Posts tagged ‘Sprout’

June 17, 2010

Tantrums 101

I’m going to open this post by saying that I’m not putting myself out there as any kind of expert.  Every kid is different and there are a million different parenting philosophies, all most of which will work for some kid somewhere.  Truth be told, while it would be great if someone was helped by this post, most of the reason I want to write this is so that I can come back and remind myself what works on days I’m feeling overwhelmed, because surely they will come again.

Now for a little brag…in prep for our case management conference, I was reviewing Sprout’s behavior journal and I couldn’t help but feel really good about the progress he’s made.  In his first month with us, Sprout had at least two “regular” tantrums per day and two to three “severe” tantrums a week which was defined to include property destruction, urinating, and/or screaming until he lost his voice.  Well, he has been with us six months now and recently we’ve barely touched the behavior journal.  His last severe tantrum was in March and now he averages less than 1 tantrum per week.  Way to go Sprout! 

So here’s what appears to be working for us…

  • There are 2 distinct reasons for Sprout’s tantrums and recognizing which we are dealing with is the crucial first step.
    1. Overstimulated, sensory explosions: these tantrums come at the end of a busy day, following a visit with bio mom, or when we’ve spent 10 minutes too long shopping in a loud and crowded store.  He’s tired, he’s hungry, he’s had way too much sensory input and attempts to balance himself by expelling it in the form of yelling, screaming, crying, kicking, you get the idea… Of course the best way to handle this type of meltdown is to prevent it – any mom reading this already knows that.  But this is real life which means that it will inevitably happen at the least convenient time.  So what do I do? First step is to drop whatever I’m doing and get him to the calmest environment immediately available, then I wrap my arms around him in a big bear hug and rock him gently.  I coach him to listen to my heart (studies have shown that a child can actually match the tempo of their heart to their mother’s) and take deep breaths.  At first this type of thing was foreign to him and it would take a long time for the storm to pass, but with some practice on both our parts, we can now go from full-blown rage to centered in 5 minutes flat.
    2. An attempt to control his environment.  Mainly: manipulation, task avoidance, and seeking attention.  This is that naughty kind of tantrum that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks and our lips purse.  There is only one thing to do during these types of tantrums: ignore, ignore, ignore.  Make sure he is in a safe space, and walk away.  One of the most powerful messages we ever taught Sprout is that he will get nothing out of a tantrum.  And even more, we will not allow ourselves to be treated like that.  I know that this response will put a sour taste in the mouth of some.  It may feel like you are letting the child “get away” with the misbehavior, but I assure you that is not the case.  The middle of a tantrum is not the time to address the poor behavior – I promise that the child is not listening and you’ll just end up in a shouting match.  There is plenty of time to discipline later.
  • The Achilles’ heel of any tantrum is calm.  Calm works for the overstimulated tantrum because it specifically models what you want the child to achieve and doesn’t escalate the outburst.   And calm works for the naughty tantrum because they aren’t getting the one thing they want.  I’m certain that there is nothing more motivating to Sprout in this world than getting me mad.  He is a pro button pusher and as sad as it is, he’s grown to be most comfortable when he’s power-struggling with his caregivers.  It used to drive him crazy that he couldn’t make me mad but now he hardly ever tries, knowing it wont get him anywhere.  The truth is, he’s made me mad plenty, but by staying calm he was none the wiser.  During the worst, I just reminded myself that staying calm would not only benefit me through the one tantrum I was facing, but it would also lessen every one to come. 
  • Parenting takes first priority anywhere any time.  In the privacy of my own home or in the middle of a crowded store – I will parent that child no matter how many eyes are watching. 
  • The tantrums are his, not mine. I don’t own them. I’m not burdened by them – he is.  This relates to one of my primary parenting rules: I can’t control my child, nor do I want to.  The only person I can control is this world is me.  My job is to guide and to teach, but he is his own individual spirit in control of his body and mind.  There is no power struggle because I freely give him all the power he needs and deserves – but that also means he gets the responsibility of his actions. 
  • Don’t hold a grudge.  Tantrums happen. Its part of a child’s job description.  But if you are thinking about it and simmering over it for the rest of the day, they will too.   There is no more powerful teaching tool than modeling, so just let it go.

