It's really beautiful!

Kerry Lynn said...

Wow, you were a regular problem solver today.

I love how aware you are about things. A lot of moms don't put this kind of effort into raising their kids. You are such a great mom.

tattoo please ;-)

Rev Dr Mom said...

IME, being a single parent lends itself to control issues...it's so easy to feel like you have to be on top of everything b/c you are responsible for everything, and the price for things getting out of control is high. When I look back I see so many places where I was overly rigid for just that reason.

You are doing a super job of figuring out what you actually can control and letting go of other things. You are a super mom!

Heather said...

When my son was about that age I used these http://www.safety1st.com/product/detail.asp?ID=173 for the plugs that were in use but in plain view. They worked great! Takes just a moment to install. I even used one in a place where I had a surge protecter plugged in. They have a thicker cord so I just snapped off the little piece at the bottom that was meant to separate the two coreds if you had two things plugged in. I guess that would make more sense if you could actually see one to know what I'm talking about. Either way, they are great and not an eyesore.

Anusha said...

Hi, I just wanted to say that I read your blog by chance a while ago and ever since then I have never stopped reading it. I have never written in before, but just wanted to tell you that I love to read it. I also wanted you to know that your blog has touched my heart as no other has so far. I so totally admire your strength and honesty! Kudos to you!! You are definitly an inspiration.