Saturday, April 12, 2014

Well, could you please be nice?

We have a morning routine. If not already awake, I get the kids up at 7am. Josias climbs in bed with me and Shiloh. We talk, sing, cuddle, and rip toys out of each others' hands for about fifteen minutes.

Since he no longer sleeps with us, I have implemented this "in bed" time to reconnect with Josias before the demands of the day begin (because along with those demands come some of the challenging behaviors that Josias and I struggle with). Also, I enjoy hugging and kissing my babies.

This strategy has been somewhat successful in preventing morning meltdowns, which tend to throw us off schedule. And keep on schedule we must, in order to get to school before breakfast is gone, as that would cause yet another meltdown. Our 7am wake up time gives us a full hour to get dressed, eat breakfast, and head out the door. It should be enough, but something inevitably waylays us.

Like today, for instance. We started out ahead of schedule. Eggs and toast had been prepared and consumed, cleared and cleaned. We had plenty of time to get dressed, so the kids were playing while I did some laundry. Great!

Then, outta nowhere, it was time to go. How does this happen? A problem with the time-space continuum? So, I began barking orders at Josias, telling him to get dressed. He continued to play. I "helped" him take off his jammies and asked him to put on his school clothes. He continued to play. Naked.

After about 10 minutes, I'd had it. I told him that if he didn't get dressed, Shiloh and I would wait for him in the car (not cool, and not true). He then discovered that he couldn't find his underwear. You mean the underwear I placed on the the couch 10 minutes ago and asked you to put on? Uh-huh, yes. Those underwear.

In a loud voice, I launched into a lecture about how if he had gotten dressed when I asked, this kind of thing wouldn't happen. The lecture went on for many moments longer than it should have. When I finally stopped, Josias looked up at me and with total sincerity asked, "Well, could you please be nice?"

This should have elicited not only an "aww" from me, but also a step back from what I was doing to take a deep breath and realize that nothing in this scene was an emergency and yes, I should be nice. Firm, but still kind. Always kind.

At that point, however, I had let my frustration get the best of me and my response was, "No! I cannot be nice. I asked you to get dressed many times and now you've lost your underwear!" It did not seem ridiculous when I said it.

I then left the room and recognized the idiocy of my statement and my attitude. It took me about 3 minutes until I was able to go back and say, "I'm sorry, Josias. You are right. Mama should be nice. I'm sorry for the way I spoke to you."

But then, I had to add, "I was frustrated," as if that was an excuse. Josias wasn't accepting excuses, however. He came back with, "Well you should still be nice. You could go like this - he proceeded to make exaggerated breathing noises, inhaling and exhaling several times - to calm down."

He had me there. Yes, I should always be nice. When I'm frustrated, I should calm down before I speak loudly, meanly or angrily. I should always be nice. When I am not nice, I should own up to my behavior and apologize, without qualifications. When I finally said this to Josias, he smiled, we found his underwear and he got dressed.

Later, as I debriefed this episode in my mind, three things struck me:
  • Not getting dressed was age-appropriate behavior and was not a big deal. I'd do well to remember that the next time it happens, which, in all likelihood, will be tomorrow.
  • I didn't like how I handled the situation and felt that I was modeling behaviors that I did not want to see in Josias. But, what I also modeled, is that everyone, including Mama, gets frustrated and angry. No one is perfect and no matter how much yoga we do, we all lose our cool sometimes. If and when that happens, try to make it right.
  • Most importantly I realized that through our day-to-day interactions, I have supported Josias' understanding of what is and what isn't helpful, supportive, and NICE behavior. And, when someone is treating him in a way that doesn't feel good, he can clearly communicate how it feels and what he wants. 
That's not bad for a three and a half year old. So, what I came away with is that sometimes, even if this morning didn't seem like one of those times, I must be doing something right.

Now, if only Josias could internalize the idea that HE should always be nice.