Parenting is hard and insanely complicated.  The overwhelming truth is that even though this post ridiculously long, dealing with tantrums is just a tiny piece of my parenting and discipline puzzle.  Also, I’ve screwed up on every single one of those bullet points up there.  But like I said, this is just one small piece and the sum is so much greater than its parts.  Keep calm and carry on!

Questions? Reactions? Disagreements? Real-life scenarios? I’d love to hear ’em!

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May 17, 2010

May is Foster Care Awareness Month

When I tell people I’m a foster parent, I’m usually greeted with one of two responses:

1) Awww, you’re doing such a wonderful thing. Those kids are lucky to have you.

or

2) Isn’t it hard to give them back? How do you not fall in love with them?

I appreciate and understand the responses, but they both tend to give me the deer-in-the-headlights look because, honestly, they are missing the mark all together. 

Foster Parenting is not right for everyone.  We all contribute to this world in different ways and that’s okay.  Would it be helpful and wonderful if everyone who was able donated blood? Sure! But you will never catch me standing in line at a R.ed C.ross blood drive – it’s just not something I can do.  Give me 5 drug addicted infants and a max of 2 hours of sleep at night? That I can handle.  A and I decided to become foster parents because there was a need that we knew we could fill.  As simple as that. 

And our kids? Let’s face it…they aren’t lucky at all.  They are foster children before they are even old enough to know what that means. They have zero permanency or control and they are at risk for severe attachment issues.  They’ve been abandoned by all the family they’ve ever known, including the woman that birthed them.  Sprout has been bounced from house to house, literally just dropped at doorsteps and has had to put away his fears and open his heart to complete strangers knowing his survival depended on it.  He has seen things and knows things that 3 year olds never should.  Rosebud has been saved from much of the heartbreak and struggle that Sprout has seen, but that may change when she has to say goodbye to the only mothers she has ever known.  These children are very, very unlucky. 

It’s A and I that are the lucky ones.  We are privileged beyond explanation to have the opportunity to parent them and love them.  Those children are amazing.  They are resilient and powerful.  They have a light that captured my heart and changed it forever.  A tiny three-year old taught me more about bravery, faith, and love than I had ever known.  I am so lucky to be their mommy.  They made my dreams come true.  Contrary to popular belief, foster parenting is not a selfless act – you get so much in return.

Will it be hard to give them back?  Have I fallen in love with them?  If you read this blog, you already know the answer to both.  But like I said before, those questions miss the mark entirely.  The thing is, I love those children so much that I can not imagine not being there for them when they need someone the most.  I pray that being foster children is the hardest thing they need to endure and  I love them so deeply that I will break my heart for the honor of being the soft place for them to land.

 I also have a beautiful video to share for Foster Care Awareness month, but really it deserves its own post, so it’ll be a little something to look forward to.

April 12, 2010

Back to the grind

 

We packed up the crew and headed out-of-town for a few days.  It was a lovely break full of sunshine, beaches, and seafood!  The most amazing part of it all is that I survived vacationing with my parents – something I haven’t done in more than 10 years.  That could be a post in and of  itself.  Granted, I was grateful to have them there for many reasons, but there is just something a little uncomfortable about parenting in front of them – probably because they are always trying to intervene.  ugh.  But, wait, this is supposed to be a happy post!  

The kids did amazing during the drive up.  Rosebud hates the car with a passion so I was dreading the drive, but she didn’t make a peep the entire way (the ride home was a different story. let me tell you, 2 hours of screaming baby changes a person).  Sprout also did very well with the drive and made sure to point out every tanker, car carrier, and tracker trailer on the road.  Then we spent our days swimming in the pool, building sandcastles, flying kites, and having picnics.   Sprout’s behavior was lovely with only a couple overtiredness-induced meltdowns.  Unfortunately Rosebud had some trouble sleeping in her foreign surroundings so mamas didn’t get much sleep, but when you are playing at the beach all day, its amazing how little sleep you can get by on. 

Getting back into the swing of things at home as been a little rough on the troops.  I think Sprout spent more time in his room than out of it on Saturday – and why is it that it takes an hour to pack but 2 weeks to unpack?  Oy.  Nevertheless vacation = sucess! We’ll be sure to do it again soon!

