Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Restraint Collapse

David went to the Cardinals game this evening. I thought I'd have a "girls night" at home with the girls, get them to bed nice and early (they've been dragging in the mornings), and then settle down in front of Queer Eye to grade a few writing assignments.

Things were moving right along. We made it to ballet on time and Zuzu went right into the class even though it was a teacher she's less familiar with. (Backstory: Zuzu and Coco's classes are offered in two rooms at the dance studio at the same time. The owner of the studio and her sister switch classes each week, taking turns teaching the 3-4 year olds and the 5-6 year olds. When David took Zuzu two weeks ago, they arrived a couple minutes late, the class had started, it was the teacher she doesn't know as well, and she refused to go in.)

I graded a few assignments in the ballet waiting room and then the girls finished up with class and we headed out. I needed to stop and get gas on the way home, but that should not have been a big deal.

Coco has been working on sounding out letters and reading really simple books (simple like: Mat sat. Sam sat. Mat sat on Sam. Sam sat on mat. Mat sat. Sam sat. The End.). She sounds out every single letter instead of just reading the word and she is VERY proud of herself. So she starts reading this book called Mat to me in the car and then Zuzu wanted to read it but Coco didn't want to share it and they were bickering and I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on because UGH the bickering let's just tune that out. Then Zuzu was rolling down the window and loosening her car seat harness which she KNOWS will get a huge reaction from me because it's unsafe (the carseat, not the window--the window is just annoying).

So I'm trying to sternly tell Zuzu no Harry Potter tonight unless she fixes her seatbelt immediately and I'm trying to get the bickering to settle down. I really have no idea why Zuzu was having this extreme angry reaction to not being able to read Mat. (And Coco did end up giving it to her because Coco always caves!).

Anyway, I'm putting gas in the car and Zuzu decides to screw Mat and get out of her carseat and JUMP OUT OF THE CAR AND RUN.

I was completely beside myself. This was a bustling gas station parking lot on the corner of a busy intersection. WHAT THE HELL. What do you do when your SIX YEAR OLD kid bolts at a gas station? Do you let them go? Do you scream at them in your scariest voice? Do you risk being the abusive-looking parent, chasing and grabbing your kid by the arm?

Spoiler: I did the chase and arm grab because it felt too dangerous to let her go, but she circled the gas pump a couple of times before I managed to grab her. I was furious.

I've been repeating this parenting mantra to myself: They never listen to what we say, but they always imitate how we act.

I was TRYING to keep this in mind as I got her back in the car by telling her that she was thisclose to not being able to go to a birthday party she was recently invited to. She did get back in the car, but she just sat on the floorboard and wouldn't get in her carseat. So we had a little standoff, which I won because I can sit in my car and scroll Instagram for longer than my kid wants to pout in the floorboard.

At any rate, we got home with everyone safely seatbelted and I naively assumed the evening was likely to improve from there.

Instead, after dinner, Zuzu and Coco decided to take their dot markers and dot on their faces. And MAYBE I overreacted to this, but seriously. A toddler draws on his or her face and it's cute. By first grade YOU KNOW BETTER. It was just so ridiculous and frustrating. So I told them NO, I took the markers and put them up, and I said we were going upstairs to wash their faces and get ready for bed.

And they ran from me.

This enrages me. It's the most obnoxious thing ever when they team up against me and try to turn it into a game of chase. It's so infuriating and I tend to get sucked into it so it gets a rise out of me, which is exactly what they want.

So tonight, I calmly told them that I was going to go upstairs and I wanted them to come upstairs and until they chose to do so, I'd be up there. THROWING AWAY THEIR TOYS. Except I said that part in a really calm voice, too.

Then I went up to Zuzu's room and started putting all the things they like in a laundry basket. Anna & Elsa dolls. Harry Potter book. Jeweled hairbrush. Bath toy mermaids. Knuffle Bunny book. ALL OF THE FAVORITES.

They came up and started freaking out. I carried the laundry basket to my room and put it on a dresser and calmly told them we needed to wash their faces and then maybe they could earn back these toys tomorrow by making better choices.

And did they say they were sorry and start cooperating?

No, my friends. Instead, Zuzu jumped up on my bed and Coco waited a split second and followed her. Then Coco followed Zuzu's lead again and copied her as they started THROWING PILLOWS AT ME.

Is this actually my life? Is this happening? Are my kids actually this horribly behaved?

I walked out of the bedroom because I thought I might lose my temper and I took some deep breaths in the hallway. Zuzu raced by me and inexplicably locked herself in her room.

