**WARNING, this post is not about organizing, today we are focusing on the “and more” portion of Cribbs Style. And there won’t be a ton of pictures either so I apologize in advance. **
I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to say that parenting is HARD. Shaping and molding tiny humans to be respectable adults is no easy task. Knowing when to be firm, when to ease up… To make things more challenging, the two children I had, have completely different personalities. Polar opposites. My husband an I marvel over how the same two people created these tiny creatures and yet they are completely different people. Kennedy is our easy going one, and Kelsey, while she can be sweet and cuddly, is the opposite of easy going. (I’m being really, really generous in my description.)
We moved to South Carolina when the girls were 4 and 3. Prior to moving, Kelsey was starting to show some signs that her behavior was less than ideal. Unfortunately, my husband and I were in survival mode and just getting through the day to day was all we could handle. After the move and once the dust settled, we had more time to notice Kelsey’s behavior and we were stunned. Our sweet and chubby little girl was, what is now dubbed, a “threenager”. Extreme moods, bad behavior… if she could have dressed in black and played death metal, I think she would have and I swore I saw her flip me the bird with her tiny chubby middle finger. Not confirmed, but I swear I saw it.
We struggled, boy did we struggle. Nightly screaming, morning screaming, defiance at a level I considered taking her to therapy. I can remember after one exhausting night of dealing with her, my husband and I caught our breath and discussed what we were going to do. He asked me what I was most afraid of and sadly, my honest answer, “going to jail”. It was driving me to a breaking point, not that I had any intention of hurting her, but I knew we couldn’t keep on this track much longer.
We read. We asked around. At night we would plot our plan of attack. One thing we discovered was that we were letting our kids stay up way too late for their ages. It was the easiest thing to modify and we saw immediate results. For the first time in a really long time, the amount of yelling and bad behavior started to dwindle. But there were no high fives and victory dances just yet. Kelsey still had these horrible reactions when things didn’t go her way. It could be as simple as she didn’t like the way her clothes fit, she was very sensitive to seams and where things touched her stomach. Or she wanted a pair of shoes at the shoes store and we said no to which the tantrums of all tantrums would start and my husband would carry her out of the store kicking and screaming at the top of her lungs.
For most kids when they have bad behavior they have a “currency” that serves as a punishment. We could not find Kelsey’s currency. Take a toy away, she could care less. Put her in timeout and she would sing, fall asleep- no effect. Friday mornings my husband would treat the girls to a local donut shop nearby. They always looked forward to it and their time with dad. One Friday morning Kelsey was in rare form and he said there would be no donuts, but then a light bulb went off in his head and he took them anyway. When they arrived, he told Kennedy to go inside and get a donut and come straight back to the car. (It’s a small shop and he had a clear view.) Meanwhile, he sat in the truck while Kelsey proceeded to have a tantrum that would make the Tasmanian Devil himself blush. People walking by his car would look wide eyed at the scene. My husband sat there, calm as a cucumber until Kennedy returned. Then he told Kennedy to eat the donut, in front of Kelsey. At first Kennedy was confused, but as any sibling willing to oblige in torturing her sibling, Kennedy ate the donut in an Oscar worthy style. Needless to say, Kelsey learned. We meant serious business and when she would start to act up we would remind her of the donut.
The other thing we learned is that idle threats mean nothing. If you say “keep it up and I’m taking away …,” we had to stand behind it. We figured out that she thought of us as a slot machine and she would keep pulling that lever until we finally paid up. When we stopped doing that, her behavior changed. It hasn’t been perfect and we are still learning how to handle her behavior, but the screaming and tantrums are fewer and far between. To add insult to injury, she’s a perfect angel when she’s with other people or at school. When we would tell people stories we were met with “not sweet Kelsey!” What the what?!? We’re talking about the same child right? When she would have an episode we would ask her “Do you act this way at school?”, she would shake her head no, “Then why is it ok at home?”, blank stare. Ahhhhhhhhhhh
Recently, Kelsey now 8,has started backsliding with her behavior and her reactions to situations. I have had to learn that I’m not the best person to engage with her because as my husband put it, she’s a mini me. At first I was pissed because I don’t act like that, and then I swallowed my pride and realized that maybe, just maybe I could see what he means. Maybe. But we’re not talking about me are we, no. 😉 Unfortunately, we have also been using idle threats again, i.e. that if she keeps it up, she’s out of dance. Until this morning.
Two nights ago while her sister was at Lacrosse practice, Kelsey was playing on the track. She ran up to us and showed us that she had a huge hole in her tennis shoes. I might have had a mini panic attack thinking about going to the shoe store with her. Remember what I said earlier, well it didn’t happen just once, it happened many times at the shoe store where my husband had to carry a screaming Kelsey out of the door. So much in fact that it wasn’t until this school year that I allowed her to come with me. Almost 5 years later. Yesterday while running errands I noticed she was wearing the same shoes, insert gasp, so we went to the shoe store. It went relatively well, only one little hiccup where she started to lose her stuff and pulled it together. We walked out with a pair of shoes. Hold your high five.
Then this morning.
I opened up her bedroom door to see when she was coming down and immediately I could tell she was in a foul mood. Yikes child, you’ve been up all of 10 minutes. She came downstairs and asked why the seam of her sweatshirt was on one side of her arm when it should be on that side of her arm. Mind you, a sweatshirt she has worn at least 100 times. Then she went to the closet, grabbed the shoe box to put on her shoes. Immediately we were transported to the mornings of years ago with the rant that commenced. “These shoes don’t fit and I’m going to trip and I hate them!” Oh no she didn’t! After a brief screaming match, I engaged- oh I soooo engaged, my husband yelled to me over her cries “the shoes are the donut, take them back!” Sort of like in Karate Kid when they yelled “sweep the leg!”. To which I added the bonus, she’s out of dance! BOOM The one thing I have warned her is that extra curricular’s are just that- extra. My only obligation is to provide food, clothing, and shelter. That’s it. I don’t care if she has straight A’s or that she’s testing into the gifted program (don’t get me started on that), but if she’s an ungrateful child at home, nothing extra for you. Today was the proverbial straw.
We walked out of the house with her screaming, crying, and wearing her hole-y shoes. This after she tried to grab the shoe box yelling that she was in fact wearing them. Too late my friend. Just as we were walking out, the bus stopped right in front of us, not the usual stop mind you, but it was like a beacon of hope that picked up our bundles of joy – one smiling, the other read faced. My husband and I turned to walk back to the house. No high five. No victory dance. We said our goodbyes for the day and before he got into his truck he said “take the shoes back” and I replied that I would email to cancel dance. The fact of the matter is, we hate days like this because it feels so wasted. There is so much going on in the world right now and in the grand scheme of things, it would be very easy to give in and just say screw it, but we can’t. I’m not raising entitled feeling a-holes.
Parenting is hard. So freaking hard.
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