26 October 2011

We Will Survive (Imported post)

This is just to say massive thanks to everyone for listening and commenting. I took all your advice and internet-hugs to heart, and it has helped me to cope the past two mornings, when there was a giant fight about whose toothbrush was whose (REALLY?) and today, refusing to walk.

It seems obvious, doesn't it, that it would be something about school? And yet Boo seems to love school, by all accounts, and is almost always cheerful, if tired, when I pick her up at the end of the day. She's never said anything negative about school aside from complaining, after the first day, that they don't get naps. And my gentle prodding and flat-out asking if anything at school upsets her goes nowhere. She's not a kid who generally plays her cards close to the vest, so I have to think I'd know by now if there was something going on. All the same, conferences are next week and I'll be asking about her classroom behavior and any overall issues in the room.

Not seeing her dad on any regularly scheduled basis isn't helping, although why that should cause specific morning meltdowns I'm not sure. The girls do see him quite a bit, but various circumstances right now mean that we don't have a set two-afternoons-and-every-other-weekend schedule, or any variation thereof. And that's not good for either of them, so I do what I can to make sure everyone knows at the beginning of the week what's going on.

Then there's the fact the Mimi *is* doing so well. Boo has seen Mimi overreact and go nuclear on many an occasion, and now she sees her basically doing what I expect of her in the mornings. So it's possibly delayed reaction/imitation to something that's proven attention-getting? Will be trying to make more of a point of spending one-on-one time with Boo, as much as possible, although that is more difficult these days with the girls on the same school schedule and my work schedule being what it is.

Anyway, I have some ideas. And just putting it out there, and knowing that others have been through it and are pulling for us, helps me cope. I forget what a relief blogging is. It doesn't matter how many comments I get on a facebook post, it's not the same thing as sitting down and spilling my guts onto the keyboard and getting all this virtual love in return. I really must try to do this more often.

24 October 2011

What About Boo? (imported post)

I need help. I am in dire straits here and I have no idea what to do. It’s Boo, is the thing. She’s supposed to be my “normal” kid (for what that’s worth) and right now, she’s the one that is giving me an aneurysm every. single. morning.

She’s a whiny kid. She just is. It makes me want to stab myself in the ears with my crochet hooks, frankly. I do all the things you’re supposed to do to break a kid of whining, including ignoring it, making her ask more politely and in a different tone of voice, using positive reinforcement like stickers and rewards for when she’s NOT whining, time-outs for massive tantrums and really improper behavior. Sometimes, in the immediate, these things work. But long-term, nothing has broken her of it, and in fact, it’s getting worse.

Now we’re at the point where every single morning is a battle. Last year, getting her out of the house for preschool was occasionally difficult and frustrating, but NOTHING like this year and kindergarten has been. We are late to school nearly every morning, despite the fact that I have taken to getting up two hours early and being completely ready to go before I get the girls up. I’ve moved her bedtime up so that she is getting, consistently, between 10 and 11 hours of sleep. We lay out clothes the night before, pack lunches the night before, have backpacks by the door ready to go. And yet. And yet.

It’s not predictable, but the kid knows how to push every single one of my buttons. Some mornings, she’s not hungry and cries at the mere mention of breakfast. Other mornings she’s STARVING and cries if I suggest getting dressed before she’s eaten something. Some mornings it’s asking her to put on her coat, or put her lunchbox in her backpack, or put on socks. There’s no telling. And there’s no warning, is the thing. She goes from zero to 60 in a millisecond. If I were nagging her to put on her socks, I could at least understand why she gets upset. But I’m talking about something like the following:

 Boo comes out of her room, dressed except for socks. Me, noticing this: “Oh, sweetie, you need to put socks on.” Boo immediately screams “I CAN’T FIND ANY SOCKS” or “I DON’T WANT TO WEAR SOCKS”, begins sobbing, and dashes back into her room and slams the door.

I think this is what I find most frustrating. Everything can be going so well, and then with no warning whatsoever, we’re in total nuclear meltdown mode. That’s what happened this morning. I was ready to go. Mimi was ready to go. Boo was ready, except that she had to put on her coat and pick up her backpack and lunchbox. She’d gotten distracted by a toy left out in the middle of the living room, and when I walked out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth and said “ok, everyone at the door” she started screaming at me “I’M DOING SOMETHING OK JUST A MINUTE.” With no warning, or provocation, or anything. Just screaming.

I walked over, plucked the toy out of her hands, CALMLY reminded her that mornings are not playtime, and told her to put on her coat.


“Whatever you are doing, it’s time to stop. We need to leave now so you can be on time for school.”

