Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learning Experiences?

(I love it when you're wondering what, ever, you will post about because you committed yourself to write something every day and just moments later a blog post falls right into your lap. But I just wish they were always funny or at least crazy or neat. Or involved really delicious food. Today's is none of the above.)

My title today is in response to a post I read over at Melancholy Smile yesterday. Her title was the same as mine only without the question mark. Her post is about a wonderful experience she had with teaching her daughter about money (part of which takes place in a car), it's value and purpose and about working to earn it (although I totally agree with her idea that basic allowance should not be related to chores done, as those are part of family life). It's a great post, great blog, great lady, and you should all check her out.

But, as I mentioned, and I'm sure you saw, mine has a question mark. MY post will also be about my daughter and money and being in the car. See? Practically twins. Except for the contrast in our parenting technique. . .

This morning as we were leaving the house to go to school, Evie was crying. Lately she cries about half the time because she hates going to school. She also gets stomach aches. When I was her age, I also used to get stomach aches, related to my fear of school. No fun. (except for the time when they thought it might be because I was allergic to milk and I got to have grape juice with my school lunch instead of milk for a while. That was fun.)

Well, this morning as she was putting all her bags into the car her little purse that she had just put her money in tipped to the side and out rolled all the change. She cried even louder. (The rest of this post happened over the course of the 7-8 minute drive to school)

I tried to console her. I asked what the problem was and then patiently asked her to please say it again (3 times) because I couldn't understand her through the sobs. I assured her that everything would be okay. I told her I'd be happy to help her get it when we got to the school.

"We can NEVER get it!! It's down in the seat belt thing! No one could ever get it out!" (I admit I got a tiny bit sarcastic here and told her to please stop worrying and saying such things until we had given EVERYONE an opportunity to try and NOBODY was able to retrieve the money.) "There's no way we can get EVERYONE to try, mom!!" Cry, cry, cry. (obvious out of character literalness/grouchiness. She understands my sarcasm)

Okay, at this point there was a bit of , "Evie, you have to stop crying about this." in a firm voice. Then I had a thought, "Okay, Evie, how much money dropped? It was probably less than 2 zloty (maybe 75 cents), right?" Yes, it was definitely less. "So really, Evie, that's not that much money! If we can't get it out I can even give you the money. It will be okay!!"

"But that's the whole thing, mom!!! (?) I thought I had hardly any money left and I was SO glad when I found that zloty, and now I've lost it!!!"

"But I can give you one zloty! There is no more problem!"

"But I'm so stupid!! I was so excited about it and then I dropped it!"

"Okay, Ev. We're almost at school and you need to try to calm down. Don't think about the money. Everything will be fine."

Whimper, whimper, cry.

In hopes of distracting her, "Are you ready for your performance in the assembly today?"

"It's NOT a performance!!! We're singing a song." whimper whimper.

"STOP IT, EWELINA!! NO--MORE--CRYING!!!"

Finally we pull into the school parking lot. While the kids unload themselves from the car, I tell them to try and have a good day.

The end.

So this reminds me of my post about how my kids freak out in which I discuss both their freak-out-ishness and how we deal with it. See, it's not only bee stings and doctors visits they freak out about.

I wish I could just feel empathy indefinitely. I wish I could lovingly assure them that their feelings are valid somehow. Still, always after trying and trying, and listening to so much wailing and sobbing, I lose it. Especially when I'm somewhere that I can't escape it. Like in a car.

22 comments:

Kristina P. said...

In these kinds of situations, I don't think that you need to feel empathy for the duration.

I think that you absolutely did the right thing. It wasn't the end of the world, and I think you can empathize, and then get real.

At my job with teenagers, I experience the same thing. I will empathize, but if you continue to act inappropriately or freak out and tantrum, I'm done. You don't get a free pass.

Obviously, little kids are a bit different, but I think it's important to help teach them that it's OK to be sad, and then they need to gather themselves up and go on with the day.

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

Thank You so much for your warmth and sweet comments on my blog! Your blog is awesome and I added you to my google reader :)

Melissa said...

Oh my gosh, I'm so glad I'm not the only one! My four-year-old cries about EVERYTHING and it drives me insane. Literally insane. I've tried so many things to get her to stop with limited success. I wonder if she will ever, ever stop crying.

