Archive for October, 2009

4 a.m. Compassion

All right. I’ll admit it. I was a bed-wetter. I figure I’d better get that out of the way right now.

Most children are potty-trained in their second year or by their third. My parents say I fell somewhere in that range and was certainly potty-trained by three. But the bed-wetting lasted for years. At four I held the record for wetting three beds all in one night – both of the twin beds in my room and then my parent’s bed!

I am sure they tried to be patient and understanding, but 4 a.m. compassion is hard to come by when you are struggling to rub the sleep crusts from your eyes and stay upright long enough to strip a bed, sponge off or even bathe a child and then (hopefully) get them and you back to sleep.

It was a shameful experience, etched into my memory dozens of times in those early years.

This morning at 4:30 a.m. I snapped awake. I am an early riser, but typically I get up at around 6 am. I also have a rule with myself, I’m not allowed to get up earlier than 5 am. Not having a full 7-8 hours means I will not be at my best. I forced myself to lay there and tried to go back to sleep.

I could hear my little Emily down the hall, talking and crying in her sleep. It was probably her who woke me up in the first place. This in itself was not unusual, she has had vivid dreams for the past year or more and often calls out in her sleep. From the sound of it, she’s usually fully in the throes of a conflict dream. Typically they pass and her sleep quiets again, but this morning no such luck.

Sleepy as I was, I knew something was wrong. I got out of bed, walked down the hall and pushed her door open. Her blankets were pushed aside and she was huddled on the bed, crying.

“Mama, I’m all wet.”

“Oh sweetie, did you wet the bed?”

“Yeah, I wet the bed,” and with that she really began to wail.

I petted her back. “It’s okay sweetie, these things happen.”

She stopped wailing, although she was still upset, and asked me to carry her into the bathroom. I did and I ran a warm bath while I peeled off the wet pajamas from her shivering little body. As soon as she felt the bath water against her skin she relaxed and lay back floating in the water with her long hair spread out around her like a cloud. A warm, wet washcloth warmed her stomach.

I stripped the bed and started the washer and then re-made the bed with soft and warm blankets. I thought about my parents and how tired they must have been at 4 am and those other wee hours of the night. I am the odd duck in the family, everyone else seems to be night owls. But at 4 a.m. nobody is at their best.

I returned to the bathroom and smiled down at Emily, still floating calmly in the warm, soothing water. She looked so peaceful and thoughtful at that moment. I drained the tub and wrapped her in a large towel and dried her off.

“I want pajamas.”

“Okay sweetie. Look, here’s Sponge Bob.”

She smiled because Sponge Bob is her favorite character right now and I helped her into them and tucked her into bed. “Sweetheart, please don’t feel bad about wetting your bed. These things happen, they are part of growing up.” She nodded sadly.

“I used to wet the bed, did you know that?” Her eyes got big. “One time I wet three different beds in one night!” She looked a little shocked at the last revelation.

I pressed play on her cd player, kissed and hugged her, and told her how much I loved her. As I closed the door to her room and entered my office, tired but too awake not to sleep I thought about my reaction. I would like to think that I helped her feel better. She didn’t want to wet the bed and she certainly needed a little compassion at 4 a.m. when she was wet and cold and miserable.

Who wouldn’t feel the same way?

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If You Aren’t Laughing, You Should Be

When Dee was young I had a great deal of laughs…often times at what would seem to be her expense. She would say or do something that would set me off and I would chortle away.

I didn’t laugh in a mean way, but she was sensitive, oh so very sensitive!

She would frown, “Stop laughing at me.”

I would stop laughing long enough to say, “I’m not laughing AT you, I’m laughing WITH you.”

“But I’m not laughing.”

“You should be.”

“You should be” was the short answer. My long answer would have been to explain to my daughter that, even in the face of ‘serious’ issues, her life would soon hold so much more than she could possibly dream of or imagine right now. That this drama that held her in its grasp so seriously, so deeply, would fade quicker than a daylily’s bloom.

I wanted to see her view expand and encompass all that she would be, could be, and should be in life. That the words of some small-minded bully or cattiness of the popular girls would fade and become irrelevant all too soon. That she would thrive and come into her own – and create her own description of what beauty and intelligence and success was.

I dreamed of her laughing at the small things, the silly things, and putting it all in perspective. Recognizing that we are more than just that one friendship or a difficult teacher or even that less than perfect report card.

I prayed for her to find the grace to laugh at her imperfections and realize how very special she was in all things – most especially in my heart.

But all I said was, “If you aren’t laughing, you should be.”

