3 April 2003
Ive been reading this great book: Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen. Hes in sync with Greenspans philosophy but expands it to fit everyday situations with all kinds of children. Im not far enough into it to expound on the life lessons within, but suffice to say, I started it over the weekend, skipped around from chapter to chapter, gleaned a few pointers, and Ive already found it enormously helpful. Its the kind of book that tells you things you may already know but need the reminder (maybe even desperately need the reminder).
I told Damian last week that we could get together with Heidi this Wednesday. I then forgot to follow this up with a phone call to Heidi to solidify plans. Wednesday came. Damian greeted me in the schoolyard with a Hi Mommy! Were going to go see Heidi today! But Heidi wasnt home. She didnt expect us, of course she wasnt home. Bad Mommy let her kid down.
I explained, apologized, said maybe next week. Damian took it in stride. We got into the car. He wanted to know what snacks Id brought. I told him. He asked again. I told him again. He asked again, got absolutely furious at me when I told him the same choices once more but left one out.
Its easy to say Hes being rigid, demanding ritual, demanding sameness, its part of his diagnosis, deal with it or teach him to accept that things dont work that way. But Id just read this passage in the parenting book about how children will sometimes transfer their feelings about one thing and end up freaking out about something completely different. Whats the subtext? Deal with that.
So I did.
Damian, are you sad that were not seeing Heidi after all?
The yelling stopped. His voice got so quiet. Yes. Im sad.
Me too. Im sad. I like Heidi.
I do too. And I like her house. He went on to elucidate all the things he liked about her place. And was a delight the rest of the ride home and into the afternoon.
Same lesson, different form:
Tuesday night, Damian was absolutely impossible. He wanted to do things one way, ie: put his socks on before his underpants. Then hed change his mind. Underpants before socks. Then hed change his mind. He didnt want to get into his pajamas, he wanted to keep his clothes on. He didnt want books, he wanted to go straight to bed. He wanted one book, not three books. He wanted juice, no he wanted a snack, no he wanted a bath.
Not fun. An escalating struggle, because there was no right answer and no avoiding a battle of wills. Either you give in to the outrageous demands only to have him turn around and come up with even more outrageous ones (because the demands arent really about things he wants but about finding reasons to be angry), or you say No and Were going to do it this way and then you have to put up with yells and screams and physical resistance. Reasoning with a kid like this doesnt work either. We were both ready to strangle him. And of course, parental anger doesnt help. Though right then calmness wasnt helping either.
Finally, I carried him into the living room, settled into the rocking chair and started to rock. He was screaming, I think. Or maybe just demanding juice, telling me he didnt want to rock, he wanted books, he wanted to be in a different chair, etc. etc. Or maybe both, I dont exactly remember now. But I started talking through his anger. Talking about how I used to rock him just like this when he was a tiny baby, how it felt to rock him then. He quieted. Then I told him a story. He settled down to hear it.
This is the story I told:
After that, Damian climbed out of my lap and went to get Dan and ask if he was ready to read books now. And he was a sweetie pie all that night and into the next day.
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copyright 2003 Tamar