Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury...

like a worn-out kindergartener.

Holy cats, people. This child is out of his everloving mind these days. Bless his heart, all I hear from school (teachers, other parents, administrators, etc) is how fabulous he is. "He's so sweet!" "He's very thoughtful of his classmates." and my personal favorite, "you know the advice they give you in communication seminars? Like to nod and make eye contact when you're listening and to repeat back to a person what you've heard them say? Ethan totally did that with me today--what a great communicator!!!"

This confounds me. Perhaps the doorway into the kindergarten classroom is in fact a portal to an alternate universe where only happy, well-behaved & respectful kids are compatible with the air supply. Perhaps ::sob:: he just really likes being there more than he likes being with me ::sob:: Perhaps the teacher has bribed them with toys and candy if they save up all the turmoil for at home (which? I can't blame her. I've got 1, she's got 23).

But whatever it is, within moments of pick up, the magic spell of good behavior has gone *POOF* into the ether and the next several hours are littered with tantrums and whining and sass. It's really special. Really. Special.

Let's see, an example? Okay. Last Wednesday, Ethan asked to stay late at extended care--its like a elementary-age appropriate rave in there every day from what I've heard---dance parties, movies, popcorn, games, Wii, arts & crafts, etc. Who wouldn't want to stay?! Fine. It was "sports" day last Wednesday, so I let him stay until 3pm (two hours longer than his regular school). I speed walk my way to the playground to find him running around with his friends, playing tag. (fortunately, Ethan goes to one of the remaining schools in the area that allows the game of 'tag' on its playground. You know, while kids at some other schools are perhaps wrapped up snug in bubble wrap before being allowed out onto the playground.)

I smile & wave from the edge of the playground. When Ethan sees me, he immediately stops his chase and hangs his head. The trudging towards me slowly begins. Oh, the drama. By the time he reaches me, he is gearing up for the wailing. "Why do we have to gooooooooooo???? I hardly had any time to plaaaaaaayyyyyyyy." The extended care teacher gives me a look like, "Um. Yeah, he's been playing his heart out for 2 straight hours," which I know is true. Bless his heart, Ethan's little fibs are so entirely unbelievable that unless he improves at it, he's going to try to tell a teacher some day that a UFO abducted his homework. The tears start to flow. The ever-increasing pitch of "I don't want to gooooooooo" starts up.

When I tried to tell him that it was 3pm and he had in fact had plenty of time to play, he started in with the, "It's not 3 o'clock!" This is my favorite--when he tries to argue away cold, hard, totally non-threatening facts. "It's not 3 o'clock!" "No, you didn't buy me a toy yesterday!" (fact: yes, I bought you a Batman batmobile to go with your batcopter. FACT!)

And then we escalate to the "always" & "never" statements and the whole concept of fairness. Oh, this is always a good time.

"You never let me do anything fun!!!!!" (this is after I paid extra for him to stay in extended care for 2 hours so he could have FUN with his friends). "I never get to have a play date!!!" (this wailed in agony as we were leaving....a play date. Oh, the irony!)

This weekend he informed me and Husband that he was going to "cry for a month" because we wouldn't buy him a toy while at Target picking out birthday presents for friends. I told him that if he planned to cry for a month I would go ahead and cancel our play dates for the next four weeks because no one wants to hang out with a kid who's incessantly leaking from his tear ducts and complaining about life. He stopped crying.

This is where I admit to being a horrible mother & say that sometimes, he gets so riled up and crazy, saying such nonsensical things with such conviction that I have to leave the room. Not because I'm frustrated, but because it makes me giggle. There is something unbelievably precious about him losing his mind over the silliest little things (although I realize they are not silly to him), and I just love him so much, it makes me smile and that upsets him more (understandably). So I leave the room for a minute while he's yelling about how "NOT VERY NICE!!!!!!" I am. I don't feel great about giggling over these tantrums, but I guess it is better than having to suppress the urge to spank him instead.

For all my joking about the alternate universe in the paragraphs above, I know that he's just working so hard to transition smoothly into kindergarten, to stay on task, to make sure the teacher loves him as much as his last teachers did, making new friends, falling in love with math (my kid???!!!! oy). By the time he gets home, he's just got nothing left---the "good behavior" tank is running on fumes.

Husband jokes with me when he is displaying typical gross male behavior in front of me (use your imagination) that I should feel grateful he's comfortable enough around me to just be himself in all his grossness. "It's intimacy" he says. Um.........

But in a way, its the same thing going on with Ethan right now, but with tantrums and borderline psychotic mood swings instead of bodily functions. After a day of concentrating on being the best behaved kid he can possibly be, Ethan's comfortable enough with me to just be himself--and "himself" at that time, is a whining, complaining, tantruming mess. And I love him just the same.

Of course that doesn't mean he's getting away with it, either. He has lost play dates (which is probably a good thing because he is bone-crushingly tired by the end of the day) and he's spent some time in time-out. Today we are making something called a "mind jar"---a thing I found on Pintrest. Its a jar filled with water, glitter-glue and food coloring. When mixed together, it creates a glittery lava-lamp type effect in the jar. The woman who posted it on her blog uses it as a tool for her children when their behavior or mood is out of control. They have to go to a certain spot with the jar, shake it up and take some deep breaths as they watch the glitter settle back to the bottom of the jar. Then they can put it down and come talk about what's going on, or apologize--whatever's appropriate in the moment.

Ethan loves the idea. "So I can calm down when I'm really upset, right?" he says. I love that he gets to help make it and therefore has some ownership over it. And I love that while it is a great redirection away from undesirable behavior, it doesn't really feel like punishment (because why should I be punishing Ethan for having feelings?)

We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know if glitter can soothe the savage beast...


lonek8 said...

We haven't had as many tantrums as I expected after starting school, but by Friday afternoons there is definitely a lot more whining and general crankiness at our house.

Hope the mind jar works - sounds really cool!

SnarkyMommy said...

Oooooo I like the glitter thing! I suspect mine would throw it across the room, but worth a try.

if it makes you feel any better, I have been dealing with for two years since Jack's school is all-day. It's wicked fun that the four hours I get with him each day are filled with tantrums, timeouts and yelling. But both of us.

Once he settles in, he'll get used to it. I find a snack immediately after he comes out of school goes a long way to get him in a good frame of mind.

Chiconky said...

Please let us know how the mind jar works! I saw it on Pinterest and thought the same thing. Eli has been a beast these last few weeks. I get the same "I didn't get to play!" and "It's not fair"s. Last night he had a total meltdown because he thought there was a crumb in the cereal box that he was taking to school for a project. Not either of our finest moments.

Sarah said...

I saw hat, too! Great idea! jack's preschool teacher tells him to take deep breaths when he is upset, so he does, but H? OMG. K is a full day here, so when I pick him up in the afternoon, he is a melty little wreck by the time we get home (1 minute 30 seconds from the time I pick him up-- he can barely keep his shit together for that long). Let me know if it works, and we'll make one!

Sue said...

No kids, so no tantrums, but I'd be willing to have one to watch glitter swirling around in a jar!