LisAway said...

Thanks, Kristina! That's helpful.

I guess I don't want to be forever petting them, but I feel guilty because after I get to the point where I've told them they need to "gather themselves up and go on with the day" (love that), when they don't respond and continue to throw their fit, I lose my temper and scream at them to keep it together!!! Sorta hypocritical, but I don't know how to keep it from happening, except to go to another room, as I mention.

ncheshire said...

We too have a family of bad-reactors-to-mind-numbingly-minor-events.

In my moments of clarity, I remember D&C 121:41, which reminds me that it's OK to persuade them. Since such clarity is rare, it's mostly just sound and fury, signifying nothing at our house.

McEwens said...

Lisa, you didnt LOSE it. You remained calm. You addressed her fears, you helped her see not only a solution but that it wasnt the end of the world. Then you talked about other things. You are a great mom!

Susan said...

Ooooh! This is SO my worst part as a Mom. The feeling that I've just poured out everything I have (sometimes it's more than other times, granted) only to have the thankless child continue whatever the behavior was that I was trying to stop (for me it may be whining for bedtime attention, getting food and drink for children who will never be happy with this spoon or that drink or the sandwich cut like that, etc., but the tantrum/cries are the worst.) The bad thing about the crying is that you feel so much more empathy about it that any of the other situations I've listed. And of course, our own getting emotional by the end is really what makes us feel bad, but that has to GO WITH the being a mom, since you have more of the empathy feelings in the first place, you'll naturally have more of the reverse. Men may be more objective through out, but they usually haven't' spent any time on the empathy route first so, at least for my DH, it's just another discipline thing, a problem to work out, not an emotionally charged moment with conflicting emotions to sort out while you're burning dinner/driving the car/trying to find shoes while late/etc.

Wow, I guess I identified here. I'll be checking back for tips from your readers! BTW I love your readers to Lis, they're a funny, thoughtful bunch. Even though you're only 4 yrs younger than me I've never really gotten the chance to know any of your friends very well at all, except from your own stories.

Melanie J said...

My favorite thing I do when my oldest loses it is yell, "Stop crying" when I've exhausted my other options. Because, yeah, that'll do the trick. And I still get sucked into it sometimes.

Becky said...

I agree with Kristina, though I'm not always consistent. I want my kids to know that it's okay to be sad, to be scared, to be angry. I grew up in a home where all of these emotions were not only off limits, but they weren't talked about much. I don't want that.

And yet, I don't think it's a free-for-all situation. Be sad, but then get perspective. Be angry, but don't have bad behavior. Be scared, but live life.

I suppose if I could do these things myself, it would be easier for my kids to understand... :)

Kimberly said...

Emma has this in common with Ewelina, and I have the "losing it" in common with you. Huge sympathies.

It's like there's an empathy quota for each day and sometimes we run out in the first ten minutes...Sigh.

Sheri said...

Maybe you need to move back to the states, and take them to an American school :) LOL (had to put that in just for you :)

Erin said...

Today Ethan yelled out. I yelled back, "DON'T YELL!!!" Oh, the irony.

I'm not usually that bad. But I am constantly working on my patience. And empathy. Thank you for this post.

*MARY* said...

Oh goodness, maybe it's just girls. My daughter screams if I don't look into her eyes while she's talking to me.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Sorry if I am repeating (or if I am wrong) but your story shows the difference between boys and girls, at least the ones I know. Boys can be drama kings as well as girls can be drama queens (I have one of each) but boys tend to just accept what mom says a little better. It doesn't get easier until they get older (mine isn't there yet but I sure shut up with my mom after I started having my own kids).

kitchenditcher said...

Boy did this bring back a flood of memories. My oldest cried at the drop of a hat! I think you handled it absolutely perfect!!

Melissa Bastow said...

I'm actually quite impressed - if I had told a story about this there would be SO MUCH SCREAMING to report (from all parties involved.) I try really hard to remain calm - it is so so so so hard. Also, there is a reason I have nicnamed my son "screamer" and sometimes calm just doesn't happen. I think you did FABULOUSLY.

Alison Wonderland said...

I HATE the continued blubbering over something that you can do nothing about. I have absolutely no patience for it. I think that you handled it perfectly though. Being kind and compassionate is good but learning to get over it is necessary too.

