Archive for the ‘Week 2: Buttons? What buttons?’ category

Week 2, Day 7

April 18, 2009

Jerry and I talked some more about our buttons last night and this morning. Only one girl had called out “Glass Man!” all week. It was to Jerry, and I can’t even remember what the activating event was. It was toward the beginning of the week, and Jerry had responded, “Ok, well, since you called me out, now we get to talk about what just happened.” “Umm, honey?” I said. He looked at me. “Our job this week is just to self-reflect.” “So when do we get to talk about it?” “Not this week.” I said.

Since then, and with all the positive changes, there has been very little overreacting. I still hate to be ignored. But when I really think about it, when I feel that way, the story I tell myself is that the child is trying to make me mad and doesn’t respect me and clearly doesn’t appreciate all the things I do and will grow up to be an ungrateful spoiled brat and people who know her will think I must be that way too. Sigh. What a lot of baggage to lay on a little kid! And when I step back and look, what’s usually going on is that they are frightened because I seem just a little bit out of control and so they go quiet in an attempt to hide from me and protect themselves.

Jerry said he definitely feels triggered when he sees the older girls leaving Charlotte out. “What do you tell yourself about that?” I asked. “That she’ll always be alone…I just remember me as a little boy and how afraid I was to approach people. It took me so long to get up the courage to join any sort of group … and when my mom left … and my dad basically left too…” “You were isolated.” “Yeah, which I know is totally different from Charlotte’s situation.” “Right, and it’s important to consciously tell yourself that and treat her like she can handle it. She can be her own best friend and she has good friends at school. And I don’t think shyness is a problem for her.” “No, no, I don’t think she has any of my issues there.”

This morning he took note of another of his buttons when Fenner and Charlotte had a squabble at the breakfast table. Charlotte was frosting her cinnamon bun and Fenner needed some too. “She always hogs it all!” said Fenner. “Well maybe if you ask nicely …” I forced myself to stop there. Fenner walked over to Charlotte, “Charlotte, can I please have some frosting?” Charlotte ignored her. “Charlotte!! Can I please have some?! … Answer me!! … CHARLOTTE!!!” Fenner got right in her face and Charlotte let out a high pitched scream. I heard a muffled groan and looked at Jerry. His head was tilted back and his hands covered his face. He was working hard to stay calm and quiet. We both held our tongues and within minutes they had worked it out with the frosting themselves. Jerry looked at me and said, “I’ll add that one to my list.” I smiled.

Later on I was stripping our bed and Charlotte asked if she could play on it before I put the new sheets on. I said ok and she ran downstairs, “Fenner, Ellen! Guys! Come play on the big bed! Mom took the sheets off and it’s the soft thing on top!” To my surprise, they accepted her invitation and enjoyed a few moments of close-knit harmony with minimal bickering and almost no hitting. I’ll take it!

Playing on the big bed

Friday morning: another chance

April 17, 2009

6:45 — I got out of the shower and listened. No sign of Charlotte. Didn’t I set her alarm for 6:30? Uh-oh. I opened her door and peeked in. She picked her head up and looked at me. “What? I’m just stretching,” she said. “Did your alarm go off?” “No, I just woke up.” “Hmm. I think it must have because the button is down.” “Ohhh…again?!” “Well, remember how fast you were yesterday? If you do that again you’ll make it because you’re earlier than yesterday.” “Alright!” And she hopped out of bed.

6:55 — I went downstairs and fidgeted. I really want her to make it this time! I tried to think of something to do so wouldn’t hover. Charlotte came down and Fenner and Ellen were finishing breakfast. Then Charlotte started playing with the cats. “Mom!” said Ellen. “We’ll have to leave without her again!” I looked at Ellen. That was a good sign, actually. I was afraid they had only been taking the bus to avoid Charlotte, and that if she tried to walk up with them they would speed up to try and ditch her. It could still happen. I stood there and fretted. Would they ditch her? Would she even make it? She’s still playing with the cats!

