Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/10/2011 Tree day!

Yesterday was Pajama Day at school!

And today was Christmas Tree Day at home. We went to our usual place in the mountains, mostly for the experience. We certainly don't save money or get a better tree by finding our own and cutting it down, but you can't beat the fun of running around in a christmas-tree forest.

I really, really, really like kids getting older. I had nothing to do with tree-handling logistics this year. Dave and Gabriel handled it entirely on their own, including the carrying.

(On a side note, Julian can make himself tuna now -- he skips sandwich part and eats it from a bowl without a sandwich -- but he can open and drain the can, break up the tuna and add mayonnaise and mix it up. Seeing him, it's obvious a kid his age should be able to do things like this, but somehow nowadays they don't. They should be doing SO much more than they do!)

Despite a rough morning and relentless, horrendous, egregious, extreme, persistent, nonstop LOUD fighting between the boys (it's really gotten bad), it was a nice afternoon and a much-needed outing. At a last-minute impulse, we even went out to dinner on the way back from getting the tree. It was such a great and welcome idea, it should have been the plan instead of a last-second "STOPPP!!"

We also had a very nice time this evening putting the tree up and putting lights on it. Decorations tomorrow, which Katrina is very excited about, and even more important: the TRAIN under the tree, which Gabriel is beside himself about.

It's hard for anyone to feel scroogy around these guys!


p.s. Happy Birthday to cousin Jason, who is 35 today!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

12/8/2011 Three in a row

Julian got sent to the office again today -- 3rd day in a row he got kicked out of class. This time though, the principal called us to bring him home. The principal warned us that if he got sent to the office again that we'd get called to come and get him.

This is so unacceptable I don't even know where to start. Julian just can't control himself. The consequences we give him just don't make him stop to think or do what he's told.

But it's also frustrating that now we have to leave work for this. The tiniest thing he does in class now turns into a direct hit for us (today it was Dave), partly because his teacher is so fed up and she knows that as soon as he's started down the road of obnoxiousness, it's pretty hard to divert him. Today it started with Julian putting paper cups on his head, letting them fall, and laughing. Innocent enough, but he wouldn't stop, he was disrupting the class, and then kept disobeying his teacher. That used to mean an irritating email for us, but now it means having to drop everything at work and go retrieve him. It is such a struggle for both me and Dave to get in enough time at work as it is, we just can't leave work for this. It could happen every day -- we have less control over it than we do if someone gets sick. And some jobs, you can't just leave -- like, say, a teacher.

Do the principal and Julian's teacher know what a huge deal it is for one of us to have to miss potentially a whole day of work? They're used to most kids at our school having at least one parent, or someone else, at home, so it's not the major impact it is on us. In fact, when our overall very nice principal, who we both like, told us that if he gets sent to the office again that he'll get sent home, he didn't seem to recognize what a major leap that is. He almost said it the way you'd say, "the next time he does that, he'll lose two days of recess instead of one." But the difference between being sent to the office and being sent home is HUGE.

Then we have the problem of what to do with Julian. He has to stop this crap!! We're running out of ways to address the immediate problem (disobeying the school office staff), and laying a long-term foundation (counseling, talking to him) for him not to want to, or need to, disobey.

Add to that another morning of work I missed today. I went to see 3 dentists, lucky that the second two were able to see me with no notice. The last one is a TMJ specialist -- that's a jaw problem that many people have. It's not a big deal for your jaw to sort of click, but last Sunday it suddenly turned into a lot of pain chewing, and now I can't open my mouth very wide and can't chew at all. I'm glad to have a plan to solve it, but it's going to mean missing yet more work (xrays, physical therapy, then a bite-plate thing to correct my jaw misalignment). So I really really can't risk missing work because my son pestered his brother or put cups on his head, and neither can Dave.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

12/7/2011 Coffee Night but... cheesecake. Something's really wrong with my jaw, and I can't chew or move my mouth properly. Unfortunately for my patient friends, it doesn't prevent me from talking, but I couldn't finish my cheesecake!! Now that's too much!! My doctor referred me to my dentist, with whom I have an appointment tomorrow.

WHAT a day. First, a call from a story producer at ABC News 20/20, who'd heard the NPR piece on tantrums. Mostly he was exploring to find out more about the family, and if is feasible for us to fly to NYC for a studio interview. Their angle is more along why people are posting tantrum videos to YouTube!! In any case, it was left open-ended, and if they want to pursue it, we should hear back in a few days. I'm excited about the idea, for no good reason -- why would I expose our shame on TV after radio?!

But I think it would be....well, fun. And I'm developing a very thick skin about the whole "you're horrible parents" tantrum thing.

