Monday, July 21, 2014

Gentle Discipline, Limits, and Tantrums

The kids were extremely well-behaved at Mass today, which makes my whole day run more smoothly. I'm not frazzled from trying to keep them in line and am filled with grace from being able to focus on God. Turns out I was desperately in need of that grace by the end of the evening. Peter seems to have entered another phase of limit testing. My little scientist is conducting experiments to see if the results can be replicated each time.

I try very hard not to take it personally, not to get angry at him. He isn't doing it out of spite, just trying to learn where lines are and if he can trust me to be consistent. Sometimes being the grown-up isn't fun.

On a more positive note, I have discovered an important question to ask when he is tantruming. What first comes to mind is, "What is your problem?!" But that's not particularly helpful. A more caring question is, "Why are you upset?" But when he is having a tantrum, that question usually makes it worse. He is struggling to maintain control and doesn't have a lot of cognitive resources left to ponder his motivation. Here is my new go-to line: What do you want me to do right now?

It has worked wonders! He doesn't have to process past events or explain anything. The answer to this question is a present action, very simple. Most of the time, it is something I am willing to do; the tantrum resolves quickly, then we can talk about what caused it once he is calm. Occasionally, it is not something I am willing to do, but then at least I can address the issue at hand, rather than trying to guess what is happening. I hope it proves helpful for some other moms of little ones, too!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blowin' in the Wind

How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man?
That's silly, Mommy. A man doesn't have to walk down any roads to be a man. You're right.
How many seas must the white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist, before it is washed to the sea?
What would it be then, Mommy? Just mud? Yes.
How many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?
Why would he pretend that, Mommy? I don't know.
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky?
One time.
How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?
Two. Like me.
How many deaths will it take 'til he knows that too many people have died?
I think just one, right, Mommy?

The answer is found in you and me...

Happy 4th birthday, sweet boy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

This Monday, we decorated Indian corn cookies!
I told her to stick her candies to the frosting.
She said, "Tick!" every time she stuck one.

Peter didn't want to mix anything, so he just pushed his candies
together in the shape of an ear of corn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ask the Internet - Is Spontaneity Rude?

Dear Internet,

I am a planner. I love making lists, schedules, and lesson plans. I enjoy knowing what will happen when. All that being said, my husband and I make a lot of last-minute plans. This doesn't bother me. In my mind, it's not that we've changed plans, but created them.

Often when we do this, it is influenced by our children. If they're in a lousy mood, we might shoot for an early bedtime and then decide to watch a movie once they're asleep. If they are bouncing off the walls, we might go out somewhere to get out some of their energy. These aren't events to plan; they just happen.

Breakdance party!

When we do end up with plans, we often want to invite friends. We have a handful of friends in the area who are occasionally available, so we both get out our phones and start calling. We don't particularly expect anyone to be free at the last minute, but often someone is. Great!

Here's the thing. I stopped calling one friend because she seemed insulted that I would think she didn't have plans on a Friday evening. I meant no slight... clearly I didn't have plans! I have a couple other friends whom I am hesitant to call, too. I just can't tell if they also think it is rude to call at the last minute.

Is there a social protocol to this? Is this another example of ask culture and guess culture?

- Hesitant Hostess

Friday, July 11, 2014

7QT (Vol. 94): Cousins by the Dozens

When my children visit their grandparents, they are plied with all forms of entertainment. There are books, toys, puzzles, art supplies, and musical instruments. Outside they have access to a swimming pool, kiddie pool, sandbox, berry patch, basketball hoop, tricycles, apple trees, and more. All four grandparents are willing and able to get down and play with the kids on their level.

When I was growing up, we went to my Grandpa's house almost every Sunday evening. His basement was something of a small arcade (pool/ping-pong table, air hockey table, and "bowling" game), but as young kids we didn't spend much time down there. Usually we stayed long enough to roll billiard balls around until one of us pinched our fingers, then went back upstairs.

In the rest of the house, there was really not much entertainment. For a 3200 sq. ft. house with six bedrooms, it had surprisingly few toys. In fact, my memory is that there was exactly one box of toys. It was maybe two cubic feet and was half full: a windup music box, maybe 30 Legos (a few of which glowed in the dark!), two plastic elephants, some other odds and ends.

