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Well, now that it's over (I love you all in a platonic sort of way, but I really put the emphasis on spending as much of this day as possible with Beloved Husband), I wish a Happy Valentine's Day! to you all. I understand that this is a very polarizing holiday, with True Believers, and Avoiders, and the Valentine's agnostics, who comment on the commerciality of the day and move on, but I'm kind of a fan, provided that the emphasis is on the silly (for the majority of the people in one's life), the [non-material] exchange of the expression of sentiment (for that one special person, when and if there is one), a gentle and subtle soft-peddling for the recently bereaved, also provided that there is a TOTAL AVOIDANCE of occasions where people [Elementary schools, I'm looking at you!] are put into the position of seeing others have their mailboxes run over while they themselves receive a pittance. Charlie Brown needs to have as nice a time at the party as the Little Red Haired Girl.

And how, you may ask, did The Whirlwind's Valentine's Day go?

It was okay in the main for the business part of the day. She came home from school with a goodly haul of valentines, some of the cheap cartoony kind (the boys, for the most part, and some of the girls) and hand made (a few, but they were all very... sincere-looking, because this is 3rd grade, and neatness is hard!), and a great deal of candy. Now if a great deal of candy came home, you can bet the farm that an even greater amount of candy was consumed on the bus ride home. I was not too surprised to find that her lunch was largely untouched.

I set her to eating that while she told me about the exciting day, and then sent her off with her dad so he could exercise with her during Middle Child's piano lesson. It's Passport to Winter Fun season, and if she can fill out 30 boxes (one for each day she does an hour of physical activity) before March 16th, she wins an insulated lunch bag. If she exercises with a family member, she gets an extra "family star" and with enough of those, there are other things she can get. As I was heading out the door to exercise myself, I noticed that half her sandwich was still in its container, but it was too late. They were gone.

When they got back Middle Child came in, but Beloved Husband and The Whirlwind remained outside to finish up the part of the hour they had left (the safe place for exercising is a 5 minute drive from the piano teacher's house, so it stood to reason that they'd need to get an extra 10 minutes in at home). When they came in I asked Beloved Husband if they'd got in a full hour (they had) and what they'd done.

"Some sliding, some hiking, and some lovely high-energy active tantruming!" he replied cheerfully, thus demonstrating that he had not been the one tantruming, and he went off to lie down for a few minutes before launching in on cooking dinner.

"Okay if I just write down 'sliding & hiking'?" I called after him.

"Probably best!" he replied, as I inked in the family star.

I got The Whirlwind working on her homework, and by the time Beloved Husband re-emerged and started clanking pans, it was time for her piano practice.

Things Did Not Go Well. The Whirlwind wanted to practice with Daddy, who is the Preferred Parent, because he is off at work all day four days a week. He puts in 60 hour weeks working 4 days a week and every 4th Saturday, with call from home every 4th weekend. Tuesdays are his day off, and he generally cooks the days he doesn't work, so I don't have to do it 7 days a week, and he was busy, so she was stuck with the yucky, always there, Undesirable Parent, me.

I'm really quite used to being second choice (until they are sick, and then it's my lap they want to lie in and be miserable, and my voice they want to sing them better) so that didn't phase me, but when she began to yell at me, the "Thou Shalt Treat Thy Practice Parent Like Thou Wouldst A Teacher" rule kicked in, and she earned a 30 minute time out. The 30 minutes starts when she is calm, quiet, and can reflect on what she did and prepare an apology.

By the time all that happened and she'd served her time, it was 2 1/4 hours later! She was determined to escalate!escalate!ESCALATE! in the face of almost total lack of opposition, which resulted in farcical scenes.

As we waited for the last of the cooking, Middle Daughter was doing a few dishes, and Beloved Husband and I were sitting down at the dining room table, with an eye on the hockey game on in the living room. All of us were silent, but The Whirlwind was shouting at the top of her lungs, "Just stop talking to me! Stop TALKING to me! Just SHUT UP!!! SHUT THE HELL UP RIGHT NOW!"

