Tantrum City

Tantrums. Every kid has them. Little Bear has been throwing some real good ones lately. My partner and I have been both feeling frustrated. I won’t speak for Rebecca, but I’ve been feeling downright angry when Little Bear pitches a tantrum. I want to give her space to work through emotions and feelings, but sometimes I need her to put her boots on. Now. 

IMG_2052

Little Bear and wall collage!

Lately, what I’m trying to work on is not reinforcing that pitching a tantrum works, which is harder than it sounds. A recent example: Little Bear pitched a tantrum over not getting to walk up the stairs one night before bed. I had been repeatedly saying we were going to go upstairs and use the potty and get ready for bed. I finally just picked her up and carried her, and she sobbed and cried about “My go upstairs! My walk upstairs!” So I took her downstairs and let her walk up herself and we carried on with the night. This is perhaps not a super dramatic example, but I had been saying it was time to go upstairs and trying to corral her for a while before picking her up. I reinforced that whining and crying would get her something she wanted (and let her delay bedtime, which is already a long process in our house).

One technique that we’ve been using is saying something like “I’m going to count back from five, and when I get to one I’m going to help you put your boots on.” Then I count back from five and do whatever it was I said, even if she continues to tantrum. To be honest, one of the reasons I’ve been liking this is that it gives me a second to breath and think about what I’m going to do instead of reacting in the moment and yelling or letting the tantrum work. I also like it because it gives Little Bear really clear communication about what we’re going to do and when. She gets warning instead of just getting picked up out of what might feel like nowhere. Now, most of the time she’ll keep whining up until I get to two or one and then she stops and does whatever I was asking her to do. 

How do you deal with tantrums? What are your favorite strategies for redirecting tantrums? How do you keep your cool and not throw a tantrum right back?

Advertisements

Mister Mom

A couple of things:

 

 

 

  • Are you reading VillageQ? Because you should be. Because there’s a host of excellence going on there.

 

  • I have a short story published in THEM Lit. If you have any interested in gender and literature, check it out. Everything in the publication is phenomenal—AND I hear they’re coming out with a paper run pretty soon here!

 

On to the proper post:

 

Members of Queen, in drag, looking amazing. From the music video for I Want To Break Free.

Members of Queen, in drag, looking amazing. From the music video for I Want To Break Free.

 

 

I hate that phrase. Mr Mom. It always made me feel uncomfortable when I was a kid—like I wasn’t sure who they were mocking, but I was pretty sure I didn’t like it. Maybe it was personal—my dad does things coded as feminine by the patriarchy—he loves cooking and sewing, for example. Or maybe it was both my parents and their second wave teachings. Either way, I hate the phrase. I’m glad it seems to be going out of style, though a quick search on google’s news page tells me it’s not fully out of vernacular.

But it haunted my thoughts the other day. Our neighbors stopped to talk to Jetpack. They asked what he learned that day at preschool—”nothing.” They suggested he teach it, since he’s so smart. And then they suggested I teach it. I laughed, and Jetpack agreed. “Daddy Levi can teach cooking!”

OWCH. Cooking? I mean. I love cooking. I love feeding my family. But—and I admit this sounds a little ridiculous, but this is how it felt—if I died tomorrow, he’d remember me as that guy that cooked a lot. Not as the guy who writes. Not as a dad who reads with him, or who helps people out, or who gardens—but that guy that cooks.

I don’t think I prepared myself for the little disappointments—the way that kids can sometimes cut at their parents. They have a lot of power! I’m sure there’s a lesson in here somewhere—maybe my own internalized sexism? Maybe not taking things so seriously? Maybe some of both?

Anyway. We’re getting take out for dinner tonight. Gyros. You know you’re jealous.

Anxiety.

Picture from Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half. I have lived this feeling.

Last weekend, Jetpack wandered off in the grocery store. I had a basket with six apples, and three other things, and I unloaded it, and turned my head, and he was gone. He’d gone the length of the supermarket to look at the flowers, and he didn’t answer my calls. Luckily, some amazing person had seen him wandering and started looking for me. He was gone for about two minutes, and before I found him I was pretty convinced he had been kidnapped.

