Friday, February 25, 2011

Turning Don'ts into Do's

A couple days ago I attended a parenting workshop at P's preschool put on by a parent counselor from the awesome Project Enlightenment (in fact, the very same counselor who saw our family and helped us in ways I can't even begin to describe). The workshop was "Tips on Firmness and Limit Setting." It was only an hour and pretty much a rehash of a lot of what she'd already told me in our counseling sessions, but even so, man did I need to hear it!

A few things really, REALLY stuck with me, such as:
-Misbehavior is typically a sign of a missing skill. A child often misbehaves because they simply do not know how to act in a situation and need to be taught.
-My job is to be a teacher and coach, not a dictator or punisher. I'm a parent, I need to teach them and give them the skills to live life fully and successfully.
-Turn your Don'ts into Do's.

Oh, did that last one get me.

To help get her point across, the counselor spoke about how children are visual thinkers and by saying "don't do ____" you are giving them a distinct visual and they will act on that visual. By saying "do ___" instead and redirecting and/or giving an alternate option, you are painting a different visual and they will often act on that visual.

I accidentally tried this the next day (yesterday) when I was helping parent in P's class. I saw a child scratching at a wall mural and before I could catch myself I had blurted out "B, don't scratch the paint!" Next thing I know not only is he still scratching the paint but two other children (yeah, including mine) joined in. It hadn't occurred to them that they could do that until I painted the visual in their heads. As soon as I said an alternative the boys moved on and forgot the wall. It was... amazing really.

In the workshop, the counselor really wanted to bring home the ineffectiveness of "don't do ___" to all of us. And so, pausing and looking around a group of a dozen or so adult women, she began saying, "don't sit." We all sat there, like "wha? What am I supposed to do? Is she talking to me?" She kept saying it, firmly, "don't sit, don't sit, don't sit." She had to say it 6 times before a woman, who had taken this course before, stood up. Even having done this before the woman forgot what she was supposed to do and the rest of us just sat there confused.

"Why didn't you stop sitting and stand up?" she asked.

We all were taken aback and tried to figure it out. Here we are, totally rational and capable adults, given a clear and simple command, and none of us obeyed... why was that?

"Well... we didn't know what you wanted us to do... I guess you wanted us to stand, but I wasn't sure," said one woman.

"I just kept thinking, 'but I'm already sitting, she wants me to stop?'," said another.

"Yes," said the counselor, "and the child is already running, or already coloring on the walls, or already throwing food. And they have no idea what you want them to do other than what they're already doing."

I think my mind blew up a bit then.

Seriously, for a second it was like I actually saw how tough it must be to be a small child, MY child no less, constantly being told "no this" and "don't do that" and "stop doing that!"

So for the past couple days I've been working my brain really hard, trying to catch myself and come up with alternatives.

Try not to punish. Try to coach. Try not to belittle. Try to teach. Don't assume misbehavior is intentional. Don't assume they already innately have the skills I hope to see. Don't assume they know how to behave. Understand that they are small, that they are learning, and that you are their number one teacher. Understand that your goal is to help them learn these missing skills.

I've been chanting this over in my head somewhat, and already I've noticed some shocking changes.

Not just in the 5 year old, but even in my little 16 month old.

Instead of "no, you can't do that" I tell P "you may get your shoes on now and head to the car." I have to say it a few times, but oddly enough... he does it. Like, without warnings or counting or (rather hollow) threats or raising my voice or any of it. And going to the bathroom. And picking up. And eating. And listening. I'm... shocked.

And the baby! "No hitting... er.... hugging! Yeah, no hit, hug!" Next thing I know he's hugging everyone. "No hitting with stick... drum on the chair!" Wow, in about 24 hours he went from total little terror (okay, utterly adorable if mildly violent young toddler) to listening and trying to please and do as directed. Of course he wouldn't listen to no hit, he had no idea what I wanted him to do instead of hitting!


I'm very much considering seeing this counselor in her private practice. I need to find out fees, insurance, etc. We may need some help whenever #3 joins the family with keeping us on track as a family, and that's what I really love about her: she "treats" the whole family. And not in a psychological sense, but in a gentle, understanding, and common sense approach. She was the person who really brought home the sleep deprivation in our home and helped us to find a schedule that worked for us all, for P to get a full night's sleep and for Nik and I to get the bare minimum required to function until Ambrose got to the point of sleeping through the night.

