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Struggles

We’ve had our desktop PC in a closet for a year (boring reasons) and have recently set it up again.  All of the sudden my old tabs and bookmarks are up again, and I kind of feel like blogging again.  Except I can’t.  Almost everything I’m going through that matters, that I really want to write about, I can’t.  I can’t write about our family’s tentative future plans, or my current work situation, or the state of the dissertation, or even my ADHD.  I am feeling private, too, about my son, who is his own little man. I used to feel brave about these things, but not so much any more.  I want to talk to a few people I love and trust and that will have to be enough.

I will say this much–and maybe I will also learn to say more and still be discreet–this is both a hard and a good time.  It is the most intense it has ever been.  I wish, I wish I could tell you…

and now it’s safe to be sad.

I’m glad, though, that the house on the rock stood firm…

Yesterday was language development day.  After a successful attempt at getting the Snapper dressed without a fuss–victory is mine!–taking a stroller ride to KMart for laundry detergent, and some wonderful freeplay, we played with a stack of letter cards together.  They’re the kind with the letter and some sort of representative object.  We just went through them saying the object and the letter it begins with.  I didn’t think it would make much of an impression (he’s only 2 1/2, after all), but at the bus stop as we were hunkered down watching the miniature world of the sidewalk I asked him, “what letter does ‘ant’ begin with?” (‘ant’ was on the ‘a’ card specifically) and he answered “A, Alligators all Around!” quoting a song we love.  It was thrilling.  Of course it could just be a coincidence and he certainly doesn’t know all of his letters, but it was cool.

After lunch/reading/nap we hopped on the bus to the library, where he had a tantrum over sharing at the train table (seriously, if you are going to have your 14-year-old babysit, please forbid them from texting) and got to see his favorite babysitter.  Then we met Attic Man and friends for pizza downtown.  One of the Snapper’s most favoritist of Attic Man’s friends was there, and he was ecstatic to have the friend carry him partway to the bus stop to go home.

I wanted to say a couple of things about this preschool-at-home approach.  First, it’s mostly for me.  I need structure to, as Kohana phrased it, always be moving toward the “next thing” so I don’t get stuck.  Second, I really believe there are as many ways to parent as there are kids, and that lots of people do it with very little structure and their kids thrive.  Mine wasn’t (well, as much as he could be), and I wasn’t, so I did what was needed.  Third, I am not in the least deluded enough to think that this will necessarily give the Snapper any kind of academic edge.  He already lives in a language-rich environment with adults that pay attention to him and include him.  Honestly the teaching is just a lot of fun for both of us.  The moment it becomes work we will change it up.  I imagine the unschooling people have a similar philosophy with their older kids, and I can really get behind that.  Learning should be fun.

One of the nice things we’ve arranged these days is for Attic Man to do the entire bedtime routine so that I can go to our Community Garden plot in the evenings.  It’s been so nice to get my hands in the dirt.  I’ve planted peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, okra tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, cilantro, green beans, and cosmos for the ends of the rows.  And I’m planting more today!  I may run out of garden before I can use up all my seed packets.

And the Snapper this morning?  Playing happily in his room.  He hasn’t called for me yet so I’m enjoying the time to myself.  He has never done that before.

So life is good.

First it was the battle over changing his pull-up before nursing; then over helping make pancakes (he declared the dry ingredients he was stirring “mine,” screaming); what to have for lunch; what to have for snacks; not going onto every porch of every house we passed; and a dozen other little things.

BUT the schedule, for whatever reason, is making the craziness more bearable.  I have a suspicion that it makes me feel in control of the larger aspects of the day.  I build in a lot of choice and flexibility for him, but the flow of the day is in my hands.  Before if he had a tantrum over not wanting to get dressed it unraveled the whole day.  I got really tired of failing at managing a small tyrant.

Today we did an art lesson after a lovely trip outside–we chased the garbage truck all the way to the end of our long road and back–on collage with pieces of interestingly texured paper.  It was a lot of fun, except that I should have kept it to about ten minutes.  He started acting up after that, which isn’t surprising given that it was almost lunch time and he must have been hungry after all that running.

Our nap didn’t go as scheduled because he slept in so late this morning.  I’m amazed I didn’t lose it without that good chunk of time to myself.  I did leave him in his room for quiet time and listened to make sure he was safe, so at least I got to sit down.

Once again he was crazy happy about circle time; again he requested it several times through the course of the day.  One time he asked to be the teacher, and gave me stickers for sitting nicely!  He picked the song and read a book to me.  It was too cute.

I’m feeling a lot less stressed and angry since we started this.  I know we’ve only tried it on two days but I have high hopes.

Success, so far.

We had a nice day today.  We started with Circle Time, which the Snapper just LOVED, then had a snack and free play.  He chose to color the majority of the time.  Then we had our “music lesson,” which consisted of banging on all the pots, pans, and lids in the kitchen to Bob Marley.  It was so much fun!  He helped me make lunch (peanut butter on celery; we also had roasted veggies) and afterward we had reading time and I nursed him down to sleep.  After nap we had a snack and then did the Hokey Pokey.  More free play, during which he requested music again and got the pots and pans back out.