March 12, 2010

Its how I know he loves me

I knew I’d be kicking myself for this post

Mom was a no-show (again) for her visit with the kids early this week and it threw Sprout into a tailspin.  Sad. Angry. Acting out. Testing. Testing. Testing.   And he’s having accidents at school.  A classic reaction for a little boy whose control over this world is slipping rapidly through his fingers.

Of course we’ve dealt with the tantrums before. And the talking back, and the not listening.  But this week has been especially exhausting because now these behaviors are directed and they are personal.  Specifically orchestrated and aimed at me.   And what exceptional aim he has. 

Did I mention I’m exhausted?  He might only be 3 years old and 34 lbs, but he is smart.  So smart and brave and tough that I often forget how young he is – I think that’s a common case with foster children.  They’ve just lived a life so much bigger than their years.  But man, when that child goes to battle he really knows how to bring it, regardless of how misguided his target it. 

It’s okay, though.  When I find myself at the wrong end of his firing range, I just have to remind myself why I’m there.  It’s because I’m safe.  It’s because I can take it. And it’s because I show up, and will every time.  During a rage this morning he screamed at me in his angriest voice: “I LOVE YOU”.  Sprout is a very honest little guy.  He is mad that he loves me.  He doesn’t want to have foster moms.  He doesn’t want to continually fall in love with caregivers just to be ripped away (remember, he came to us via disruption).  He wants to love his mom and have her love him back. 

I get it buddy, I really do.  So tonight before I pick you and your sister from daycare I’ll say a little prayer for the strength to be the soft place for you to land – regardless of the bruises I pick up along the way. 

I’ll also thank God for good wine.  I’m flying solo tonight while the wife visits with some friends and goodness knows – if I survive – I’ll be needing a glass!

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March 5, 2010

Sprout-isms

Because sometimes you just have to laugh…

1) Sprout and I are looking at pictures on the computer.  We eventually come across some wedding pictures and his response? “Wow Mommy! You look like a Princess! A princess with boobies!”.  (umm, thanks?)

2) A and I are having a communication breakdown. Sprout and I are in the car and I’m shouting to A, who’s in the house, trying to tell her where our museum pass is.  I’m getting a little annoyed that she can’t follow my directions and find the darn pass already.  Also, why am I the only one who knows where anything is??  Then a little voice pipes up from the back, “It’s okay Mommy. Sometimes she just doesn’t understand.”  (from the mouths of babes…)

3) Sprout and I make a quick stop to a crowded C.VS.  We’re waiting in the check-out line and he pulls on the bottom of my jacket and mumbles something.  “What did you say buddy?” ::more mumbling:: “Sprout, I need you to speak up. I can’t hear you.”  He looks me dead in the eye, and in his loudest voice states:  “I saaaaiiid I have to POOP. I have to POOP NOW.”  (heard him that time – and so did the rest of the store)

4) Our bedtime routine includes one of us rubbing Sprout’s back and talking about what he’s going to dream about that night.  The other night we were doing just that and I was rattling off a few nice things to dream about and all of a sudden he says, “Thats enough mommy, I want to sleep now.”  (sorry pal, didn’t realize I was keeping you up)

5) Sprout and the moms are sitting at the table drawing pictures.  Mommy A draws a picture of a monkey with big ears and a tail.  Sprout giggles, points, and says “Look, a monkey! Just like Mommy E!”  (gee, thanks buddy)

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March 3, 2010

I’ll be kicking myself later

Sprout’s SW just asked me when his last tantrum was.  I had no idea.  I usually answer in the form of hours (a couple hours ago, 24 hours, 48 hours), but this time I couldn’t remember.  We were both speechless.  I pulled out the behavior journal to check and there it was…last tantrum recorded on Super.bowl Sunday (mmm hmm. yup, I remember it.  it was especially bad…and all I wanted to do was enjoy my wings).   

But wait, that was February 7th.  Nearly a month ago.

He’s definitely getting an extra hug tonight.  And when he whines about brushing his teeth or clearing his plate from the table, I’m just going to smile.  That child is amazing, and I need to make a point of peeking out of the trenches more often to recognize it.

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February 2, 2010

The Joke’s on Me

On Friday Sprout came down with the stomach bug.  We’re not usually big TV people, but since it was in his best interest to rest and stay mellow, we let him watch the movie Cars.  Then I proceeded to spend the weekend complaining to anyone who would listen about the improper language in the movie and why in the world can’t anyone make a nice, appropriate, children’s movie anymore??

