Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones...

...but NAMES are SO FREAKING ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!!!

But first, a letter to McDonk's

Dear McDink's,

I love your coffee soooo much.  It makes me soooo happy.  It sucks outside right now, but I used my feminine charms to coax The Man to get us all egg muffin thingies and coffee.  So, I'm sitting here sipping it, and clacking away on my computer in this freezing pantry, and it's all snow and bullshit outside, and freezing winds, but I don't even give a crap because you are so delicious.


karen Somethingorother

The week started off rather unpleasantly.  We were just getting back to business after the Christmas break.  Jack was not a happy camper.

Okay, I have to interject here and talk about that stupid expression:  "happy camper."  My friends used to go to summer camp, and they'd send me letters about how bored, mosquito-bite-covered, and STARVING they were.  Happy camper, my ass.

But as I was saying, Jack had a ton of anxiety about returning to school.  And, because he is him, there is always SOMETHING that he puts at the top of anxiety mountain. It used to be MATH, and now it is TYPING.  So, the school runs on a 10 day schedule, and now on day 10, they have typing.  I have no idea why he hates typing so much.  Maybe it's a little tedious, and probably the kids were told to try to type without looking at their fingers.  So that would lead to MISTAKES, and MR PERFECTION STOMPS ON MISTAKES.  Of course, that makes it THE MOST HORRIBLE SUBJECT IN THE WORLD.

So now we have lots of discussions about typing:

I hate typing...
why do I have to learn typing...
on Day 10 I get to stay home from school!  
I hate going to school on DAY 10...
I wish I never had to learn typing...  

etc, etc.  At least it made him forget how much math sucks.

Oh don't give me that face.  Math does indeed SUCK.  That Barbie Doll?  The one who tried to spread THE TRUTH, and declared to little girls everywhere that "MATH CLASS IS TOUGH!" before they YANKED HER FROM THE SHELVES?  Well, sing it sister!  She was right.

I was the kid who was in the "extra help" class for math in grade 5 because I could NOT GET the concept of "rounding off" numbers.  You know: 4.7 gets rounded up to 5 and 4.4 gets rounded down to ...oh wait...4?   Yes, I think I'm right on that one.  Finally.  30 years later. I also almost failed grade 10 math.  Factoring.  One of these days, Factoring, I'll get mine.  Oh yes, I'll get mine.  

And so began a long career of EMBRACING WORDS rather than numbers.  Eff you, numbers.

Wow!  It's taking me a LONG time to get to my point today, yes???  Blame the delicious coffee.

Okay Spectrum homemoms and homedads:  how do your kids like going back to school after a nice long break?  Yeah, I bet they love it to death too.  Jack had a lot of anxiety as the days of his break disappeared.  By the end of the week, he was starting to get fairly shouty.  By the first day back to school, his tics had re-emerged in full force, and he did one fine, choreographed dance that last stretch of sidewalk to the school yard.  Poor kid.

On Tuesday morning, not long after getting up, I was sobbing over the bathroom sink.  The usual "I can't do this!  I just can't do this" kind of stuff.  I was tired, and felt like a sack of crap from holiday hedonism body abuse, and I just did not have the metal to stand up to Jack's barrage of hostility and belligerence. Every thing I said to him on Monday and Tuesday was met with sarcasm and pure rage.

When he's in that mood, and when I'm tired already, it's a deadly combination, because he taunts me until I break.   He'll say something obnoxious, and I'll ask him to knock it off because I'm tired, and he'll become relentless; laughing at me, exclaiming how "funny Mumma is!  Isn't she funny?  I just don't know why my mother is so funny!  I can't stop LAUGHING!"

That shit will drive you.

The problem is, is that that kind of behaviour has really, really declined.  So, I am almost out of shape for that stuff now.  I can't really take it any longer.  Mostly he is the sweetest kid, but when he has days like that, there is nothing I can do except stay out of his way as much as possible, and dip in to my reserves of patience.

Like I said, he's very, very sweet (to me, anyway.  Still working on that hostility he has for his father).  There is one ongoing problem we have though that has been around for a long time and we have NOT been able to get rid of yet:

Name calling.