7:00 — She finally started making her lunch. Fenner and Ellen put their back packs on. “Ok! We’re leaving! Bye!” Darn. There went the big sister escort. Charlotte stopped again to talk to the cats. “Oh, are you hungry? Here let me get you some food….”

7:05 — Jerry looked at me and whispered, “What time does the bus come?” I whispered back, “Yesterday it came at 7:10.” Hmmm. “Ok, almost done with my lunch … there, now … awwwww, my coat is at Sloane’s! … Oh! Here’s this one! … Hmm, seems pretty warm out. But I think I’ll wear a hat just in case …” At this point it’s all I can do to keep my mouth shut. “Ok, mom, ready!” “Ok, are you all set to walk up by yourself, or do you want me to come?” “I want you to come.” “Ok, we’ll see what happens!”

7:08 — We walked together up the hill. I was pretty sure she hadn’t eaten anything and I had to restrain myself from running back and grabbing a granola bar. When we got to the top of the driveway I heard that low rumbling engine sound coming up the far road. And then over the hill I could just see the yellow roof of the bus headed toward the bus stop which was still 100 yds away. “Charlotte. There’s the bus.” She looked and then ran as fast as she could for about 25 yds. Then she saw it pull away from her. She turned and looked at me. And then hung her head.

I felt her pain all through me and I almost started in with my “oh you poor thing” voice but stopped myself and took a deep breath. “Well!” I said, “Every time you get a little closer!” “This time I wasn’t closer!” she said, close to tears. “Right, but this time you had time to play with the cats, and you still almost made it! … I guess if you see Fenner and Ellen leave, you know it’s time to get going.” “That’s because they’re used to it!!” “Yes, that’s true…what do you think would help?” “If you woke me up and helped me get dressed and helped me make my lunch faster!!” “Mmm…hey you know, there’s a snooze button on your clock. I’ll teach you about that because if you use that when you’re sleepy then the alarm goes off again just a little bit later and makes sure you get up.” “Ok.” “Do you want me to bring you in super early again today? Because here you are all ready again, and I’m not ready again!” She smiled. “And do you know that yesterday you beat Fenner and Ellen to school?” “I did?” “Yes.” “Well that’s because the bus takes so long, and you know what’s weird is that they leave earlier and I leave later, but I still get there before them! … I guess that’s the good thing about missing the bus. … Hey, dad, you know what’s weird?” And then she told him what the good thing is about missing the bus …

Thursday continued

April 16, 2009

Charlotte jumped right in the car to go to karate. After class I made myself do nothing to help while she changed out of her uniform and got ready to go. That was hard in the face of, “Mom, where’s my bag? … I can’t find my pants.” Then she left her socks in the bathroom. I bit my tongue as long as I could and then moved toward the door to go wait outside. Charlotte looked at me and said, “Mom, what are ya doin’, you stinky head?!” That was definitely my cue to leave. (Especially because she said that right in front of some other parents. Geez.) “I’m going to wait in the car.” I sat there and watched her come out without her uniform bag. “Got everything?” I said. “Yep, let’s go,” she said as she buckled her seat belt. “You’re sure?…You’ve got everything?” I could not drive away without that uniform. “Awwwwww!!!” she groaned and got out and stomped her way back in to get it.

From there we swung back by Sloane’s to pick up Fenner and Ellen and headed home. About halfway home I said, “Charlotte? Where’s your back pack?” “Uhhh … it’s …. at … home?” “No,” said Fenner. “It can’t be.” Charlotte scrunched up her face and hit her forehead with her palm, “Oh!!! It’s at Sloane’s!” “That was tricky,” I said. “Because you were already in the car so it was hard to remember that you didn’t already have it.” “Now I have to use my spare back pack again!”

