Thursday, July 5, 2012

to make a point

It was 100 degrees in the Twin Cities yesterday.  That's hot.  So we've spent a couple days at the splash deck at the YMCA.  The first time we went a couple weeks ago, Sean and Audrey were both skeptical.  We didn't stay very long, and neither one of them liked the element of surprise that the water provided.  However, we invited friends to come with us earlier this week, and not only did I appreciate the company of another mom, but I hoped the presence of the two other kids would encourage Sean to step out of his comfort zone.  It was a success!  All of the kids had a good time playing, sliding, and jumping through the water.  I was grateful to see Seancito being brave and grateful to the other kids for showing him the way.

Back at the YMCA this morning, getting dressed to go out to the splash deck, Sean reminisced about our recent visit to the splash deck with friends.

Sean: Mama? Do you 'member when we brought the Hjelles with us to the splash deck?

me: I do.  That was fun, huh?

Sean: Yeah. That was fun!  Let's do that again!

me: I think we will.  We talked about coming again with them soon.

Sean: Yeah... and Greta was scared.

me: What?  Greta was scared?  Of what?

Sean: Well... (taking a thoughtful and compassionate stance) she was kinda scared of the slide.

This was not the way I remembered our previous trip to the splash deck.  But then to make his point...

Sean: Yeah.  She was scared, so I went up to the slide with her.  (nodding his head)  Yeah.

me:  Hmm.

I didn't bother to disprove his point.  It wasn't worth an argument.  Yet I was interested by the fact that he'd constructed a complete lie about Greta being scared (when in fact he was the one who was scared), and then used that lie to rationalize his own (false) valiant actions.

Once outside and fully blasted with sunscreen, we headed straight for the slide.  I must admit that I have as much fun on the slide as Sean does.  With Audrey on my lap, belted in tight with my arms, we zip quickly down the slide aided in no small part by the copious amounts of UV protectant.  Of course, that quick zipping can't happen until Seancito gets off the bottom of the slide first.  Because he's a cautious kid, he likes to slow himself down on the slide, coming to a full stop earlier than most.  He stops sliding and then stands nearly at the base of the slide, but not quite on the flat area: the flat area is a good 8 feet long, so that when bigger kids (or fully grown adults having more fun than the kids) slide down, there's ample space for their larger bodies to gradually come to a stop.  A small, cautious 3 year-old, though, has no trouble stopping long before this 8 foot plateau.  After stopping, he then turns around, and with a worried look on his face begins yelling.

Sean: No! Mama!  Don't come down yet!

There are kids in line behind me.

me: Sean, get off the slide!

Sean: Mama!  Don't come down, I still need to get off the slide!

OOOOOOookay.  When I get to the bottom of the slide, I discuss with Sean how he can keep sliding until he gets to the flat part.  THEN he can quickly get off the slide.  He tries again, going down the slide semi-quickly, stopping himself just before the bottom and turning to look at me with furrowed eyebrows. 

Sean: No, Mama!  Don't come down! 

me: SEAN!  Get off the slide!

I'm waving my arms, gesturing wildly for him to remove his body from the slide area.  This is all taking much too much time.  We talk again at the bottom of the slide how dangerous it is for him to stop and turn around.  I talk to him about taking responsibility for himself, and not worrying about me.  I explain that I will wait until he gets off the slide, but in order for the line to not get too long, he has to move quickly.

Subsequent trips down the slide provide the same pattern over and over again.  I finally realize that he's not understanding what I'm asking him to do.

me: Sean, you could just step over the side here, instead of walking all the way down this flat area.

Sean:  Is that what other little kids do?

me: (stumped) Eh... sure. Maybe. But that doesn't matter what other people do, I'm just offering you something different to get you off the slide faster. 

Sean:  But I like to walk all the way down to the bottom.

me: Right, yes. I've seen that.

