08 July 2010

Are we having fun yet?

It's been a hard summer so far, and this week has been hardest of all. What with the zillion degree heat, none of our coping skills have been particularly wonderful, and we're back into a rather tumultuous dynamic where too much of our conversations are about regulating Curious Girl's behavior. That's just no fun--but it's hard to have fun when a kid just seems determined to push back at every opportunity.

CG is 8 now, old enough to read this blog over my shoulder if she were to be next to me, and old enough to have opinions about what parts of her stories I tell to others. Last week, we were camping, and she sustained a minor injury due to inadvertent carelessness of another child, and she didn't want to tell anyone about this (but did want to put a very big band aid on it, which only raised more questions). Part of what I've been doing while not posting very much lately is pondering how I want to tell stories about CG in more public places--and telling stories about hard times is, well, hard.

I've written before about anger management and the challenges of parenting someone whose anger, sometimes, can just spin so out of control in no apparent relation to the provocation. When CG can't cope with her feelings, we need to help her cope, and my best moves there come when I can stay calm myself and not get dragged into her feelings. That's all easier to do when she'll let one of us help her. This summer, she's been working on not having such big fits--she talks about it; sometimes she'll have a little outburst and then calm down and say, "My body wanted to have a big fit, but I didn't. Isn't that good?"

This summer, though, has been hard. She's been in camp every week since school ended--programs that have run mostly 9-3 or 3:30. After camp, we've not been doing much (although this week we've started going to a wonderful pool a bit), but she's been exhausted. And the afternoons and evenings have been a real struggle. She's just so tired, and I suppose at 8 looking to develop a bit more separation from us....but good FSM, the oppositional conversation is so draining. When she's tired, she never wants to sleep; she just gets cranky. And even though I keep resolving to stay calm, to be positive, I'm getting worn down by her opposition to me (quick example: about an hour ago, when it was bedtime, I told her to come upstairs, take a shower, and we'd get ready for bed. "NO! I don't want a shower!" she said very crabbily. "Fine," said I. "I'll bring the fan up and we'll head right to bed." "NO! I'm taking a shower!!!!!" she yelled. Whatever I ask, she doesn't want to do.)

So I'm just worn down. It's a good thing that my darling girl wants to be more independent. I'm a big advocate for her independence, as I've blogged about before. I love watching her learn to do things on her own. I've been re-reading my own posts (wondering where all the old comments went? I've always used blogger's own platform for comments and I'm surprised that the comments all seem to be missing on older posts), looking at older posts about parenting frustrations, wondering where that mother-writer went. I used to be better at handling CG's challenges; I didn't used to escalate small incidents into big fights; I used to be the one who helped her calm down, not the one she rages against).

I miss all that.

I know, it's probably a good thing that her feelings are overflowing at home.

I know, it's a good thing that out in the world, she's delightfully flexible and adaptable and resilient.

I know, the heat will break, and coping skills will rebound a bit.

I know, it won't be like this forever.

I know, I'm probably still internally over-reacting to my sister's comment, when I mentioned that this summer had been a little hard and CG had been a little overtired, that perhaps CG doesn't know how to deal with a lack of schedule in the summer. Maybe she didn't mean that as a criticism of the fact that Politica and I end up working in the summer more than she and her husband do. But that's what I heard. I know, I should not be holding onto that.

I know, I'm not the only working mother feeling dammed if she does and dammed if she doesn't: if I can arrange to work less next summer, I will (on the theory that too much camp is getting CG's rhythms out of whack...which leads me to wonder whether I agree with my sister's own comment, which just gets more more mad all over again).

I know, it's not good to whine. But it's also not good to sit in your house feeling like an alien with no parenting skills. So I'm telling my story, feeling a little better even in the telling, and hoping that some of you will read it and feel a bit less like an alien without parenting skills the next time your kid loses it. (Right?)


Cara said...

i think more people can relate than you realize!!! parenting will always have its ups and downs. and yes this soon will too pass.
big hugs.

landismom said...

I could have written this post pretty easily, two years ago when we were struggling so mightily with kid anger management issues, and had not yet found the wonderful therapist that we have today. It's impossible to know if the therapy helps or if it's just maturation, but it has gotten better--and it will get better for you. But it sucks getting there, sometimes.

liz said...


Sending hugs and a small piece of assvice: Right after camp, see if you can both settle into the couch or on the porch with a cool drink or fruit and a book. Not quite a nap, but quiet time. See if that eases the overtiredness at the end of the day?

Phantom Scribbler said...

Ah, I have no real advice, because, when the parenting chips are down, you know I just turn on the damn TV and lock myself in a different room until I'm fit for human company again. But, for myself, I have found it useful to go all Dame Harriet on the situation, and ask myself, "What can I control here?" If there's nothing obvious about schedules, responsibilities, mealtimes, bedtimes, you-name-it-times, then the answer is, as usual, "my own responses." Sometimes the only thing I can do, then, is to identify which of my buttons they're pushing, and how I can either disarm or manage the cascade of emotions I experience once those buttons are pushed. Then I take whatever I've figured out and talk about it with the kids: "when you do this, mama is going to respond like that, and this is what the consequence will be, and is that something you want?" It's not a fail-safe solution, but it did help LG and me reach a productive understanding about what had been constant conflict between my sensory issues and his constant fidgeting and noisemaking.

I think the real disadvantage you work under as a working mother has nothing to do with what your sister said -- camp is hardly a lack of schedule, after all! -- but may be simply that you have a lot less slack time to tend to yourself when you could use it! Wish I could give you a little time to use entirely on yourself for awhile.

kathy a. said...

i'm reading this a couple weeks late -- sorry! but i agree that these kinds of meltdowns are more common than you might think.

yes, they tend to happen more when kids are really tired -- and happen at home, with their parents. (which indicates they feel safe enough to fall apart at home -- but that doesn't make anyone feel better during the storm.) phantom, as always, has some excellent thoughts.

i also disagree with your sister's idea that camp = no structure. camps have schedules, too. it is possible CG is more physically tired, and that there is a lot of stimulation that is different from school - both of which are generally good things, but might leave her more prone to big crankiness at the end of the day.

my daughter's public presentation at CG's age was sweet, curious, active, delightful -- but she was prone to meltdowns if she was over-tired and/or in times of transition. at the beginning and end of the school year, for example, she always had periods of adjustment. same if there was a change of teacher, or if she went to a different camp for a while -- and this was true even if she was having a wonderful time.