Co-parenting with a “kid man”

Combining the thoughts expressed in Ms. Single Mama’s post on Larry Bilotta’s Male Maturity Scale, and the Love & Logic classes I’ve completed over the last 2 months, here are some parenting techniques I have found to work on both my 2-year-old….and her dad. Since I’m simultaneously interacting with a rule-testing, self-centered toddler, as well as a “kid man”, according to Larry Bilotta, these things have helped tremendously in finding peace in maddening situations.

  • Do not show emotion when your buttons are being pushed.
  • Use the statement “I will talk to you when you can speak to me in a respectful way.”
  • Make your statement only once. The child/father will come to expect as many warnings, requests and chances as you give them/him.
  • Give them as many choices as possible.
  • When there is only one option, tell them that you always give them as many choices as possible, but in this case, you need to make the final decision.
  • Expect tantrums, and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Cut off all communication.
  • If forced to witness a tantrum, regard situation with curious silence, as if watching monkeys at the zoo. It helps to rest your chin on your knuckles, philosophically.
  • Discuss child’s/father’s behavior with seasoned professionals (like the paternal grandmother/mother) to receive valuable insight.
  • Ignore degrading comments from on-lookers/father’s girlfriend and focus on the task at hand.
  • Bribery makes you look like a fool and will eventually work against you.
  • Make the punishment the bad guy, not you. Father Example: If he doesn’t show up for visitation/parenting class/pay child support, the court will issue consequences, not you.  Child Example: if she makes you late by not getting dressed in the morning, tell her she can pay back the time she spent later (with a timeout or helping you with chores).
  • Give yourself a timeout if you are on the verge of an outburst.
  • You cannot force the child/father to do what you want. You can make sure the rules are clear, provide them with information, let them make choices and help them understand the consequences of their actions.

Of course, love is involved in all of these techniques. I have no problem loving my child while disciplining her. As far as her dad goes, I hope one day I will be able to love him for the father he is to our daughter, not hating him for the same reason.  If this goal is not possible, I hope to remain indifferent.

Weird

There were only 6 people at the Love & Logic class this week. Rooferman also called me twice during the class, so I was distracted and unfocused after that. He’s offered to drive LB home twice now, last night and Sunday night. Its weird.

He blantantly refused to drive LB home on Thanksgiving after I asked. Even when he and Blondie are out to dinner, or when they are at her dad’s house (which is right by my apartment) he still wants me to pick her up. But recently, he’s offered twice, saying “Oh, I’m going to be in that area anyway.”

Both times he’s been late, of course. I asked him if he was working on a job out by my house, but he ignored me. Maybe he only wants to drive LB  home when its convenient for him. Maybe he’s crashing at his dad’s house. Maybe he’s on drugs. Maybe he’s homeless. Maybe Blondie doesn’t want me coming to her house anymore. Maybe she kicked him out. Maybe….

With all these thoughts running through my suspicious mind, I really didn’t absorb a whole lot during class. I talked about  holding the door shut while my daughter threw a fit and they all praised and laughed at me. Most of the Love & Logic folks who I tell about these issues ask “Well, has she done it again?”

The answer is no, but its only been a week. Plus, part of me wonders should that really be the point of parenting? Getting your child to do what you want as fast a possible? I know its more than that, but part of me wonders if I’m killing some of that love instead of fostering it.

The teacher told me I should give my daughter more credit. She knows I love her, and as cruel as it may seem, locking her in her room did prove a point. If you remember, my 2-year-old LIED to me, screaming “I have to go potty!” because I’ve been so damn obsessive about getting her to use the potty, she KNEW it would get me to open the door. She even took it to the next level by pretending she already HAD made a mess in her pants. Believe me, I was 3 seconds from opening that door. If I had done that, she would have won, and continued using this manipulative tactic against me, because hey, it works like a charm!

I know she’s only 2, and this sounds ridiculously dramatic, but its true. LB has me around her little finger. We know each other SO well that its scary. I was really second-guessing her ability to wield so much power against her mommy. My child is smart, resilient and capable of so much more than I give her credit for.

They also told me that our kids are twice as smart as we think they are. Well, that’s definitely been proven to me since starting this class.