After a couple more trips down, same pattern of behavior, more waving arms, yelling from the top of the slide, I give up.  He's 3.  I cut him some slack.  He's having a great time, no matter how long it takes him to get off the slide.  I'm having a great time, and every time Sean yells, "let's do it again, Mama!", I then hear Audrey say "gen. gen." She's clearly having a great time.  No need for me to get my swimsuit in a bunch about how long it takes for Sean to get off the slide.

At a later point in the day, though, Sean switches things up on me.  He insists that I go down the slide first with Audrey.  This makes a lot of sense to me, and given that most everyone has cleared off the splash deck, we are left with only another mom and her three boys.  I move myself into position to slide down ahead of Sean.  When we sail down to the plateaued area, I hear a small voice calling to me from above.

Sean: Mama, get off the slide!  I'm coming down now!  Get off the slide!

He made his point.

This evening Sean pulled his usual hunger strike during dinner time.  He refused all food.  But then hours later, just as he was about to go brush his teeth, he threw a huge tantrum about being soooo hungry.  Go figure!  He hadn't eaten anything since lunch!  Tom and I held our ground, because we are trying to get him to eat with us at dinner time instead of turning his nose up at all food in the evening.  We threatened him with losing his book-reading-privileges if he didn't stop the tantrum.  Then he was refusing to brush teeth, saying he was soooo hungry.  Finally, after not listening to any coaxing or prodding we had to say, I snapped.

me: That's it.  Straight to bed!  No books, no stories, no toothbrushing!  Just go to bed.

He lost it.  Tom picked him up and started carrying him into his room.  Seancito was thrashing about, hyperventilating, crying, and then he decided to make his point.

Sean: I don't want to get cavities!  I don't want to get cavities!  Nooooo!

Tom struck a deal with him and he was able to brush his teeth. Who knew that disallowing toothbrushing could actually make it an attractive option?

After both kids were asleep and we discussed what had happened tonight, Tom and I went through our usual ups/downs/questions about what we did and why.  We are a pretty good team and tend to encourage each other on.  There are those moments when we feel totally lost or confused about Sean's behavior or Audrey's sleeplessness, or maybe even upset with ourselves for not maintaining enough patience or compassion in a certain situation.  This was not one of those times.  I think we both felt okay with Sean going to bed hungry in the hopes that he would decide to eat dinner tomorrow night.  This is another moment as a parent where I just have to let go.

But back to the splash deck for one last thought:  for however much I get frustrated with my own kids, I saw something happen today that made me feel not so alone in the parenting world.  The mother with three boys I mentioned earlier was trying to get her three kids off the splash deck and headed home for lunch.  One boy listened and went with his mom right away.  The other two boys ignored her for a long time, and so the mother, trying to make her point, just started leaving the area without them.  When that tactic didn't work, she turned around to speak (yell) in a more forceful tone.  Finally the second one began following after his mother.  Her threat, which went unheard by me as I could not hear over the din of the splash/spraying water, clearly took hold in his mind.  The third boy held out for as long as he could.  He watched the mother and the two older boys begin to leave.  He walked away from the base of the slide and directly into the middle of the splash deck area.  His mother safely 50 feet away, he began pulling down his swimtrunks.  He inched them just far enough down to begin peeing directly in the center of the splash deck.  When the mother turned around, a look of confusion spread across her face.  But slowly, she began walking towards her son.

mother: What...are... you doing??

The boy did not break his stream, did not break his stance, did not break the holding of his penis to direct his pee at the other sprays of water.  Making his point, the boy let his mother know what he thought of her idea to go home.

I had a smile on my face.  I know that breaks the unspoken code of conduct between mothers where we're supposed to support each other and stand firm, especially when our kids are doing something directly against what we've asked them to do.  I couldn't help it, though.  I was far enough away and about to head down the slide with Audrey on my lap.  I watched my own son, who just moments before I was desperately trying to get off the slide more quickly, stand  in the middle of the slide and stare at the boy peeing.  For that moment, I thought, well thank goodness he's still standing on the slide, otherwise he might have urine on his toes right now.  Point taken.

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