Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting Better All the Time - At Parenting

I'm a single parent, working full-time. This past year, I worked too much, my son didn't get enough time with me nor enough consistency in his after-school care, and things got rough. He was very angry and acted out (hitting me sometimes). I worked less during Spring term, and saw things gradually improve.

I want to write about two steps forward, and one other milestone.

Last year in July I left my son with my brother and my family for a week while I attended the Math Circle Teacher Training Institute. When I returned, my son was furious. We had lots of trouble at bedtime, when he was acting up and I was too tired to deal. It was memorably bad.

I was planning to go to the Institute again this year, and he was saying he didn't want to go to Michigan. (We live in California, my family is in Michigan, he stays with them there while I go to the institute in Indiana.) He was not happy about the thought of me leaving him for a week again. But I knew I just had to go.

A few weeks before we left for Michigan, I stumbled upon a wonderful idea. We were at Toy Go Round, a used toy store, to buy him a hotwheels car. In the front window was a Playmobil service station. My son has been just about obsessive over cars his whole life, and has recently become enamored of Playmobil (way more expensive than the other toys in his life). The service station was the perfect thing for him. But his birthday was the month before, and xmas is a very long way off.

He says he asked for it. I don't even remember that. We asked to see the price when we went in, and at $35, I just shrugged to tell him it was way too much to spend. I so wanted to get it for him, but couldn't justify it when he'd already gotten so much on his birthday. He took his usual long time picking a hotwheels car, and we paid and left.

As I looked in the window one last time, I had an idea. I sat him down and reminded him of how angry he had been last year after I'd come back from the Institute, and how badly he'd behaved. Poor kid thought I was reprimanding him, I think. I said he might feel angry again this year, but it's important to find better ways to express it. I asked if he wanted me to get the service station and hold onto it until we got back. He could have it if he behaved well. His eyes lit up - "Oh, yeah!"

Normally I hate punishments and rewards. But it seemed like a good idea for him to have something to look forward to. And it was. He was great on our trip, even though it was hard for him. (He had a bunch of meltdowns the day after I got back, and I'd hold him each time and say "I know, it was so hard...") I think the second time with mom away was easier for him, but still very hard. He was more prepared for it, having gone through it before. And I was more prepared for dealing with the aftermath. When we got home a week later, he was thrilled with his new service station, and maybe it means more to him than other toys.

The holding and loving him up (with not so many words) when he cried came in handy again yesterday. He hates change, and I wanted to move the furniture in my room around. He still sleeps in my bed and didn't want me to change the room. He burst into tears at one point, and I just held him and said, "I know, it's hard." I'm learning to talk less sometimes.

That's the two steps forward. Here's the milestone: My son is friends with a woman who uses a powered wheelchair when her energy level demands it. She carries it in her van, and when she's visiting us, she's not using it. She allows my son to 'drive' it sometimes. Yesterday he asked if he could drive it out of the van. It was facing away from the door, and he made a 4-point turn to face forward, without touching the walls. When she complimented him, he said, "I was thinking about how to do it the other night, and I figured it out in my head." She and I both thought that was some pretty fancy visualization.


  1. so i've looked over _all_the_rest_.
    i must have visited before when you
    mentioned it before but hadn't bookmarked it.

    i haven't even got a coherent bookmarks list.
    there's too many options in the browser
    and i can't work any of 'em.
    meanwhile i don't have any system
    for keeping track of our correspondence
    so it's useless to go looking for anything.

    computer tools are just too frustrating.
    anything you think you know is soon clobbered
    by some alleged upgrade. whole thing's
    a mass hallucination anyhow and i might as well
    start acting like i'm aware of it.

    anyhow, it's good to see the "mama" side
    coming out in ATR what with MMR being
    pretty much entirely math.

    short reviews of stuff you mostly like
    organized by topic is a darn good format;
    i put out quite a few zine-review zines
    using it anyhow and was getting something
    of a following doing it.

    within whatever "formula" one sets
    (title in bold, author...
    i'd like more publishing info
    [dates in particular] but maybe
    that's mostly just me...)
    i think it's a good idea to try to *vary*
    tone and length and suchlike variables
    and not to hesitate... now and then...
    to use the opportunity to diverge
    pretty far away from the nominal subject
    for the odd personal essay.

    for "picture" books, almost every review
    oughta (there's "should" again in thin disguise)
    probably (that softens it to "but *you* know best")
    include something about the pictures.

    when the author's lousie erdich
    (or robert mc closkey for that matter)
    it's probably interesting enough to mention.
    in particular, by my lights, one shouldn't
    (!) hesitate to review the career
    rather than the book. or any other thing
    that'll make the piece more *personal*:
    it's really about me, the reviewer,
    my own favorite subject.

    my email is broken (again) and i don't think
    i'm ever going to bother to fix it.
    there's frustration and then there's outright insanity.
    for all i know i'll quit the internet forever soon.

  2. Hey Owen, I figured people could go to Amazon pretty easily for any more info, if they wanted it. There's that computer making me lazy. ;>

    More about the pictures, huh? I talk about the best ones as luscious. I have a little book I made, of many of these reviews, I had an introduction where I said, "Hearing stories with great rhythms and repetition, and seeing luscious illustrations can begin to create a child’s love of books."

    Hmm, maybe I should put the introduction up as a post...

    I sure hope you fix your email. I'd miss my early morning dose of correspondence with you.

  3. i'm pretty sure i'm done with that email account.
    i've already got a yahoo account i never check
    (needed it to turn on a blog or something).
    and in principle, we've got accounts already
    with the cable company that provides the service
    at madeline's (i just forget the addy because,
    sure enough, it doesn't work all that well
    and so it's been too much trouble up until now).
    i expect i'll need to maintain something somewhere
    just so i can hustle for a buck somehow.

    meanwhile i've reactivated open a vein.

    and of course we could, in principle,
    carry on with remarks in the notes page
    you created for the book. i just won't get
    updates in my email anymore and won't know
    when *you*'ve updated....


    sure... post the intro by all means!

  4. i'll hope to get a new email address from you soon.