I have to say, after seeing three different offices regarding P (one focused on behavioral, one on physical, one on psychological) I have to say that the one on behavioral, this counselor and her services, was by far the best and we feel the one that really worked for our family and for P. The difference was stunning!

Sorry, I really just cannot stop singing the praises of Project Enlightenment. I wish everyone throughout the world had access to such a place. Fingers crossed that state funding will allow for all of their previous services to be reinstated.

In the meantime, they have free workshops and if they involve free childcare like Wednesdays, I may just become a workshop junky!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A couple stories about attachment....

He's clean. He's diapered. He's dressed. And he's full.

We cuddle and read a book in his older brother's room as said brother gets ready for bed, with father helping. We give a quick tickle, a few hugs, nurse a bit on and off.

Then it's time to go.

I stand up and he happily takes my hand, walking with me as we wave and blow kisses to brother and father.

We walk into his room. It's ready, except for the nightlight. The lights are off and the sound machine is blasting the noise of crickets.

I close the door behind us before finding the nightlight, noting briefly how utterly dark the room is.

Even after tapping the button the light barely illuminates more than a couple square feet on his floor. I lead him to the rocking chair and let go of his hand.

As I adjust the pillow and settle my self down for the rock-to-sleep, he stands there, calmly, quietly, in near total darkness, not touching a thing.

A single, solitary child in isolation.


At peace.


I reach down and place my arms on his sides, and his hands slowly raise up. He's unsure as to my actual position, but he knows what to do anyway. He isn't dead weight, but he also isn't in a hurry.

He knows this routine, even if it's one of a dozen potential routines.

Soon he's in my lap and he nestles in, cuddled up for a quick rockabye.

Not too long after he's asleep, and I transfer him to his crib with ease and leave the room. I won't see him again for another 11 or 12 hours, and even then I may only know he's awake through the sounds of his toys as he plays with them.

At only a year old, he already knows that the world is a safe place. He is loved. He is cared for. He doesn't have to worry. He can stand alone in the dark for a few seconds and know full well that arms will be reaching for him soon. They always do.

And this, my friends, is attachment.


He goes through his routine to the best of his ability. He acts out in the normal places, prolonging those parts he finds enjoyable and, more importantly, eliciting the same familiar responses. It doesn't matter if it's negative attention so long as it's familiar.

He worries when something is different. A shower tonight? But it's usually a bath! It's not as big a deal as it used to be at least.

He follows the itinerary almost to a T. He gets dressed, he puts on lotion, he picks a book. His sound machine is on. His night light, bright enough to fill the room, is on. The light of our bedroom from next door is also on and viewable from his open door.

Not everything is planned out. He chooses a new song on his sound machine. He picks a different stuffy to sleep with. He wants to put his pillow on the foot of the bed. He chooses a different parent to read him a book.


But he still needs that bright night light.

He still needs the door open.

He still needs both of his parents to spend time with him, and no matter how long it takes for that baby brother to fall asleep he will dutifully keep himself awake for the chance to have one-on-one time, if only for a moment, with the parent who did not get to read him a book.

And he still needs a melatonin, or else it may be hours for sleep to come.

He no longer sleeps so lightly and fitfully, but he is still prone to waking up early and possibly coming into our room. We know as we kiss him goodnight that we have probably ten hours maximum before he starts to move and we have to plan accordingly.

Nights are better. Mornings are better. Life is better.

So long as there's a routine.

So long as there's safety.

So long as there's bright lights and lots of consistent attention.

So long as we sit and talk about anything that scares him, filter out all the bad things, cuddle and coddle and hug.

He's five years old, and he knows too much. He knows that parents can die, so you'd better spend as much time with them as possible. He knows that things can change quickly, so you'd better hold on to stability. He knows that the world is completely out of his control, so he'd better take control where he can and when he can.

A stable, loving family helps. A routine helps. But the worry, the anxiety, the fear, is never totally gone.

And this, my friends, is a mild attachment disorder.


It's not RAD, even though we've been offered the diagnosis. He's not a sociopath, nor does he threaten us with knives or fire, nor does he smear feces, nor does he destroy property or harm pets.

He's just... anxious.




He can't handle certain things in the same way another child his age could.

Things frighten him. Change frightens him.

And guess who is starting kindergarten this year? And guess which family is hoping to expand? Guess who is five now and has bigger responsibilities due to his larger age? Guess who is growing and changing? And guess who is big enough now that most people look down on any special treatment for him?