Fast forward to yesterday evening.  I get home from work and Sprout is excited to show me all the treasures his bio mom gave him during their visit (she didn’t show last week so I guess there was lots of making up to do).  A monster truck.  A duck for the bathtub.  A dollar.  And, a movie.  He was especially psyched about the movie. 

You know why the joke’s on me?  Well, after I spent days complaining about a G rated kid’s film, his mom gives him a DVD thats rated PG-13, and full of violence and sexual innuendo (no, we didn’t watch it. I had seen it before).  Apparently he’s 3 going on 13?  As an added bonus, he also told A no less than 5 times that we’re not his mommies and that Rosebud belongs to his mom only. 

Ahhh, the joys of coparenting.

February 1, 2010

A Snapshot

Let’s face it, I do a fair amount of mentioning Sprout’s less desirable behaviors on here (ie: the meltdown of epic proportions we faced Thursday during bath time) but I want to make sure I give this boy a fair shake and highlight the many things he does so well.  Friday morning provided me with the perfect example…

At 5:15am A got up to shovel the driveway and since Sprout is (as his therapist has labeled him) hypervigilant, he sprung out of bed to see what the early morning fuss was about.  And now that he was up, there was no chance of getting him to go back to sleep.  So, A asked him to read some books quietly in his room until I got up. 

Pffft.  Sprout? Energetic, 3 year old, must-be-with-people Sprout? Read books alone in his room??  Well, wouldn’t you know it. 

I got myself and Rosebud up about 20 minutes later and peaked into Sprout’s room to see him sitting on his bed reading “I love you, Good Night” to Elmo who was placed gingerly in his lap.  I stood in the dark hallway watching him, holding his sleeping sister in my arms, and trying my hardest to soak in the wonder of these amazing children.  It didn’t matter that it wasn’t even 6am yet, or that my house was a mess, or that I had at least 20 emails overdue for a reply – all that mattered was that this beautiful little boy felt safe, secure, and loved enough to read a book by himself for a little while.  I know it seems like such a simple thing, but in our world – in his world – the ability to trust enough to be alone is huge.  I made sure to tell him how proud I was…after I blinked back the joyful tears.

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January 21, 2010

One Month

Dearest Sprout and Rosebud,

You’ve been living with your Mommy A and E for a month now.  Life as a new family of four has settled into a nice pattern of routine and stability.  We’ve enjoyed magic of Christmas with you, explored new places, and have shared much laughter.  You’ve met countless new people this month and we are amazed by the way that you’ve opened your arms and hearts to your new extended family. 

Sprout, the two characteristics that really strike me about you are your resilience and friendliness.  You are such a happy, welcoming child that easily wins the heart of everyone you meet.  Your favorite activities these days are trucks and play dough! You also love to play on the playground and we can’t wait until its warmer outside so we can do that more often.  When we ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you always answer “A daddy!” – with your caring, compassionate soul there is no doubt in my mind that you would be a wonderful one.  You are so smart and the success you are having in school learning your letters and numbers has us beaming with pride.  You will go far in life and I can only hope that in some way I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

Rosebud, when I think of you, I smile – and since I think of you often, you always have me smiling!  You are the cutest baby I have ever seen and I’m quite concerned that one day your nose will fall off from too many kisses.  You have a warm soul just like your brother and you flash us your wide smile every chance you get.  When I look into your eyes there is a distinct calmness and maturity – as if I’m getting a glimpse into many generations and a life so much bigger than I’ve ever known.  You are full of love and patience and grace. 

I love you both so much and I promise to stand by your side, for as long as I’m called to, no matter where this journey takes us. 

All my heart,

Mommy E

January 11, 2010

Hitting our stride

Last Monday morning, after barely managing to schlep myself to work, a coworker cheerily asked me how my weekend was.  I stared at her blankly for a moment wondering how the answer wasn’t already written all over my baggy-eyed face before answering with “Well, I survived”.  And thats the truth.  As much as week 1 was the honeymoon period, week 2 with Sprout and Rosebud was all about surviving. 

Now we’ve completed week 3 and I can say that we are really living.  My life as mom has begun.  Sure, there have still been tantrums, tears, and screaming; oh my! But it all feels right.  As if we, our for-now family of four, finally got our puzzle pieces clicked together.  Relief. Such sweet relief.

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