There is no other way to say it. Today was a bad day. We started off the third week of “distance learning” and the kids just didn’t want to. I’ve read all sorts of wonderful things about letting go and recognizing that this is hard on kids too, blah blah blah. My husband thinks that I should choose peace over academics and not fight with the kids over their school work. The fact, however, is that they need to get their school work done.
So here are the top three things I learned having a bad, bad day.
Push when pushing is needed
No joke, my 4th grader will not do a book report without hours of resisting, tantrums, and wailing “I can’t!” This is our third book report of the year and the third time she’s left it until the last minute (presentations are tomorrow via Zoom). Every time I throw up my hands and tell her, “fine. Don’t do it. I’m tired of fighting over it” she suddenly looks betrayed and worried that she’s going to fail. Twenty minutes later she’s back at my side saying she’s ready to work, but the moment I tell her what to do we start all over again.
I try to remember that this is her process and to patiently wait her out with a calm voice and soothing suggestions. Eventually, however, she needs to know that “her process” is upending the entire household and making a bad, bad day for both of us. Her sisters miss out on a patient mom because she has used up all the resources. The only way for her to get the stupid book report done is to be pushed through it step by agonizing step.
Growth happens through stress.
Emotional support is a real part of the process
When we finally got to the point of actually writing out the book report and preparing for the presentation (3 hours after we started), I realized that the thing she needed most was physical, emotional support. I held her on my lap and talked her through the questions; then she grabbed her chrome book and started typing. She literally sat on my lap while she wrote out the report. What she needed most from me was being there.
I still had to push her but I also had to emotionally support her. No amount of “changing mindset” or “writing out empowering phrases” or “taking a break” or “working on something else for a while” could get the job done. Maybe it was a combination of all those things over the course of hours, but from where I was sitting the thing that truly helped was being cuddled back onto my lap after I’d thoroughly lost my temper. I wish we could get to this point without losing my temper.
Tomorrow I’ll remember.
Physical activity can exacerbate the problem
I knew before we even started school this morning that it was going to be tough, so I drew on some excellent advice to flush out cortisol with physical activity by starting with PE. Holy smokes did that backfire!
A few weeks ago, just before we began sheltering-in-place, my husband set up a circuit for the kids in the garage. The goal is for each of them to be able to do pull ups, inspired by reading the Warrior Kid books by Jocko Willink. The kids are super into it and I thought it would be a good way to start out day. I opened the garage door for some fresh morning air and used my upbeat-this-is-going-to-be-awesome voice as I told them what our activities were for the day. I added myself in to the rotation.
Then the excuses started. My knee hurts. My foot hurts. I want to start on pull-ups. I can’t do that one, it’s too hard. I finally had to send one kid to her room. Then we wrapped up our workout with a walk down to the corner and back. No joke I had 2 kids crying with me the whole way. And the crying continued when we got home. Right into school work.
We should have just gone back to bed and cuddled.