Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ray of Hope

All things considered, tonight was just awesome.  Sure, it's 11:42 and Rachel is still up, but tonight, I'm completely ok with that.

Need to set a couple of stages.  First, Rachel is incredibly smart and incredibly strong-willed.  But, being 5, she doesn't have a strong grasp on long-term consequences or complex logic.  Which means that so far, every discipline theory we've tried hasn't worked.  I mean, it works for a few weeks, but then she finds its weakness and renders the punishment useless.

So we've had some struggles.  And the boredom of summer and sharing attention with a sibling after four years without (sure, he's one now, but that makes it more obvious that he's just like her - a little person with the same mommy and daddy as her) has amplfied that.  Throw in her intelligence, the stubbornness handed down from both sides of the family, a dash of quick temper, annoyance by rules that defy her level of logic comprehension, and, well, it's complicated.

As if that weren't enough, it's been about 665 degrees during the day here and at night, it's maybe dipping down to 212.  And we don't have air conditioning.   If you're ever buying a house in these parts, make sure it has A/C or demand a credit back on the purchase price so that you can have it installed before you move in.  Seriously.  Tonight all the fans are doing is pushing hot air at us.

Anyhow, it's been a struggle these past few nights to get Rachel to go to sleep.

Tonight, I made a decision really early on, that I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that the evening went well.  There was one instance where she did hit me and I had to move her to a sitting position.   (She hates this and it can be really frustrating.  She did cry and I felt a little bad.)  And there was another instance where she was scratching my arm while I was talking to Lori with a few punches thrown in for good measure.  I chose to absolutely ignore it, even though my arm stung for awhile afterwards.

I put up the baby gate right after she went to bed.  She can climb over it, but sometimes we put it up because we're tired of her getting out of bed.  But tonight I put it up before there was a problem so that it wasn't reactionary, but just more of a fact, a mental barrier.

But other than that, the evening went really well.  After Lori suggested that it would be ok for her to listen to music, I brought up the Airport Express and dialed iTunes into lullabies.  I told her that I didn't care what she did, but that she needed to stay in bed, and that I'd even turn up her little lights (purple "Christmas lights") so she'd have more light.   Later I relented and allowed her the entire room. 

But one thing I do know that all parenting techniques, they talk about consistency.  So I decided that I would never speak above a hushed tone. I only broke that once to call up to her from downstairs, but I realized it and ran upstairs to talk to her in person.  She was out of her room a number times, sometimes just poking out her head, sometimes coming down to the gate, but I never disciplined her for this, instead gently reminding her that I needed her to stay in her room.  And when she would get worked up or call out to us or start talking in a voice higher than a hushed tone, I'd reminder her that we had to keep our voices down. 

I also reassured her a lot that I knew it was hot.  I knew she was uncomfortable and assured her that we were, too.  That it was most unpleasant and that I knew she then struggled, the heat probably making her sleepy but also making it too uncomfortable to lay in bed. 

She called to us a number of times, and I made every effort to go and talk to her every time she called.  It made my free step on the wii fit and our viewing of the latest episode of Leverage take forever, but I never felt like she was abusing it.

I worked hard to never show her frustration, annoyance, or that I was upset.  At one time when she was talking, I found myself rolling my hand like "come on, get to the point" and quickly stopped, but it was also so dark she probably couldn't see it, unless she could see the blue light of the wii remote moving in a circle, but she wouldn't even know what that gesture meant anyhow. 

There was even a point where she was upset with me, I wasn't going to refill her water right away or turn on more music for her right away (the network finally stopped networking and so we had switched to her CD player.. memo to self: buy her some more CDs without words, or figure out where all the lullaby CDs are since that's where we got the music from that's now in iTunes), but that I would do it later after I took care of a few things.  At that, she put her hands behind her back and told me that she wanted to hit me and spit me but that she wasn't going to, that she was fighting her anger.

To even recount it now, I'm brought to the edge of tears.  That was a huge step and I am just overwhelmed with pride and joy with her and what she accomplished tonight.  I offered her my outstretched hands and suggested she give me 5 and 10 a few times, that it might help her release a little bit without hitting.  She brought out her fists, looked at my hands, said she wanted to hit me, but that she wasn't going to.  It took a little more coaxing and she finally opened up her hands to give 5's and later lots of 10's in fast succession.  Sadly, however, she said it didn't make her feel any better.  She did, however, agree to wait patiently for me to come back up.

