Monday, March 1, 2010

bumps in my parenting road

A wonderful friend of mine made the observation that sometimes it takes a couple bumps in the road to make you step back and realize that parenting looks far different from what you first anticipated. I'm sure it can be argued that that thought can really be applied to any parent, really. But the past couple months have definitely made me step back and reconsider the paths I had outlined for my children.

I think Ainsleigh's issues, culminating in the ADHD diagnosis, have come to the forefront as Donovan has gotten older. There are times I find myself looking at him and thinking, "Holy cow, this kid is a freaking GENIUS!" And then I think, "Or...maybe he's just normal?" Not that Ainsleigh is lacking. I should make it clear that she is at grade level. Just that she requires a lot more attention and guidance than is really necessary.

Reading various books on ADHD has been actually quite liberating. To read about my experiences and frustrations through someone else's words totally validates my concerns and determination to make things better. I have taken (pages and pages) of notes and as I reviewed some of them it occurred to me that some, no wait, MOST, of these principles are just good basic parenting ideas. Things that I *know* I should be doing, but let's face it - sometimes patience is lacking. But it is like this diagnosis has given me reserves of patience I didn't know could exist.

Case in point: On Saturday Ainsleigh was throwing a fit about making her bed. (Yes, I've heard the suggestions that maybe it's not important or maybe I should let it go, but we have agreed that three steps in the morning are all I ask of her (make bed, get dressed, brush hair). She has no other chores. This is it. This is how I am teaching her to learn how to organize.) And by fit I mean sitting in the middle of her floor, arms folded, pouting, periodically muttering, "I don't WANT to do it. I want a maid."

*deep breath* (it's amazing what taking a deep breath can do for you)

As a parent, I know that yelling is largely unproductive (unless it's "Time for lunch!" out the back door because you can't actually see your kids and you're hoping they aren't dismantling the deck from the underside). I know this. I know it. But that doesn't mean I've never done it.

One of the things I read recently was that yelling causes the ADHD (and all?) minds to shut down. The brain actually doesn't even register what is being said, just that she becomes emotionally overwhelmed. "When you overreact, you are helping your child underachieve," from 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child (which, ironically, took me far longer than 10 days to get through. go figure).

Remembering this has given me about 47 more deep breaths so I can quietly talk to her and ask her to talk to me. The biggest help I've found (and this is going to sound so stupid and basic) is to engage the child in conversation. When she pouts and doesn't WANT to do it, keep her talking (instead of listing everything *I* don't want to do, which has been my general approach).

The last idea I wanted to mention (from the same book) was, "Predicting ruination leads to demoralization, not motivation." Shamefully, I will admit to saying, in the midst of frustration with her inability to focus, "If you can't do this work, then do you want to go to special teachers and special doctors."

I am a horrible parent.

But maybe not SO horrible. I'm a repentant parent. A reformed parent. I am trying my hardest to empathize with her. And, for the most part, we're making progress. The ONLY part of school we are working on is math. They have these timed tests - 3 minutes for 30 problems. They should be able to get 27 or more right. Ainsleigh was barely completing 12. Over the past two weeks we've been doing a timed test daily. After three minutes she switches to a colored pencil and we finish the page. We write the number correct (in the three minutes) at the top of the page with the agreement that when it reaches 27, I will take her and three friends to the pool and then out to ice cream. And you know what? It's working. She is getting better. Not only that, but on Friday she asked if she could do a timed test BEFORE school. She ASKED to do one. My heart almost leaped out of my chest. She's up to 22 now. I am really proud of her.

A few days ago she was groaning over subtraction, "I don't like subtraction. Addition is so much easier."

I began talking before I really heard what I was saying, "I totally agree. I remember loving addition but hating subtraction in first grade. There was a boy in my class named Antonio who loved subtraction. We'd argue over which one was better. I remember swinging next to him and at the highest point we'd shout, 'Addition!' or 'Subtraction!' back at each other. He was weird." As I wrapped up this insightful anecdote I glanced at Joel who was looking at me in a way that, coupled with me actually HEARING what I just said, made me shake my head and conclude, "And now you know what a total dork your mom was." Ainsleigh chuckled and said, "Uh, yeah." I am so embarrassed for myself.

The point is, we're very different, but we're both going to do better in the roles we play. Also, maybe we'll both get better at subtraction.

I'm pretty sure that with Donovan my big challenge (at least for now) is to reign him in but also allow myself to giggle at his charm. I've never felt that need to reprimand and laugh at the same time before. It keeps this parenting thing entertaining, at least. 

I look at Gemma in all her deliciousness and wonder what bumps in the parenting road she will unearth. If the past few months are any indication, I'm pretty sure they will be glittery and bejeweled. That is also uncharted territory for me.




Becca said...

omg I LOVE the pictures of Gemma. Oh how I miss her so!! And good job Ainsleigh! I always hated subtraction too...addition still rocks way more.