We hadn't said a thing.

Finally, as we were eating dinner, she decided she'd had enough of being ignored, and began to throw books, including a copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Little Princess that my Nana (1908-2005) gave me when I was 9. It was a modern edition of Nana's favorite book when she was growing up. That was intolerable. I went in, and from a distance of about 2 cm. from the tip of her nose, I told her that if she ever did that again, she WOULD NOT LIKE WHAT HAPPENED BECAUSE SHE WOULD LOOSE THINGS PERMANENTLY. I may have been a little loud. Any of you hear me?

She decided that an angry mama bear is dangerous, and retreated, but not being without courage, she had to make it clear that she was not really retreating, so much as advancing to the rear.

"I wish you were stupid, Mom!" she yelled. "I wish you were really, really stupid! I wish you were!"

I'm afraid that's when all of us couldn't hold it together, and we lost it. I may not be the next Sam Carter, but my mother, Eldest Daughter, and I have all been accused of being "frighteningly bright". General consensus was that barring a head injury, her wish was likely to remain ungranted. Our gales of laughter probably set her back an additional 20 minutes.

Eventually she settled. There was silence, and then the sound of her playing her piece. We set the timer. Thirty minutes ticked away. She decided that she didn't want dinner and got ready for bed and took her night time meds. There on the table at her place was the heart-shaped box of very fresh Lake Champlain Chocolates chocolate truffles that her father and I gave her. The kids love these and look forward to them all year. She looked at it. She picked it up, and hugged it to her chest. She walked over to me, and held it out.

"Here, Mummy," she said. "I don't deserve this after all the trouble I caused for you and Daddy today."

"No," I said gently. "That's yours."

She hugged it to her chest again, walked over to the table and put it at her place and then she came back, her eyes tearing, and gave me a big hug.

"Thank you!" she whispered. "'Night."

"Night-night, Sweeting!" I said, and her father took her up to bed and tucked her in. She was asleep in minutes.

She really is a handful, but when she's done wrong and she knows it, and the paroxysms of prodigious and wasteful energy have all been expended, she's the very best of all my kids at stepping out of the ranks, owning up, and taking her lumps.

If she ever learns how to harness all that energy as a force for good, the world, or possibly the universe, is going to be short quite a few problems.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
Aw how cute is her apology!
Feb. 15th, 2012 07:54 am (UTC)
That's the thing with her. Just when I'm about ready to commit justifiable homicide, she does something that just melts my heart into a little puddle of goo.

I'm pretty sure that the nursery rhyme about the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead was written about an ancestor of hers.
Feb. 15th, 2012 08:55 am (UTC)
*hugs* for your Valentines day, and for the Whirlwind as well!

I'm afraid I yelled at the Small Person yesterday morning and then felt guilty about it all day -- to almost the same tune, namely "You are the only person who can control you, and the thing that is holding you back is your own behavior. You need to get a grip and get your socks on and get your shoes on because the school bus is here." This involved hauling her out on the porch with one shoe as she refused to put the other on, which of course meant discovering that a)yes, she was going to school b) it's cold on the porch at 6:30 in the morning in one shoe so she'd better put it on.

However, apparently school was dandy and she came home happy as the proverbial clam and went to bed with no trouble.

Only to wake up at one in the morning ready to go. OMG. And so Pen was up from 1-3, and now it's over to me until school time. She's perfectly cheerful. Just up all the Ffffing night!
Feb. 15th, 2012 09:15 am (UTC)
At the suggestion of our pediatrician, we now put The Whirlwind to bed in her clothes for the next day. It seemed like a yucky idea to me, but poor Beloved Husband was nearly stroking out with the stress of getting her to actually get dressed before the bus came. The pediatrician pointed out, rightly, that this was a stress we didn't need. We went ahead and followed his advice.