“JUST A MINUTE I JUST NEED IT FOR A MINUTE.” Screaming. Crying. I steer her to her bag and coat, on a dining room chair, and attempt to wrangle her into both. She fights me. I pick up the coat and say that ok, then, she can put her coat on in the car but it’s time to go. She screams that she wants her lunch box IN her backpack, and I reply that I will do that in the car. She starts crying. I start getting REALLY frustrated. She attempts to dash past me back into the living room, and I instinctively stick my arm out to prevent this because I know from prior history she’s headed to her room to throw a tantrum and this will cause further delay. Unfortunately, she runs into my arm neck first, and I catch her by the throat. So she starts crying harder. At this point *I* start crying, from sheer frustration and guilt that I have no idea how to help her.

I ended up sending Mimi to the car ahead of us, picking up the coat and backpack and lunchbox and half-carrying, half-dragging Boo out to the garage. I set her down to unlock the car and throw everything in, and there’s a melee about who is sitting in which car seat, at which point I just scream at everyone to get in the car, dammit, why do we have to do this every single morning? Can’t we just get out the door and be on time for once?

By the time everyone is in the car and buckled, we are all in tears. Poor Mimi, who has done every single thing she was supposed to in a timely fashion, gets upset whenever I get upset and tries to be sympathetic. “I’m sorry you had a bad morning, Mom,” she says. Which makes me feel guilty and makes me cry some more.

We get to school and Mimi dashes in just in time. Boo won’t get out of the car because her lunchbox isn’t yet in her backpack, so I have to park and drag her into school five minutes after the bell rings, both of us with red, swollen faces. Boo stands in the doorway to her classroom, while other kids stare at her, and her teacher asks her to come in and hang up her stuff. I am on the receiving end of yet another Look from the teacher.

I go back to the car and sob all the way to work. I get to the parking structure and spend another five minutes in the car melting down, trying to collect myself, and dabbing on the face powder I now keep in my bag because I am so often trying to cover the fact that I’ve been crying in the morning. I can’t focus at work. I feel horrible.

I feel like a terrible, terrible mother. I know I’m not. Mimi is doing so well. We’re going to therapy once a week. She listens. She follows directions, at least as much as the average eight-year-old. She hardly ever rages, she talks to me about her feelings, she acknowledges when she screws up. She apologizes when she has a regression and acts out. I’m so proud of her, and I have to think that some of the credit is due to how hard I’ve worked with her to get a handle on this.

Is it just that we’ve focused so much on Mimi’s issues that Boo is screaming for attention? I really thought we’d made a big effort NOT to leave her out. To make sure both girls get time with each parent and special treats and attention and cuddles. Boo snuggles with me at bedtime and we read a story and sing a song. She tells me “I love you Mommy” out of the blue, offers hugs and kisses, holds my hand when we’re out in public, says “please” and “thank you” and is so funny and awesome and smart.

And all that and more is why this morning thing terrifies me so freaking much. I cannot get a handle on it. She does this at other times, too, but mornings are the worst. Sometimes getting ready for bed does not go so well but usually I can stay calm and deal with that. It’s trying to get the three of us out of the house in the morning, fed and dressed and sort of on time, that stresses me out. I hate being late. I hate when the kids are late and I imagine the teachers shaking their heads and judging me, even if they aren’t. (I kind of think Boo’s teacher is, though. Gah, the Look.)

I hate feeling like the single mom who cannot manage her kids. One morning last week, I was so pleased because we were EARLY to school. Then after we got there we realized that no one had lunch money, I’d forgotten to give Mimi her medicine, and Lila only had rainboots and not gym shoes. This happens to the best of us, I know, but it happens to us All. The. Time.

I’m doing everything that has been suggested to me. Mimi’s therapist has given me advice about coping strategies in the morning, talking to Boo about expected behaviors, sticker charts, positive reinforcement, ignoring tantrums, time-outs, and on and on. Boo screams at me “stop TALKING TO ME!” when I bring up my expectations. She gets time-outs and loses privileges for that sort of rudeness, because I can’t allow it, but it doesn’t seem to stop her. Massive praise and rewards for good mornings, positive behavior and pleasant tone of voice doesn’t seem to give her any sort of incentive to keep it up. Nothing is working.

I needed to get this out. I haven’t blogged in ages and ages, and I don’t really have time anyway, and Facebook and Twitter are so much faster and more convenient and all that. But this is so much more than I can explain on any social media platform, is so much bigger than 144 characters, and I am just at a loss.
I’m not necessarily looking for advice. I just needed to put it out there. If you have a miracle solution, God knows I’ll try it, but don’t tell me, please, that she is seeking attention, acting out cause she misses her dad, needs therapy, or any of that stuff. I know all that. I know. I’m working on it. I’ve BEEN working on it.
And this is my “normal” kid. To cop a phrase, God said HA.