This was my chance. Coco tried to open Zuzu's door, but it was locked, so when tried to avoid me by running into the bathroom, I managed to corner her there. Zuzu was blaring music in her room and I decided to ignore her. I got Coco stuck by the bathtub and used a wash cloth to wash the marker off her nose. But of course she was kind of fighting me, and as I knelt down to try to get all the marker off, she accidentally head-butted me. Hard.

And that was it. I actually started crying. It really hurt my cheekbone and I was SO FRUSTRATED and I didn't want to scream at my kids but I was at the end of my rope. So instead I cried. And Coco being Coco, when I started crying, she also burst into tears. I pulled it together quick and somehow, we got her teeth flossed and brushed and she apologized to me (still sniffling) and put her jammies and solidified Zuzu's role as Instigator and Coco's role as Faithful Follower.

Please note that while all of this was going down, Clementine ate a Cinderella doll, a fairy door (complete with ripping the 3M strip off the wall and damaging the paint), a plastic hanger, and another little doll that Coco said sadly was "Grammy's doll." WHO MAKES ME CRAZIER? THE DOG OR THE CHILDREN?

Coco lay down in bed and read me Mat again (I mean, how can you resist the lyrical prose?) and then mixed it up by reading Dot and Mit but that got a little too challenging so she asked me to finish it. (Spoiler: Mit is a cat.)

At this point, I heard Zuzu start crying, so I left Coco in her bed and went to check on Zuzu. She'd finally gotten tired of being in her room alone and agreed to let me wash her face. She brushed her teeth and settled down to read aloud another fascinating book of the non-fiction variety: Baby Birds. (Spoiler: Mother and father birds feed baby birds. Baby birds grow feathers on their bodies. Baby birds grow feathers on their wings.) I'll be honest: I LOVE that my children are starting to read, but these beginner reader books kind of hurt my soul.

At long last, both kids were asleep and they magically did that thing where they make me feel like I'm losing my mind and then I look at their sleeping faces and want to have like a dozen more babies.

I came downstairs to settle in and pick up with Hamlet writing assignments and queer eye, but the mess of magna tiles was driving me nuts, so I took a quick second to pick them up. I'm in the magna tile zone, stacking and clicking and putting them in the basket but then I saw something that didn't fit in the pile and the next thing I know, I'm HOLDING AN ACTUAL DOG TURD IN MY HAND.

I mean seriously. It's like I was being punked all freaking evening in my own house by my own family. A dog turd???

So here we are. Dog turd disposed of. Magna tiles put away. Horribly behaved children turned into sleeping beauties. Four more papers to grade. And tomorrow is another day.

And if tomorrow my children don't deliberately endanger their own lives in a busy parking lot, assault me with pillows, or head-butt me, and I don't end up holding a dog turd, then it will be a better day.

P.S. Restraint collapse refers to this phenomenon. We're feeling it hard right now.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

These conversations just get weirder and funnier as the girls get older... Here are some I've saved in notes on my phone from the summer and a couple more recent ones.

Scene: Playing pretend. (Note: They play pretend scenarios like this all the time. Usually, Zuzu directs the show and Coco quickly jumps in in agreement and elaborating. They make a great improv team! Sometimes Coco starts it, but Zuzu tends to be less agreeable.)
Zuzu: I've been doing dance for ten years and I have EIGHTY costumes.
Coco: And I have TWENTY costumes.
Zuzu: No, you have two costumes.
Coco: I have TWO costumes.


Scene: In the car, dramatically acting out a scene with little characters.
Zuzu: But then this lady killed her mother and burned her bed. And then she took her to be an orphan prisoner!
Coco: (in character) Where's your mom?
Zuzu: (in character) She died.
Coco: (in character) Did you SEE her die?


Scene: Snuggles on the couch
Me: I'm so glad you were born and that I'm your mama.
Coco: I'm so glad YOU were born.


Scene: At the kitchen table
Coco: What is Daddy's whole name?
Me: Michael David Duckworth.
Coco: That's not his whole name.
Zuzu: Yes, it is. His first name is Michael.
Coco: No! His first name is Daddy.


Scene: In the bathtub
Zuzu: How old will [cousin] Kailer be when I'm 16?
Me: Oh, gosh... let me see...
Zuzu: A young grown-up?
Me: Yes. He will be a young grown-up.
Coco: Like you?
Me: Yes! I AM a young grown-up. Thank you, Coco.
Zuzu: She's not young. She's old. She teaches young grown-ups.


