The Master of Diversion

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Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 22-05-2012

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Scenario 1

We’re getting ready to leave the house. I finally have both girls dressed, fed and motivated to head out the front door.  Z is in her car-seat, crying (which she’ll do until the car starts moving) and I am struggling to carry it with one hand while my other arm is weighted down with an over-stuffed diaper bag, a few random snack containers, a water canteen and jackets for all of us.  The only things standing between me and the open road (most likely leading to Target) are turning the lights and TV off before locking the front door behind us.  With both hands, arms and shoulders full, I quickly pass through the house and with my only free finger, turn off the  TV.

Like a flip of the switch, DJ’s temper is detonated. She explodes. I am totally caught off guard.  Did our dog steal her sandwich – the one she’d never eat anyway? Did our cat pee on her Princess rain boots – the staple of her wardrobe? Did her imaginary friend pull her uncombed hair? I whip my kid-accessory-adorned body around only to see DJ charging at me with a red face and angry tears. She is screaming (and I mean, SCREAMING), “I do it! I do it! I do it!”

“YOU DO WHAT?  Stop freaking out! YOU DO WHAT?!” I shout back.  “I turn off the TV!” she demands. “DJ, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know you wanted to turn it off.  It’s already off now, and we’re late, so LET’S GO!” I feel like I’m being fairly reasonable, but she breaks into a head banging, fist throwing, hair pulling tantrum.

I retaliate with a time-out.

Z is wailing. Her car-seat now sits in the middle of the living room floor – where I dropped it to free a hand so I could drag lead DJ to her bedroom.  The diaper bag is still dangling from my shoulder and I am fumbling to swing it out of the way so I can set DJ’s timer for 3 minutes (her standard time-out duration).

Now we’re really late, and I’m really mad. And DJ is really mad.  And Z is really mad.

The three minutes tick by excruciatingly slowly.  I enter the dungeon when the timer dings, and ask a very unreasonable toddler if she knows why she got a timeout.  She responds with something about me being mean.  I take a deep breath and excuse myself to finally remove Z from her car-seat.  On my way back into DJ’s room, with a very distraught (and now hungry) newborn, I decide to change my approach.

Breathe in. Breathe out. “DJ, do you need a hug?” “Yeah, I need a cuddle.” So, I lay down next to DJ in her bed and I plug Z onto my breast while DJ and I reconnect.  The next 15 minutes proceed with a conversation about how DJ wanted to turn off the TV, but that freaking out was not an acceptable response, followed by confirmation of my love for her and how we’ll do things differently next time.  And, before I know it – she is putting clips in my hair and calling me Ariel. Z finishes eating – and now, it’s lunch time and we’ve run out of time to go wherever it was that we were going.

Pure awesomeness.

Scenario 2

Repeat all of the above, except add my husband and take a few things out of my hands and off my shoulders.  Everything is the same, even up to the “I do it! I do it! I do it!” part. DJ is screaming and my husband whips his body around to see an unraveling toddler.

He immediately drops to his hands and knees and charges toward DJ making doggy sounds, pretending he’s going to lick her.  She quickly goes from crying to laughing hysterically.  He picks her up, tickles her belly and carries her out the front door upside down.

The two giggle all the way to the car, and the game continues till we arrive at our destination.

A total non-event.

Once again, my husband, The Master of Diversion, is able to distract DJ and redirect her attention.  He’s a total genius at this, and, get this – it comes so naturally to him.  Every single time he pulls this off successfully, I think “Darnit! There he goes again.  Handling things better than I can.”

Why can’t I seem to remember this tactic?  I’d like to blame it on the fact that I’m too tired to be creative, too exhausted to think spontaneously – but, the truth is, my husband and I have different personalities.  He’s a total joker (which can be utterly frustrating at times), and he’s someone who wants to deal with conflict in the moment.  I, on the other hand, am the more serious and contemplative one.  I’m also the one who typically flees from conflict. He doesn’t need to think about it – it’s just who he is to shout “I see kitties!” just as DJ starts kicking the back side of the passenger seat in an attempt to express her disdain about who-knows-what.  Within seconds, her tantrum subsides as she’s distracted and lured into thinking about something else.  Works like a gem every time.

I guess that what makes me and the hubs such a great pair.  And, what reminds me that I have so much to learn about this thing called Motherhood. There are so many things about being a mom that come so naturally to me, and still others that are such foreign concepts – but totally necessary for reaching my kid in the way that speaks to her.  It really does take a village, or at least a really funny daddy.

Beat Up

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Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 08-11-2011

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I am eating a piece of See’s candy as I sit down to write this.  Let me justify this food choice by making the following declarations: 1) Prior to opening the box of See’s, I polished off an entire bunch of steamed rainbow chard, and 2) My child has been nothing short of absolute hell on Crocs.  Do I feel entitled?  Yes, absolutely.

Now onto my second piece of See’s….I don’t know what has hit our house, but I can tell you for certain, it isn’t “Peace,” nor “Harmony.”  DJ has decided that both sleep and reasoning are over-rated.  Put the two together, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  I have never felt so physically taxed and emotionally drained.  After last night’s episode, I woke up feeling hung-over this morning….without any of the regrets or incriminating photos.

Last night easily goes down as one of our worst evenings ever.  While I understand that DJ is in the profession of testing her boundaries, I cannot say that I have the managerial skills required to mitigate this phase.  Lucky for her, God seems to have given me an extra dose of patience – and that has been my only defense against this Tasmanian devil living under my roof.  She flat out rejects every.single.one of my requests/suggestions/demands, and in last night’s exercise of independence, DJ refused to get into the bath.

