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Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
2 years, 7 months.
It’s done. I just uploaded the pictures from our weekend Louisville trip onto my Facebook page.
(See the album “Louisville Zoo Road Trip Summer 2013.”)
I love looking through those pictures, seeing how happy our family was.
And the way you smiled in most of them, it’s as if to say, “Yeah, I know I’m a sneaky rascal!”
The thing is, the happiness captured in those pictures came with a steep price- the total of 6 hours drive time to make those good memories possible.
It was rough…
We chose to drive there after work Friday night, hoping you’d sleep in the car.
Not to mention, we were in the middle of heavy rain the whole time.
I did laugh, however, when you woke up in confusion as we were carrying you upstairs to our hotel room at midnight, and you simply reacted by asking, “Wwwwwwhhhhhhyyyyyyyyy?…”.
By that point, I was so ready for rest, I didn’t mind taking the fold-out couch and letting you sleep in the real bed with Mommy.
But whereas I was actually asleep when I hit the “couch,” you stayed up until 2 AM with fidgety legs keeping both yourself and Mommy awake in the next room.
Fortunately, the splendor of the Louisville Zoo kept you entertained and in good spirits the entire 6 hours we were there.
That changed the moment we got back in the car for the 3 hour ride home.
You were extremely needy, you kicked the backs of our seats, you kept dropping your toys then screaming for them, you whined, you cried… and no seating arrangements between the three of us seemed to help.
Nothing we did or said would break your will.
(I’ve noticed that when people talk about their own temper, they attribute it to whatever ethnicity they are most aware of… I feel like it often tends to be an Irish reference. I’m not Irish, so I guess this is where I’m supposed to blame it on my Italian or Mexican heritage…)
I couldn’t take it anymore, I remember reaching behind my seat and grabbing the pink elephant squirt toy that the hotel gave you and throwing it in the floor, shouting something to the effect of “I told you to be quiet! I’m tired of you not listening to me! And I’m tired of you telling me ‘no’ when I’m talking to you!”
Mommy immediately advised to me to take the next exit so she could switch to the driver’s seat.
For the rest of the trip back to Nashville, Mommy and I tried something new:
We stopped answering you, looking at you, or responding to you in any way. Plus, we rolled down the windows to help drown out your screaming.
It took a challenging 45 minutes, but you finally shut down and fell into the deep sleep you needed so badly.
You’re a good kid. Sure, you’re iron willed, but so am I.
I will always make sure you get the discipline you need, when you need it.
But as Mommy reminded me, in her subtle and gentle way, this wasn’t a case of you needing discipline as much as it was you needing sleep.
Once we got home, we were both cool again.
The next time you act like a maniac, the first thing I’m going to do is ask myself whether or not your nap time or bed time was compromised. That way I won’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, even if you do.
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Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
2 years, 7 months.
Three months ago, I told about how you willingly put yourself in time-out as punishment for accidentally hitting my leg while I was getting you dressed one morning… then you tried to escape from being in time-out!
Well, Mommy told me how this week you’ve been pulling a similar, yet almost opposite stunt.
You announce to Mommy, “I want to be in trouble.”
Of course, that means you can’t watch any of your shows on Netflix or any monster truck clips on the laptop.
It would be ironic if it weren’t for the fact that it’s your attempt at avoiding getting dressed.
There’s definitely some circular reasoning in this story I’m trying to sort out:
You don’t want to get dressed, so you want to be in trouble to be put in time-out, which then makes it more difficult to get dressed since you’re supposed to sit alone in the corner.
However, you still have to get dressed anyway, but if you don’t listen to Mommy as she’s trying to help you get dressed, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in time-out.
Ultimately, two things are inevitable: Getting dressed and time-out.
Of course, there’s the both reasonable and practical option:
Let Mommy get you dressed without a fight, then she’ll let you watch Netflix or monster trucks on the computer.
I really look forward to the day that getting you dressed is no longer a struggle.
But then, you might not provide me with funny stories of the illogical situations you get yourself into.
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Thursday, June 6th, 2013
2 years, 6 months.
When we pull into our neighborhood each afternoon, there are two ways to drive to our house: Turn right and get there quicker, or continue going straight for the slightly longer scenic route that circles around.
Of course, every day you say, “Go straight! Go straight!”
Then I respond with, “Go straight, what?”
(“Please” is the implied answer, obviously.)
Upon request, I always go straight to appease you. But Tuesday, you were distracted by the commercial airplane flying right over us (we basically live in the landing path of the Nashville airport) so I just turned right to save time.
“No, Daddy! NO! Go straight! Straight, Daddy!” you protested.
But I had already committed to my right turn and we had already been in the car nearly an hour by that point. I didn’t turn back around and “go straight.”
Therefore, you began crying real tears, so emotionally caught up that you could barely hear through my remedy as we sat in the parked car in front of our house:
“Jack, just calm down a little bit and we’ll go inside and see Mommy. I didn’t go straight today but it’s okay. I can’t always give you exactly what you want, when you want it. I need you to be okay with that. All you have to do right now is calm down a little bit and I’ll get you out of your seat.”
