Monday, September 05, 2011

Sotto Voce II- Speak Softly and Regain Control

A long, long time ago, in a land far away, I once described my experience with my kindergartners on the day I had no voice. It was surprisingly positive, and taught me an important lesson in expectations and what it means to "control."

Nearly six years later, with a home-schooled four year old and the world's busiest toddler boy (seventeen months old this week!) it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to out-shout the crowd. When water is being spat upon the floor while simultaneously Lola, the super dog, is being vigorously petted with a toy screwdriver, my instinct is to go into drill-sargent mode: "WHAT ARE YOOOU DOOOOOOOOOING? NO!"

The ridiculousness of the words aside (I find "What are you doing?" and "What do you think you're doing?" to be some of the absolute stupidest questions any adult could pose to a child), the tone accomplishes nothing. Not that the instinct is any less because of this. But on the rare days that I remind myself to stop, take a breath, and use a very quiet voice, I surprise myself with the attention-grabbing power of just being quiet. This works much better for the four year old, as the seventeen-month old is still very much in the stage of "Talk him through what he needs to do, while escorting him through it," but it's still surprisingly effective.

What does this look like? Roll film:

Small girl-child decides to take a big mouthful of her Calm tea (oh, the irony) and then slightly whale-like, spouts tea all over the floor. She then glances at it, laughs, and takes another giant mouthful.

I observe this with the growing horror of someone who had just washed that floor. I feel a giant, rushing intake of air, and adrenaline that makes me absolutely spin- surely a loud voice will only make the situation better, yes? Um, no. Tea will almost certainly either splatter out, or be inhaled (and choked) in. My expression must be triggering the small girl-child's radar- surely this sort of behavior is just not done. I let out the air and kneel down next to the spill.

Small girl-child smiles and tries to dance away- the "after" of tea being on the floor is nowhere near as fun as the "during" of tea being sprayed onto the floor. I remind myself of my goals here- I do not want this to happen again, and I do want her to clean this up. Around here, what we do, we un-do. What we un-do, we re-do. Whatever it takes to make things right. And that rule pretty much covers every situation I can possibly think of, from messes to harming a sibling to breaking something. I focus only on the goals and very quietly tell her to put the tea cup down, and go find the towel near the sink. Whether from the super quiet voice or the potential for "Fun With A Towel," she complies and comes over to begin the process of skating around the wet floor with a towel on her feet. She explains, while wiping the floor, that she wanted to make her cheeks puff wayyyyyy out. I respond that it didn't work so well, and that I do not want to see that sort of thing outside of the bathroom again. The floor is cleaned, my voice doesn't go into "Screechy Anger Mode," the small-girl child is on to bigger and better things without being crushed verbally by an adult.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fun in the Snow! In Only 800 Easy Steps...

So much for regular blogging. A busy three and a half year old and a busy ten month old make for some very active days. We were able to get outside and actually play in the snow for the second day in a row, so I'm going to cross my fingers that bedtime actually took, and share a little glimpse of what it takes to get these two ready to go outside and play.

First, I do need to share that I'm a huge proponent of outdoor play. Kids need dirt and sunshine as much as plants do, and even in the winter, I know I am a happier person after being outdoors. Particularly as kids who play outside tend to sleep a little better!

So it was ironic that we've just exited an entire month of sub-zero temps, and windchill factors in the double-digits. The toddler-girl and almost-walking-infant-boy and I have been bouncing off the walls and going on little trips to various places just to see something new.

2:00 PM- We returned home from church and the fascinating trip to the car wash which followed, where the car wash guy woke Vincent up with his cheery booming, "HELLO!!!!!!!!!!! BEAUTIFUL DAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!" which ended up entombing me in the car wash, with both a screaming baby and a highly-charged toddler. The toddler had been given red, sparkly cookies after church, and was high as a kite on red food dye. She attempted to comfort Vincent by treating him to a high-pitched soliloquy in her own language. Without taking a single breath. Home again, and now after noon, we'd eaten, cleaned up, and it was time to get us all outside. First, we needed play clothes.

2:05 PM- "Go get a shirt!" I told Gianna, as I changed Vincent. Changing Vincent requires the use of both arms and both feet, while he tries to crab-crawl away. Deep down, he wants to own and operate his own nudist colony, and diapers have no role in this dream. So I wrangled him out of one diaper when Gianna ran back with two pairs of pants. I reminded her that she already had pants, and she needed a shirt. She happily ran away. I returned my attention to Vincent, who was trying to stand up in the middle of the bed. I managed to wrestle a clean diaper onto him, in spite of his extreme protests. I set him on the floor and raced him to the bathroom to rinse out his previous diaper, while using my foot to keep him away from assisting me in this fascinating job.

2:15 PM- I grabbed Vincent, and ran into Gianna in the hall, who found a shirt and had now decided to cover her felt vegetable friends in "sparkly shiny treasures." I switch her into play clothes as Vincent made moves on her treasures and her vegetable friend, while each screamed at each other.

2:20 PM- We headed downstairs. I grabbed all of our winter gear, and tossed that down the stairs ahead of us. Vincent signals that he wants to nurse, and by this point I was pretty relieved for a break, so we take a milk break.

2:25- The science of order- this is very important. I always get myself prepped first, as I've found that if I don't do this, the whole operation crumbles and we need to start all over from step one. Gianna went next, and finally I popped Vincent into his Maggie-Simpson-style fleece snowsuit. This was met with diaper-esque enthusiasm, and during this endurance training event, Lola orbited us in increasingly smaller and smaller circles, very jazzed over the fact that the entire pack of us would shortly be outside together.

2:30- We exited, having spent thirty whole minutes doing what used to take me less than five to do. I consoled myself with the idea that in a matter of a few short months, leaving the house will require merely grabbing a spare diaper and sticking little feet into sandals.