From the back to the middle and around again
I’m gonna be there til the end
100% pure love
Right now this feels like parenting to me. Back around again and again doing it for love. Being there until the end because it never seems to end.
Bluemilk’s Running on empty post on the difficulty of the first year of parenting has prompted this post about the first year of school. This is the second time we have done the first year of school and frankly I was surprised by how difficult the transition has been. I have been to the school three times and taken my child away with me twice, at the schools request. One day, when taking my older child to an annual checkup in Canberra, I took younger child as well as the teacher had said she couldn’t run the risk of me not being there to collect my child if anything went wrong. So we all went to the appointment, there was some colourful language (mine) when trying to find a park at the hospital but apart from that we all had a lovely day. I decided that this meant two things: one the problem was not intractable and two it wasn’t going to be solved by younger child spending time away from school with me. Somehow we had to get school and child to fit together. Coincidentally, someone I follow on Twitter asked how much screen time (TV and computers) other parents gave their children because they were thinking that their kids were having too much. My response was my workmate enforces a strict 2hrs per day whereas we were pretty lax about it all. I wondered if perhaps limiting TV time was something that we needed to do.* I gave it some thought and discussed it with MyNigel and we decided on 2hrs per day of TV/computer and a winding back of bedtime was worth trying. We are also trying switching off the TV at meal times and sitting down together to eat.
At a meeting with the school Principal we gave the following undertaking: bedtime would be moved back to 7.30pm, screen time would be limited to 2hrs per day and consequences for actions would be followed through. I would go to work early and leave early so that their school day finished prior to 5pm. MyNigel is going into work later after seeing them safely to school.
We have done it now for just over a week. On the plus side: younger child is getting more sleep, behaving at school in an acceptable manner, and bought home a merit certificate for being kind to others – which is a huge improvement since being sent home for hitting others the week before. Older child listens more when not mesmerised by the TV. Meal planning is happening and we are more organised.
Negatives: having to police the TV and computer all the time and the whinging that goes along with having to turn the TV off and wanting to return to the old ‘rules’. If we get lax like we did this weekend the old behaviours return quickly. I am tired. Tired from getting up early to get to work early and then coming home and immediately getting into putting on dinner so that meals and baths can take place before 7.30pm. Feeling like I’m a bad mother for not doing this sooner. Wishing that my children would just magically behave without the need for active parenting. It was quite a shock to find that my laid back parenting style didn’t make the ‘good enough’ parenting grade.
I think it is something that we will all grow into and negotiate as we go. I’m hoping that it gets easier and certainly the positive changes in the kids behaviour is worth the effort. I was surprised at how easily they found other things to do, despite claiming to be bored.
It has also highlighted some interesting things with the school. My child is a
wonderful child who never does anything wrong spawn of Satan neurotypical child who can be stubborn and difficult at times and angelic at others. As with my older child I think the school needed to make some adjustments to how and who they are, except that in the second instance it all came to a head much quicker. I have had the opportunity to have a lot of input into how the school dealt with the issues and said that I thought group work was an issue. My children have always preferred their own company and I think being forced to work in a group for more than a few minutes at a time was a signifcant stressor of my child. Add to that a sleep debt and bang. I also told them they had to change the way they approached when they were angry, that my child had to know that there was an end to their anger, that doing X behaviour would solve the problem, and that they had to make that clear from the beginning. Also rather than say ‘go over there’ they should say ‘come here and tell me what the problem is’. I don’t know how much of this is being done in the classroom, perhaps it hasn’t been an issue again yet, but I hope they have listened. There was some concern that this approach would mean that my child ‘won’ i.e. their bad behaviour was rewarded with getting their own way, but I pointed out that this was to prevent the escalation to the point where they threw their hands up in the air and called me to come to the school because then nobody won.
I’m hoping for smooth sailing from now on, but we will see how it goes.
*this is not designed to be a ‘you should do this too’ but a ‘this is what I tried because I was desperate and so far it has worked’. This may not be a solution for everyone.