The yard was small with no usable playthings. (There was a basketball hoop, but it usually had a car under it.) Grandpa lived on a parkway, so there was a place to run and climb trees, but no playground equipment or fruit to eat. There were also railroad tracks at the end of the street... perhaps not the safest place to play, but we did anyway.

I never remember being bored, though, because what we had in abundance were cousins. I am the second youngest of 23 cousins in my mom's family. Many of them lived out of state, so we only saw each other at Christmas or maybe one other time, but a bunch of us were local. What we were lacking in toys we made up with imagination. We just played. And when the out-of-towners came, the play got louder and larger and longer into the night.

I can confidently say that most if not all of us still consider ourselves friends. A year or two or three might pass between getting together, but we are cousins. We are family. By making time every year, our parents taught us that we matter to each other. As crazy as some (most) of us are, we love each other and enjoy being together - and that includes spouses. I didn't realize until fairly recently how unusual that is. Thanks, cousins.

No, this isn't a stock photo. He's actually one of my cousins. :-)
Photo credit: (this cousin's more normal brother)

To be very clear, this isn't a passive-aggressive push at getting my family to procreate. I just think my parents and in-laws should each have had about ten kids so my kids could also have tons of cousins. :-)

More 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Making Holy Cards

We invited friends over today, colored holy cards, and prayed together. I am so blessed to be a part of Catholic Moms of Rochester!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Underrepresented Virtues

Guest post by Jeremy

We took the kids to the Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago, and decided they'd most enjoy the kid-friendly program being put on by the Hochstein School of Music. For the most part, they both had a great time, but the end was horrible for Peter, through (mostly) no fault of his own.

The second to last presentation we attended was one about making electronic music. Much of the program was done using an iPad, and at one point the instructor asked if any kids wanted to have a turn adding some things to the program. Peter raised his hand, as did several other kids. After a few took their turns, he said he wanted to wait and have the rest do it later, which was fine. Everyone got up and danced to the "song" they had just created by committee. He then went to create the next one. Peter walked up to him, but several other kids stepped in front of him, and the instructor literally pulled the iPad back right as he got to the front of the line. A similar thing happened during the third round, made slightly worse because he asked if everyone had had a turn and then apparently didn't see Peter reaching out (despite being 3 feet in front of him). If Peter's grandmother (who was out with him) hadn't intervened, he probably never would have had a turn. He seemed to handle this OK for a while, but then something relatively minor happened during the last activity and he had what might have been the biggest meltdown he's ever had in public. (I heard him from a different room and there was a children's drum circle in between.) I'm pretty sure this was primarily residual frustration from the iPad session.

Who needs an iPad anyway

When this first happened, I was just annoyed at the situation. As time passes, I'm not sure if I'm bothered more by what happened or that, all things considered, it actually works moderately well as a life lesson.

Beyond just the generic "life is unfair sometimes" that could be applied to virtually every negative experience, this does demonstrate an interpersonal mechanic I see all the time, both with children and adults: you're much more likely to get what you want if you're aggressive about it. Peter was, for him, unusually assertive; he was the first one to walk to the instructor for the second chance at making the music. But he wasn't aggressive about it, and therefore went unnoticed. The other kids weren't exactly doing anything wrong. They didn't push Peter out of the way, nor did they explicitly violate any instructions - they just failed to be considerate of the other kids, some of them taking multiple turns before Peter had had a chance to do it once.

"Good things come to those who wait" is one of those oft-repeated axioms that we as a society don't practice. Often, nothing comes to those who wait, and good things come to the impatient - or, if you prefer, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".

I decided not to take the opportunity to reinforce this little life lesson. When we talked about what happened later, I made it a point to compliment him on how patiently he waited and how he was kind to the other kids even though they weren't being kind back. The bottom line is that I don't think this particular aspect of our society is a positive one (though I'm sure many would disagree) and I don't want to be complicit in it. Ultimately, he did the right thing from a Christian perspective, and even though the immediate outcome was undesirable, I'm proud of him.

Perhaps that makes me an idiot of Dostoyevskian proportions, but perhaps if the world had more people like that, the considerate few wouldn't have to suffer for their kindness quite so often in this world.

Jeremy has essentially quit the Internet over the last couple of months due largely to the digital equivalent of this story (except coming from adults, so much less civil). If you enjoy his thoughts on topics, these guest posts are about your only outlet unless you want to discuss things with him in person.