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.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Great job there dad! It's great to have those moments where you see a little change happening in your child's heart! Praying for you...