I know sometimes it seems like I’m running a birth control PSA here — I swear I like my kids, I really do — but DANG. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart.
In my prior life — you know, back when I slept in past 8:00 and could drink a beer without horrifying any little people — I studied to become a teacher. I got my Master’s degree in Education with a double certification in elementary and special education. My special ed focus was in learning disabilities and behavior disorders.
Do you know how often I’m using the stuff I learned in those classes? Nearly every damn day. Yes, the teaching and the learning and the schooling and such, but the part that’s been really useful? Behavior disorder training. I mean, what WHAT?! We’re usually dealing with typical childhood issues around here, and I’m whipping out behavior management plans and breaking skill sets down for success on the most ridiculous things.
On the plus side, it is forcing me to fire up those neurons and make use of my higher education. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?
So lately I’ve found myself looking at problems like a puzzle, something that can be taken apart and fixed because by God, I refuse to live with kids who act like nuts on a regular basis. I simply won’t. I’ve put in my time elsewhere, dammit, so we’re gonna work this out.
In the most stunning parenting understatement of all time: bedtime is a prime opportunity for our kids to act like fools. (Or, as I told Bear and T-man in a massive filter-fail last weekend: “You two are back here acting like…BUTTS.” Yeah. Not my finest moment.) It seems that certain activities are particular triggers for them, and I guess I’d hit my limit a few days ago.
Most Sundays we Skype with the kids’ aunt and uncle for a little bit before bedtime. This has been what can only kindly be described as a work in progress. At first we required them to have teeth brushed and PJs on so the family could sit down together and talk. But things would fall apart in a heartbeat — one would feel left out, or the grown-ups would talk and the kids would get bored, or T-man (bless his heart) would simply decide to show his ass and pitch a fit over one thing or another…the end result? A Skype call that involved one of us (usually me) telling T-man to just go to bed and a grumpy boy stomping out of the room.
So we put BrightSide’s plan of attack in place: the kids would do teeth & PJs then spend five or ten minutes talking, just the two of them, before being sent to bed so they could avoid the (boring) grown-up talk. Conceptually, this seemed like a great solution. In execution? It’s becoming clear this won’t work either. T-man still hovers on the other side of the room, refusing to sit next to his sister and participate. Or they’ll argue over who’s blocking the view. Or they fight about who gets to share a particular piece of news. Or they lose it over…hell, just about anything. Because it’s bedtime, and that means the kids are basically batshit crazy.
Which, of course, we’d just as soon hide from our family. (Hi there, family!)
This week’s call was apparently the final straw for me. T-man acted unreasonable, and eventually we just sent them both to bed while BrightSide and I talked. Next thing I know Bear’s whispering in my ear that T-man won’t stop dribbling his basketball even though she asked him to stop and she can’t go to bed with the noise and — my brain shut off here but the story went on and on and on.
Oh. My. God. That was it. Now, I’ll freely admit I had some stuff of my own going on, but whatever, I still stand behind everything that was said. I left BrightSide on the couch, went to the kids’ hallway, and pushed open T-man’s door to find him standing there holding (what else?) his basketball. And his expression screamed that the look on my face was like funnel clouds touching down on the horizon.
Thus began the tirade (in somewhat muted tones, so the noise wouldn’t carry to the computer): It was ridiculous that they couldn’t manage to get through a short call with their aunt and uncle without launching world war three. I was sick of watching them act like fools in the family room or refuse to participate — I could count on one hand the number of times Skyping had gone smoothly, which was nothing short of ridiculous, and now I was standing in the back hall with the two of them because “she asked you to stop dribbling the basketball and of course you said no so I can’t even talk with the grown-ups because the two of you are back here acting like butts!”
This was followed by a divide and conquer moment — i.e. standing in place until both bedroom doors were shut with their occupants safely inside — and then I simply fumed.
BUT…somewhere in that fuming the wheels must have been turning because when BrightSide came back to the kitchen 20 minutes later I said I realized we’d been going about this all wrong. We’re acting like they’re the best buddies we remember from a few years ago, when really they’re kind of banging heads right now. And that instead of trying to swim upstream by forcing them to do this call together, we should work with the natural flow of their relationship. (See? I actually paid attention in those classes.)
Then I laid out our Brand New Plan of Attack. (Ta-DA!)
And it’s fantastic, if I do say so myself. Fleshed out with military precision, if executed properly it will enable equal Skype time and prevent contact between the children during what has become the witching hour in our house. With the added benefit that I won’t be tempted to yank them up off the couch when they act like fools.
Step 1: T-man will start the Skype call alone. Being seated by himself in front of the computer will eliminate any possible argument over camera angles or information sharing or whose toe might be touching him (for the love of Pete!). While he’s busy talking, Bear will brush her teeth and put on PJs so she’s ready for bed.
Step 2: At the five minute mark (I’m seriously considering the use of a timer), T-man will walk toward the kitchen as Bear moves onto the couch for her five minutes of talk time. The direction of departure is critical as it will prevent any accidental contact between the two — I get that this sounds crazy, but it’s what we’ve come to. (“Set them up for success!”) So what if it means an extra ten yards of walking? We’re going for a calm and peaceful transition here.
Step 3: While Bear talks, T-man will move through the kitchen and back to their hallway where he can brush his teeth and close himself in his room to put on PJs and go to bed. This step is crucial as it will prevent any contact between the siblings when Bear goes back to her room. Because I swear that back hallway is like an electric fence — the kids know they’re not supposed to get in trouble (read: get on each other’s nerves) back there, and yet they can’t seem to help grabbing that fence and holding on tight.
Three Simple Steps. With precise timing and correct movement, this plan can solve everything. I’m absolutely positive it will be the solution to all of our bedtime problems on Skype nights…
(Did I just hear you snort? Yeah…me, too.)