I’ve known for an embarrassingly long period of time that our days would be sooo much better if I could find a way to have special time with my oldest son first thing in the morning. It’s been a challenge because my husband leaves early and I’m on my own with three boys, rushing to get them all ready for their days. Oh yeah, and I have to get myself ready as well! In addition, my boys don’t generally wake up on their own either so I always have to get them up. READ MORE>
Relationships suffer when one or both people are holding in negative feelings about the other. Here, something has obviously shifted for your child. And you’re not feeling good either. Both of you will think better if you get your feelings out. READ MORE>
We moved recently, relocating from one of the most forward thinking places on the planet to a small town. No more highways. Very little crime. Good people. But this is no city!
Not long after we arrived, one of my boys called another “Homo!” And no, it wasn’t a “Dude, you’re so innovative — like homo-erectus. You, know, ‘homo’.” No. It was an angry put down at the expense of gay people.
Sometimes it feels like my son is deliberately trying to push me over into that parenting place where my thinking stops and feelings rule. Where finally, after a full day of whining and sibling squabbles and talking back, I lose sight of my boy’s goodness and say something I later regret. It’s usually in the form of, “Why can’t you just… (fill in the blank),” or “Why do you always have to… (fill in the blank),” or “What is going on with you!” My tone is harsh, and in that moment, my desire is to shirk my responsibility as the only adult present and to blame. I don’t expect an answer to my questions. I’m just boiling hot, and need to release my frustrations. And there’s my little boy, standing in front of me. I see him cower, but the engine of my anger train is just revving up, and it’s energy overcomes me. It’s leaving the station, and it has power over me. I’ve now lost control too. I’m overcome with a “need” to overpower something or someone. A power that when I’m in my right mind, I don’t even want.
That’s what a bad day looks like. And we all have them.
Mostly, though, I’ve learned how to avoid boarding those anger trains — those trains that take me on a ride towards the land of blame and shame, where I can rule with an iron fist (at least with the younger ones). I hate that land. It’s not perfection I strive for as a parent, but my goal is to hop that train as infrequently as possible.
The other day my boy was driving me nuts. He was sulking around the house, barking at his brothers with all sorts of choice words, and the only response he could muster up to any bit of thinking I offered was, “What do I care?” I thought to myself, “One more ‘What do I care?’” and I’m going to be on that train of mine. I asked him if he wanted an hour of Special Time.
“No!” he barked.
I took a deep breath. I knew he needed to connect with me. And I knew I needed a framework to help me remember that I love him.
I set the timer for an hour. I’ve been doing Special Time with my boys for years, so I’ve built up stamina. I can pay full attention to one of them for those 60 minutes, pouring in love and appreciation despite their ugly behaviors. I can be pleased to do whatever they want — accept their requests for sugar-loaded treats, or set up a bunch of pranks around the house. None of it phases me anymore.
“I’m all yours, baby. I’ve got an hour, and we can do whatever you want.”
“I want you to go away!” he shouted in my face. “I want to be alone!”
I took another deep breath.
“I’m not going to leave you alone when you’re struggling. Later on, you can be alone. No problem.”
He lay down on the couch, facing the back cushions. I sat down next to him, positioning my tush behind the crook of his knees. He tried to push me off with his backside, and again screamed at me to go away. I stayed. After a few minutes, he stopped pushing and continued telling me to leave. I stayed. After another few minutes he quieted.
“What do you want to do for Special Time, baby?” I asked again in a tone that expressed the sweet anticipation I was now feeling.
“I don’t want to do Special Time,” he threw out the words with about as much life as a dead cat.
“Well, here we are doing Special Time. I’m all yours for probably 45 more minutes, and I’m happy to just sit here on the couch with you, if that’s what you’d like. I’m happy to just be with you.”
He was quiet.
After another five minutes or so, he asked me if I knew how to make caramel. I told him it just happened that one of my college roommates had lived on caramel corn, and I had watched her make it so many times I was sure I could do it with my eyes closed.
“I don’t want to make caramel corn,” he stated, with zero enthusiasm. “I want to make caramel.”
“OK,” I said, in a chipper tone. “Let’s do it!”
He dragged himself off the couch and towards the kitchen. I knew he wanted to make caramel and that he was grateful for my attention, but his body language successfully disguised his pleasure. I was familiar with the “How long will you hang in with my nutty behavior?” test. And I knew how to hang.
For the next 45 minutes we played in the kitchen. It started out slow and quiet, but fairly quickly my boy grew more animated. The smiles returned. It was as if we had blown air into that half-deflated balloon from last night’s party. He stood up straight. Suddenly had lots to talk about.
When the timer rang we had just poured the sticky caramel into a glass baking dish. Together, we cleaned up our mess, and then we went our separate ways. He headed to his room to do something on his own. And I made myself a cup of tea and took a five-minute break to appreciate my success in staying off the anger train, and bask in my son’s sweetness — and love of sweets!
This piece was originally published on HuffPost Parents.
It’s coming up on your birthday. And you’re not here to celebrate. First time in my life. Even in the years (most of them) when we were apart, I knew you were out there – somewhere on the globe, feet firmly planted on the ground. I had a dad. READ MORE>
I felt like a little kid today in the library when I took a break from (home)work to have a snack, only to be scolded by the librarian.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no eating in the library.” READ MORE>
It’s been a long, hot summer here in our new home. We have gone from North America to Middle East, freezing ocean to warm sea, English to Hebrew (but I’ll keep my posts in the former), urban to rural, family dog to no dog, burritos to falafel, no cousins to tons of cousins, driving lanes as guides, to driving lanes as mere suggestions for placement of your vehicle (which most choose to ignore), many friends to many future friends…
Oh, and there was the month of chicken pox, baseball dreams that didn’t come true (more on that another time), broken down cars and a new dryer that didn’t work (not that we need it in this heat)… I could go on.
The point is, though, that while I’m ready to scream at the top of my lungs, “Yahoo! School starts tomorrow! We made it!” The reality is that each of the five of us is a well of emotions pounding the shore much more like the waves of the Pacific Ocean than the Mediterranean Sea. READ MORE>
When my husband first came to the United States 21 years ago, he did not speak English and he was not an American. I would go to work in the morning, and he would stay in our rented room in a shared house and…well, I don’t really know what he did. But I do remember what he didn’t do. READ MORE>
Just tell the truth. READ MORE>
It’s that place where we can help our children dream big — and give them the tools to make those dreams come true. READ MORE>