When I did come back up, she started talking again about how she was fighting her anger because she loved me and that she was "burning [her] anger with a fire" and that it was "never going to come back."   I assured her that she would find herself again angry, but that I was so proud of how hard she was working to fight it.  (We don't know where the "fire" thing came from.)

I also realized near the end of the evening that I was pretty much ending each little interaction with her with either a reminder that I loved her, or by telling her that I needed to get back to whatever I was doing like "I need to go finish shaving now, ok?" and letting her tell me it was ok.  In some ways, that seems a little weird, but I think it also went a long way - never was I turning my back and walking away from her, never was I just, in frustration, removing myself from her presence - instead, I was making sure we both were clear that that particular conversation was concluding.

So in the end, I'm feeling very satisfied with how the evening went - how I handled myself and how she handled herself.  Gives me great hope for the future and I feel like I learned a few useful things this evening.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Signs Signs, Everywhere Signs

Well, not everywhere. Ben will occasionally lift up his arms to indicate when he's done with a meal, sometimes accompanied by a little "all duh" and/or "get dow." Today when we were shopping at Target, he held up his hand to his mouth, then he did it again. I got out a snack container and gave him a snack and said "Eat" and did the sign, and he signed again. It's the first time he's done that, and it was so cool to see him figure out what he needed, then sign to tell me.

As I type this, I'm feeding him dinner (James and Rachel are having a Daddy/Daughter day and I'm supposed to be getting a lot of scrapbooking done, but that didn't happen). He started fussing and running his hands through his hair, which, of course, I'd just washed. I said I couldn't help him if he didn't tell me what he needed, and I asked if he needed something. In a sad little voice, he said "Nana. Nana." So I got out a banana, and he got excited.

I wish he was using more words, but I'm not too concerned. He's obviously very smart, and I'm sure it won't be all that long before he starts to say more. It would just be so helpful if he was already doing that. We're getting there, though!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the Mouth of a Child

Rachel was trying to use her mouth to open the lid of a yogurt cup. Here's our exchange:

Me: "Honey, please don't do that. Remember, you don't know who's been touching that."
Her: "Maybe it was somebody who'd been touching his bum, for a while."
Me: "You never know. Could be."

I certainly hope not, but you really don't know who's been handling the groceries before you. Could be a bum-toucher.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vocational Hints

Ben appears to be a problem-solver. I'm pretty sure he's going to end up in something like engineering. He's already showing an affinity for seeing a problem, figuring out what might fix it, and trying it.

I've frequently noticed him standing on top of something in an effort to get to where he wants to be. He has a little pop-up toy, the kind where animals pop out of doors, then you close the doors, then push buttons to cause them to pop up again. We've put that in the crib with him to keep him amused when we need to do something for a few minutes where we can't keep our eyes on him. We've come into his room to find him standing on said toy, which has been pushed against the side of the crib.

Yesterday, Rachel's big stuffed horse was on the couch, where I was sitting. Ben pulled it off, put it on the ground and stood on it, presumably to try to get up onto the couch himself. Within a few minutes of that, he noticed my cellphone and our cordless house phone both on the coffee table. He smiled at them and circled around the table, trying to figure out if he could get close enough from any of the sides to reach them. When he couldn't, he went and picked up a beach ball of Rachel's and threw it at them, knocking over the cordless phone. It slid a bit, but I thwarted his efforts to make off with it and call China. THEN, he walked over to the coffee table and opened a drawer right up. We've been keeping Rachel's coloring books, pencils, pens, crayons, etc., in there for some time. Until yesterday, he'd never just been able to pull the drawer right open. So, I closed it and put my foot against the drawer to keep it shut. He looked at my foot, then started pulling on my big toe, trying to free up the drawer.

Today, he was at the foot of the stairs, unable to come upstairs where I was cleaning a spot of paint off the carpet. He stood at the baby gate and fussed for a minute, then I heard a noise. I came downstairs and found him standing on a box he'd laid on its side. I think he was trying to give himself enough height to get over the gate.

In other vocational news, I used to think Rachel was going to be an actress. I now think she's going to be a writer-hyphen-director. She wants to do imaginary play, but I can't just be who I pick. She decides what kind of character I should be and, frequently, what name I should have. She also feeds me lines of dialogue at the appropriate times. So I think actress would not give her nearly enough control.

Or, maybe she'll be an author. That way, she could get everything down on paper exactly the way she wants it. If she's successful enough, people will want to make films of her books, and she can retain all kinds of author approval over the finished works.