When your child needs a drill sargent and you're more the empathetic type

If you're friends with me on Facebook you probably noticed that something seemed to be up with Silas by the 500+ posts about tantrums, behavior struggles, and all around difficult times this winter.

We started having difficulties in the fall with getting Silas dressed. He didn't want to put clothes on and would be completely overwhelmed and emotional. The episodes were so difficult but thankfully somewhat infrequent and we just powered through them. But then after Christmas Silas seemed to become obsessed with his pajamas and staying home. Most mornings we spent the entire 1.5 hours we have to eat breakfast, play and get ready for school spent in terrible, tantrums with Silas.

On the few occasions that Silas had a tantrum about something clear-cut (i want to watch another Little Bear- waaaah!) it was very easy to shut it down clearly and forcefully with no misgivings on my part.

But when Silas was sobbing and screaming that he just wanted to "put his pjs on and stay hooome!" it had me thinking he was having security or emotional issues and that empathy was the way to go. So eventually i let him wear his pajamas to school. And maybe things improved for a little bit-- it at least gave us some space to stop having an emotional power struggle every single morning.

But, then things got even worse. What i finally came to realize that while i was worried about hurting him by forcing him to wear clothes when he was looking for comfort in his pajamas, it was actually "hurting" him more by letting him run the show. He doesn't really want to run the show-- but he is hardwired to test the boundaries every second he can.

Once i accepted that my job really was to run his life, to only give him the choices that i decided, and to know that it might take physically forcing him into clothes for a little while-- we had "behavior bootcamp" as i termed it.

I told him that things were going to change-- and we talked about what mommy decides and what Silas decides. Mommy decides that he has to wear clothes to school, that he has to wear a coat in the winter, must wear shoes to leave the house-- but socks, socks were completely Silas' purview. Then when he wouldn't do something that i told him we must do (get dressed, take a bath, etc.) i would tell him i was going to count to three and if he didn't do what i had asked, i would do it for him which he hated. For the first day we basically did this for every step of our day-- getting dressed, brushing our teeth, taking a bath, etc.

Remarkably by the second day most times i just had to say "Silas, are we going to argue?" And by the count of three he would hop into the bath on his own or pick his clothes, etc.

We've had a few relapses that we've had to have mini "bootcamps" again, but they have been short-lived and less intense.

Now Silas is Silas. Which means he still does push every boundary he can. He also still throws tantrums. But in general they are less intense, don't last as long, and we always end them the same way. He has to calm himself down, give me a hug, and say he's sorry.

It was a really difficult learning process with Silas, and i had to go against my nature and the type of parenting that comes naturally (and worked just fine with Henry), but our whole family benefits now that i've embraced my inner drill sargent.


Online Art Auction

Like many cities and states across the country, the Chicago public school district is facing a pretty whopping budget shortfall for the 2010-2011 school year.  We're grateful that at this point cutting pre-k is off the table in the state legislature, but unless a minor miracle occurs, our school and others across the city will be forced to move from full-day to half-day kindergarten next year.  Although other schools are "strongly encouraging" parents to pay $2000 per pupil to maintain all-day kindergarten, at Goethe we are focused on raising $21K over the course of the summer through our "save-a-teacher fund" in order to maintain small class size by holding on to three teacher positions that would otherwise be cut.

To help do our part we're launching an online silent art auction.  Check it out here (click on the slideshow to go to the picasa site):

The boys selected their best artwork from the year and helped me set opening bids for their work.  Check out their gallery of work, and if you're compelled enter a bid in the comments box.  The auction will close at 5 pm Thursday June 24th.  Pieces will be hand-delivered to family we'll be seeing in person this summer, or mailed to the rest of you in July!

UPDATE: I found out that you essentially need a picasa account to leave a comment (i.e. enter a bid for the artwork). If you have a picasa account feel free to login and proceed as normal. If you don't, you should still be able to browse the individual pieces and see the bids that have already been entered. I've numbered all the artwork now, so just email me with the piece you are interested in and your bid and i'll enter it manually.

If i don't have your contact information make sure to email me at ford dot people at gmail dot com (convert "dots" and "at" to . and @) so i can notify you if you have the winning bid.


10 week challenge

No, it's not a new diet, or a pledge to read a book a week or anything like that.  The title refers to JT's current quarter at cooking school which (praise be!) is over in 2 more weeks.  In addition to the 6 days of classes that have JT leaving the house by 5 am, he's working at a restaurant Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon until late.  Oy.  It's been challenging on many fronts that i won't go into here, but it has coincided lately with a) a realization that we MUST get out of the house on the weekends and b) warm weather and the opening of the Chicago beaches.

From June 2010

So this week we "discovered" Humboldt park.  We've driven right by it for years, and we went sledding there this winter but what an even more magical place the park is in this warm season.  Thursday we went to the side of the park where there is a large pond (that had just been stocked with catfish).  Lots of people were out fishing in little nooks that have been created by rock steps down to the waters' edge.  There are bird and butterfly sanctuarys all around the exterior of the pond and meandering nature paths to saunter down.  The boys LOVED watching the old guys fish and Henry has been talking a lot about a fishing poll.  Silas kept asking when he'd get to "tow" the fish.  But personally i don't think i'm up for actually hooking a fish, so we just might need to get out to my grandparents farm again soon so the boys can learn!

On Friday we went over to the other side of Humboldt park where the beautiful field house looks out on the pond that they have dredged, and created a small guarded swimming beach.  We had to find a spot away from the teenagers using less than choice language (so glad it doesn't even register on their ears yet) and then had a blast.  It's a beach, without waves, so it was perfect for the boys to play in at their own pace.  After swimming and building sand castles, we had a picnic right next to the beach on the grass.  In the early evening sun, there was magic to the evening.

Plus, when we got home the boys both went to bed without one little peep.  We'll be going to that beach as much as possible this summer-- and hope to explore the park more and more as the season unfolds.

Today, we went on a epic journey down to the Crown fountain at millenium park.  The forecast was rain all day but i figured the boys had planned to play in the fountain and be wet anyway-- so why not just go anyway.  After we got off the train and walked the 4 blocks or so to the fountain, it was absolutely pouring.  And when we got there the fountain was working and indeed we were the only nutters out there in the pouring rain at the fountain.  We played for awhile and made the first of our 7 trips to the bathroom, and at some point the rain tapered off.  After hitting the cultural center to have sandwiches out of the sog, we went back to the fountain and enjoyed mostly clear skies and lots of fun (and several trips to the bathroom).

After all that, tomorrow we'll be hanging out at home, catching up with the neighbor kids, putting laundry on the line, and generally slowing down before we begin another week.  Night.