Scene: At the kitchen table.
Zuzu: Mom, do you have the kissy face emoji on your phone?
Me: Yes.
Zuzu: Who do you text with it?
Me: Well, mostly your dad, I guess?
Zuzu: When I'm a grown up and have my own house and phone, will you text me with the kissy face emoji?
Me: Every day.


Scene: Playing.
Zuzu: You're Rapunzel, and I'm Rapunzel's sister, Raquel. The mermaid.
Coco: Can I be like you? But I want to be the mom.
Zuzu: Well, Rapunzel is the baby sister. The mom is... Russia.


Scene: Coco notices a framed photo on the wall of me dancing with my grandpa at my wedding reception.
Coco: (pointing) Mama, why did you marry him?


Scene: Playing pretend.
Zuzu: How about your name is Christy?
Coco: And I have long hair!


Scene: Getting in car. Zuzu and I are standing and waiting on Coco.
Coco: What is traffic?
Me: When a bunch of cars are on the road so everyone has to go slow or stop.
Coco: Oh.
Me: Please hurry up and get in the car. Your sister is waiting.
Zuzu: This is like traffic!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

This and That

After a helluva weekend, Tuesday morning went really well. Bedtime was a little rocky, but I try hard to get the girls asleep by 8 and we managed that Monday night. I was feeling better about things as we headed to the car right on schedule on Tuesday. Like maybe I was actually capable of parenting and keeping us on track.

The one hiccup in the morning was that while I was doing that last-minute gathering of all my things (coffee cup, water bottle, lunch bag, school bag) and shuffling it out to the car, Zuzu was standing up on the bench of our entry closet, reaching up for one of the bins on the top shelf. It's a bin full of summer stuff--pool toys, sunscreen, kids sunglasses, hats, etc. It was annoying because there was NOTHING in there they needed, but you know how it is. At the precise moment you are supposed to be getting in the car to go to school, you realize how desperately you need to take a diving ring with you. I asked her to leave the basket alone, she kept pulling stuff out of it, I loaded up the car, and then they headed to the car with a diving ring, a mermaid, and a hand-held fan. I reminded the girls that these items were not to go into school with them and then ushered them into the car with instructions to buckle up while I coaxed the dogs back in the house.

Coco is perfectly capable of buckling herself in her carseat, but when she has on a dress with a long or full skirt, she sometimes struggles. When I got back out to the garage, I opened the back door to help her buckle up. At the same time, she was whining and asking Zuzu to share the pool toys from the basket. Zuzu passed her the hand held fan as I leaned over to snap her seat belt buckle.

And suddenly the fan was in my hair.

With a groaning noise, it twisted up a chunk of hair on the left side of my face. I screamed, Coco dropped the fan, I reached up and grabbed it, turning the switch off.

But it was too late. My hair was snarled up in it. It was pulling at my scalp and I wanted to cry.

Zuzu yelled, "Coco why did you do that?" and I yelled, "No! YOU are the one who got these toys out when I told you that you needed to leave that basket alone!" Then I turned and ran back inside, where I stood in front of the mirror and tried to untangle myself. But time was ticking--we were going to be late for school if I didn't hurry it up--and after getting most of the hair loose, there was a small section that wasn't going anywhere. If I'd had thirty minutes, I probably could have gently teased it out with a comb. But I had about thirty seconds before we were late. So I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the fan out of my hair. Then I threw the fan on the top shelf of another closet, out of sight.

When I got back out to the garage, the girls stared at me wide-eyed and asked what happened. I told them I had to cut my hair to get the fan out.

Coco promptly burst into tears--huge sobs (cutting hair is kind of a trigger for her, lol). So I picked her up and told her it was okay and I knew it was an accident. I really wasn't mad at anybody--I knew she didn't mean to do that and she was as shocked as I was when it happened. The strand of hair I had to cut ended up being pretty small and it blended in easily. But I was annoyed with Zuzu--not for the fan in my hair, but just because I'd asked her to leave the basket alone and she had ignored me and it didn't seem worth the fight so I just kept loading up the car while she kept doing exactly what I had asked her not to do. I really want our mornings to be peaceful, but I also want them to do what I ask, and those two desires can evidently not coexist.

***

Last night, Zuzu was playing school and Coco was a student named Felicee (fuh-lee-see). Zuzu was Ms. Zimmerman, which is not her teacher's name, but maybe is another teacher at her school? She was so funny, writing a list of student names (Hanre for Henry and Agl for Angel) and putting checkmarks next to the students who were good at drop off and X's next to students who did not have good behavior. (Felicee did NOT have good behavior, according to Ms. Zimmerman.) Then she called all the students names and made them raise their hand if they made bad choices. Then she wanted Felicee to go to the time out corner.