Her original objection to getting into the tub was because she wanted to “do it.”  (Meaning, I am not permitted to assist her, in any way, as she climbs headfirst into the porcelain lagoon).  She wants to do absolutely everything herself these days, and I am starting to learn that “I do it” is her version of a threat.  If I don’t comply, then she will punish me with some ludicrous behavior – like a crying, screaming, kicking, hair-pulling fit that lasts way too long.  So, last night, when I lost all of that extra patience I was just bragging about, and I began “encouraging” her to plunge more quickly into the bath – all bets were off.

What ensued for the next hour was a long tirade against me, the floor, the bathroom, her stuffed animals, her fine blonde hair, etc.  She just kept repeating, “I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath. I don’t want to take bath.  I want to take bath.”

If I weren’t so darn frustrated, I might’ve felt a little heartbroken over her indecision.  I mean, can you imagine being trapped inside a body, that was being led by a mind that literally changed course every half a second?  (And, if you think the above repetitious sentences were annoying to read – and you took the luxury of skipping ahead – just think about what it felt like to be trapped in it, for real, with no way out!)

My mom happened to be over for this little episode.  When DJ finally fell asleep, and I emerged from her bedroom over an hour later, my mom said “It stressed me out so much to hear her cry like that, that I almost had to leave the house.”  Trust me, mom, that feeling is nothing foreign to me…..except, I have to hang in there. I have no choice but to ride the emotional rollercoaster with my toddler.

Despite feeling literally beat up by my child after these types of incidents (which seem to be happening all too often lately), I must admit to a grand sense of achievement once the storm passes and the calm is restored.  It makes me feel like a really good mom when I’m able to navigate through the rough waters while acting in a loving, supportive and controlled manner.  (And honestly, I will take self-administered pats on the back whenever, and wherever, I can!).

One thing I left off – in between the grand finale of her tantrum, and me escaping her wrath, DJ rolled over and said, “I so sawdy (sorry) Mommy.  Hold me in your arms.  I love you. I so tired now.”  And that, my friends, just goes to show that my sweet little girl hasn’t gone anywhere at all….she’s just going through the motions of growing.  A beautiful reminder of why it pays to love our kids through their ugliest moments – always knowing they will desperately need us on the other side.

In Good Company

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Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 31-05-2011

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I bet this is going to come as a complete and total surprise to you, but we’re having sleep issues in our home…..again.  Of course I am being sarcastic, as anyone who has read even a handful of my blogs will know that I write about sleep (or lack thereof), almost constantly (in between subjects like poop, tantrums, and my crazy phobias).  I often feel really alone in this little corner of the parenting world because I seem to be surrounded by parents, and kids, who have this sleeping thing down pat.

We are fortunate to live in a wonderful neighborhood….like, the best ever.  There are kids everywhere – including right next door.  Our neighbors have two little girls, with a third on the way.  I often tap the mom’s brain for wise tidbits as we’re both unloading groceries, or watching our girls overturn rocks in the front yard looking for snails.  Our conversations are always so brief, but I have come to look forward to our short visits because they are always so real. I would guess that once you’ve got three kids under the same roof, you’re pretty much past sugar-coating, which I so appreciate.

A few days ago, we coincidentally met up at the end of our driveways.  We were talking about her pregnancy, and all of the home projects on their radar in preparation for baby.  She mentioned being tired, and went on to say that her three year old will no longer fall asleep unless she has someone laying beside her.  My eyes beamed with thoughts of, “So, you totally understand my world?”  I immediately felt a wave of self-forgiveness wash over my shoulders.  Just a second prior to her effortless admission, I had been beating myself up for “causing” the same behavior in DJ as of late.  My neighbor mentioned that their household has been playing musical beds…..their three year old sleeping in their bed, and her husband sleeping in the three year old’s bed.  Gosh, it sounded all too familiar.  I could hardly say “US TOO!” quickly enough.

While I am sure she didn’t understand why I felt so enthusiastic about their suffering, I know she felt compelled to conclude our conversation with, “Just when you think you have something right, they will wake up with new needs, new insecurities, new fears and new wants – and you’ll be right back to where you started.”  This was a mom with a lot of experience under her belt, and she was reassuring me that this is just how parenthood goes, especially toddlerhood.  Phew. I wasn’t alone.

Yesterday we took DJ to the Gilroy Gardens.  As we were standing in line, there was an insecure dad behind us (trust me, I can smell this all-too-familiar character).  He kept asking his toddler to behave, and kept apologizing for the kid’s erratic behavior.  I felt badly for him, because I know how it feels to worry that those around you will blame you for your kid’s inherently terrible behavior.  As in perfect timing, another child just a few places behind us in line, threw himself onto the cement in a full-blown, hysterical tantrum.  His mother, who also had an older child by her side, made no apologies and just went about her business – paying no attention to the fact that her child was rolling around the pavement in old gum and stale popcorn.  The apologetic dad took one relieved look at her and said, “So, I see we’re not alone.”  And just like that, blissful camaraderie filled the line wrapping around the carousel.

What I have learned about parenting these past 21 months is that the absolute greatest gift (to both give and receive) is the gift of safety in numbers.  The more people we can relate to, the easier this gig gets.  Feeling like we’re not the only one to be drudging through the trench-of-the-moment, gives us the confidence to keep on crawling.  As parents, let’s pledge to just keep being honest about the things happening under our own roofs.  You just never know who has been dying to shout, “US TOO!”