I mentioned the whole “this theory really only works in ideal family situations” to my teachers. They both said “Well you know your child better than anyone (obviously NOT as well as I think!) and you can make exceptions based on needs versus wants.

I said, “Well, what if I can’t tell if its a need versus a want? What if she’s getting up every night because she’s lonely and she needsto be with her mom?Kids from 2-parent families don’t have to share their time the way kids from single parent families do, so maybe their needs are different. Am I making a gross generalization?”

They said “Only you can make that decision. Just remember kids are tougher than you think.”

Words from the Love & Logic Oracle. Next week is our last class, so I’ll have to make a final evaluation then.

Digging his own grave

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I invited Rooferman to the Christmas Party at LB’s daycare. He didn’t show. LB gave Santa the lazy eye the entire time, so I’m thinking she knew it was her teacher from the start. I tried to convince her that Santa was “Scott’s Grandpa” so she wouldn’t be so suspicious. Still haven’t bought a Christmas tree.

Rooferman also was 5 hours late to pick our daughter up on Sunday. He was an hour late dropping her off. Apparently his truck broke down on the way home. At this point, I’m just going to let him dig his own grave. Bitching and complaining and withholding visitation just makes me look bad. I added ‘Lack of reliable transportation” to my list of concerns to submit to the court when we go back next week. It still proves that once I start relaxing and letting him rearrange the schedule, and generally act nice to him, he’s like a kid in a candy store. I swear I should use some of the Toddler Love & Logic techniques on his dumb ass. 

LB had another tantrum at the pool this weekend. I told her when she was ready to stop screaming I would listen to her again. She stood there in the wading pool and howled like a banshee. Kids kept walking by her and staring at her like a leper. Lifeguards kept giving  the “should I rescue her?” look. Parents glared at me.  The pool is a pretty noisy place anyway, so you really couldn’t hear her except when she hit the high pitched screeches, but I felt terrible, just watching her stand there and cry.

Finally she calmed down and stopped screaming. I went over, hugged her and asked if she wanted to swim some more or go home. She just looked really sad, like she couldn’t beleive I would humilate her like I just did. She told me she wanted to go home. I felt like the biggest s***head in the world.

I really have a lot to say tomorrow in my parenting class. Love & Logic is making me feel like the worst mother alive, but the tantrums are slowly getting smaller. I just don’t want to be traumatizing my daughter who is already going through a confusing, scary transition period right now. I’m her safe place; her home. She knows she can always count on me. Am I ruining that delicate sense of  security?

Other than that one incident, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I had with LB this weekend (plus the added bonus of spending Sunday morning when her dad was doing God-Knows-What). I love the person my daughter is turning into, even though its very obvious she’s shedding more baby skin every day. She sings almost constantly, and I can have real mini-conversations with her now. She’s funny and brave and smart and creative. I love catching up on all the things I’ve missed while she’s at daycare.

Thanks for everyone’s comments on the Love & Logic. Its nice to know other moms opinions and get some perspective.

Cause & Effect

Rooferman bailed on LB yesterday. His “other daughters” were sick. He asked if he could see her today instead. I had agreed to work at a school last night, so as soon as he called, I flipped a U-ee  in the middle of the road, hauling ass back to daycare.

I was already late to the school, and I was frazzled and pissed, so I said, “Yeah, whatever.” I caved. I let him get away with ditching his daughter and making up for it like nothing happened. UGHHHH Why? Why? I need to learn how to think rationally while driving under stress.

At least LB will be happy. At least it makes me look flexible and understanding in court, and it makes him look unreliable and prioritizing other things over his daughter. It also still proves I’m a spineless Pisces, squirming under the thumb of her ex.

I used major Love & Logic tactics on LB last night. She was whiny, grouchy and pissy all evening, so I put her in her room for a little “alone” time. She screamed for a full hour. Love & Logic says do NOT open the door until they have stopped crying for at least 3 minutes. 