Because Jack is a control freak, and because he is easily frustrated (or mostly frustrated all the time), and because he has to relinquish that control often, his mode of defense is NAME CALLING.  Oh how he loves it, because it ALWAYS gets a reaction.  For instance, he came up with the great idea of calling his sister "Elliott" instead of "Ella."  Yes, he's a master pest, and he thinks this is a hoot.  He called her Elliot until we ALL wanted to snap.  He's finally eased off on that, but it still comes out in the most strategic of moments.

Then there was that long period of time he called us "Heh Heh."  You know--it's kind of like "Ha ha" but said more sarcastically?  Like when a kid sings:  "Heh heh heh heh heeeeeh, you ca-an't catch me!"  Like that?  So it would go a little something like this:

The Man:  Jack, hang your coat up please.
Jack:  Okay, HEH HEH.
The Man:  "JACK, don't call me that please."
Jack:  Okay, heh heh, I won't.
The Man:  $%*@ (I'm guessing--he never swears in front of the kids)

And then, when we reached our breaking point with "Heh Heh," he came up with a better one:  STU.  See, this is genius, because it's a real name, but it's also short for STUPID.  So, despite myself, I found it funny at first.  Really--hats off to the kids because he is a pest genius:

Jack (to the Man and I):  Okay! I'm going to tell you all the members of my family!"
Unwitting Us:  okay.
Jack:  There's Jack Somethingorother, Ella Somethingorother, karen Somethingorother, and STU Somethingorother!

You know when kids are little buggers, but they're so devilishly amused by what they came up with that you can't help but crack up along with them?  I still laugh at "Stu Somethingorother," even though a lot of this hostility is directed at The Man.  It's that tenuous father/son relationship thing.

But, it's mostly not funny.  Like, 99% of the time it's not funny.  Oh, and he interchanges Stu with Meanie just to mix things up.

Me:  Jack, I need you to go get dressed and brush your teeth now.
Jack:  Okay, Meanie!
Me:  Jack!  Don't be rude, just go brush your teeth!
Jack (in mock exasperation):  OKAY, Stu!
Me:  JACK!
Jack: oops! I mean, okay Mom!  Calm down!  Ai-yi-yi!

Lurv "Ai-yi-yi."  Just LURV it.

And it's ALL THE TIME.  Imagine asking your kid to do ANYTHING, and being called Stu or Meanie in return.  You would turn into the HULK, no?

I have been working on it.  After lengthy discussions on how name-calling makes a person feel, I have appealed to Jack's kinder nature, and his MASSIVE EGO.  I told him that he is smart, and HE can fix the problem.  He just needs to teach himself.  So, whenever he calls us "Stu" or "Meanie"...oh, and I forgot "IDIOT" when he's particularly vexed with us (how could I forget Idiot?  That's a special favourite), and so when he calls us these things I say; "correct what you said," or "fix it," and he tries again, and then I praise him for fixing it and saying the nice thing instead.  Praise.  It sounds like I've just given him a chunk of wiener and a pat on the head.  

The NAME CALLING drives us CRAZY.  And it reached a zenith, along with all the other hostility at the beginning of this week.

But then, by Wednesday, I had new outlook.  It should have been obvious, really. That little voice in my brain said; "gee karen, if YOU feel like shit, now that you're back in the routine, imagine how HE feels.  And just like that, I dropped my weapons, and remembered to be patient and empathetic again.

So, I put my arm around the little guy's shoulders after school on Wednesday and apologised for the fighting we had done the day before.  I told him that I felt pretty crummy with this back to school business, and I understood how he felt.  I told him it was okay to feel upset and nervous about being back to school.  Hell, every kid feels like that, don't they?  And we walked home the rest of the way like the buddies that we are.

After all, Jack and Stu?  We're lifelong friends.


  1. Our kids are so much alike. So much!!! And it took me forever and a day to realize going back to school was harder on HIM than it was for me.

    The control thing gets me all time. I run around telling him, "Who has the plan? Mom does, that's who." And then it hits me like a cement truck that he's so stressed out the only thing he has left is to try and control things in his little orbit so he feels safe and grounded.

    I'm glad you figured it out. :)

    1. oh damn. I forgot to hit "reply" directly to your reply. I was so excited about this new comment thingy too.

  2. yeah, I usually figure it out Lizbeth..but damn, it takes me a while sometimes, and then I have that smack my own forehead moment. Why didn't I think of that???

    Yeah control does come from stress. Poor kids.