Sometimes I wonder if the restlessness of his heart would be noticeable at all if it wasn't for Ambrose. Ambrose, as I mentioned earlier, is extreme. When he tantrums he goes all out, and he whines and fusses like nobody. And yet, his heart is calm. He trusts us. He knows he can pitch a fit and we'll still hug him and love him and hand him a cheese stick. He knows that he can fall and we'll always be there to pick him up.

The hardest part, to me, is knowing that there was a point when P also knew this.

We don't know exactly when he was orphaned but most likely it was around the time he was a year. He could have been where Ambrose is developmentally. There's a possibility his life was filled with strife and visiting relatives and fighting and illness and fear.

Or... it could have been happiness. It could have been trust. Her death could have been sudden.

Was he like Ambrose? Did he trust, implicitly, and have that trust broken?

Or did he simply learn from the very beginning that he should never trust at all?

I know we'll never really know for certain.

And really, at this point it hardly matters. He has come so, so far and he's just such a normal kid now. It feels honestly like we're in the homestretch. Like we're in that last part of bonding, attaching, healing. I know the wounds will be re-opened at various times throughout his life (puberty, adulthood, parenthood...) and yet we're just about to where we've always dreamed we would be.


I'm not entirely sure how to wrap this up other than by saying this:

I have two wonderful, incredible, vibrant boys. They are different from each other. And they compliment each other. This stillness in the heart of one seems to be healing the heart of another. The still hearted one wants nothing more than to be an equal to his amazing and much beloved and idolized big brother, the sweetest, happiest, most playful big brother I've ever met. I am amazed by them and their relationship. And I'm so, so glad to know that even if one of our children has anxiety over us, he doesn't seem to doubt his relationship to his brother. He loves that baby with all his soul and I'm so excited for them, to see what wonderful adventures these two brothers will undertake as they get older :)

My Life Lately...

First off, wow, people read this? Awesome!

For the record, I'm very vocal/public on Facebook so if you ever need to "find" me feel free to search for Me.gan Mc.Kenney Ever.ett, without the little dots :)

Secondly, I feel like I have too much too catch up on, so here's my life lately in convenient bullet point style:

-P is starting Kindy this fall. He's finally registered. It was a long and arduous decision but we finally settled on the easiest option: his base school, a low rated and poverty stricken school that just completed it's first year as a magnet school focused on engineering. I got a good vibe when I toured the place, and they're putting a lot of work and love into turning everything around and making it a school worth going to. Fingers crossed we made the right choice. If nothing else, it's nice that we can walk there quickly (just a couple blocks away), that it's beside a park we frequent, and that neighbor kids on our street, who are super friendly and polite, go to the same school.

-That being said, I'm having totally mommy anxiety over this. What if I send him a sweet little "I love you" note in his lunchbox and another kid rips his note and he gets sad and they don't handle it right and he totally flips and out and goes completely catatonic, like he used to when he was younger? What if he hurts himself on the stone steps? What if they discover a new food allergy in the cafeteria and don't get him help in time? What if he's bullied or teased? What if he becomes a bully himself? What if what if what if? I know this is all a part of growing up, for both him and us, and I know that bumps and scrapes along the way are not only normal but necessary. But... but my little boy! I may need a Xanax prescription when Fall rolls around....

-I'm having fun at the YMCA but part of me feels like I'm not really pushing myself enough. Nik runs just about every morning now and I only make it to the Y every other day or so, though some weeks it's like every day. And I still eat junk food. Healthy meals, junky snacks. I need to keep more fruit in this house! Anyway, I'm thinking of getting a jogging stroller so that I can start running too. I recover from workouts very quickly now, leave the Y feeling the same as when I went in only usually freshly showered. I just have so much I want to achieve physically! right now I've met one goal: I can (barely!) touch my toes. But there's so much to do, such weak muscles, and such tight hamstrings, and lots of dance moves to master and lots of muscly work to perfect. I know slow and steady wins the race, and I do feel better physically since I started going in November, but I wouldn't mind... something. Something to keep me going. Some kind of pay off. Guess we'll see :)

-Ambrose is a little fusspot! There, I said it. Not like I haven't said it a million times before. I think this might be the point of my next post (hopefully coming sooner rather than later!) but the best way to put it is that he's extreme. In everything. Extremely curious and sweet and cuddly and excited and loving. Then extremely angry and sad and totally obsessed with something. He can have mild moods but he's always been a very extreme child, and I think that's just his personality. It can be frustrating and irritating and sometimes downright angering when he's in his "extreme anger" phase, and when he's extremely sad for the gazillionth time that week... well, it's hard to feel pity when a child cries if the child has cried frequently for the entire time you've known him. Yes, we meet his needs and care for him, but he's just... extreme. And you can't deal with extreme in an extreme way or it'll drive you nuts. So I manage to block out a lot of his fussing and/or screaming until I notice the looks of people around me. We're so used to it by now! It's gotten better, too, but still... I guess random strangers don't know that. Got some horribly nasty looks yesterday!