I asked her--somewhat nervously--if her teacher did this, and if her teacher had a time out corner in the room. She laughed and said no like that was the silliest thing she'd ever heard. I'm relieved to hear that's not standard practice in first grade rooms, but I don't know where she's getting this stuff!

***

Drop off at school in the morning has been hit or miss. Zuzu goes to a before school care program because school doesn't start until 9:05am. She is often very hesitant and there was one terrible morning when she had a total meltdown and the teacher had to hold onto her as I left because she was trying to run after me. (The teacher called me literally 5 minutes later as I was still driving Coco to school to tell me that Zuzu was doing just fine and was making yarn pom poms with some older girls.) Anyway, we haven't had another morning as bad as that, but still lots of extra hugs and clinging and asking me to stay from the kiddo who has walked away from me with hardly a backwards glance for the past two and a half years at her preschool/kindergarten.

This morning, though, as we walked in, another little girl yelled Zuzu's name in greeting and Zuzu did give me an extra hug, but happily dropped her backpack and went to join that girl. I don't know who she is, but I wanted to give HER a hug. That friendly greeting made my day.

***

Zuzu's school has some different leadership teams and the kids have to list three that they'd like to be a part of. Zuzu chose Yoga Team, Birthday Team, and Dance Team. Her reasons were the best. She wanted to be on Yoga Team "Because I sometimes like to do yoga with my mom but I do my own yoga, not Adriene's." For Birthday Team, she dictated, "I love to celebrate and I think we should have a birthday chair!" And for Dance Team she said, "I am strong and elegant. I have taken a year of ballet."

***

Speaking of dance, the girls had their first class for the fall yesterday. I had a rough moment because I sat in the preschool dance waiting room and literally half of the moms there were pregnant. There was a LOT of chatting about induction dates and ultrasounds and epidurals and I just still cannot join conversations like that. I was glued to my phone and trying to tune it out. It is hard not to want to join those conversations because it seems to be the quickest connection for mom-friends. Next week, I'll sit in the K1 waiting room.

Both girls were super excited about dance. Zuzu is doing jazz this year and is thrilled about it. Coco got a new leotard and was so proud to show her friends and teachers when we changed her clothes at school. Her toddler leotards from last year were too small so I bought her a size XS (her dance school requires black leotards and pink tights) but it's a little big.

***

We did move forward with Spanish class instead of music class. Zuzu was adamant she wants Spanish, and the class times conflicted. Plus I just can't do all the things. This is one that the girls can take together, so we'll give it a go.

I did send an e-mail to the daisy troop leader about girl scouts, but I didn't hear back from her, so I think maybe we'll just wait until next year. I joined Brownies as a second grader, so that seems like a fine starting point for Zuzu, too.

***

Other updates? Clementine is still wild and obnoxious but is settling down a bit. She still has the super annoying habit of jumping up with her front paws to greet you in excitement. I cannot stand this, but I also understand that she's been in her crate all day and is bursting with energy. Cooper and Clem are getting along much, much better and even seem to enjoy each other's company. They get a little territorial over rawhide chews and food, but we haven't had any serious scuffles in weeks. Clem has inspired Cooper to get a little more pep in his step, I think, and he makes the effort to get up on the couch and snuggle with me when Clem is up there, which is very sweet.

***

Okay... back to work for me. And my new philosophical mantra: Any day that doesn't start with cutting a hand held fan out of your hair is a good day! TM. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

No Fair! Parenting Woes

The title of this post is a phrase that my four-year-old utters on the regular at home. I hate it so much I'm trying to outlaw it.

(Other verboten phrases in our family: stupid, hate, and shut up. I also pretend I don't know what the word "bored" or "boring" means, but my kids still say it. Does every family have these Phrases or Words That Shall Not Be Said? What are yours?)

Anyway, we had a rough parenting weekend over Labor Day weekend. We had zero plans after a busy week and a super busy previous weekend. The weekend before Labor Day, my parents came to town, I spent Saturday morning helping my friend Beth set up for her Pedal the Cause fundraiser, then spent the evening working and enjoying the fundraiser. On Sunday we went to Tower Grove Park to the Festival of Nations, and then were part of the crew disassembling the festival, which meant that we drove around on a golf cart, picking up folding chairs and folding tables and relocating them to designated spots for the rental company to come and get them.