Didn't keep her from stressing him out about getting her winter gear on before the bus comes...

One morning she was being particularly awful, and things were GETTING LOUD and I was trying to sleep, in full knowledge of the fact that I'd have to be up soon too. Finally I couldn't take it any more. I popped out of bed.

"Take her stuff and put it outside. Put her outside. Lock the door!" I said.

The Whirlwind looked at me in shock.

Beloved Husband looked at the unseasonably warm 25 degree morning, and the snow flurries.

"That might work," he said.

He watched from the living room, and she was all suited up within a minute of being put outside, and she hasn't pulled that one lately.

We wouldn't have tried it at 20 below, but sometimes it's necessary to let natural consequences make your point for you.

Sympathies for the lost sleep.

I just took an entire roll of toilet paper out of the upstairs toilet. After I used it. Second time this week. I didn't notice it before I sat down because I'm not in the habit of checking for entire rolls. I assume civilized people flush, and that when I approach the thing, it's ready for use. I don't know why this is the new rebellion of choice, but I do find it particularly irritating.
Feb. 15th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
And sympathies for your toilet paper! I think we're past the putting things in the toilet. I hope.

I just bundled her out to the bus and I only got hit a few times. It hurts less in a heavy jacket. On the other hand, she was wearing shoes without protest. Some days I feel like the worst mother on the planet.
Feb. 15th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
There needs to be a forum or something about 'unmentionable things we do to raise our children into respectable human beings' because nobody talks about this stuff in polite company. Nobody. And it's frustrating as all getout that everybody's children are 'perfect' in public.

You are both making me feel so much better about my week (I've decided I hate 8, and we've only been 8 for three weeks now) with the school bag inspection for toys every morning, and the driving down the road with him walking behind because he can't be bothered to leave the daycare building with me at pickup time, to the "mom, I don't want you to do any extra work on your birthday because I love you, but I'm not emptying the dishwasher because I don't feel like it" comment. So thank you both - your frustrations are not in vain. :)
Feb. 15th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Well The Whirlwind is the child who necessitates more of those unmentionable moments than all the other three combined. Partly it's because she's a little alpha. She checks every day to see if she can take me, and so I simply cannot afford to lose when I'm dealing with her, because the day I do, it's all over. And then there's the fact that aside from people there aren't all that many things she cares about. A rural elementary school child with many (necessary to get the energy out) afterschool activities is already de facto grounded, so the avenues I had with the others ("Behave, or no puzzles for two days!") are a no go.

I was beginning to really worry about what a horrible parent I was, until one day The Whirlwind had a total raging fit in the waiting room of her counselor during her sister's time. The counselor came out to inquire whether backup was needed, and red-faced I said no, we would manage, and the counselor said "Well, I heard some really great parenting going on our here, so keep it up, you're doing a great job." Later she sent me an email to say that I should hang in there and that The Whirlwind is and exceptionally challenging kid. It was a big relief to hear that, because I was beginning to wonder what terrible mistakes I was making that she was still so out of control at eight (this was last year). This woman gets to see many of the community's most challenging kids, so she has a basis for comparison. Whew!

But be of good cheer. I think of the beginning of eight being no fun, because there's a sudden growth of independence, and the will to assert that, but once they settle into that and have a sense of limited, rather than limitless, autonomy, eights are kind of sweet, and can be very helpful.

Feb. 15th, 2012 08:49 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! :) It's nice to know there are other people in this boat. Rowing madly.
Feb. 15th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
I'll challenge you for the trophy, but I really think that neither you nor I deserve it. We both have very challenging kids, and we care desperately, love them whole-heartedly, and get down there in the trenches with them every day. They don't come with a users manual, and there is a lot of trial and error involved. But we are both trying, and praying earnestly that what we are doing is the best thing done in the best way.