At home, Fenner showed off her make-a-plate that had arrived at school. “Where’s my make-a-plate?” said Charlotte, “rrrrrgggh, it’s in my back pack! … And there’s something else in my back pack I really need!!!!!!!!!” her voice escalated into a pre-sobbing wail. “It’s the surprise bag from schhooooool, and I’m supposed too have it back tomooooorroooowwwww, it’s my ooonly chaaaaaaaaaaance to hhaaaee dee pllleesss the mmaaaaaaa……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Her words dissolved into unintelligible sobs. Ellen covered her ears and looked at me with a pained expression. Then she said, “Charlotte, you can just do the surprise bag on Monday!” The crying softened a bit. “Charlotte, I can write to your teacher and ask her if Monday would be ok … except…oh, it’s vacation next week.” The crying intensified again. “Well…” I offered, “I think it’ll be ok, you’ll just have all vacation to decide what to put in it!” She kept crying, but not quite as hard. I went upstairs.

Jerry came down the hall. “This is hard,” he said. “I can drive to Sloane’s and get her back pack.” I stared at him. “Absolutely not! Have you learned nothing?!” I said with a smile and swatted him with the laundry I was holding. Ten minutes later Charlotte was happily singing to herself and playing with the cats. “Well, she got over that!” said Jerry.

At dinner time Fenner wanted a quesadilla so I said, “How about you make it this time?” “But last time I burned it and I don’t want that again.” “Ok, so now you know not to cook it so long.” “Ok.” Then Jerry chimed in, “Are you using that pan?” “Yeah, is that ok?” “Yeah, that’s fine. … um you have to … make sure you turn it all the way until it clicks.” The burner lit with a large puff of flame. “Yeah, see? That’s why because you put out extra gas if you don’t turn it all the way…Ok! That’s all I’m going to say.” He put his hands up and walked away. “Got the safety issue taken care of?” I said. “Got the safety issue taken care of, now I’m going to sit and have my supper and Fenner, you can do the rest.” “But … but … how do I flip it?” “You figure it out,” he said and looked over at me. “But I can’t! I don’t know how?!” “Can you just use the spatula?” I said. “No! I don’t know!…Dad, can you just flip it for me?” “Fenner, what’s the worst that could happen?” I asked. “I might do it wrong, or drop it!” “Drop it back in the pan? You won’t be holding it over the floor.” “Well it might flop over halfway and all the cheese falls out!” “Yeah, but that’s ok!” said Jerry. “Ok, how about if dad stands right next to you and gives you some pointers and you do the flipping?” I said. Then Ellen chimed in, “I held onto Nana’s shirt while I was flipping pancakes because I was doing it so bad.” “Did that help?” asked Jerry. “Yeah.”

Jerry got up and stood next to Fenner. “Ok, now you take the pan…you take it…own the pan…own that pan! … Ok now throw it up in the air!” Fenner held the pan with both hands. She was smiling and her eyes were wide. “Ok, ok … aah!!!” It slid halfway out of the pan. “Ok, try again.” She gave it more muscle. It slid out of the pan and flipped onto the cutting board. “Hey, you flipped it!” I said. “Yeah!” said Jerry. “And now you can just push it back into the pan like this.” Fenner’s face was radiant. Huge smile. She cooked the other side and then sat down to enjoy her creation.

At 8:00pm Charlotte asked to watch TV. “Nope!” said Fenner. “I haven’t done my homework.” “Oh! Charlotte told me earlier that you did do your homework.” I said. “Well she was wrong!” I looked at Charlotte who had a big sheepish grin. “Oh, well, then the answer is definitely no.” “I just have my reading log to do!” said Ellen happily. And they both went to work.

No TV so Charlotte decided to check in with her pet rat, Bill. 8:30 rolled around and Jerry and I headed upstairs to hang out and be ready if/when they all three got to bed before 9pm. Suddenly Charlotte started crying hard. “Bill bit me! He bit me!” She came up to the bathroom and I went to see. Yep, it broke the skin. “I don’t like Bill anymore, I don’t want him, I want to give him away!!! … Look, it’s bleeding!!!” I got it cleaned up and bandaged and she calmed down. “Mom, it hurts. Will you help me?” “Hmm…” I thought for a minute. “Ok. Injured kids who are bleeding get help brushing their teeth.” So I helped her out and she got into bed. Now it was 8:50 and Fenner hadn’t come up yet. “Can we read a book?” she asked. “No. Not everyone’s in bed yet. But if everyone gets to bed in time, then I’ll come back.” “Ok.” “But before I go, do you want your alarm set for bus time or mom time?” “Bus time,” she said.

