Tuesday, July 3, 2007


This morning, I refused to take Monkey to a playdate.
She cried and I felt bad but I also held firm.

She kept us up late, playing with her light, faking us out about being awake and I have had it.

I also talked to her, starting with my being angry and then cooling down about that, and many other instances where she does not take into account the effect that she has on the lives of others in our house and in other areas of our lives.

There is also now a rule that outside of her possesions, her room and her feelings, nobody and that means Buddy in particular, asks her permission about anything.

She is 8 years old and she is not in charge of most things or situations and that is the way it is going to be.

That also means that there are now going to be two different bed times for them, Monkey will be in bed a 1/2 to a full hour before Buddy. She may not fall asleep but she will be tucked in and her lights will be out.
Hopefully this will result in some positive changes for everyone.
Buddy will get to spend some extra time, either on his own or with his older siblings and Monkey will not be able to order him out of the bathroom and demand to be allowed access to it first.

Yes, it is something that she has been doing and getting away with for quite some time.

When Monkey was crying this morning, I also steeled myself and did not scoop her up to comfort her. I did stay with her and talk to her, but I let her come to me physically.
I also talked to her about her feelings, saying that I could understand it if she was disappointed and unhappy about not going on the playdate.
So then I asked her directly, are you unhappy about that?
She nodded.
I asked her if she could tell me that in words and....
she couldn't.

Not at all.
She struggled with it and finally shook her head and a fresh wave of sobbing erupted.

This morning I realized that she really can't use the words.
So I think we are going to be looking into signs that she could try to use and I need to get some of those "feelings" posters to put up.

How do you teach a kid empathy?
You take it back to the beginning and you do it just like with babies and toddlers.
That means a lot of supervision and a lot of intervention and a lot of modelling and a lot of repetition and positive re-inforcement.

I'm tired already.

Another telling thing was when she looked at me, with her real face and said, "But Mom, I don't KNOW when I am being cute."

I believe her.

The title of this post has to do with how another parent that I know referred to me today.
She didn't mean it in an unkind way, I think, she probably felt she was being accurate and helpful but...
can I just say that it hurt?

A couple of weeks ago, I was really tired (okay, when aren't I?) and getting all the kids and all the stuff to the park for our homeschool meet up had been a detailed exercise in frustration and we ended up bringing different stuff than we were supposed to for a water fight and ....
my oldest son started in on me about how it was my fault or something like that and I snapped.

I got louder and used an angry voice and was inappropriate(ish) for about a minute...in front of other parents and then I was embarrassed and toned it all down and took a deep breath and dealt with it all and then discovered that the other parents were ignoring me.
And they ignored me for a good twenty minutes and I felt really, really bad...
like killing myself bad (no this is not a plea for help and no I am not suicidal nor am I prone to indulging in suicidal ideation, I just know that if I were this would be how bad I would have to feel for a while).

One of them later told me that they were ignoring me on purpose, to give me some time to just cool down.

Today I tried to talk to one of the parents about how hard it is sometimes to do what I am doing and she made the comment that "you do seem harsh with the kids" and then tempered it with "but I don't know what the rest of your life is like" -
but that didn't temper it enough to make me feel better at all, instead that crack that you might be hearing is my heart...

is there any way that I can say how very much I don't want to be seen or thought of as Harsh?
can I just say that?
I love my kids, when things are bad and when things are good
I work really hard at it
I want so much to do it as right as I can
I owe them so much and
now I am having a pity party but that is one of the words that I think of when i think of my own father

And it feels Harsh.


ipodmomma said...

oh boy...

I wonder what the parents of whom you speak woudl think if they happened to read this blog, about how difficult it is sometimes with children who need so much...

I don't see you at all as harsh.

there are so many ways to parent that judging another's technique is tantamount to asking for a big kick in the hiney. we all do it differently, we all make mistakes and usually we are doing the best we can and for the most part it works out okay.

and when it doesn't well, crap happens.

and we all need a pity party sometimes... I know someone just told me that it's not whining, it's just getting one's head around life.

or something like that... :)))

Baggage said...

You know, I've always liked that one of the symptoms of RAD is that the parents seem somewhat harsh and frustrated.

I know I could be seen as harsh sometimes. I'm sure all parents could. And you are dealing with a lot.

Be kind to yourself.

Yondalla said...

Oh sweetie...I wish I could run over and give you a hug, make you a cup of tea, take the kids for a while.

Baggage is right. Kids who have learned to survive by manipulating people do end up with parents who appear harsh. Some of it is because you have to do it to parent well. Some of it is because we only have so much strength.

Did I tell you that I once yelled (loudly) at five kids in a parking lot "ONE WORD. JUST ONE WORD AND I WILL PUT DUCT TAPE ON ALL YOUR MOUTHS!" At the moment I meant it.

But can I say that I think that some of your ideas here are really interesting? I like the idea of putting some boundaries on her behavior and giving other people permission to behave differently. She may or may not develop empathy, but it sounds like you are on a path of creating a space where everyone else is safe.

It sounds like the boundary stuff I like so much. If you can't change the basic behavior, what rules can you make so that everyone (including you!) is safe.

Take care of yourself.

Granny said...

"but I don't know what the rest of your life is like"

Shame she didn't think of that before she rushed to judgment.

If you're harsh, then I must be too.

Sometimes when the girls have been more than usually contrary, I lose it too.

Even sometimes when they haven't.

Jo said...

Being extra firm with your kids that have invisible problems could be judged as harsh. Other kids, don't need the constant reinforcement, and the constant vigilance your other two do. It looks firm from the outside because it is. They need it. I know this is hard and I think some of that comes from you wishing things could be different, that you wished you didn't have to do this, that it breaks your heart you have to and that you take your little people's burdens and problems very much to heart. Hugs to you dear. From us other parents in the trenches, you don't look harsh, you look like a hero. Be kind to yourself.

cloudscome said...

I think you have a wonderful balanced, thoughtful way of parenting. Don't listen to any assvice from people who don't live in your house.

I think the idea of changing bedtimes is going to make a big difference. Also getting out of the house with just one or two kids for a fun treat. We all need little adjustments like that from time to time.

Be good to yourself.

L. said...

It's really awful when people rush to judge those who can judge themselves just fine.

I've been called "harsh" so many times I've lost count. But harsh moments don't make you anyone a harsh person.

Carolie said...

I don't know you...but from what I've read, you sound like a terrific parent. My parents were strict, and stern, and probably harsh...and as an adult, I am so grateful. We are a very close and loving family, even with the three of us "kids" in our late thirties and early forties. Yes, Mom and Dad yelled at us sometimes, when we pushed them to it. (We deserved it!) But even when they were at their most "harsh," we never doubted that we were loved.

And forgive me, but I've got to say -- who do those other parents think they are, that they can "punish" another adult for behavior they disagree with? They can agree or disagree, they can choose to be friends or not, they can choose to be around you or not. But they don't get to mete out punishments like ignoring you for a certain time to teach you a lesson or put you in time out! Grrr!

FosterAbba said...

You know, it's really easy for people who aren't walking your life to judge. What makes it worse is that most of the people who are so willing to pass judgments are parents of bio-kids who don't have the same issues that foster and adoptive parents face.

I don't think you are being too harsh. Sometimes foster/adoptive kids need an ugly dose of reality therapy. You are doing a fine job. Stay the course and hang in there.