 Her bedroom door does not lock from the outside, so I stood for an hour holding the the handle to keep her from escaping. She practiced her tried and true (since birth) method of screaming for bout 15 minutes, taking a 30-second breather, and continuing the pattern until I was reaching lunacy. It was awful. Every time I was on the brink of opening the door a reasonable amount of silence, her crying would begin again.

LB is crafty, she knew what would get to me.  She alternated  between “I have to go potty!” and “Mommy help!” I almost broke down when she started screaming “Its yucky!” I pictured a poo-smeared LB on the other side of the door, fully traumatized from any further potty usage. I pictured my daugther running around Kindergarten in diapers.

Finally the moments of silence began to lengthen. I could hear her sobs turn into quiet hiccups. I threw the door open after 3 minutes, my hand beet red from clenching the door handle. My poor child was sitting bare-assed on the floor, wrapped in a blanket. I looked for the poo. Where was it? I couldn’t find anything. The training pants she had flung in a corner weren’t even wet.

Sneaky little Gemini gave an oscar-worthy performance for her soft Piscean mother. I took her to the potty, gave her lots of hugs and we read some books before bed. Magically, she didn’t get up after I closed the door.

The “Mommy don’t leave” and “I’m scared” statements have been pretty consistent at bedtime. A few nights ago, she woke up at 2 am screaming hysterically about “Spiders in my bed!” I know she’s got some separation anxiety and some fear issues, and I’m trying to deal with them the best way I can.

I like Love & Logic, but sometimes I wonder if it was created to work with the “ideal” family. Where the kids aren’t abandoned by one parent and thrown in and out of confusing custody situations at a young age. Sometimes I think about how ‘giving your child choices to avoid power struggles” only applies if you have choices to give them. What if you only have one clean shirt for them to wear in the morning? What if you only have one option for dinner that night?

The teacher told us that she uses “Would you like to shower upstairs or downstairs?” option to get her kids into the bath. I only have one shower.

Either way, I think the class is good for me. Its giving me faith in my daughter’s resiliency and her ability to face cause and effect. I think its harder on me, actually.

In other news, 35 people were laid off at my mom’s job. 10 people kept their positions and my mom was one of them. Some of her very close friends are going to be unemployed at Christmas, so she feels horrible, but I’m just glad she survived the lay-offs.

Its scary out there right now.

Love, Logic & Laughter

I had a great time last night at my parenting class.  I’m definitely the only single mom, but I’m kind of bonding with some of these strange, married creatures. We get free pizza too, which I’m sure the Over-eaters Anonymous group REALLY appreciates smelling down the hall.

 We were presented with a situation where a 3-year-old refuses to eat what his mom has made for him, even after being offered two different dinner choices before the meal was cooked. The 3-year-old now wants a peanut butter sandwich instead of Mac n Cheese.

The Love & Logic teacher aksed us, “Do you get up and make a peanut butter sandwich?”

“No!” All the parents said confidently.

“Correct!” the Love & Logic Maestro answered. “If he doesn’t want to eat it, then he can wait until breakfast for his next meal.”

One pregnant mom shook her head. “I’m totally guilty of this. I ALWAYS give in and make him something else. He ends up eating corn dogs every night because he won’t try anything new. I just can’t bear the thought of sending my little boy to bed hungry!”

“Soy corn dogs,” Added her hubby. “All he eats is soy. He’s like a pillar of soy.”

We looked at them sympathetically and our teacher joked, “Its ok if he doesn’t have soy for one night. He won’t starve, just keep him hydrated.”

 “We could just hook him up to an I-V,” the dad laughed.

“You mean a Soy-V?” I suggested.

Everyone cracked up. Score! I made people laugh! I got a major buzz off that one. Can you become addicted to making people laugh? I really don’t want to be that moron in the room who’s always telling desperate stories. I don’t want to become a joke junky.

 Meinwhile Rooferman was stuffing our daughter with ice cream and candy, so I was unable to successfully install any newly aquired Love & Logic bedtime techniques last night. She bounced off the walls until about 10 pm, when she finally crashed, crying and holding her tummy. I broke down and rocked her until she fell asleep.

I may have been the class clown tonight, but I definitely failed at my homework. 😛

P.S. Churches really are happening places on weeknights! The parking lot has been PACKED every time.