Before I start my long (yes, sorry) episode of blah blah blah, I just have to say how excited and happy I am to see that Sean Penn won Best Actor for "Milk" and that his speech was wonderful and touching and bone dirt true. Prop 8 peeps can suck my dick. I can't believe those fucking hatemongers protested.
Moving on before I get vulgar *snicker*...
Wow, it was a long week. As you know, Ryan was on vacation again all last week. I love that little fucker. No matter how many times I tell him not to get up in the middle of the night and climb into our bed (have I mentioned that I'm a morning coitus girl? it's the only time I don't have to be coaxed psychologically into horniness... the only time when I don't have to be convinced to get it on... the only time I'm not your cliche woman, but only need a little rubbin' to be persuaded to do the Ol' In And Out...), he does anyway. Every night. And every morning, rain or shine, he sits straight up in my bed and says, "Mama? What are we going to do today?"
I should be ecstatic that my son greets each day with a fresh mind and ready to tackle all the adventures that life has in store. And believe me, it does make me grin with satisfaction that he seems to be so much like me in his optimism and spirit. But I have to admit that I do also roll my eyes at this question because I hate to tell him the truth: "Nothin'." I mean, that's the answer when he's on vacation.
What do I do every day? Well, nothing exciting to a five year old. But I did make an effort this past week.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was telling you that Sam and I made this beautiful and exciting new connection, right? Well, since reading Animal Vegetable Miracle to him was such a success, I figured we should start reading something else together. I have this book, "Being the Parent You Want to Be" and I think we tried to start it once before but Sam wouldn't bite. Well, this time (last Sunday) while he and the kids were a captive audience, I began reading it to them. This book has such a non-threatening (and not at all preachy like that Love and Logic bullshit I read this summer) approach that it reminded me of reading AVM. And in the four chapters we read, we found so much truth (and so many things we agreed we were doing "wrong") that this book was instantly the one for us.
Basically, it tells you to watch your kids. Watch 'em. Don't jump in and interfere all the time, just watch. And then it says to try to guess why your kids are doing what they're doing? They're all such little scientists when they're little (before puberty), always trying to figure things out--life, limits, possibilities--and you can try to see what is motivating them. THAT one thing can help you deal with them when they are doing things that you see as wrong, dangerous, selfish, etc. The book said that a lot of the reason we get pissed off at our kids when they do something wrong is because we sort of blame ourselves. When we react to what our kids are doing, our parents are there. Not physically, but they're there in how they reacted to US. Since we emulate what we've learned through our own experiences, our parents are there. And then, there's the blame thing. We blame ourselves and then we project that onto our kids. So, when Ryan does something "wrong" or "annoying" Sam and I both react harshly with him when really it's a time for us to take a second and try to think about WHY he's behaving the way he is. What's motivating him? What's he trying to figure out?
Okay, granted, it's not always easy to stop and think about it--especially when you're in a hurry--but I'm finding that after a couple of slow days, you start to get the hang of it and almost do it reflexively. Before, it wasn't rare for me to snap at Ryan (and I admit, I'm not completely healed... I'm just not used to him being here all. the. time. like he was last week); but, now I'm finding that if I try to understand WHY he's doing what he's doing or WHAT he's thinking, I am more apt to treat him like a PERSON (imagine that!) than an annoying pet. I'm finding myself to be more understanding and slow to anger than before. And that's something for which I thought I was going to ultimately need a happy pill.
Another HUMONGOUS thing it talks about is evaluative language. Praise. When our kids do something we consider good, we say, "Good job." When they are polite, we say, "You're being so nice." These are evaluative statements. The problem with this is that if you can be good and nice, you can also be bad and mean. So, children who are praised all the time become dependent on it for "good" behavior...
I'll give you a minute to let that sink in because it took me a few beats...
So, instead of praising your kid when he does something "good" or chastising when they are "bad", we should use more DESCRIPTIVE language.
For example, when Lily brings me something she's colored, instead of saying, "Wow, that's pretty! Good job!!!" I should say, "Look what YOU colored. There's lots of green and black and blue. Lots of circles!" And that's all. I can't TELL you how fucking hard it is not to say "Good job!!!" Sam told me that it was one of the first things he noticed when he got to the States. The constant praise. And how Americans seem to be addicted to it. How if we're not praised, we don't feel like we're doing something good or we don't feel liked. *eye bulge* And the more I think about it, the more I see that that is exactly right!!!!
So, when Ryan is walking in the mud, I shouldn't say, "Get your ass out of the mud! You're going to ruin your shoes!" I can say, "Dude, you're walking in the mud." I know you think that this simple descriptive statement might not immediately change his behavior but it did. The book said that when you do things to make the child stop the immediate behavior it's like alleviating the symptoms instead of curing the disease. If you can get to the root of the "problem" instead of going for a quick fix, you'll have longer-lasting results. So, when I say, "Dude, you're walking in the mud." Ryan says, "I know." And I say, "Well, did you notice that it's making your shoes muddy?" He says, "Yep." And I say, "What are you going to do about that when we get home?" He says, "Wipe my shoes on the mat."
WHAT? You mean I just had a CONVERSATION with my kid instead of yelling at him to get out of the mud? Yep.