I will confess that I didn’t think about it too deeply. I didn’t ever try to explain to her what I meant. And, until she reads this, I’m doubt she has ever truly understood all of the love and hope and belief in her that lay behind those simple words.

My daughter is now 21. An independent, beautiful, talented and intelligent young woman. And two years ago, as I struggled through a particularly frustrating financial experience, I would hear those words come back to me.

As I related my tale of woe, Dee began to laugh. No matter what I said, she seemed to find it funny! I grew angry, resentful and I felt misunderstood. I told her she just didn’t understand what I was going through and that she wasn’t taking me seriously. I ended the phone call, went grumpily to bed, and awoke the next morning still in a bad mood.

And there on my computer was an email from Dee. As I read her words my dark mood vanished…

I was just thinking about things, and I realized I have to let you in on an aspect of the “new me.”

Remember when I was a little kid and you used to laugh at something I said or did, and I’d get all mad and say, “Stop laughing at me.”

You’d say, “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.”

“I’m not laughing!”

“You should be.”

I’ve realized that by laughing¬† a lot, I get into the habit of doing it in situations that are not normally called for to laugh. I laugh when I’m angry, stressed, pleased, thinking of something quite serious, or for no reason at all.

I’m not laughing at you, mom, I’m laughing with you. And if you’re not laughing, you should be.

I realized then that she had been listening and that she had understood what I was trying to convey. It was at that moment that I felt one of the biggest successes I have ever felt as a parent.

My daughter knew I would get past this dark, angry tunnel. And she was there, standing in the sunlight, laughing, and waiting for me to join her.

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Book Review: Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood

As a coach and parenting class instructor, I am constantly reading about parenting tricks and techniques. I decided it was time to read at least a few in the Love and Logic series, and “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood” came in first from the library.

So, after reading it for the past few days, I have finished the book and I’m ready to give a short review. One of the biggest points I found appealing was Chapter 7’s “Give Them the Gift of Thinking.”

I discuss this very same idea in Session 4 of the PEP series. I refer to it as problem ownership. It is a crucial concept to building self-worth and capability in our young.  And it is one that I see over and over again NOT being promoted by parents.

It’s not particularly surprising. After all, we get them when they are squishy little blobs, incapable of the most simple of functions, is it any wonder we are taken by surprise the first time we realize they can think for themselves? I remember watching my tiny infant wiggle and scrunch her body around for what seemed like hours in an attempt to secure the toy that had caught her interest.

Although I felt that the chapter petered out with what I considered a weird concept of “brain drain” – which seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to have kids do chores – I was impressed with the rest of it.

The five steps for helping kids own and solve their problems was an excellent set of tips and I have reproduced them here for you…

  • Lock in the empathy
  • Ask your child, “What are you going to do?”
  • When your child says, “I don’t know,” ask, “Would you like to hear some ideas?”
  • Offer no more than three possible solutions. After each one ask, “How would that work for you?”
  • Allow your child to choose – and learn from the choice and your empathy.

Okay, now for what I didn’t like…

It might just be a personal thing but the “Uh-Oh song” creeped me out. I’m not about to start singing “uh-oh” to my daughter when she’s losing her cool. I’m just not.

Overall, the tone of the book felt very sweet. Too sweet. I’m a very down-to-earth person, so syrupy sweet just does not work for me. The stories also seemed forced or too perfect of a setup to be believable.

I think that using stories as a way to relate an example or a point you wish to make is excellent. I did it to a limited extent when I was writing my first book, “Get Organized, Stay Organized” and Rudolf Dreikurs used the technique in his amazing book “Children: The Challenge” and it worked for me in that regard.

These stories however, again, creeped me out. Are there really parents who can talk and act like that?!

It takes all types to make the world go round. I will be reading the main Love and Logic book soon and reporting back on it. Meanwhile, I’ve started on “ScreamFree Parenting” by Hal Edward Runkel. I’m just a few pages in and I am really enjoying it.

Stay tuned for my next book review!

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Welcome to PEP!

I suppose I could say it with a little cheese…here at PEP Parenting we parent with pep!

[wince]

Okay, maybe not. For the lighter side of things, visit my other blog “Tales from the Edge of Reason.”

What you will find here are reviews of books (parenting and also children’s books), specific child-related problems that have come up in one of the classes, thoughts on specific behaviors, and tips for making parenting a happy and fulfilling experience.

Feel free to ask questions (relevant to the subjects at hand, of course).

I’ll be posting soon on a Love and Logic book I am currently reviewing. Stay tuned!

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