My friends pointed out though that these reporters may not realize that our tantrumers are really on the extreme edge of tantruming. It's true; I read an article somewhere that said "most tantrums last 3-4 minutes long..." ?! MINUTES?! Katrina's tantrums lasted often up to an hour, they happened at least once a day, and went on for well over a year. Gabriel...his were way worse, and with a hitting problem in the mix. No wonder armchair Monday-morning-quarterback parents think from watching 30 seconds of our hell that all we'd have to do is "ignore" it.

Still, despite the chance to maybe be on TV, I was rattled from our blowout with Gabriel last night. That's way more serious stuff. Gabriel was fine this morning though. But Julian had had a bad day yesterday, with a note from the teacher about getting sent out of the classroom, and his complaining that it was all Gabriel's fault.

Today Dave and I had a follow-up meeting with the school district specialists about Gabriel's assessment and services that will result from that. But right before we left work, we got an email from the principal: Julian had been sent to the office by Gabriel's teacher, because Julian was pestering Gabriel while Gabriel was on line for music class!! Then Julian was disruptive to the secretaries in the office, not listening to them, and they had to call in the principal for help. Julian will be sent home next time this happens, and this is just SO not good! We can't be leaving work for this.

We just can't keep up. And how could our critics, with all this material??

We came home and started researching Catholic schools, and then boot camps, as something to threaten him with -- and carry out as necessary. But my friend Betsy gave me an even better idea: Confession. Well, and all the Catholic stuff around that, which I know nothing about, but I think it involves Sunday School. Hmm. Sunday School, reconciliation, confession, penance -- and actually, Julian might very well like the ritual and ceremony of church. I'm seriously going to think about it!

I never thought I'd say this in a million years, but I can't wait for my dentist appointment tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

12/6/2011 The REAL tantrumer

Cripes....just when I think I'm out of the woods -- Gabriel reminds me of what he's made of. The kid is just unbelievable.

It wasn't his fault to begin with. When Julian and Katrina and I got home, Gabriel was quietly working on homework. Julian launched right into his usual pestering and provoked Gabriel. Next thing I knew, Julian was crying because Gabriel had thrown scissors at him. Gabriel defiantly defended his action, but though I was silently sympathetic, I was furious at this dangerous action. I docked him 3 weeks allowance.

This is where most stories end. A swift and decisive consequence, and that's it, right? Uh-huh. He was so outraged that he followed me into the kitchen and threatened me with some object, "I still have a WEAPON Mom, and I'm going to USE it on you." He repeated his threats while I pretended to ignore him while I moved around the kitchen, trying to decide what to do.

Then something else happened to trigger him, and he ended up screaming as loud as he could. I warned him if he continued screaming, he'd have to go outside. Of course he continued, I told him to get a jacket and go outside RIGHT NOW.

Next thing I knew, Julian was shrieking in pain and I heard the front door slam. Apparently Gabriel had grabbed a jacket, then swung it at Julian -- a strict no-no because -- the zipper hit Julian in the face. A swinging jacket with a metal zipper is really dangerous, they're absolutely not allowed to do that.

I ran outside after Gabriel and called him to come inside right now. No response. I couldn't see him, either. He'd gone somewhere away from the house, or was hiding.

I was furious. Throwing scissors, threatening me with a "weapon," swinging a jacket, then leaving the house -- somehow the last 15 minutes had deteriorated horribly. I stormed upstairs and cleaned out two of his shelves and his desk, putting all his recent toys into a garbage bag and box, and then took them to the garage. I checked on him outside, looked around the house, and called for him -- nothing.

Fine. If he's not coming inside, then he's not coming inside. I locked all the doors and took Julian to Kung Fu with Katrina in tow. Then I took Katrina shopping at Whole Foods, which she delighted in. She attracted so many smiles from onlookers, this happy charming little girl delighting at all the Christmas decorations. If only they knew...

Before picking Julian up from Kung Fu, I checked at home -- Gabriel was standing on the front porch, glowering at me. He had on a T-shirt and shorts, and my car said 49 degrees. He'd been alone outside for well over half an hour. I'd hoped to freak him out a little, but he certainly didn't act very concerned. I let him in the house and instructed him in the most deadly voice I could muster, "YOU TAKE YOUR HOMEWORK AND GO UPSTAIRS RIGHT NOW." I absolutely did not want him in sight when I got Julian home. He resisted, but he was gone when I got back with Julian.

