I take it all back...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My poor, poor little girl...For the past year I have been dragging her around everywhere, to playdates and activities and all the things I thought were good for her and fun too, when today, on the last day of preschool ironically, I finally realized how overwhelmed and tired she must be.

Since today was her last day before summer vacation, her class had a little party for the parents and families. It was only from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m., but don't know if it's because we all slept late the night before, or if it was because it was so darned hot outside, but by the time the party was over, I was exhausted! And even my little extrovert Lila looked really glassy-eyed from all the stimulation and promptly conked out in the car as soon as we left school.

And the only thing that I kept thinking afterwards was, wow, so this is how it feels to go to preschool everyday, and I'm a grown-up! There's so much stimulation, even just being outside and running around, eating snacks, music time, and for HJ's class, therapy time like pushing herself on a scooter while lying on her tummy, and it all starts so early at 7:30 a.m! Actually, we were late again today, and poor HJ did not even eat breakfast. She just rolled out of bed and we rushed off to school.

Being the on-the-go person that I am, and already having had my alone time and quiet time at home in the mornings while HJ went to preschool, there were many days where I scheduled things for right after school. I would pick her up and we would rush off to meet another friend, have lunch with my dad, go to music class or the park, or whatever was on that day's to do list.  Poor HJ! She would just have to go along, and then I would wonder why she would always fall asleep in the car after lunch, and we often ended up missing her afternoon classes at Montessori or My Gym.

You would think that as HJ's mom, I would have realized this sooner! I don't know what was wrong with me. I knew in my mind that HJ was an introvert and homebody, more like Sol, but in my day to day planning, I just did not take that into account enough. When it came down to it, I think I just continued to operate the way I knew best, which was to squeeze in as much activity as I could in the time we had. I mean, even when we're on vacation, I have to resist the urge to do too much. It's hard for me to say, Ok, we'll just do one thing today and not stress out about the other things we could be doing as well...I guess I was sort of living life as a stay-at-home mom like we were permanently on vacation and just squeezing in as much as we possibly could!

In many subtle and not so subtle ways, I think God has been trying to send me the message that I need to SLOW down and listen for His voice in the way that I parent. But for some reason I've been really resistant. Maybe it's just because it's easier for me to do things the way that they come naturally to me, but through HJ I've been learning that there are some things that are too important in life, such as raising your children, to do without more thought, care, effort, and sacrifice.

I'm hoping this summer will be a chance for me to take a step back and ask for a redo. Sorry HJ, Mommy's not been too sensitive to your needs and how God has uniquely made you... Here's hoping this summer means less running around like crazy people and more time enjoying life and one another...

Happy Mother's Day, Daddy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now for a belated Mother's Day post... Well, it turns out HJ really loves Mother's Day. Last weekend's festivities included a fancy brunch where she had her fill of her favorite foods (watermelon, bacon, and oatmeal) and a "Mommy and me" garden tea party with cupcakes, crafts, and balloons, after which she basically asked, Why we do this? "It's for Mother's Day," I told her, and I could see from her expression that she wasn't sure what that was, but it didn't really matter because it meant lots of fun with her favorite people, Daddy, Mimi eemo (my sister), Ha-Ji (grandpa), and Nee (grandma).

Breakfast on Sunday was special pancakes made by Daddy, at church she got to make a purple flower pen and decorate a card, and Mimi, Ha-Ji, and Nee all came over for dinner and cake, and she couldn't stop saying "Happy Mother's Day!" very exuberantly to everyone, including Sol and my dad. Even as the week has gone on, she likes to say with a big smile, "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy (or Daddy!)" whenever she thinks of it.

Honestly, during the past few weeks I haven't had my best mothering moments. But luckily, as I've mentioned before, HJ has a lot in common with her daddy. Sol and HJ just get each other, so Sol was doing his best to explain our daughter's perspective to me when I was frustrated with HJ's inability to get over small issues. Lately, we've had a lot of meltdowns (both HJ and me) over not being able to find things. I fully admit that this has to do with my organizational deficiencies, but often it just happens at the worst times and with an overly emotional reaction from HJ that was driving me nuts.