  3. Oh Karen, you are such a great mum. I feel like SUCH a crap mum in comparison. I don't empathise enough, I am horribly impatient, and my lot don't have the challenges which face Jack (and you) on a daily basis. Well done for finding a stratgey for dealing with it.
    That said - God, kids have an extraordinarily acute sense of what will get on your nerves. And they keep on and on and on doing it. That's not just Jack, you know! Sharp little buggers, they are.
    PS. I am a Maths cretin. If that helps at all. I failed my Maths O'level (national exams taken at 16) and 30 years later, I find it will factor me OUT of most courses and jobs that I might think of going for, if I ever get my working head back on again. The thought of having to gain a Maths qualification at this stage of my life makes me want to cry. I'm with Jack. It sucks. More than typing, actually. xxxxx

    1. Thanks Curtise! I do usually have a lot of patience for the kids--not for anything else, apparently, but every now and then, that supply gets TOTALLY USED UP and I turn into SCREAMING IDIOT MOM.

      The problem is, in order to have a happy Jack, I need to be CALM and PATIENT and CHEERFUL ALL THE TIME. IMPOSSIBLE.

      I'm sure you have more patience than you think. I'm also running around all the time yelling COME ON! HURRY UUUUUP! in this really whiny voice.

      Your math story comforted me immensely. Are you also a stay-at-home mom now, and fearing the return to the WORK WORLD? Squee! Meee too!!!

  4. My favorite part was where you said that Barbie spoke the truth about math. Ha ha ha ha. THAT'S why they pulled her from the shelves--conspiracy!

    1. yeah, and they thought our little girls would be led astray. TOO LATE, DAMN IT

  5. Karen you certainly can teach a parent on patience. Wow, I loose it with my son all the time, we both hate math, and have a screaming match about it almost daily. Oh and did I tell you my father was a middle school math teacher. He refused to help me with math because I drove him crazy. I have been getting somewhat better about sending him out of the room till he can calm down, end result, he usually comes down 10 minutes later and apologizes and we give the math another try. Hopefully Jack will get adjusted to being back to school soon. At least it is Friday!

  6. i love this new comment arrangement that i've seen popping up lately. will you email me & tell me how you did it?
    i learned how to cool my yelling jets when i've seen how brooke cringes in a panic straight to the floor when i yell at her. she looks at me like i imagine a child would look at a beating abusive parent (even though i've never experienced or done that) who's coming at them with a bat raised to strike when i even raise my voice a little bit. being a parent can be hard.
    is the typing course for jack's class all about finger position and form? brooke types super fast & mostly accurate, using both hands, but she has her own style and technique. i couldn't even teach her to form handwritten letters in the "correct" way, but she writes in a perfectly legible way too. i hate how schools require certain things that are totally unimportant in the long run.

    1. I go through long periods of time wherein I am VERY disciplined, and very patient, and then I get tired, and become very shouty and have to reel myself back in. Jack doesn't cringe when I shout, but he gets much brattier and more aggressive.

      I'm not sure exactly what he does in typing. I'll have to ask his teacher!

  7. I want to turn into the HULK just once every couple of months. I want that so bad.

  8. Karen Hulk pic - love!

    It's funny how one little turn of the think tank wrench, and suddenly, you have the answer. I'm glad to hear you and Jack are back to being buds!

    1. true, Vesta, true! I guess it's the old, "well, this sucks and it isn't working. What's next?!?"

  9. Oh gawd.

    If we want to change our kids' behavior, we often have to change OUR behavior. Figuring this out comes only after much thought, which is almost impossible to achieve with any modicum of CLARITY or SENSE when you're in the middle of a Hulk-like episode. I hope things improve with your buddy approach. It sounds like you're on to something there.

    For the record, you're not the only one who sobs over the bathroom sink. And numbers are A-holes. So was Pythagorus with all of his fancy schmancy theorums.

    1. Grace, you said 'modicum' and that has been my favourite word for MONTHS now.


      anyhoo, I usually use the buddy approach. But damn, that's impossible if I stay up till 1 in the morning on a school night :(

      NUMBERS ARE A-HOLES. We need that on a t-shirt.

    2. there are three kinds of people in the world. those who are good at math and those who aren't.

    3. Ha! Did I GET IT at first? No, Sherilin, I did not because I'm an IDIOT. Hee hee hee!

  10. Love this and will try to remember to do so also: "And just like that, I dropped my weapons, and remembered to be patient and empathetic again."

  11. thanks geralyn. I keep forgetting these things that I should remember!


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