Kazzy said...

Some of my boys have been the more emotional type, but the crying doesn't usually linger too long. It is hard to stay patient, but then you realize that one day you might be begging them to be honest with their feelings and to share them with you. Then you almost long for those days when they cried and just needed a hug.

Heather said...

As I told you before, my oldest also freaks out a lot. After reading your post earlier today, it has been on my mind all day. I go through exactly the same scenarios a lot and can totally relate. It is my biggest trial in the whole motherhooding thing. I actually ended up talking to a psychologist about my daughter. He helped me realize that what MY problem was, was that I felt guilty for being firm and being the disciplinarian. I had heard it a million times, but when he spelled it out that children need consistency in discipline, and that if I am not firm and consistent and follow through, I am actually not doing what is in her best interest. These type of situations like the money in the car on the surface don't seem like disciplinary problems, but eventually you want your kids to be able to control their emotions, and deal with everyday problems so for my daughter (she is 7 maybe older than yours?) I have actually made it unacceptable to scream and throw fits when she has a problem, so she knows that is the rule, that she has to try to calm down and use a polite voice to explain what kind of help she needs. It isn't easy, but having a path to follow has helped me not feel guilty, now it just feels like an unpleasant job that I have to do like cleaning toilets. I am her mom so I have to teach her to calm down and I don't feel like I have to fix everything for her, I do try to help her see what her options are. Like the other day we were halfway to school (walking) when she realized that she forgot her lunch. Then the hysterics started. I remained calm (it was an effort, but I pulled it off like it didn't bother me) and calmly explained that she had 2 options, either we could keep walking to school and I would drop her lunch off at the office later or we could walk back home and get the lunch and drive to school. She was shocked that the choices were so simple (because she actually thought it was the end of the world and she was going to starve to death), and she wasn't happy about either one (and I didn't trt to talk her into one or the other), but she did stop screaming. I try to keep everything simple and not challenge her mental faculties in these moments, like a while ago I would have said, "Well, what do you want to do about it?" Thinking that she would become more responsible by figuring out the solution on her own, but she is in no state to do that. Sometimes there aren't two options like when our car broke down and we had to wait for a police man to rescue us, she totally freaked out and I told her clamly that everything will work out and that we will get home safely and the car will get fixed so just calm down and we will wait. It wasn't easy for her, but I let her know that going into hysterics was not an option. I try to not get upset or emotionally involved because then I really feel guilty later. When she used to have to go through chemotherapy I tried to do everything I could to make her more comfortable, but I took it too far when she started to see me as the person who could and should fix all her problems, and was mad at me when I couldn't. So, it was really liberating to me when the psychologist said that I don't have to solve all her problems and that I should let her know that I can't. And that I should feel good about not being pulled into her emotional episodes, she needs me to be a rock even if thats not what she thinks at the moment. He said that too many parents think that their kids will think that they don't love them if they are firm, but in the long run they will feel more confident because they will feel more secure knowing that their parents will be consistent. This comment was probably way too long, I should have just made it my own post. But anyway, good luck!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I think you handled the situation really well. I try to be sympathetic with my kids, but then we get to the point (especially with my daughter) that she just has to stop, and I tell her to put her big girl panties on and snap out of it. Sometimes that's the only way to end the whining :-)and they do really get over it.

The Sibert Family said...

I really can't say what I would do in that situation. You have the patience of a saint. I would have just pulled over and smack my daughters bum if she was like that. But then again, my wife would have done the same thing you did. That is why mom's are cared for higher than dads. More patience=more love.

MelancholySmile said...

Wow, we ARE twins! Parenting in the car is so hard. All of my normal tactics are difficult to implement when we are stuck within hitting/screaming distance of each other. A few years ago, my husband and I saw a cartoon depicting an anxious patient confessing all his inappropriate behaviors to a shrink. At the end of it all, the shrink proclaims, "Well, don't do that!" Sometimes my parenting devolves to that. "Just stop it! Don't do that!" as if it's that simple. I guess for me, parenting is more about teaching ME to control my emotions, not my kids. I'm comforted by the fact that someday, they'll be the parents and will be faced with the same thing. Ah, sweet justice. :)