Monthly Archives: July 2010

Quotes from the Past

On an organizing spree recently, I came across a brown notebook that looked vaguely familiar. I opened it and there was writing on a few of its small pages. It turns out it was where we wrote funny quotes from Baxter when he was 26-27 months old – “Our first blog,” Matt observed.

In an effort to relieve myself of the responsibility of keeping track of these few pages, I am going to set the quotes down here for our family’s future enjoyment:

Baxter: “What’s that?”

Mommy: “That’s the new necklace I got for Christmas.”

Baxter: “I want to need it!”

Mommy: “Well, this one is my special necklace.”

Baxter: “Mommy share it with Baxter, please!!”

(26 mos.)

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“Look at that Daddy! He’s big enough!” – Baxter, looking at Matt’s hand. (27 mos.)

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“Oh, Mommy is so fancy!” Whispered before falling asleep, holding Mommy’s hand to his cheek. (27 mos.)

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“What is that gee peeking out?” Asked about a singular goose looking around the corner of the page in a book. (27 mos.)

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“Where does the sky come from? Where does the sun come from?” (27 mos.)

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“What means I’m sorry?” (27 mos.)

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“Baxter played with those cars last night with Uncle Dana!” (27 mos.)

Drawing the Line: To Quit or Not to Quit?

This little boy of mine, he likes things to be easy. New experiences are great, so long as they don’t push him out of his comfort zone. As I wrote here recently, he decided after his first swimming lesson (which he happily smiled his way through) that he was done. No more.  He didn’t like having to swim on his back. Water got in his ears and water feels weird around a loose tooth, you know.

He staged a sit-in during the second lesson. I dangled a couple of enticing carrots prior to the lesson but said very little about him not participating. He was devastated when he didn’t get the promised rewards afterward like Baxter did.

I’ve thought a lot about quitting this summer. No, not quitting my family, but about kids and quitting and when it’s okay. I let Lyle drop out of a couple activities in recent months and I believe this set a pretty bad precedent for us. However, when I let him leave activities they were things that he was clearly not enjoying at all, or weren’t working out well for him. He was anxious and uncomfortable all the time while doing them. I draw the line when I see him enjoying an activity (such as camp, or swimming lessons) and just deciding afterwards that one part was too hard and he’s done. Those are the times when I push him to follow through and overcome his challenges in order to learn new skills, and I’m kind but very no nonsense about it.

And so although I let him sit out the swim lesson last week, I did follow through with some tough love and he felt the consequences of non-participation. His teacher told me matter-of-factly that if I could get him to sit on the stairs in the pool this week, they’d take it from there. She told him that if he participated in just 4 activities, he’d get to play during free time. I got him there, in spite of his wish that I never let go of him and couldn’t I PLEASE come in the water with him. I was firm and he got in without me. I quietly walked away and sat with the other parents, watching in amazement ten minutes later when he decided to join the group and participated for half an hour, doing everything he was asked to do. When he got out, he ran over grinning and told me it was “Very very very very very [x20] fun!” He asked when he could swim again and told me he had improved from the last time. But best of all, he expressed something important I’ve been working hard with him on this summer when he said, “I am going to remember I was happy this time. I’ll focus on that and not forget next Saturday.” I can’t tell you what a relief it was for me to hear him say that.

I think it’s very, very hard to know when to be a hard-ass and when to follow through on a child’s requests to stop an activity. At the moment I draw the line here: if he’s actually enjoying it most of the time while he’s doing it, and the adults facilitating the activity are supportive and understanding, we push through and keep going. That’s not to say that we don’t talk about it, discuss and acknowledge feelings around it, and work to increase self-awareness of reactions to challenges, but the difference is there’s no negotiation about the activity.

Where do you draw the line?

He’s His Own Man

So we’re already heading into the end of July and I don’t really know what to say about this summer. I guess I can say with certainty that it’s going by far too quickly. I can also say that I’m enjoying all the intensive speech therapy I’m doing, even though my days are a tad longer than they should be. I booked my days really tightly as if we were still living in 2007, when people took long summer vacations and canceled speech therapy sessions left and right. Now? Not so much. Back in the day, everyone fled Chicago for the month of August. It was rarely worth working that month. This year I only have a couple kids taking time off in August. This is very good for the continuity of therapy, but I’ve been shocked by the lack of breathing room in my schedule. However, I’m loving the work and excited to be back in the trenches, so to speak. It’s all good.

I suppose I can also say that the schedule works well in terms of me having four days off after my three busy days. It’s VERY exciting not to have to run out the door on Friday mornings. And I loved having my parents here for a long weekend, that was great.

But, man, we are struggling with our little dude. For him, summer is not what it’s cracked up to be. He’s cranky and rude, and wanting every day to be a party. When it’s not: attitude. He yelled at my mother, asking if she’d “lost her marbles” the other day, and suggested that he’d had the “ride from hell” when my father set his GPS wrong and took them to Oak Park from Target rather than back home.  Yes, Bart Simpson is in the house. Let’s just say the boys’ TV watching has been significantly curbed and they’re back to PBS, where no one on “Dragon Tales” yells at their grandparents. My rule: if you can’t watch negative behavior in a show without imitating it, you’re not old enough for it. Buh-bye, Cartoon Network.

He loved camp the first week, raving about it every afternoon and dying to get there the next day. But after a 3-day weekend of downtime at home, he decided he really didn’t want to go back (it’s more fun to play at home) and had fits of increasing intensity every day of week 2. He enjoyed his first swim lesson, giving me sly smiles and more than one thumbs-up during the lesson, but afterward declaring it the worst time in his life, deciding he’d never go back, and staging a sit-in at the next lesson. Even though I promised a cookie to anyone who got into the pool and he really wanted that cookie after the lesson when Baxter got one. Tough love from the “Meanie Mommy” over here.

I asked the boys today if they have been thinking about school much, or if they’ve put it out of their minds during the summer vacation. Baxter admitted that he’s “dreading” it and doesn’t want to go back, but with more discussion it was clear that this was not because anything was inherently wrong with school, but rather that he strongly prefers unstructured time at home. “I like not knowing what we’re doing every day in the summer,” he said. But Lyle was shocked to hear that and had a very different answer. “I think about school and I want to go back,” he told us. I suggested that Lyle feels good in a schedule and routine, it makes him feel calmer, and reminded them that both ways to be are fine. I pointed out that camp has a routine but it’s different from school. “I want to go to summer school – not camp,” he said, which I thought was astute. I told them about year-round schools and how much better that might work for Lyle. Baxter thought it sounded dreadful. Lyle made a comment about how he used to think that because he and Baxter “both came from the same Mommy, [they] would always think and like the same things”. The realization that this is not so made him light-hearted as he skipped along with us.

I don’t always know how to make these kids happy – and quite often this summer Lyle is incredibly unhappy – but I believe part of the job has got to involve helping them know themselves. If my little guy can learn from an early age that he feels better in a familiar routine and might prefer a half-day camp around a specific interest (he wants to go to Lego camp next year instead of day camp) – and that he isn’t expected to think and feel exactly like his big brother – then I guess he’s on his way to learning what he needs to make himself happy, and when it comes down to it, well, I have to believe that’s enough for this summer.