At 8:54 everyone was in their rooms. Two minutes each. No complaints. Yeehaw.

Thursday am

April 16, 2009

This morning I woke to the sound of the shower in the girls bathroom. What? I thought. Someone motivated to shower and didn’t even ask for my help to get the temp just right? How many times during these 12 weeks will I say the word “wow”? Apparently many, many times…

6:50 — once again I hear voices downstairs, “C’mon, c’mon, hurry …. we have to go …. Bye! We’re leaving!” Fenner and Ellen gone to school. My role in that: zippo.

6:55 — “Mom?! … Am I in time to get the bus?” says Charlotte. “Umm, well the bus comes in twenty minutes, so if you’re ready in 10, you should be ok.” She starts hustling and I realize that she might actually make it. I had promised to walk up with her the first time, so I start hustling too (at that point I was still in my robe!)

7:05 — “Ready!” “Wow! Ok, let’s go.” We start walking up the hill together.

7:10 — We’re approaching the top of the hill when we hear a bus-like sound. I crane by neck just in time to see the top of the bus pull over, and then go again … away from us. “What? Is that the bus already? It can’t be. It’s too early!” But it was. I looked at Charlotte, bracing myself for what might be coming. But she still had a bit of a smile. “Charlotte. The bus came early. You made another good effort, but it came early and that’s just bad luck. So we’re learning. Now we know that we have to be early in case the bus is early.” At that she actually laughed. “So now that you’re all ready would you like to be super early to school? I can take you in super early.” “Yeah.” “Ok, well I have to go get ready because now you’re all ready and I’m not ready so I better go get ready!” She laughed again and said, “Mom, take the short cut!” “Thanks!” I said and started a fast walk down the hill.

7:20 — At the house I went inside to quickly get dressed for work and listened for Charlotte who I assumed was doing a slow walk behind me. But when I finished dressing I still hadn’t heard her come in so I figured she must have stopped to play in the yard.

7:30 — I don’t see Charlotte anywhere. I get in the car and drive slowly up the driveway looking all around. I thought, oh my gosh, is she waiting for me up at the bus stop? And as I drove up the hill I suddenly saw her tiny head appear and then the rest of her. She was holding a long stick that she had been using to draw in the dirt while she waited. Her face still looked peaceful. I stopped and opened the side door. “Ok, hop on the mom bus!”

“Thanks, mom,” she said. And happily put on her seatbelt.

I’d say my morning routine has been, as Calvin of Calvin&Hobbes would say, transmorgrified.

.

Resilience

April 15, 2009

Charlotte came home from school all happy and bubbly, and I thought, what was I so worried about? Clearly this is not a kid who gets knocked down by one thwarted plan to catch the bus:

We played a long game of frisbee together, and then I said, “Charlotte, today is your last gymnastics class. I would love to watch you, but I’m not going to make you go. Would you like to go to your last class?” “No.” Oh, darn, I thought, more money down the drain. “Are you sure?…Last chance to practice that cartwheel and maybe do another flip in the air.” “No,” she said. “Ok. You don’t have to go. However, I will be taking Fenner to her gymnastics class and so you will have to come then.” “Awwwww, but I don’t want to go!” “Hmm, this is a problem. Will you help me solve it?” She said yes and I got a pad of paper and wrote the problem at the top and wrote down all the solutions we could think of. Her top choice was Arrange a playdate for Charlotte but we settled on Watch a movie at Nana and Papas.

A bit later Fenner came by. “Charlotte, do you want to go to gymnastics today? It’s game day! You get to play games and have fun…do you want to go?” “No.” “Well…are you going to let me go to my gymnastics?” “Yes.” “Oh…good…because I really want to go.” (Another baby step in the right direction.)

