Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Negotiation Dance

I am quickly learning the importance of taking care of myself. While I am quick to understand the "why", I am much slower at implementing the "how". I know I must take time for myself. But forcing myself to carve out the time to do it is another story.

And I am not alone. Every mother is busy. Every mother is busy. Every mother is tired at times. Every mother needs to learn the importance of taking care of herself. And I am sure that many mothers find it hard to complete this very important task.

My life is often frustrating. More frustrating than I had planned. More frustrating than I wanted. Possibly more frustrating, at times, than other's lives. Possibly not. Our frustration level is in the eye of the beholder, right? Some mothers might be able to take on a higher level of chaos than I can. I wish I was one of those mothers. I wish I could brush off the frustration and chaos, pick myself up and move on. And sometimes I can. But usually I cannot.

Every day brings a wealth of new opportunities and challenges. Every minute with my youngest son is a negotiation.  Good morning! Hey there little mishka- time to wake up! Please roll over here where I can reach you. Give Mommy a hug. Come here please. Give me a hug. (I put my arms around him and pull him into a hug. He holds on, but doesn't hug back.) You can hug me more tightly than that! Hug me tight tight! Please stand up. No no, stand up. Come back here please, we need to get dressed. Can you take off your shirt? Let me help you. I'm sorry! You need to take off your shirt! Let's take off your pajama bottoms. OK, OK, you can take them off. (He sits down on the floor of his room and slowly begins to pull his pants off. They get stuck on his toes and he screams at the top of his lungs. The first scream of the day is always alarming as it pierces the quiet of the house.) Which pants do you want to wear today? What do you mean you don't like "slippery pants", (slick athletic pants). You wear these all the time. (His older brother refused to wear jeans as a toddler and so we have drawers full of these "slippery pants". OK, let's wear these jeans. We don't throw the clothes we don't want to wear. Pick those up. Pick those up so you can earn your check mark. (We are offering check marks that can be turned into tokens that can earn snacks and fun stuff.) Let's go downstairs now. You go first. (I know if I leave the room first he will throw his little body on the floor, screaming, the aftermath of which will take at least 15 minutes to return to normal.) Please go out into the hallway now, so I can leave your room. If you leave your room now you can catch Daddy before he gets in the shower to say good morning! Don't go into your brother's room! Turn your brother's light back on! Please come back into the hallway. Please go down the stairs. Please do not stop on the stairs. Why are you stopped? (I know I cannot go around him.) Are you stuck? Please tell your brain to move those feet!  You want juice? I heard you- you don't need to scream it at me. I will get your juice in just a moment. Which cup do you want- the dinosaur or the car? Neither? These are your choices, pick one. (He is on the floor again, screaming about his lack of cup choices. I hold him up to the cup cupboard, where he selects the tiny cup with no lid.) OK, you can have this cup but you have to sit down at the table to drink out of it. Please sit down. We don't walk around the kitchen with open cups of juice. I know you want your juice but you must sit down first. (The three of us, my oldest son, my husband and I walk around the kitchen being careful not to step on the screaming 3 year old laying on the floor.) If you want yogurt you can get it from the fridge. You can pick which yogurt you want. I will get your spoon. What is wrong with that spoon? Fine, get your own spoon. Now that spoon you chose is not going to fit into the yogurt cup. OK, try it for yourself. Don't throw your spoon across the room! Please go pick up that spoon. You can have another spoon after you pick up the one you  just threw. Chairs are for sitting! Please sit down. Chairs are for sitting. If you don't sit in your chair you may not be at the table- we do not stand on the chairs.  Time to put your shoes on. Please go get your shoes. No, you can't wear your flip flops. Where did you even find those? Get your tennis shoes please. Because it is cold outside. Please put your shoes on. You can do this yourself. Get your backpack. Not your brother's backpack! Put that backpack down! Please pick up your black spider man backpack and put it on. You will get a check mark if you finish your shoes and backpack and we get out the door on time. Thank you for walking to the car so nicely! Please climb into your seat now. (I cannot help into the seat, no matter the weather or the time. He will scream and spit at me if he isn't allowed to take his time climbing into his seat. I have to watch for the moment right when he should be plopping down into his car seat, because it is at that moment that I must grab him and push him down into the seat, or he will be in the front seat before I know it.) Please let me buckle your seat. Please move your hands so I can snap your buckle. Please sit back. I will hand you your stuffed cat in a moment. If you just sit back and let me buckle you I will give you your cat. Please get out of the car. Put your backpack on. No, you have to hold my hand in the parking lot. Do not let go of my hand! We hold hands in parking lots! Please take off your backpack and coat. Bring me your backpack so I can hang it on your hook. You don't need your backpack in the classroom. Please give me a kiss kiss. Can you look at me when you say goodbye? Let me see your beautiful eyes! Please have a good day. Please use gentle hands with your friends. Please let go of my hair. I have to go now. Mommy loves you!

A little over an hour has passed since I woke up my little guy and we began the negotiation dance. It will start again at 5:30 and continue until bedtime. He seems not to remember the negotiations from the day before. each day we begin again. If the negotiations are proceeding well then I am rewarded with smiles and songs and jokes from my little guy. This is how his brain is telling him life works, right now. So this is how our lives work. It is exhausting. It is time consuming. It is worth it when he stays calm and can eat and think and learn and process life around him. it is worth it when he feels comfortable enough to sing and joke with me. My brain does not work like this, although it is learning how. So my brain is tired. My spirit is tired. My creativity and "fun" are tired. And I know I need to take care of myself, because I doubt any of this is changing anytime soon. It's not bad. It's just different. Raising this boy is different than raising the other. One way is not better. One way may be more challenging but it is also teaching me patience. And calmness. And how to be sure I am looking after myself while I look after the men in my life.

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