A week before that, I wrote all this:

I’m not good enough. I’ve yelled at Jetpack for really stupid reasons, like not listening or not letting me use the toilet without climbing all over me like a caffeinated capuchin. I’m always late on flea/tick drops for the dog, and someday she’s going to get lyme disease again because of it. My sister (I’m her primary caregiver) didn’t get a bath the other night, even though she should’ve, because I took Jetpack trick-or-treating. Sometimes she has dry cereal because we run out of soy milk in the fridge and I don’t notice until after she’s eaten breakfast. Sometimes we yell at each other because we don’t understand each other well. The other night the Mister was up very late because I forgot to clean something up, even though I promised, and it really needed to be done. The last two times I put away laundry, I did so because I needed to the basket, in order to wash all the newly dirtied stuff. I can’t fix everyone’s problems. I don’t think I can fix anyone’s problems. And my worries about something terrible happening to Jetpack are as numerous as grains of sand on the beach.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I saw it first written, about me, in college. The student counsellor didn’t mention anything to me. She just wrote it on her notes, and I happened to see. It left me with a huge mistrust of her, and a diagnosis that I researched on my own. (Protip, mental health professionals: don’t act like we’re stupid, please).

I’ve never had a job where I didn’t spend some days at home, terrified of going in for absolutely no reason. I’ve never been bad at a job, but I’ve always had attendance issues, usually from days spent sitting at home, sobbing and shaking, afraid of going anywhere. Classes too. I’ve dropped plenty of classes because I was SO SCARED of going. I had a panic attack in spanish class once—not anxiety, a full-on panic episode. Completely lost it. I drove home and actually hid in my bed. (Protip #2: don’t drive directly after a panic attack. I made it home okay, but it was probably the most unsafe I’ve ever been on the road).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had a pretty complicated childhood. I also know I don’t have a lot to complain about—my parents are very loving, I’m white and have never been homeless or without food.

But sometimes I’m still damn crazy.

A friend—who has been travelling her own bumpy mental health road—mentioned the fear of passing these problems on to our children. If you’re genetically related to your child, some of your mental health problems are probably passed on automatically (thanks, genes!). But nature and nurture being the murky waters that they are, who knows. And I know so many people who identify their own neurosis in their parents, and blame them.

I don’t want Jetpack to look back and see that.

Sometimes I wonder, who am I to have a kid? Shouldn’t I have thought about this before taking on that responsibility? (I did, but that’s not the point). I never want to see Jetpack even half as crazy as I feel sometimes. But no matter how much I struggle to shut it down, no matter how much therapy I attend or medication I put into myself, I can’t hide it all. That sad and twisted fucked up me is still in here. I can’t just cut it out. And it scares me that someday he’ll see that too, and he’ll resent me for it.

I don’t have any answers for that friend. I don’t have any hopeful closing paragraph for this litany of my own tragic faults. I can try my best, and I will probably fail.

photo

I recently attended a conference here in town that’s put on by one of the organizations I’m involved with and was pretty saddened by the list the kids created about what they wanted in the kid’s area. The room used as the kid’s area was completely bare, other than having a sink, and academic institution style chairs and tables. The people providing child care had brought some paper and markers, but other than that there wasn’t really anything for the kids to do.

I’m really glad that there was child care available, it made it possible for me to bring Little Bear to part of the conference. However, I also read the list that the kids created, think about how many people said something like “I didn’t know there was childcare, I would’ve brought my kid” or mentioned a friend who could’ve attended had they known, and I wish more thought and resources were given to supporting children, parents, and care givers in justice movements and communities.

I’d like to think that communities rooted in social movements and collective processes can do a better job supporting parents, but it frequently feels like organizing child care and promoting child care falls on to people involved in parenting and care giving. In the LGBTQ community in particular I think there’s still a perception that people aren’t raising children, or that people who are raising children are selling out/opting out of organizing.

When Little Bear was born I pulled back from almost all of the organizing work that I was doing. Meetings weren’t at convenient times, weren’t baby friendly, or were just too long for someone with an infant. Now that I have a toddler I worry her presence will be perceived as disruptive to the community, and meetings are still frequently too late or too long. So when I want to commit to work on something I need to juggle whether I can bring Little Bear or if my partner can look after her, and if I’m doing the parenting and housework 50-50.  I have no easy answers for how to make this better, I only have my deep commitment to be a good partner, a good father and my desire to organize in my community.

