Thursday, November 5, 2015

I scream. You scream. We all scream...and it doesn't seem to improve behavior

One year later and I still haven’t figured out how to do mornings.

Willard and I are very different parents. We think differently. We respond differently. We have different habits and routines. For the most part, we just accept that each of us has our own way and that neither is better. The exception is our morning routines. Will is on a constant crusade to have me mirror my morning routine after his.
Will wakes up at exactly 6:00. He goes downstairs and makes his coffee, packs the girls lunch, puts all backpacks and gear for the day in the car and then sits and quietly sips on his coffee while catching up on the news. At exactly 7:30, he wakes up Elizabeth (Anne is an early riser), feeds the girls breakfast, and takes them upstairs to help them get dressed. They’re ready by 8 and have 30 minutes to play before he ushers them out the door, well-prepared for a day at school.

I’m a little less organized and prepared. I HATE waking up and I refuse to get out of bed any earlier than I ABSOLUTELY have to. So typically, my alarm goes off at 7, I get up at 7:30 and usually don't get around to waking up the girls at about 7:40 or 7:45

There are some days where our morning is smooth sailing. One particular morning that comes to mind, Anne was up early and she and I played some puzzles until it was time to wake Elizabeth up. We went up into her room and we all laid in Elizabeth’s bed just chatting and giggling for about 20 minutes. We laughed and played our way through breakfast and prepping for school. We happily started out the door when suddenly I realized that I had completely forgotten to pack the girls’ lunch. As I was grabbing things out of the fridge, Elizabeth came running up to me, “What can I do to help? Did you get the lunch boxes yet? I’ll get them.” And she jumped right into action. I just stood dumb-founded. “What can I do to help” is a phrase I have been trying to get my husband to use for years and Elizabeth just so naturally jumped in to help. That morning warmed my heart and is not one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.

But most mornings aren’t so smooth. By the time I wake the girls up it’s all GO TIME!!!  Elizabeth is whiny and sleepy while I’m trying to shove food into her mouth. Anne just likes making her sister cry so she’ll poke and laugh and tease until Elizabeth whines and cries some more. They procrastinate. I prompt them to focus. They whine. I prompt them to focus. They bicker. I prompt them to focus. They fight. I prompt them to focus. They procrastinate some more. Then I YELL. I yell at them to brush to their teeth. I yell at them to GET DRESSED. I yell at them to “JUST FIND THEIR SHOES FOR GOODNESS SAKE. JUST DO IT LIKE I ASKED YOU TWENTY TIMES TO DO.”  Then I yell at them to JUST GET OUT THE DOOR!!!!” As soon as we get out of the door, those mornings just disappear from my mind, but it turns out that they make an impact on the kids.
Driving home one day Elizabeth said, “Mom, I noticed that you have been yelling a lot lately, especially in the morning. I don’t like it and I would like you to stop.” She didn’t whine or cry. She just very matter-of-factly declared that Mommy has been acting a lot like an irrational asshole. “I noticed that too, Elizabeth, and I don’t like it either. I also noticed that you and your sister are fighting more and you don’t listen to me so how can we solve this problem. What can I do when you don’t listen to me after I ask you to do something 20 times? How can I get you to listen to me?” This was my way of telling her that I was only acting like an irrational asshole because she and Anne were acting like irrational assholes. She thought about it for a minute and said, “Well, maybe you can give us con—cones—consequences when we don’t listen. We’re just kids so we forget, but that doesn’t mean you should just yell at us.”

Sometimes she is so grown up. I learn a lot from that little dear, and I guess it’s time for me to learn from Will too. It's been a week since our chat and so far, she's right. It is WAY easier.

Anybody who has something sensible or worthwhile to say should be able to say it calmly and soberly, relying on the words themselves to convey his meaning, without resorting to yelling.  -Richard Dawkins

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