Yeah, we have days when our performance is sub-par. There are days when we maginify things and lose our tempers and just plain ROAR out of hurt and exhaustion and frustration. But that doesn't put us in the running for that Worst Mother on the Planet trophy. I'm sure the trophy goes to the mother who looks through and past her child with supreme indifference.

You're a good mom, and so am I, even on our off days.
Feb. 15th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, you are. And they are very challenging children. OMG. But you're right -- indifference is the worst thing.
Feb. 15th, 2012 11:33 am (UTC)
Awww, The Whirlwind is cute. That apology... super adorable!
Feb. 15th, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, The Whirlwind has a really good line in adorable, which is the saving of her. She is a very challenging child, who looks like such a little angel, and can act like a fiend from Hell at times. That ability to turn on a dime and be genuinely penitent, loyal, loving, and vulnerable that keeps her from being murdered by an incensed parent, teacher, or coach.

I think if I ever end up writing about the childhood of Jack O'Neill, The Whirlwind will be a large part of what I will base it on. The same loyalty, natural leadership, hidden vulnerability, intelligence, explosive wild energy, and ability to drive those in charge to distraction, combined with enormous charisma.
Feb. 15th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
I think you and your husband are seriously amazing parents.

Also, I find your idea that the timeout doesn't start till she's calmed down particularly brilliant.

And wow, the end of the story is very sweet. :)
Feb. 16th, 2012 09:27 am (UTC)
It's not so much brilliant as it is a strategy born of experience. The Whirlwind is stubborn, and when she feels like being in a snit, she can persist in this for a loooong time. Setting the timer at the get go generally means that she's still in full snit mode when the timer goes of, and nothing is gained. If we wait for some of the energy to burn off, then we can get actual results.

With dutiful Eldest Daughter, and mellow Only Son, we could set the timer right away, because by the time the timer went off they would have gotten calm anyway. Middle Daughter is really, really stubborn, but she also doesn't tend to run to high emotion, so setting the timer right away worked for her too.

Eldest Daughter required a B.A. in parenting, as did Only Son. Middle Daughter was the Phd, and The Whirlwind is a PostDoc. She takes every thing we learned with the first three, and then some extra, because she's The Whirlwind.

And no, we're not amazing. We're stubborn and determined, and fortunately like to spend time with kids.
Feb. 16th, 2012 05:01 am (UTC)
You and BH have my sincere admiration. I cannot even !fathom! how you do it
Feb. 16th, 2012 09:30 am (UTC)
One day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time, and occasionally one second at a time.

It really helps that both of us love kids, and enjoy spending time with them.
Feb. 16th, 2012 07:08 am (UTC)
Boundless energy, indeed. Whirlwind would make one heckuva human rights activist if she decides to do that when she's older.
Feb. 16th, 2012 09:38 am (UTC)
Whatever she ends up doing, she is going to be passionate about it.

I could easily see her as a human rights activist.

Recently stated goals are to play in the N.H.L., have kids, get married [she's nine, so the focus here is on the fancy white dress and not on the handsome guy] , be an Egyptologist, and get a dog.
Feb. 16th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
Hahaha! My life goals at age 9 bear little resemblance to what I'm doing now.

She's indomitable, not easily discouraged, and tenacious -- the perfect combo for someone fighting a for a just cause that will fall on the deaf ears of authority.
Feb. 16th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
Well, I am filtering this through the lens of her older sister, who wanted to be a farmer, a doctor, a basketball player, and a mom, who is going to be 27 this month, and is working in I.T. while she gets the elements she will need together (including some course work) to make her bid at med school.

I myself decided somewhere around the age of 7 that I wanted to be an Egyptologist, and the only thing that derailed that was the fact that I had not really worked out at a young age that Egyptology requires working in or near a big city (so not my style!) and the things we would need to do to get me there didn't fit at all well with our goals as a family.

Life really is what happens while we're making other plans, but I knew, more than most, what I wanted to be at 9. Still, if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be as kids, 99% men would be firemen, policemen, and heavy equipment operators!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )



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