So David and I were ready to chill, but our children were ready to behave abominably. Nasty attitudes, complete defiance about the smallest of tasks or request, totally uncooperative in all ways. It's a good thing we didn't have any plans, because our children were unfit to be seen in public. I seriously had knots in my stomach on Saturday because I felt like a parenting failure and I was so disappointed that my kids were such jerks. I think this was a combination of a lack of sleep (they were up from 3:30am to 6:00amish on Thursday night/Friday morning doing "activities" for reasons no one can comprehend and that made me a total zombie on Friday and made them total gremlins on Saturday) and restraint-collapse. (Although I may have googled this explanation as well.) Sunday was an improvement, but not a huge one. Monday finally felt like things were back on track and my kids were more human and less gremlin, so I'm hoping that we were all just overtired and coping with the back to school transition by acting out and now maybe we can all relax a little bit?

After much consideration (and angst for me), we are taking a break from Kumon. I have huge mixed feelings about this... I keep thinking about the perception that Zuzu has won the power struggle. Plus I don't like the idea of quitting, I've seen such great progress and I believe the program really works. But it had started to affect my quality of life in that I dreaded even mentioning to Zuzu because of the ensuing defiant and ugly behavior (she literally ripped worksheets to pieces over the weekend). It had become far too emotionally loaded for all of us! So we are taking some time off and we'll see if we revisit.

Meanwhile, Zuzu has expressed an interest in learning Spanish (although she asked me, hilariously, if  learning Spanish meant that she would forget English). So we will explore that option. I just don't know when to Tiger Mom (if ever?) and when to not worry about it at all. Sometimes pushing or encouraging her into an opportunity is definitely the right call, but I also want her to have plenty of downtime. What happens when everything is a power struggle? When do you hold the line and when do you tell yourself it's not worth the fight? Also, just when you think you've figured it out, something changes. And by the way, the other kid is completely different, so there is not a one-size-fits all solution. Besides deep breathing and whispering a mantra like, "I am the adult here."

I really think that Zuzu and Coco miss each so much this year not being in the same school. They play together so intensely after school. They are in their own little world. All they want to do is play dress up or play with dolls or little characters. Of course this is sweet and lovely unless we need to run errands or something and they both act out. This teaming up like we are the enemy and they are against us might be great for sisterly bonding, but it aggravates me like no other! (Low point of the weekend, me yelling, "I am NOT going to chase you!" while chasing them because they were refusing to brush their teeth.)

I've been listening to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, which is great. In one episode, he talks about the personality measurement of how agreeable you are. A lot of being agreeable has to do with wanting approval from other people (or, conversely, not caring about the approval of others). In this regard, though Zuzu can be and often is a very sweet, kind, endearing child, she is also more generally disagreeable than many. It continues to surprise me how little she cares about upsetting David or me in order to make herself happy. If my mom told me that I was disappointing her with my behavior, I would feel terrible. Zuzu just shrugs.

(Another example: when we were talking about Kumon, I explained that her Kumon teacher would really want her to work hard and to continue with Kumon as good exercise for her brain. I asked her what she would want to say to Miss Ann about that. She thought for a moment and said, "Hmmmm.... That I don't feel like doing it?")

As Zuzu's kindergarten teacher told me, I am raising a strong, independent woman.

We have a busy week this week, and I'm glad it's a short one. This entire month feels busy to me--probably because I have two weekends out of town. One for my class reunion and one for a conference of sorts (more on that later). I'm trying to stick with some new school year resolutions, but I'm already dropping the ball on drinking water. Ugh. My other goals:

1) Daily yoga. Most days this is just 15-20 minutes in the morning before work, but it makes such a difference. I did a four week session of classes of Kaiut Yoga, but then I decided to buy a class card when the studio I went to in June with a Groupon ran a special pricing thing in August. I'm trying to commit to doing a weekly class, there.

2) Organize the night before. This is SO HARD for me, because I want to put the girls to bed and veg, but I'm trying to do all the things that will be helpful in the morning--make sure everything that needs to go to school is out and ready to go, get the coffee maker ready, pick out my outfit for the next day, confirm with D what time he'll be getting home and what the next day's dinner plan is, etc. I struggle with this, but it makes mornings SO MUCH EASIER, so I just have to get on it.

Classes so far are going well, but it's only been a week and assignments aren't exactly rolling in yet.  I'm most excited about my Craft of Novel Writing class, in which we will participate in NaNoWriMo. You should join me!

Okay. That's my parenting disaster failure of the weekend. Empathy welcome, but I don't think I'm ready for actual advice? Just solidarity, k thx.