But no. Chernobyl happened in my back room. Then again in the car. Then again getting out of the car to come home.
With a few days' distance, I can see that right smack in the middle of those situations, all you can do is weather them as calmly as you can, to do what can be done to minimize damage and hold safe boundaries without adding any to the swirling fireballs around you. Successes, for me in these times, are measured in portions of minutes: thirty seconds of calm, a fist halted mid-air with eye contact and a loving but unambiguous NO, a reminder that "I'm on your team" that sunk in before the next round of name-calling commenced.
My friend Lauren and I were talking about this once, and as she described what it was like with her then-three-year-old son, I got an image in my mind of waves crashing against jetties. We--the parents--are the jetties and our children are the waves. We can hold ourselves solid, bridging the space from the ocean to the shore, doing no harm and being present with our angry children, even as they come pummeling toward us.
But of course, in the moment with Woody, I only partially remembered this lovely image, and I was rather caught up in it at different points since Woody hurt Fox at one point as he lashed out in anger. When the worst of it had passed, late in the afternoon, I scooped Woody up like a baby and held him tight on the couch. He loved this. A play therapist whom I adore once explained to me how kids sometimes need this kind of physical pressure; I can't remember what she called it, but I've tried it here and there with Woody as a last resort and when he's open to it. This time, it seemed to help a great deal.
Also, I posted on the Always Learning Yahoo Group to ask the experienced unschoolers there for help. At the end of this post, I'll tell you what they said.
And that brings us to today's moment. Our food co-op is holding an "Owner's Weekend" this weekend in which there are big sales throughout the store including an overall percentage off of a whole purchase. I'd been planning for a few weeks what I'd like to buy during this time. Food is our highest expense, and money management is not my best strength. And I have the boys by myself this Saturday since Daddy Honey is working.
I was worried about getting the boys out of the house to go grocery shopping early; it's not their favorite task, and they often take a little while to warm up to the idea of leaving the house. And yet, I had heard the place gets very busy and starts selling out of some items quickly, so time was of the essence.
But, following several of the suggestions I got about making transitions from place to place, we did it! I got a freezer full of local, organic meat; butter; bread; and coffee plus a pantry boost to boot. And all three of us had a good time.
Collected Wisdom from the Always Learning List on Ways to Help Kids Make Transitions
from Place to Place
The overriding principle in the below might be said to be "Help them move toward something rather than away from something."
In the hours before leaving:
1. Tell your child what's happening that day, and then ask an open-ended question about what might make the day fun for him or her. For example, "We are bringing Daddy up his costume and lunch later today. We could make another stop, if you like. What would be fun for you?"
2. But maybe not. Some kids do better with an excited announcement of an adventure right before it's time to go rather than a long lead-time, in which case you might pre-plan a fun side-trip and sell it.
In the moments before leaving:
3. Use a game, a song, or a snack to help them move from room to room or into the car. Or maybe give them fun jobs like helping you pack things up or picking out the music to listen to in the car.
If there is resistance, or if things seem as if they might get ugly:
4. Offer some silliness to the tension, a-la "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen. Make up absurd pretend scenarios involving the two of you doing whatever--being spies sneaking through the headquarters out to your spy car, using "opposite day" speak to get shoes on (I mean off!), etc.
5. Give your child some time and space to calm down before trying a different tactic. (I plan on building in a few minutes in case I need this one--it's hard to pull off when you're already late)
6. Change something else besides what your child is doing until you can get your bearings. Maybe phone to say you'll be a few minutes behind, or go in the other room to not have the difficulty right in front of you.
7. If things were difficult, ask your child, later at a calm and connected time, what might have helped the situation. Woody has come up with some really good stuff at these times, and has given me more information than he could have in the tense moments about what he was thinking and feeling, which helps me to make better decisions the next go around.
8. Note to yourself what worked and what didn't work. Next time, try more of what worked. Go back and forth among your best ideas.
9. Remember that kids are learning, and that they make mistakes. That's OK. They'll grow, and we'll learn, and it will be a different set of circumstances next time.
And here's a fantastic page for further reading: Partners, not Adversaries