He even asked to have Circle Time twice more, once before his nap and once in the afternoon.  We did little songs and poems or read a story.  It cracks me up how much he loves sitting on a small rug with his hands in his lap.  I think it’s the combination of attention and structure, as well as familiarity (as they do Circle Time at his daycare).

I had fun and the day went a little faster.  I got all my chores done, and aside from morning and evening tantrums unrelated to our schedule, the Snapper was reasonably well-behaved.

I hope Wednesday goes as well.  I bought some new art supplies for art day, so it should be fun.

Parenting Revamp

The last ten months of life with the Snapper have been extremely trying.  Last June, just as we were being hit by the flood, he hit 18 months, or rather 18 months hit us.  He began tantruming hard, daily, hitting and biting, and being oppositional to most transitions and parental directions.  That summer I spent weekdays without Attic Man, as he was interning in another city, so the entire task of managing, or surviving, the Snapper’s behavior fell on me, with a little respite on the weekends.

Fall came with Attic Man home but doing his busiest semester yet.  We were both extremely stressed out through the fall and spring semesters, which probably didn’t help our very sensitive boy who began to act out even more (minus the aggression, which is now almost gone) and have the occasional three-week-long bout of insomnia.  I got used to it taking 2 hours or more to get him to bed and rising with him as early as 4:30.  To top it off he has been sick three times since late January, a week each with the flu, and is just getting over a bad cold.

We’ve worked hard on the sleep, and between that and him being past the two-year sleep regression, he is now going to bed at a reasonable time–with me out of the house and Attic Man running the show–and waking up at an equally reasonable time.  I feel like a new woman.

Once I was rested, I started to finally think rationally about my out-of-character feelings this past months.  I am a person who has always loved children, always done well with them, and has always imagined her fall-back job as nanny.  As I looked into part-time employment opportunities for the fall, I found my eyes wandering to the nanny ads.  Then I realized how crazy that was: a miserable PT SAHM looking for MORE work with children during the day?

I began to think about how I would approach a nanny job.  I would see it as an opportunity to make an impact in the education and development of young children.  I would make up a schedule, I would seek out interesting and fun and wacky field trips, I would design funky art projects, have dance parties, and be mindful at every step of their developmental needs.

Like a smack on the forehead, I realized that I’ve become bored as a PT SAHM and that, while my child is certainly strong-willed, my unhappiness may be contributing to his behavioral issues.  Even if becoming more structured does not settle him down, it will at least settle me down enough to calmly approach his needs.

I’m thinking of starting by trying to keep his daycare schedule here at home (we already keep his naptime the same) with circle time in the morning and the same snack and lunch times.  I think circle time would help ground us both and set the tone for the day.

I’m also going to be more intentional about hitting the major areas of his development: language, music, movement, art, and math (um, really just counting).  We’ll have naturally-occuring lessons on safety and kindness, of course, as we have been.  I have to face the fact that I am a teacher at heart and I need to be working this like a job to be satisfied.

I’m also going to be more consistent with his potty training.  He is in underwear at home and in pull-ups out and at night.  I need to work in regular times to ask (I never, ever force) and re-do his rewards.

Oh, and the TV is so going OFF.  I may consider adding it back in a teensy bit as a reward, but it’s off entirely for at least the first week (except for 5 minutes at bedtime, which is something he does with his dad and I’m not going to mess with success, especially if it’s not my routine).

Here’s an idea of what I might be doing.  I am going to have to tweak it, but it’s the general idea.

Monday–

a.m. Rise and immediately remove pull-up, go to potty, put on underwear, nurse.  Breakfast.  Clean up and get dressed. (Currently he will refuse to take his pull-up until as late as 10 a.m., which is just so gross; also we don’t usually dress unless going outside, but I’m going for structure here).

9:00 Circle time.  Sing “What is the Weather” and use weather stickers.  Talk about the day of the week, the color or number of the day, etc.  You know, all that Sesame Street stuff.  I have to work some of this out.  It will be really short.

9:30 Snack.

Nice day: 9:45-11:30 OUTSIDE!

Rainy day: 9:45-11 Outside with galoshes or inside free play; 11-11:30 Music activity.

11:30-12 Mama makes lunch.  The Snapper helps if she is feeling brave.

12-12:30 Eat lunch.

12:30-3 Reading time, nap.

3-4 Snack, Movement (dance party, yoga, running around the apt, etc.)

4-5:30 Free play; Reading together; Music activity if we’ve been outside in the morning.

Evening routine, which Attic Man runs and involves going to the playground while I garden.

Tuesday–Daycare.

Wednesday–Same as Monday except focus is on art.

Thursday–Daycare.

Friday–Same as Monday and Wednesday except public library for p.m. free-play time (our library is less busy on Friday afternoon, and we’ve had no success at all with preschool storytime on Wednesday mornings).  Also perhaps a field trip for the morning.

This is just a rough sketch and I will be really flexible.  The idea is just to be intentional and have a plan, however malleable.  The touchstones will be circle time, mealtimes, and naptime.

I’ll do housework during free play.  Naptime will remain my time to chill out.

Monday is launch day.

Thanksgiving.

SIXTEEN persons, SIX (J, J, L, C, E, S) of them under seven, five of those six mobile, under one roof.  I somehow find myself simultaneously glad for just my one and longing for many more.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(apologies to the fam for getting the count wrong)

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