Friday, January 28, 2011

Dance with it

We just survived a tough two weeks with the trauma (which is now triggered regularly by full-on puberty). I understand why the therapists encourage us to work our tails off on the healing before puberty, if at all possible. Our kids are already onions, with many, many layers of issues and hurts. Puberty takes that onion, genetically modifies it, and turns it into a County Fair prize winner.

A freakishly bigger onion, but still an onion. You take it one layer at a time.

One morning, in particular, things could have gone south in a hurry. You get what I mean. You see it in their walk, their voice, and even in the way their face hangs on their cheeks. They come out of their room already there. Already in that mode. Already shutting down. Hormones don't need a trigger. They ARE the trigger and they just show up, unannounced, doing that roller coaster thing they do.

I don't remember what the gentle correction was, but I do remember that I was being SO playful (I remember, because I didn't want to be and kept saying to myself, "Do the opposite of what you feel like doing!"). It ended up sounding something like this:

"Mom, I don't want the rest of my oatmeal."

This kid still has a hint of food issues. Never doesn't finish anything (nice use of the double negativity there). Like ... ever. So, it was their way of saying, "I am having big feelings and I know this will upset you." I did my therapeutic, "That's cool. Why don't you just relax at the table for awhile. You haven't even eaten a bite, yet. Give yourself a minute. That way if you are hungry in a little bit, you can still eat."

That's when I saw it. It's the look of "I want a fight. I will get a fight, and here we go."

"I'm not hungry." *slight tears* "I don't want my oatmeal."

Now, one approach here is to say, "I didn't say you wanted to eat it right now. I hear that you don't want your oatmeal. Just take a break at the table. Grab a book and read for a bit. If you're still not hungry in about ten minutes, then we can put it away." However, I knew in that moment, we were past that. It would have turned into a louder, "I don't want to stay at the table."

I just knew. Been around this block a few times.

So, I did what I WAY did not want to do.

"That's cool. I hear you. You don't want your oatmeal. Why don't you bring it to me."

And they did.

"I'll eat it for you, and I don't mind washing your bowl and spoon, either. Why don't you go find something fun to do. Love you." No sarcasm.

My child had prepared their oatmeal in a way I do not care to eat it (my kids get to add their own "stuff" to plain oats). They knew that. But by golly, I ate that bowl of oatmeal. I washed the bowl and the spoon and put them away. My child took themselves to their room and did not emerge for a half hour. But when they did, they were regulated - for the most part. They rejoined everyone else. Not another word was said. The early morning yuck was behind us.

We moved on.

When you smell a fight and you know it's beyond a mild therapeutic intervention, if you can find it in you on that day (not every day, but maybe that day) don't bow up against it. Dance with it. Buy it flowers. Maybe even give it a good night kiss and cop a feel.

(photo by Moi Cody, used with permission)


Lisa said...

The puberty stuff is arriving. Not terribly excited about it but I'm might as well put my big girl panties on.

I had my dancing shoes on yesterday and was rocking the floor. Today I KNOW I'm going to rock it cause me and my camera are leaving at 1. Knowing I'm going to get a break always helps and it's essential to my parenting.

So proud of you for eating that oatmeal. I couldn't have done the oatmeal. No way. Way to go Christine!

Hannah_Rae said...

Wow. Today is a hormone day for ME, but I'm trying to dance with it. I don't get these too terribly regularly, so I'm not actually very used to the swings, but I'm trying.

Miah came down in "that mood" right off the bat, so I had him jump on his trampoline for 5 minutes, then went immediately into shaking, then immediately into tapping. (His first tapping...sigh.) :) I can tell he is going to struggle all day, but he is at least being pleasant.

OY! It will be a nap day today.

I've had to do the oatmeal thing before. I like oatmeal, but you are brave.



Erika said...

Yay therapeutic mommies! Sometimes mine stays around trying to find her fight. That's when I have to keep moving - like Ali... fly like a butterfly ... I'm too fast, I'm too smooth, I'm too pretty. If it's just too much and she's really insistent, I pick the fight very, very carefully. I'll shoot for something that I know she really wants and allow her to go in opposition to it, and then I'll slowly walk her through how I'm actually on her side (she really wants whatever she's in opposition to) and she's actually fighting herself now more than me. And I slip out of the space and let her choose whether to keep being oppositional or to join me and her former, less reactive self. Either way, she's still not in a battle with me. (That said, she can still manage to sneak a rage in or two during her rage seasons -- I don't do magic over here.)

BT said...

I so needed this post today. Thanks!

Dia por Dia said...

Great going dear friend. I would have thrown up that oatmeal all over my child...not on purpose but there's no way I could have faked that one even if I wanted to. :-(

The Lundys said...

Awesome, thanks. Except that you stole my entire book. It was going to say "Do the opposite of what you feel." That's it. Yeah, small book, but that's "all" it takes. Now I guess I'll have to think up another. :p

Anonymous said...

I love your irreverence! 'cop a feel.'

Ha ha ha...I did great this morning with a glaring 'be mad at me, prove to me that I'm stupid and worthless' move that my girl pulled.

I DIDN'T BITE. cause I did the opposite of what I wanted to do.

Andy and Kiara said...

We had a gloriously unregulated morning, too. I am knew to understanding all of this, but oh, my, can I recognize that look when my kiddo walks out of the room! So thankful for these recent posts. :)

Andy and Kiara said...

By the way, the comments are sometimes as helpful as the original post! Thanks to all you Mamas who take the time to include hints there, too!

Jenn said...

Been working HARD at this one - I keep thinking about something I read on a blog (ages ago.... can't remember where.... maybe here?)who had a note taped to their fridge: "I do not have to attend every fight I'm invited to." Oh, but some days, I really WANT to attend!! Thank you for the reminder. My littlest is SO much better off because I read your blog.

matryoshka said...

LOVE THIS POST!! Sometimes she's bound and determined to have a fight and Lord help me, I go there more often than not. I'm going to write myself that note. Maybe even tatoo it on my forearm.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. My kids aren't teens yet, but this still really encouraged me!

Erika said...


We have been talking here in Tompkins County, NY - and we've decided that "What you do to pee" is our most favorite video that you've posted. We want to encourage you to sing more songs to make us laugh to keep from poking our eyes out. Many of us have also purchased the emergency yodel button on Some have it hanging on kitchen wall, others carry it in their purses. It brings laughter and gives us the 10 seconds we need to make good mama choices. Hugs to you and your awesomeness!!!

Christine said...

All of you - such goodness!!

coffeemom said...

UUggghhh. I know that look, I know that dance....and we started one AT puberty/teen already w/ one of our girls w/ issues. Amazing restraint and ability to do that, that non-engaging thing and opposite action. Especially when the kid hasa a habit of spewing their angry nasty mood at you from the first getgo in the morning....oh, that's my house again..sorry...but a tough one to approach w/out resentment. Hard hard and so true that it's what was needed. Great job mom, as usual! Inspiring, to say the least