-I'm looking up adoption situations several times throughout the day. I don't know the wheres or the whens or the whos when it comes to Bug, but I know that someday... someday it'll happen. Maybe. Hopefully? I guess you never really know... but we feel it will. The big thing now is that I'm thinking pink and Nik's all about blue. So we'll see!

-One of my tires popped today on the way to P/T conferences. Lots of phonecalls and LOTS of $$ but it's dealt with. And I have four new tires! I feel so... stable now. Like, on the road when I drive. It's weird. I guess it'll take some getting used to.

-Nik and I are in the 5th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We're also in the 5th season of The Office. The latter is far better I think....

-I've resumed weekly dinners with my total BFF, Renata. Thursdays can't come fast enough :)

-The weather is nicer, and after a long, cold winter (by NC standards) I'm actually looking forward to the blazing heat of summer. For now. When it gets here I'll be wishing for winter again!

-Time to pump. Did I mention that I'm pumping again? Making about 3-4 extra ounces a day. Hopefully it'll increase by the time we're placed with Bug. I already have my Mother's Milk Tea ready to go to help with supply! Also, did I mention how much I absolutely HATE pumping? Hate it. Too much work to set up and clean up, and it's still a little too cold for my poor girls to be exposed so much (but cold flanges no less). But if I can have a nursing relationship with Bug too, just like I've had/am having with Ambrosey.... totally worth it.

And that's.... all I can think of right now. So nothing too major or anything :) Will try to post more frequently!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I miss this blog...

So I turned this blog all private. Locked up my kids' names and faces and stories. Figured it was the acceptable thing to do.

I started a new blog with fake names (okay, middle names) and tried to keep it updated daily. Then every other day. Then a couple times a week.

And now I'm not blogging at all.

And that sucks.

I feel like... I'm missing it.

I'm missing the chance to record and share our life.

You know what I want to be able to do? I want to be able to write everything, EVERYTHING, without worrying. I want to be able to share pictures and names. I want to be able to just write and write and write.

And I have the time, and the inclination.

But not the drive.

What's stopping me? Is it the anonymity? The enormity of trying to start a blog from scratch?

Is it the loneliness of blogging to no one?

Is it the newness of a new template and blog?

I have so much to write about! We got a call a week and a half ago about a baby boy and we turned it down due to finances. That was horrible. That shouldn't have happened, but it did and I wish I could blog about it. And I can but I just didn't know... didn't know where I guess.

And we're having trouble getting Ambrose to fall asleep on his own, and Paxton is freaking out a little bit about Kindergarten, which I registered him for last week (a blog post in itself), and there's a yardsale coming up and we're getting rid of so, so much.

And we went on a date! A real date! To a play! My parents actually watched the kids WHILE THEY WERE AWAKE, both of them, and PUT THEM TO SLEEP without us and OMG it was wonderful and exhilarating and I want to do it every day!

And we're totally obsessed with The Office right now. And my mom got a new dog. And the weather, which was stinking awful, has taken a turn for the better and oh, it was so NICE to be able to walk in the park today and empty a whole $1 loaf of bread out by throwing it at seagulls!

And life is just... so nice right now.

The house isn't as clean as I'd like.

I'm in uber ditz mode.

Ambrose still cries a lot while going to bed for me.

And even though we could neither of us is getting enough sleep.

But the kids are LOVING each other and having so much fun and just really enjoying each other, and the whole family is super connected and totally in love. And Nik's loving his new job, and he's doing great at his interval training, mostly running a 5K just about every morning. And I'm getting stronger in my pilates and yoga classes, and I'm totally all about zumba. And life just... is nice right now. Which won't last forever, I'm sure there'll be drama soon, maybe involving the new baby (Bug as s/he is currently called), maybe not, but either way we're just enjoying the now and having so much fun with it and with our boys.

And it almost feels like I'm talking to a friend I haven't seen in a long time...

I've missed you oh grand internet diary! Screw anonymity! If people want to stalk me/my kids they'll just find me on Facebook anyway! Hooray, I am so back to this blog!

(At least until I pay for my own webpage and port the blog over....)