Today was the same as most days, I started off with lofty goals of no yelling, compliance with requests and at least one nap. There were no total screaming moments on my part, but I couldn’t control what the kids did with their volume. On a more worrying note my younger son, due to stress I believe, has begun to make sucking noises after he speaks. The type of noise that comes from pressing the tip of the tongue to the soft palette and then sucking in breath, to punctuate his words. Everyone in the family is growing weary of this action and its loud sound. His other new tick is chewing on things; Legos, sheets, collar of his shirt – basically anything a five year old can stick in his mouth that may have germs on it. These two habits join his already disturbing habit of rolling and chewing on his tongue which all add to my stress because they are signals of his stress. As my husband reminded me tonight on the phone, last time we made this awkward trip he started picking up odd idiosyncrasies, and they diminished once my husband was with us. My main concern is that with epilepsy these types of temporary self-stimulating stress relief techniques can become permanently wired pathways and truly long term habits. This puts stress levels on high for me in a new way, a parent never wants to permanently mar their child in any way.
Our day proceeded on packed with driving and fun – and because this is a typed format I can’t tell if I mean that sarcastically. I know the first part of the day was not fun as I dealt with a teenager who is a really great guy who makes some poor choices at times. For example, I asked him to accompany us down the elevator since I was pushing two strollers by myself and holding two cups of tea. He instead went his own way then watched from inside the mall window as his sister spilled her tea on herself, I had to remove her from her stroller and make sure the other stroller wasn’t in the street – before getting in the elevator without us. I thought of a way to handle this without much yelling and decided on a discussion of natural consequences that went down like so, “A natural consequence of not wanting to be a part of our family and help out means that you are on your own, so I guess you need to find a way to pay for your private lesson.” That didn’t go over well and a more heated discussion of what had transpired ensued. The little ones and I went for a stroll before I watched his morning lesson. While I watched our skater the little ones watched Super Why next to me. This is one of a few times when they really do share and act calm with each other, they take turns holding the phone, making sure the other one can see the screen and co-operatively determine which episode to watch – yes I know it is TV but a psychologist recently told me that the current TV viewing guidelines are unrealistic and must have been set by 60 year old psychologists who still believe in Freud and don’t have children (his words, seriously). That being said, I do limit my children’s screen time as much as I can while preserving my sanity and I have found that less flashing shows (such as Super Why) don’t stimulate them in the same negative way as brightly, garish shows. The best shows are realistic shows such as Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen. The main concern with screen time of any type is my younger son. He really loses all self-regulating capability when given screen time outside of these parameters. I digress, on to the rest of our day…
After the ice rink drop off the younger kids and I headed off to the Portland Children’s Museum again. This time we split our time between the indoor grocery area and the outdoor adventure area. My thesis paper for my
Montessori certification delved into the levels of parental engagement and developmental purposes of different play areas, including an observational study of play areas at the Children’s Museum – my findings were that realistic play areas create better engagement and have more developmental purpose / positive interaction outcomes so I always try to get them to at least one of these areas per visit. Of course, I should temper that motivation with knowledge of whether or not we have extra clothing. Suffice it to say, it was a soggy and oddly dressed ride back to the car on the shuttle with both of my kids wearing oversized, recently purchased museum t-shirts. Getting them away from the Outdoor Adventure took a great deal of parenting wit to accomplish without screaming “Let’s go” so instead I relied on singing. I sang a song about me leaving and sure enough they moved along – I was like the parenting piped piper. I used it all the way to the shuttle to avoid having to carry anyone. To the tune of the “Ants Go Marching” I sang “my kids go marching” and they actually marched in line to the shuttle to the bemused smiles of other parents. Win for me!
We piled into our rental car super soggy and super sleepy -viola! one goal met, both children took a nap. They were completely exhausted and we headed back to the rink to pick up our skater. From the rink it was a short trip back to the hotel to jump in the pool; because sure enough those naps were short lived. I can still feel the effects of our pool visit – three kids hanging on me, jumping on me and requesting to be thrown into the air has taken its toll on my back and provided me with a really strenuous water resistance workout – I may never hit the fitness center here and I am okay with that. Our pool jaunt reaffirmed my
belief that loud areas are not conducive to small children following instructions. I think that the cacophony of the filters, the hot tub and the echo in the pool enclosure is way too over stimulating and of course this results in a failure to comply with requests which in turn escalates the requests in my world. My younger son decided to throw a pool towel into the pool, the older one threw it back, this went on for five minutes during which time I used positive phrasing “pool towels are for drying ourselves, you may put the towel away” etc. None of these worked, I yelled – and I kicked them out of the pool – again it started with a calm request “you may sit on a chair” and then after my requests went unanswered I yelled for them to get out of the pool. If you are keeping track I have a pitiful winning streak by this point in the day but ever a glutton for punishment (or feeling my own inadequacies as a parent) I proffered up a trip to Washington Square Mall to visit the puppies and the Lego store.
The pet place, Hannah, always gives me a weird vibe having participated for many years in pet rescue and having worked as a vet tech. They claim to be a pet society of some sort and set you up on a monthly payment plan, of more than $100,
for the lifetime of your pet which includes vet and food; however as our visits have been frequent, I get the distinct feeling it is nothing more than a dressed up pet shop and far less than a pet rescue. They always have puppies and really hard sell – which is not what rescues normally do. Not to mention today Michael F asked “are you looking to adopt a pet” while holding a tiny bundle my daughter wanted to pet – and before my no stopped resounding he had haughtily walked off to a corner of the “store” for no other reason than to make a point that pets were for petting by people who were interested in this scam. We left without a new pet, thankfully, because we are not ready for one which is sadly a thought I had for many of the people who were easily gaining quick access to “adoption”.
Never chagrined by others, my daughter gayly ran off to the soft play area for a bit. I didn’t fare much better at the next stop. The Lego store didn’t involve any yelling but it did involve a return before we left the store and a discussion with my older one who dropped a pouty face several times. I’d like to say that I don’t understand him some days, but its more like every other hour I call into question my understanding of the world and human behavior, as well as facial cues. Being the parent of a teenager is pretty stressful at times which is why I am sure Montessori suggested Erdkinder and the idea that teens should live on the land away from family learning life skills.
The mall is just down the road from Veggie Grill, a place I know all of the kids will eat something and I can order off of their garlic-free menu with ease. Last time we were in I was sure to grab their app which allows you to snap photos of your receipt and earn points. So far we received a free appetizer for signing up and have 300 points good for a soup or dessert – I’m accruing them for a free entree. As usual the kids ate “wings” and mac n cheese. I dined on the All Hail Kale, mashed cauli-potatoes and gave the new street corn a try – it was great. Everyone finished their meals and we decided to walk over to New Seasons to pick up detergent for hotel laundry night. If you have every been to Meijer you know how easy it is to get sucked into general merchandise purchasing, or even little bits of things you don’t really want or need – well New Seasons takes this to a whole new level because everything looks adorable, handcrafted and high-end decorative. That we have not left with tiny gurgling fish pitcher shot glasses on our last four trips is completely a feat of ultimate will power – everyone in our family wants one. We walked back to the car singing once again a song about how everyone was walking – this is a favorite of my youngest, she adores any song about what she is doing.
In retrospect my day was a huge win. There were dozens, maybe hundreds of other interactions with my children when I was able to keep my cool during bouts of crying, screaming, stomping or all three.