Lyle was an emotional wreck this morning. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s probably some combination of fatigue, allergies, Daddy leaving on a business trip, and end of the year changes. Although he fell apart about a great many things today, the one that we really got stuck on was about Blues Clues.
Lyle went digging through our video collection and presented me with an old videotape of Blues Clues. “I want to watch this while you dry your hair,” he decided. I sat down with him and explained that drying my hair would only take five minutes and then we’d be ready to go to school. That he would be very upset if he had to turn off Blues Clues after only five minutes. And that we could watch it after lunch today, during quiet time. But the wailing, sobbing, and copious amounts of drama were not going to stop. This response is very unusual for him these days and I could see that he needed something more; none of my usual strategies were working.
So. We went into my office and got out a yellow legal pad. I told him this was “work paper” and that it’s what I use for writing Very Important Things. He started to dry his eyes and relax a bit. I took a Very Special Work Pen out of my Amazing Work Bag and wrote:
Lyle will get to watch Blues Clues as soon as he is finished with lunch today.
I handed the paper to him and said somberly, “This is my promise. You can hold onto the promise all the way to school and keep it in your cubby. Anytime you think about Blues Clues and feel sad this morning, you can go look at it and remember my promise.” And he did. There was not another word of complaint. I dried my hair, and off we went to school. It stayed in his classroom, tucked carefully into the little cubby hole that bears his name and photo.
I talk a lot with parents about the importance of the written word. Last year, I wrote a piece here about using writing and drawing to explain social situations, and coincidentally Susan Etlinger has written a fantastic post today about her very successful use of a social story to help her son, Isaac.
When you’re feeling really, really stuck in one of those truly difficult parenting moments, stop and ask yourself if there’s a way to improve on things with a piece of paper and a pen. Make the solution tangible. I’ve been amazed professionally and personally how often it works. The written word is pure gold to kids.