The strange thing is that, my reflex reaction--to yell at him about the mud--stressed me out. It was impulsive and there was no real thought behind it. But when I turned it into an examination of his thinking, it made the mud no really big deal. So what if he has mud on his shoes? Is that the end of the world? We don't have carpet in our apartment. We have tile. And if he DID track mud into the apartment, I could ask him to clean it up. That way, he'd learn that when he walked in the mud, he'd have to clean it up later. But the crazy part was, that after we had the conversation, the mud seemed not to be that much of a fun place anyway. Like he had been doing it to see how I'd react and when I didn't yell at him, it wasn't any fun anymore. In fact, I was able to say, "Or, you could wipe your shoes in the grass right now, if you want, so that you don't have to do it later." And he was able to see the logic in that. DUDE!!!!
Again, I have to say that I'm not a pro at this new style of parenting. When I'm tired or moody or busy, I slip and I yell. But the strange thing I've noticed is that somehow, because I've been listening to him more and trying to be more patient, well, when I'm impatient he seems more affected by it and more "sorry" for the behavior. Like, well, recently, my yelling hasn't seemed to have much of an effect. Like he sees that I'm upset--emotionally affected by his behavior--and he sees that he's somehow won a sick battle. But now that I've made an effort to relate to him more, the times when I'm not-so-patient, he seems to feel more remorse than anything.
At first, Sam laughed at me. I mean, he saw the sense in what we were reading, but, he's not a read-the-instructions-and-apply-them-immediately kind of guy. Just after finishing the chapters, I put the things I had learned into practice. I spent the day saying, "Yeah, you built a Lego tower!" instead of, "Wow, good job!" Or, "You finshed all your food!" instead of "Good girl!" And Sam laughed.
"What's so funny?" I said, a little defensive.
"Nothing. It's just, you don't waste any time."
"So? I want to see if it works or not, that's all."
"No, no. That's good."
And then, whenever he'd see me do something "successfully" with the kids, he'd laugh again.
"What's so goddamn funny?" I'd say with a snicker.
"Nothing. I'm learning from watching you. I wouldn't have been able to handle it that way."
My eyes nearly popped out of my head. He had just paid me a compliment. Awesome. But then, I realized--again--just how addicted to and dependant on praise I truly am. *sigh* Still, I also realized that if we are going to change our way of parenting, it's going to depend on my taking the first step and modeling the behavior. Or at least a little scaffolding. I have on a couple occasions so far seen Sam change what he was going to say. He'll start out by saying, "Good--" but then change to, "I mean, yeah! You did it!"
So, this "complex connection" to which I referred in my last post is that... well... since we're spending less time yelling and being annoyed, and more time actively making an effort to be upbeat... well... it's sorta reparing our marriage a little. *gasp* I don't want to say too much about it and jinx it, but when he's really making an effor to "plug in" (to use a Dr. Phil-ism) to our life together, it makes me... happy... and strangely.........horny. *shrug* Go figure. You never know what'll be your own little aphrodesiac, eh?
Okay, interesting things....
1) Being a vegan truly rocks. I found a kcik ASS website called vegandad.blogspot.com where this dude does sorta what I like to do (blog about food and then include pix). And I have found a LOT of great recipes that have uber-empowered me. Example: I made my own vegan lunch "meat" the other day and Sam went out and bought me an electric slicer (because it also slices bread) to celebrate!
2) I went to D's house to hang out and she has three really beautiful fancy rats, all with japanese food names (Maki, Sashimi and Sushi). It was nice to get out of the house. I went there to write, but we ended up drinking rum and mango juice and just gabbing for a few hours.
3) My friendship with Flavia is getting stronger every day. She's a LOT like me and Gilles is a LOT like Sam. They came over on Sat night to play board games again and Flav and I have gone to a couple of movies (after one of which we sat and drank "just one beer" which turned into three and Flav went to work drunk that night, *snicker*). We've talked about possible excursions to Spain and Ireland this summer. I'm ECSTATIC about that possibility. I'm even thinking of seeing if Sam's sister might wanna keep the kids for a week while Sam goes WITH me to Spain (and/or Ireland). It'd be a backpacking/roughing it sort of vacation... Just what we need to get the blood flowing, you know?
4) Sam went on-line to the UGC (a brand of cinema in France) and found that they have a card called the "Illimite" (unlimited)... What it is is that you can go see as many movies as you want, any time you want, for just under 20 Euros a month!!! If you go twice, you've paid for it. But I go to the movies at least once a week!!! It's AWESOME! You walk in, you go to a special "Illimite" machine, you pick your movie, you swipe your card, you ticket prints. Took 30 seconds. No lines, no bother. I went and saw Revolutionary Road in English last night!
5) Did I meantion that Sam bought me a slicer? *snicker*
6) Sam spent the afternoon in the kitchen with me making pasta. That's freakin' HAWT, y'all. I love when he helps me do stuff in the kitchen. I got to use the knew pasta drying thing he bought me for Valentine's day! And you know what? Vegan pasta is even easier to make than non! For some reason, without the eggs, the pasta isn't as sticky and hard to work with!
7) I still haven't finished that damn Obama book. It's really good and I'm glad I get to read it in snippets, but DAMN. That (and getting my MS in order to send to the AMD) is my goal for the week.
I feel like there's more, but, well, a) you're probably sick of reading by now, right? and 2) my back hurts and I need to get started on another chapter of the Obama book before the fat kid wakes up. Y'all take it easy.
1 hour ago