The rest of the evening went better. Gabriel was still defiant, but not rude, and he eventually softened during dinner. He never told me where he was, never complained about being cold, didn't say anything about all his toys missing -- if he said anything at all, it was to continue complaining about Julian. He was concerned about missing out on Christmas-tree cookies for dessert, but accepted it.

I would love to hear the reactions from a roomful of people observing Gabriel following me and threatening me, while I pretended to ignore him. I doubt any faction would approve of how I was handling that particular moment. Ignore it? Respond to it? Threaten him? Take away a privilege? Smack the crap out of him? Answer: none of the above. Anything I do, or not do, will egg him on. The kid just doesn't back down. There just is no answer. I've known that since before he was 2.

Though I had a lot of doubts and was worried when he was locked out, in retrospect, it was probably the best choice because it calmed me down and gave him nothing to push against. But obviously I can't leave my home every time we have a conflict.

Thank goodness massive blowouts with Gabriel are much rarer these days, but his potential and his power are really staggering.


Monday, December 05, 2011

12/5/2011 The NPR show about tantrums!

I am really surprised at how many people I know -- or sort-of know, or used to know -- heard this on the radio this morning and contacted us!

What's Behind A Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct The Screams

The screams that the scientists deconstruct are Katrina's. Lots of listeners have said "Ugh! That's awful!" One friend even said, "That must have been a rough night!" Yeah, awful, for sure. But one rough night? No. That was daily, for well over a year. Regular readers will recall my complaints about Katrina's "dinnertime tantrums" -- that video was just one of many such tantrums.

And she wasn't nearly as bad as Gabriel was.

Everyone in the world has an opinion about this. The comments on NPR's blog page are telling. Most are pretty judgmental, though what they say tends to fall into one of two categories: One, you're a horrible parent because you didn't ignore the tantrum; or Two, you're a horrible parent because you didn't spank the brat.

Of course, some tantrums can't be ignored, and to my delight, these now have a name: "escape" tantrums. That's a tantrum that's thrown to avoid doing something you've been told to do. What a great way to get out of putting your shoes away: throw a major tantrum, you get sent to your room, and don't have to do what you were told! Cool!

And of course, spanking doesn't end screaming and crying. For a real tantrumer like Gabriel, it could even give the tantrum new (negative) energy. I can see spanking a child who's old enough if they do something really egregious or destructive, but that'd be to address that immediate behavior, not the tantrum itself.

Ironically, I have seen spanking break a kid out of a nasty jag -- and that kid is Julian, our one non-toddler-tantrumer. To this day, there are times he resists doing something every step of the way and is so obnoxious and dangerous (flailing around so I get whacked in the face), that a spanking will settle him down. He'll cry, but he'll stop. It's really pretty remarkable. That doesn't work on Gabriel, and we've never tried on Katrina.

But overall, the know-it-all advice from the armchair parents out there is much the same as I got throughout my years of dealing with tantrums: overall not very applicable or useful. The reporter even asked me during the interview if I'd give any advice to a parent I saw dealing with a tantruming kid, and I said no, I wouldn't give them advice because I don't know anything about the surrounding circumstances. But if I were to do anything, it'd be to give them support, a "hang-in-there" sign, because that's what made me feel better.

Thank heavens this is all in the past tense. Mostly.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

12/4/2011 Busy/Lazy weekend

For once, I actually did things with the kids yesterday. Saturdays are often a bust for me because I go running early in the morning, and that about does it for me -- keywords being "early" and "morning." But this Saturday, I had a good run (a long one, over 10 miles including the famously steep PG&E trail), and then actually did things the rest of the day before pooping out.

In addition to getting Julian to Kung Fu, I also took all 3 kids to the BMX park in the afternoon. It was an exceptionally glorious day, in the low 70s -- crisp and beautiful without being hot. This means the park was packed, mostly with teenage boys.

It's been a long, long time since the boys have been there, but the boys pretty much picked up where they'd left off.

Which means, Julian in Zone 1.

And Gabriel pretty much everywhere else.

Katrina was a horror, complaining constantly that I was walking too slowly, too fast, not keeping up with her, ahead of her, behind was nonstop nagging! She was a serious drag, and I put up with being scolded and criticized right up until it was time to put her bike away so I could retrieve her brothers.

Then I snapped and told her to go stand by a distanc post where she could wail and scream all she wanted, but I couldn't hear her. I got lots of dirty looks from dads on that one, but overall dads are way easier than moms on these things!

The best part was: the boys went from being hyper out-of-control to pretty mellow. Later, Dave took them to the Psychotronics Film Festival (lots of short old horror clips).

Sunday...lazy, lazy day. Didn't do much. And just to capitalize on that theme, they got to watch King Kong tonight!!