Yesterday when the boys got off the bus, their bus matron was frazzled and told me that it’s not going well. Isaac wants to sit with Andrew and Andrew doesn’t want to sit with Isaac and she sits them separately and then Isaac unbuckles himself and goes to sit with Andrew (on a moving bus!) and then Andrew screams about it. No wonder she is frazzled.
Last week I heard Andrew’s teacher explain to me what she does to prevent and handle his meltdowns. Isaac’s teacher told me about her system for using the “boring chair” when he doesn’t follow directions and he needs a consequence. The program administrator asked me to help her manage their behavior during the early morning drop off because it was getting out of hand.
So, when the bus matron had more behavior to report, I felt so deflated. I wanted to give up. I felt so tired of helping people manage their behavior. I find it really hard when time and time again things crop up that need all-adults-on-board-to-manage-my-kids. Sometimes I wish my kids sat quietly and did what they were told and didn’t need a complex system of reinforcers to get them to buy in to what the adults in their lives need from them.
I wanted to give up, so I did for a little while. I do this from time to time. I take breaks. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I have to keep going anyway. But yesterday afternoon, after hearing the latest report, I decided to table it for a few hours. Back-burner it. Work with my kids on other things: snack, potty, ballet stretching, homework. I decided to worry about the bus a little later.
Then, a little while later, I started up on the problem. I brainstormed a plan and I contacted the school about helping with part of it. I heard back from the school with a few suggestions and how they can help. And then, I opened up photoshop to make up a series of behavior management charts. New ones that address the new areas that need addressing. I took a minute to celebrate the things I could drop from their charts because they are no longer issues I need to track as closely (hooray!) and I thought through the specifics of what I need from Andrew and Isaac right now. Behaviors I need to see more of. I added cool graphics and printed multiple copies and it was done.
This morning I had the new charts on the table for them to see at breakfast. And they were so excited! I explained to Isaac about what we need from him on the bus…and I *think* he understood (though he often needs a few days of practicing a new system before understanding it). When the bus pulled up, I told the matron the plan, buckled in Isaac myself and gave him a little card with his bus rules (1. stay in my seat 2.) keep my seat belt buckled) to hold on the way to school. And the school was ready to get them off the bus, hear the report and give out rewards for following the bus rules.
I guess this kind of thing happens all the time around here, really. Problems come up and patterns emerge and when they clarify as a real problem that needs a systematic way to address it, I do. I guess what stood out to me yesterday was the strong, strong feeling to “give up”. I was surprised at how much I wanted to give up. And, this will sound strange, but it was sort of enlightening. It made me appreciate just how hard parenting is. How hard it is to hear hard things about my kids. Still! After all the hard things I’ve heard…it still can be so hard. And it’s not going to end anytime soon. I know that with each new system, it will work for a while until it needs tweaking again because something new comes up. Things that are problems now will resolve and new problems will emerge. And then they’ll be teenagers and my little photoshoppy charts with cute graphics won’t work anymore and then what will I do?
I’m worried that the longer I do this, the longer I continually face and try to solve the problems presented, the more I will wear down. The less I’ll be able to muster the energy to find effective solutions. But, I’m hoping that taking breaks and roping in help from people willing and able to help (in this case, their school), will help me sustain the creative thinking and problem solving energy I need. Then, other times, I don’t worry about that at all. Sometimes it feels like the more I face and solve problems, the stronger I get. So let’s hope that that will be my long term trajectory. Strong Mama who Needs Occasional Breaks. That seems like a worthy and reasonable goal. :)
Another reasonable goal? Strong Mama who Needs Occasional Cake. This one is a zucchini chocolate cake and we had it with ice cream and it was moist and delicious! And if you do not have this cookbook by now, what are you waiting for??