After week one, Fenner has totally taken on the responsibility of deciding when to get ready and leave for both school and her activities. My challenge now is to pay attention so I’m ready when she says ok let’s go. All those things I used to say: “Are you watching the clock? You’d better get dressed. Is this show almost over? If you want to be on time we have to leave soon. Fifteen minutes! Ten minutes! Five minutes!” And on and on. Now I don’t say a word. Occasionally Fenner asks me what time it is, and then I wait for her to say, “I’m ready mom!” It’s pretty incredible.

And when it was time to leave Sloane’s house to pick Fenner up again, Ellen was playing with her cousins and I said, “Ellen, time to go, I’ll be in the car!” And forced myself to stop there and go to the car. I wasn’t sure what she would do, but less than 5 minutes later she was in the car with me. Wow.

At 8:30pm they were all happily gathered around Fenner’s Nintendo DS. I was sorting the mail nearby and all was well until Charlotte decided to try and hit the game out of Fenner’s hands. “Stop!! Why did you do that?! Now you can’t watch, you dummy!!” And she hit Charlotte on the arm. I felt my body react but I kept my mouth shut and I quickly walked away and headed upstairs.

That’s definitely one of my buttons: Big sisters who are nasty. I lied down on my bed and thought about that. So what do I believe about big sisters who are nasty? Big sisters who are nasty will be nasty all their lives to lots of people and people won’t like them, and those people will assume the parents of that nasty person must have been nasty too and the nastiness is sure to destroy any hope of a loving sister relationship at any point in the future. And is that belief reasonable and realistic? Well, I pestered my older sister and she was mean to me for years and now we are nice and loving people and we are also very good friends. So …. no … not reasonable or realistic. Got it.

Hey, nobody watched any TV again today. Will the surprises never cease?

Wednesday Woes

April 15, 2009

This morning I’m wracked with guilt. Guilt? Or is it just vicarious pain? Charlotte wanted so badly to catch the bus this morning. She did not want to ride in with our neighbor. She was willing to ride the bus all by herself and do the uphill walk to the bus stop and she had picked out her clothes and made her lunch the night before and even placed her back pack carefully by the door. I was totally amazed.

I helped her set her new alarm clock to the earlier time she needed to catch the bus. This morning I heard it go off, and I heard her hit the button, and then it got very quiet again. She went back to sleep. We’ve all done it. How could a six-year-old know how easily that can happen? Should I wake her up? I thought. No. She’ll learn this way not to close her eyes again if she really needs to get up. And then she’ll get a bit more sleep this morning, which she probably really needs. I’ll just re-set the alarm so at least she’ll be awake in time to catch the neighbor’s ride.

Her alarm went off again 30 minutes later. I heard her getting up and putting on the clothes she had laid out. Then Fenner called out, “Charlotte you missed the bus!” “No?!” “Yeah! It’s 7:00!” “Mom!!!! You didn’t set it!!!” I cringed and went in her room. “I did set it. What happened was the alarm went off at bus time and you turned it off and then you went back to sleep. So I set it again for you to wake you up at the regular time.” A look of total misery came over her face. “But I don’t waaaaant to go with them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she wailed and wailed. I wasn’t expecting this level of upset. It was heartbreaking.

“Ok Charlotte, since you made all this effort to prepare, you could still make it in time. If you’re your fastest self and you’re downstairs in 5 minutes I’m willing to drive you to the bus stop.” “Ok” she said.