Here is a typical scene: Getting ready to go out the door for preschool, HJ sees one of Lila's Mickey Mouse sleepers in the corner. Not only does she have to take it to school, she now has to find the other sleeper from the Disney Store that she considers "matching" with the Mickey Mouse one. Problem is, Mommy has no idea where the other sleeper is. It could be in the laundry room, the diaper bag, Lila's room upstairs, who knows. "We'll find it later," I tell HJ and try to usher her out the door but the damage is already done. HJ must find the sleeper, or she cannot go to school. If she does not find the sleeper, she will not be able to move on, literally, which she demonstrates by repeatedly asking for the sleeper, at first politely, "Please, Mommy!" but then with increasing urgency until it is a full-blown tantrum with no chance of reasoning with her. By this time, I am feeling completely out of control myself and Lila is more often than not crying as well. Sometimes we miraculously find the object that HJ is looking for, other times I somehow force her into the car and we just get to wherever we need to go, but not without a lot of tears, frustration, and bad feelings for everyone.

I've gotten a lot of suggestions from others, which I'm sure have worked for other parents, ranging from getting rid of a lot of her "stuff," to reorganizing and labeling her playroom, or simply ignoring what she is asking for. A friend even suggested medicating her for anxiety if she was a little older. We have actually tried many of these ideas (minus the medication) to some extent, but the problem is nothing seems to provide a long-term solution. My worry is that HJ will be forever unable to function with this inability to move on when she fixates on something that she needs at the moment. Sol keeps reassuring me that things will get better, and that HJ will slowly learn to cope with these issues of hers, just as everyone else learns to deal with whatever issues they have. He used an example of how he also cannot function or "move on" when he sees a mess around the house. Everything must go in the place it belongs before he can relax. Poor Sol and HJ, they both have to live with someone like me who most of the time doesn't even notice the mess. I am one of those people who would probably be oblivious to the sky falling down around me if I was focused on something else.

One night after a particularly bad episode with HJ, I came across a book called The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene. I haven't even gotten halfway through the book, but I'm cautiously optimistic that this approach will give me some practical ways to deal with HJ's meltdowns. "Easily frustrated" and "chronically inflexible" seem to be pretty accurate ways to describe HJ, at least in those moments where she is likely to have these meltdowns. Although the labels sound negative, the book so far has given me a much more sympathetic perspective on what is possibly going on in HJ's mind and how to help her during these times. Again, it kind of comes back to something not functioning entirely correctly in her brain when she is having these moments of anxiety and emotional overload. The book suggests that we as parents have to remain calm during these episodes and essentially serve as our child's "frontal lobe" until she develops the part of her brain where she can verbalize and effectively respond to frustration. It's an interesting idea, and with my mother's instinct, I do feel that this partially explains what is going on with HJ. Early on, the book also mentions that children with language delays are more likely to have difficulty problem-solving and expressing their frustration in a productive manner.

It's only been a couple days since I've tried implementing some of the collaborative problem-solving and sympathizing that the book suggests, and already I've seen it work. It almost seems too simple, but it also requires some on-the-spot creativity that I'm going to have to get better at. For example, the other night, we were quickly approaching meltdown mode late in the evening before HJ's bedtime when HJ kept insisting that she had to see Nee, Mimi, and Ha-ji at that very moment. I could feel my blood pressure rising as HJ's "Please, Mommy!" started becoming louder and more urgent, when Sol jumped in and said calmly, "You want to see Nee, Mimi, and Ha-ji? How about we call them?" HJ literally stopped in her tracks and you could see the wheels turning in her head. "Ok," she said, and phew, one phone call later, tantrum and meltdown avoided!

And today, on the way home after a long morning of errands and driving around, we were passing by the mall, when HJ suddenly started requesting, "Mommy, please, please can we go to the mall?" I had to think of something quickly. A simple "No, not now," wasn't working, and HJ was approaching her cranky need to take a nap immediately stage. "Do you want to go the mall?" I asked her. "Did you want to go to the play area? How about we set up a play area at home instead?" I ventured. And phew, another meltdown averted. It appeared her real desire was not to go the mall, but just to have some time to play and run around after being cooped up in the car all day. "Ok," said HJ. "We clean up the mess and play at home," she agreed. Of course, HJ had to throw in that part about cleaning up the mess!

It's not that I don't want HJ to respect me, or ideally just comply when I tell her not to do something, but just telling her not to get so upset with whatever was bothering her was clearly not working. And the more successes we both have in problem-solving this way, I'm hoping the meltdowns will be less frequent and that my patience and understanding for my spirited little girl will only grow.

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