Thursday, September 28, 2006

Turning the Corner

I'm going to post two entries today. Here is the first:

I realize that lately this blog has been as much (if not more) about Casey than Marcie. What can you do? I write it as I see it. . . He does seem to have turned a corner, though. He isn't perfect, mind you, but the day after I wrote "Scream-Free Morning," Casey seemed to have a bit of a melt-down. We were on our way out the door to speech therapy, where (until today) we haven't managed to arrive on time. When Casey got in the car, he found some cars Jason and I brought him home from China and he had to have them. I buckled him in, but he dropped one of the cars on the floor. I picked it up and gave it to him, but he insisted there was still one on the floor. I told him there was nothing on the floor-- he insisted there was. Then he reached over and started smacking the side arm of Marcie's car seat repeatedly while screaming, "I want car! Car on floor!"

Now, there are two kinds of yelling parents. I actually did not grow up in a yelling family. I honestly cannot remember a single time my parents actually raised their voices. I mean, they must have, right? But I don't remember it. Anyway, I figure there are two types of yellers-- those who yell at you because they are angry, and those who yell for you to get your attention because you are not listening. I admit that every once in a while I get frustrated and find myself in that first category, but it's pretty rare. But with Casey, I've begun falling into the second category. Sometimes he is just so focused on what he wants, I think he really cannot hear me.

So I raised my voice, "Casey, stop hitting Marcie. CASEY, stop hitting Marcie. CASEY, I need you to listen. CASEY, STOP hitting Marcie. CASEY, STOP HITTING." Casey looked right at me and said, "No yelling Casey, Mommy." I stopped yelling and said, "Mommy is not yelling now. I need you to stop hitting Marcie so we can go see Miss Karen (the speech therapist)." I don't think he even heard me. He started screaming, "NO YELLING CASEY, MOMMY!" And then he began hitting Marcie again.

At that point, I was so mad. Now this all occurred in mere moments, but it was clearly escalating. I unbuckled him and carried Casey, literally kicking and screaming, bucking his body back and forth against me, back into the house where I plopped him on the floor of his bedroom. I said, very calmly, "That is not acceptable behavior. You do not hit Marcie. You do not yell at Mommy. When you are ready to behave, we'll go back out to the car and look for your toy car together. But we are not going until you are calm." I repeated this at least three times-- after each time he yelled. Then, miraculously, he became calm. "Ready," he said. And we went to the car. There was no toy on the floor. He told Marcie he was sorry, and off we went.

I turned on my auto-pilot and headed off onto the freeway to work of all places. I had to back-track, and I tried calling to say we were late, but they said they couldn't forward me to the number and blah blah blah. Anyway, we were 30 minutes late. And I didn't feel badly about it. You know, if he misses therapy because he is not behaving, so be it. We can't live our lives at Casey's crazy anger binges and whims. (I say that like it's always a problem, but it's not-- so that was probably a bit overstated.) A part of me realizes that I've been so permissive because it is easier than being firm, especially when your time with your child is limited. But we will get along better if we play be the same rules-- and hitting is a definite "Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200" offense.

Anyway, since our little incident, and my decision not to put up with it, things seem to better. I was thinking that Casey has really turned a corner, and there is some truth to that-- but I think I have turned a corner, too. When I interviewed at a very prestigious law firm last fall, one of the partners was telling me about his 5-year-old (he had older children, too). I asked him what he was doing differently this time, and he said, "I've decided I will not compromise." I thought that was weird, but now I get it. That doesn't mean being inflexible. But it means being strong. Being structured. Being disciplined. And I think Casey will love me for it in the end. At least I hope so.


Danielle said...

Funny. I learned the SAME exact lesson this week after Emma had a morning of....10, yes 10, time outs! And I'm impressed that you can contain your yelling so well. I'm not quite as accomplished as you in that regard, but trying. Kids really can push your buttons in ways you never really thought possible....and they don't even know they're doing it half the time. Anyway, thanks for sharing. It's nice to know that ALL kids have those kinds of meltdowns about things like cars or, in our case, wands on the floor of the car. (that was an audible sigh by the way).
Keep up the good work!!!

Danielle said...

Oh, one more funny thing to said Casey was saying, "NO YELLING CASEY, MOMMY!" after you yelled at him. Well, I wasn't even yelling at Emma the other day when I stubbed my toe (which I now know was broken badly) and yelled quite loudly, and now, anytime Emma hurts herself, she yells, "SON...BEECH!"
Man...they're like little sponges! Needless to say, when I hurt myself so badly that I can't contain the explative that comes out of my mouth....I've learned to yell it to myself in a whispered rage!