I went downstairs and waited. The minutes ticked by. Finally she appeared at the top of the stairs and slowly walked halfway down and then sat. She rubbed her eyes and looked at me. “Charlotte? You’re running out of time.” “Well, will you drive me to the bus stop?” I looked at my watch. “Well if we go right now, you still might make it. I’ll get in the car.” So I did. And sat there. Then I heard a muffled “Mom!” from inside. I went back in. Charlotte was standing in the mudroom with a look of pure sadness mixed with desperation. “I can’t find my shoes! The blue ones. This mudroom is so messy I can’t find my shoes.” “Charlotte, I’m so sorry. You made such a good effort to prepare. You picked out your clothes and you made your lunch … but the bus is gone by now.” More wailing and crying. “Charlotte you have ten minutes until the neighbor comes. If you’d like to get something to eat, I’m willing to look for your shoes.” “I don’t waaaaaaant to go. Will you please, please drive me?” “No…do you want your crocs or your shoes?” “My blue shoes.” “Ok.” I looked around the mudroom a bit, but I was pretty sure they were in the car. I went out to look. In the back seat were both pairs of her shoes and all three of her coats plus her spare back pack, her favorite stuffy, and her karate uniform. I grabbed her shoes and one of her coats and went back inside. “Charlotte, in the car was both pairs of your shoes and three of your coats. So when you leave your stuff in the car like that it makes it hard to find things.” That just made her cry all over again, “Oh, I missed the bus all because of me!!! I’ll never get the bus, never, never, never!!!”

The neighbors arrived and she was sitting in a chair in the dining room, despondent. “I’m not going,” she said. I felt my insides tighten. I had appointments and meetings today. The neighbors were waiting. “I’m sorry Charlotte, but today you have to go.” I didn’t know what else to do. I tried to pick her up out of the chair. She resisted hard. So I started talking, probably too much, and struggled to keep any anger out of my voice, “I’m sorry Charlotte, but I have meetings today. You have to go. Waking up for the bus will just take a little more practice. Next week we’ll figure out a plan to make sure you wake up. But right now, this is your ride to school.” And then I did what I thought I had given up doing forever. I pulled her to her feet, stuck her arms in her coat, and gently pushed her out the door. She walked slowly with slumped shoulders and got in the car. And then I handed the neighbor her back pack.

As they drove away, it was my turn to slump my shoulders. Feels like when the good days get better, the bad days feel even worse.

Tuesday again

April 14, 2009

This morning Fenner and Ellen rallied again to catch the bus. A cold walk and close to an hour-long ride! Jerry pulled me aside and asked if he should offer to drive them to the bus stop. “No. They don’t have to do this, you know, they can get a ride with me. So let’s treat them like they can handle it.” And sure enough, off they went.

Soon Charlotte came down all dressed. “Where’s Fenner and Ellen?” “They took the bus again.” “Aw, so my alarm clock’s not working.” “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted to take the bus. Tonight we’ll change your alarm clock to bus time.” “Ok, but do it for way before bus time because it kind of takes me a long time to get dressed.”

Then she said, “Mom, do you have to make my lunch?” “No!” I said with a big smile. “Because now I know you can do it!“ She smiled back and went to work on her lunch. “Mom, am I late?” “Nope!” I said. She continued getting ready and she was so fast that before I knew it, she was standing in the mudroom, coat and back pack on, waiting for ME!

After school Ellen finally washed her hair. No trick on my part. She just finally did it.

One more tidbit: At riding, Fenner checked the schedule and walked over toward me. I could tell by her body language that she was not happy. “Hi.” I said. “I don’t want to ride Daisy.” Her face was full of anxiety and she looked on the verge of tears. “Hmm. I don’t have any power to change that. You’ll have to ask Kaley or Sally. You’ve asked to switch before and they said yes, right?” She nodded, but was still holding back the tears. I said nothing and walked over to where I usually sit and watch. She slowly made her way over to the riding ring where the teacher was finishing an earlier lesson. She stood there waiting for the teacher to notice her. I thought to myself: Oh, why can’t she just march over and use her strong voice and say, “Hey Kaley, is there any other horse I could ride besides Daisy?” I mean, it’s just a question, a perfectly reasonable question. But she just stood there, kicking at the dirt until the teacher addressed her, “What’s up?” “Um … I don’t want to ride Daisy…” She said in a tiny voice. They talked for a minute and then Fenner came over to me. “So…what did you decide?” “I’m going to ride Brickle,” she said, and flopped down in the chair next to me.

Note to self: Add “Ask for what you want” to the list of needed life skills.

P.S. As I was going to bed, it occurred to me that no one had even asked to watch TV all day. Interesting….