Last school holidays, I was at my wits end.
I honestly wasn't sure if I could take another moment of Z's behaviour, let alone another full time week (how did I ever survive without school?). I realised that I needed to get some help, pronto.
What Z's actual behaviour was, to be honest, doesn't really matter. I found it hard to explain to people what she was doing because, A) I didn't want other people to define her by these behaviours and B) if it challenges you as a parent, it challenges you as a parent, case closed.
(Plus, let's not forget that at this time, I was in first trimester hell. I was needing to sleep 2 hours each day, I couldn't eat so I had no energy even when I wasn't napping. We hadn't told anyone yet so I couldn't whinge too much or let people know that each time Z had a tantrum I thought, 'holy fuck, I'm going to have another one of these soon'.)
So, given it's almost school holidays again, I thought I'd take you on a little adventure of what I've changed, what I've read, and what my plan is for these holidays.
This term, Z has been enrolled in kids yoga one night a week. She loves it, and loves coming home to show her brother her new moves - but it's no 'quick fix'. My dream of her turning into a zenned out yogi is still a while off I think, but it's nice for her to have something that is all hers that she enjoys.
I booked both Z and I an appointment for this, knowing full well that I had to own my part in her behaviour, and also hoping that I could gain some new skills (or at least vent).
I honestly had NO IDEA what Kinesiology was about, but when I booked the appointment I was on the verge of getting in a car and never returning. So after a recommendation, I booked in.
Let me try to describe it for you...
It is kinda a mix of counselling, a psychic reading, and acupressure. It's a little bit left of field, but the lady we went to was so 'straight' and totally admitted that people find it a bit kooky, and broke down the process a lot.
For my appointment, we focused on how to connect with Z, which tuned into thoughts and emotions that I probably knew were there, but that I hadn't connected to the way I parented before (and therefore, the impact it was having). For instance, I totally want Z to be a strong and independent woman, but the Kinesiologist was like, "hold up, she's 5".
With Z's session, I really appreciated the 'kookier' side of the practice, because when Z answered a question, the Kinesiologist could tell when she was saying something just because she thought it was the right answer (from testing her muscles, so whack). I also loved the practical advice at the end, things like the fact that Z was low in potassium so she needed to eat more bananas/dates.
I totally get that I haven't explained this practice properly at all, but I really loved it and know that there are lots of things that we could use this for in the future, such as bed wetting, trauma, just general offloading.
Hangry / Tired -
Ok so Z clearly wasn't really hangry or tired in the holidays (she was BORED), but I've noticed since being back at school how much food impacts on her mood. I've always been the mum who is shit at packing snacks, but I'm trying to be much more mindful of the fact that she needs something straight after school. We're also cutting down on after school activities next term and I'm mindful of how long it takes Z to wind down to fall asleep each night, so I'm trying to start that process earlier.
I'd really love to check out some oils that could help her drift off to sleep better, but that's plan B - I didn't want to do everything all at once and then have no idea what was helping and what wasn't.
So many of you guys recommended great books for me to read, here are a couple I sunk my teeth into -
"No Bad Kids" by Janet Landsbury
The main concept of this book is that kids are born as a 'whole person', and that we should only talk to them in a way that we would talk to another adult. I often call the kids dickheads, but I get the feeling that this isn't what the author means...
Some examples of things you wouldn't do with other adults is put them in time out, or say things like 'use your words' (but FUCK, just use your words!).
One way I've been trying to look at it is that, if one of your mates was being a tool, you'd probably just ignore them or walk away (as long as there was no immediate danger), so it's been a good reminder to me that sometimes I need to just do that.
I didn't love this book, but it had a few things in it that were helpful.
"The 5 Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell -
This book I really got into, although I'd say that you need to be in the right headspace as I felt that there were a couple of comments about single parents and parents with low attachment (think PND), that made me cringe.
On the whole though, the message was simple, there are 5 ways that we can show our kids love, and for the first 5 years they need all of the 'languages' to help them thrive. After this, they begin to develop a preference for one of the languages, which is what you should focus on (but still include the other 4, as they are not set in stone and may change - especially during the teen years).
Once you 'figure out' your child's preferred language, the book gave simple suggestions of ways that you can show it. It did state that some people need to practice unconditional love, and that the habits of being a 'good parent' are definitely not natural to everyone. It also strongly suggested not using your child's preferred language when disciplining them, so as an example -
From reading the book, I think one of Z's strongest love languages is 'quality time' (which she definitely did not get last school holidays). But, our main 'go to' punishment for her has always been time out, which is a huge no-no for someone who values quality time so highly. Another example would be that, if your child's main love language was 'words of affirmation', yelling at them is the worst punishment they can have, whereas a child who prefers 'receiving gifts', would be distraught if you took their belongings away.
So despite the initial warning above, I really got into this book for the simple fact that it was a good reminder of the different (and simple) ways we can show love.
I was also recommended "Child Sense" by Priscilla Dunstan and "The Whole-Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegal, but I needed to break up my reading with some Rosie Waterland, so I'll get to these at some stage...
The plan these holidays -
Firstly, approaching these holidays, I actually have my energy back, which is going to make a huge difference.
We've planned out the holidays, with a little calendar of what we're going to be doing. I asked the kids what they wanted to do, then slotted that stuff in around the things we need to do. Even if it's something small like going to the park or having a pyjama day, there is something each day to look forward too (whilst still getting in down time).
I'm going to consciously work on 'quality time' with Z, by ensuring that when Fat Man has his sleeps, we do something together. And trying to avoid her being over tired by balancing out the full on activities (like a 3 day break away), with some down time.
So - wish me luck! And I hope this was helpful xx