Basically, you had to stay in a 4 minute impromptu “strapped in the car seat” time-out session with me as I listened to classic 1984 Bruce Springsteen, but not your favorite song of his, “Dancing In The Dark.”
It’s similar to the assigned seats you’ve given Mommy and I on the couch. If I sit on the wrong end of the couch, you often get so upset that the end result is me turning off the laptop; meaning you can’t finish watching monster trucks clip on YouTube.
My lesson is typically and simply this: Just chill out and you’ll get what you want from me, most of the time.
But I have to know you’re okay with letting the answer be “no” sometimes, because the more you’re okay with “no,” the more likely I am to say “yes” the next time.
Needless to say, the day after your “Daddy, go straight!” meltdown/time-out in the car situation, you immediately said, “Daddy, you go straight? Please?” as soon as we turned into our neighborhood. Nice planning and prevention on your part, Son.
You got your way. Maybe my plan is slowly working.
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Friday, February 1st, 2013
2 years, 2 months.
Today when I picked you up from KinderCare, your teacher gave me an incident report to sign:
“Jack threw a toy at a friend, hitting them in the face. Left a good sized mark. Separated them. Had time to himself and we talked about being nice to friends and using words when upset.”
It’s so natural for me to respond by asking you, “Jack… why did you do that? Why did you throw a toy at your friend?”
I realize now that by asking you that, I’m asking you a question you yourself don’t know the answer to.
In fact, you’re sort of relying on me to explain why you did it.
After all, while you can now easily and quickly piece together sentences to communicate things you observe, you’re not really able to communicate to me how you feel unless you are either very happy or very sad. Therefore, asking you to explain why you feel the way you do is even more confusing for you.
Right now Mommy and I are working on teaching you different emotions to describe how you feel. While you don’t quite yet understand “angry,” you do understand “sad.”
So I guess the best way to help you understand why you threw a toy at your friend and hit them in the face is maybe something like this:
“Jack, today you hurt your friend when you threw your toy at them. I think you might have felt angry when you did it. That made your friend sad. Jack, please say you’re sorry to them tomorrow. We hand our toys to our friends instead of throwing them; even if they do something we don’t like.”
You had to go to bed without your usual playtime at your train table, plus you didn’t get to take any of your trains to bed. That’s pretty weird for me… the thought of you going to bed without your little talking die-cast trains.
Ultimately, why you threw a toy at your friend doesn’t change the fact that I need to teach you to not throw a toy at a friend… for any reason.
So now, I don’t care about the why. I care about the how: How can I teach you that what you did was not nice?
By trying to help you use words to describe how you feel, asking you to apologize to your friend, and then by taking away your favorite toys for the night.
(There may be a better way. If there is, I’m open to suggestions from anyone else who happens to be reading this letter.)
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Thursday, November 29th, 2012
You can’t always change how you feel, but you can choose to decide how you’ll react to how you feel.
In other words, emotions are automatic; behavior is controllable.
That’s the lesson I was forced to teach you today.
I’m not gonna lie. This morning was the most difficult morning I’ve ever had with you.
It was rough! For both of us. Simply exhausting.
After getting you through the front door, I picked up on the fact you weren’t able to let it go that “YouTube time” was over and you had to go to school.
As I attempted to buckle you in your car seat, you screamed at me while bowing out your back, making it impossible for me to strap you in without possibly bruising you, as you violently resisted me.
So I took away your graham crackers and toy train.
That got your attention. I was able to buckle you in your seat as your focus was no longer about fighting me and now you were just simply angry at me for taking away your pre-breakfast snack and morning ride entertainment.
I started up the car and turned around to explain to you the deal, as you began your hostile emotional meltdown:
“Jack, listen. I’m going to give you your crackers and your toy; all you have to do is just one thing: Calm down. That means if you simply stop crying for a few seconds and stop screaming, you’ll get what you want.”
Your response, in a faux German accent: “MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!”
For the following 18 minutes, as I drove towards the interstate, it was a back and forth battle between the two of us: I would explain that all you had to do was calm down for a few seconds, you would retaliate with the equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil cursing.
I held a graham cracker in my hand just waiting for a 2 second pause in your crying. Finally, it happened. I slipped you one cracker.
Then you realized how it worked. If you calmed down, you got the very thing you were demanding.
By the second half of our drive to daycare, you had earned back all your crackers, as well as, your toy train.
Right now, at the age of 2, your emotional intelligence isn’t that high. Being able to manage your emotions is not easy for you.
So that means it’s my job to help you with that.
Your meltdowns seem to be triggered mainly when you are told no. Therefore, my main goal is to help you learn not to cry and get upset when I can’t, or won’t, give you what you want.
On the drive home tonight, I purposely avoided turning down the cul-de-sac with all the inflatable Snoopy Christmas yard decorations that you love to see. Instead, I wanted to test how you’d react.
Son, you did well. You accepted my rejection.
That means next time, you’ll definitely get to see Snoopy.
The more you can handle being told no, the more I will tell you yes.
I know it’s a struggle for you right now, but let me tell you, it’s even a challenge for me as an adult to be told no. I promise I know how you feel.
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