How I Got My Weekends Back
For most of my life, Friday has been my favorite day -- oh, that delicious feeling of the weekend stretched before you!
When I had just Harrison and he was real tiny, weekends were crucial for my well-being because they meant guilt-free reinforcements, in the form of my husband. I could park the baby in his arms and feel ok about going for a run. I could ask him to change the baby's diaper or let me go take a nap.
Adding one, and then another, child shifted this tag team set-up. Weekends seldom involved real breaks as we just tried to keep everyone alive. Once the older ones started going to school, having all three at home for 48+ hours of full-on contact made me long for Monday.
I didn't look forward to the weekends anymore:
Punctuating the myriad weekend activities -- birthday parties, outings, projects involving Home Depot -- were many, many instances where I felt triggered and didn't have skills to effectively handle problems.
Instead, I did a lot of Roadblocking:
- "Don't let your brother bite you, you can protect yourself! Why you would let him do that? Are you trying to get him into trouble?"
- "If you don't like what's on the table, I don't know what to tell you!"
- "Stop. Go back to your room and go to sleep. Mommy's off duty!"
- "No more video games!"
P.E.T. is the reason I now relish these precious 104 days of the year. Knowing what to do and how to do it has given me back a huge chunk of my life.
I thought about this fact last weekend when, in less than 24 hours, I went on quite a roll and executed a whole bunch of P.E.T. skills!
Daughter uber-annoyed about team practice
Claudia (11) came out of a painful two hour basketball practice ticked off! Before we even got into the car, she was complaining very strongly about several aspects of the drills and the instruction. Even though these sessions are not yet mandatory, it is her school team and training with these girls will unarguably help later.
As I drove away, I offered her silence, "Yeahs" and eye contact in the rear view mirror. I also Active Listened her, "You are so irritated that you are not getting anything from spending such a huge chunk of your Saturday at that practice!"
After several rounds, she just sighed, "I'll go, I know I need to, it's just super annoying."
Little brother missing big brother
Jake (14) had been home sick all Saturday with a cold. Harrison (16) had spent the day with his girlfriend and was still not home at 9pm.
When Jake started complaining, I kept silent except for an occasional "Uh hmm" which allowed him to vent more about how little he got to see of his brother. I ALed with, "It's so hard when you're stuck at home and feeling lonely. You really wish Harrison were back!"
Jake ended up going to sleep before his brother returned. On Sunday morning, I woke up to find them bonding over the League of Legends championship tournament that's happening right now.
When Harrison left the table a little while later, I used a Door-Opener because I believed Jake was still upset: "Hey, how are you? Wanna talk?"
"No" came the low answer.
I continued, "I just want to check in because I know you've been feeling pretty unhappy. I'm worried that Harrison has no idea what's going on with you and what you're needing. It's good to be open."
Jake was agitated and told me he was really upset with me not being there for him either. I was puzzled by this because I thought I had been regularly reaching out to him. Instead of arguing, though, I chose to show empathy, "You're upset because every time you've needed me these past couple of weeks I haven't been there for you. It's frustrating that I have my blog and my course that take up time that could be spent with you!"
During our heated discussion, Jake let fly a couple of expletives, even at me. I paused, noticed the tension in my body, and kept quiet while he watched me. When calm, I gently confronted him, "I'm just being silent right now and getting in touch with my emotions. I feel sad when you use that word."
"Don't you think I know that?" he asked, pained.
I nodded as I made eye contact: Oh, Honey, I absolutely do know that you know and didn't want to say that!
We kept talking and spiraling down until Jake finally said with a great heave of emotional release: "I have so little connection with Harrison, I need to connect with someone!"
I got Jake a washcloth and dipped it into a bowl of ice-water. "Often, it's good to cry," I encouraged him. He let a few more tears drop.
About half an hour later, Jake came up to me for a hug. "I'm sorry for speaking that way."
My Positive I-Message was a hard squeeze back and "I know. I love you. I love you more than life itself!"
Son Doesn't Want to Go to Church
We'd already missed three weeks in a row, but last Sunday morning, Harrison was still not willing to go to church.
I Active Listened, which makes for good Consulting according to wise Dr. Thomas Gordon:
More than the one hour being a lackluster affair (he's been through less interesting homilies), Harrison resents the idea that church is something one must do. "Can't I believe in God without the Church? Who says that going to Mass is necessary? I have my own beliefs. I don't like them telling me what to believe in. That's like brainwashing."
We have had similar conversations before.
After reflecting back that I got his need for autonomy and his strong feelings of rebellion (all my kids know that I did not step foot into a church throughout my college years), I reiterated my reasons for wanting him to continue to go to Mass, even if intermittently:
- I believe having a strong a base in the Catholic faith now will serve him well as an adult because he will have a better sense of what it is he is rebelling against (if he so chooses).
- I cherish this family time together, giving thanks.
- I worry about the impact on his younger siblings; Claudia has yet to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
Harrison listened with full attention but genuinely was not budged. I let him make the decision to stay home. Claudia said she would go so I left with her (Jake opted for more time with Harrison at home; Daddy was sick).
In my mind, I have earmarked this conversation as "to be continued."
Indeed, this past Sunday, neither Harrison nor Jake went to church (Claudia was at a birthday sleepover so had a bye). Though my husband and I enjoyed a peaceful Mass, we prefer to be surrounded by our children. I am glad I have handled this Values Collision in such a way that I will have Harrison's ear when we do a Method III Problem-Solve together.
Because that's what it's all about, right? Approaching these weekend challenges in a way that fosters growth on everyone's part, preserves the special parent-child relationship and, oh yeah, lets you ENJOY those two special days!
Credits: Woohoo It's Friday (http://barkingmadaboutrunning.blogspot.hk/2013/02/tgif.html); Better Days (http://somethinggreek.tumblr.com/page/4)