Part of parenting is making sure that your kid doesn’t do something stupid like run into the street, but part of parenting is also teaching your kid about the world and giving them tools to engage in creating a more just society. If we don’t teach our kids about the work while we’re busy organizing where does that leave them? The late great Whitney Houston sang it in The Greatest Love of All, “I believe the children are our future.”

Last month I read the book “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind” and had to keep myself from jumping up and shouting “yes!” every five minutes. The essays in the book affirmed my existence as a parent and my hope that making social movements inclusive of parents, caregivers and children is possible. Here’s a nice blurb about the book:

“Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind is a collection of concrete tips, suggestions, and narratives on ways that non-parents can support parents, children, and caregivers in their communities, social movements, and collective processes. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind focuses on issues affecting children and caregivers within the larger framework of social justice, mutual aid, and collective liberation.”

You can check out the Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind blog for more ideas on ways to include kids, parents, and families in communities. Are there any tips or experiences around including parents and kids in your communities that you value?

 

 

Make up magic spells/ We wear them like protective shells

Image

Driving down the busy divided street that leads to our new house, past HyVee and to the highway, where the YMCA snuggles up against bridges and fast-moving cars. Traffic in my lane, the lane closest to the sidewalk, stops abruptly, and I change lanes in order to escape the snarl. And then I see a mama, about my age, dragging a dark blue stroller onto the sidewalk from the shoulderless street. Her older kid—Jetpack’s age, Jetpack’s proportions—stares, his expression unreadable, as his mom cradles the baby in the stroller. I can see her shaken, crouching, her face twisted with relief and horror and fear like I’ve never felt. Everyone’s okay. Traffic resumes, the baby is unharmed, everyone is okay.

But the scene has gnawed at my insides. If. If. What if.

I just can’t get that moment out of my head. I’ve seen car accidents, and put in my heartfelt wishes for the safety of everyone involved. I can remember what seems like a thousand international and horrors, waiting and hoping that the body counts were low.

This wasn’t a massive incident. This was a moment, an accident, a second when something terrible might’ve happened. If the driver hadn’t stopped. If she’d been on the phone or texting. If her brakes were bad. If the stroller had rolled further into traffic. If.

IF is a terrible place to live.

I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to Jetpack. Our brains reach the end of that road, and I think they just turn off. Nope. I don’t know what I’d do. I can’t know what I’d do.

I think that’s what that momma was thinking, that day, in front of the YMCA. Or maybe what she thought later.

Moments like those remind me why we grasp so hard at religious understanding. To blame sudden, painful changes on something—on the Fates, on Sin, on demons or deities—gives us some way to understand. Those aren’t understandings that I subscribe to, but I can see the draw.

And maybe this is even a religious thought, a prayer to toss into the aether. Wherever you are, I’m glad your baby was okay, YMCA mama, and I wish you all the best. You are in my heart.

———-

I wrote this weeks ago, and just haven’t had it in me to post it. Too depressing, I guess.

To add a kick in the gut, I’m going to go all topical. As Mark Twain said, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.”

Politics aside, there are a lot of people who are going to be hurting due to this political game that Congress is playing. WIC isn’t funded, some smaller food access programs are closing down, and food programs for low income seniors will not be funded. People won’t be bringing in paychecks. If you’re not a federal employee, and/or if you aren’t hurting from this charade, now might be a good time to donate, to food banks (often, they prefer money, not “the canned goods from the back of your cupboard”). And keep an eye out for ways you can help, as the shit, as they say, continues to roll downhill.

On being extra arms

broken clavicle

Dylan’s busted clavicle

As Levi mentioned last week in his post last week, I was recently doored by a car two weeks ago. My clavicle was fractured in several places, and I had surgery last week to put a plate and several screws in to realign the break. Fortunately I didn’t have any other major injuries other than some pretty colorful bruising.

The past two weeks have been a bit of a blur, but I have been reminded of how valuable our friends and family are to the FaB Family. People have stepped up to fill in for my injured arm and then some. My partner’s mom was coincidentally in town when I was hit and she extended her stay by several days to help take care of Little Bear. My mom then came to help and stayed for a few days. She took me to surgery so Rebecca could work. Both of Little Bear’s grandmas handled soothing her if she woke in the night. Our friend Billy set up a schedule of friends dropping off dinner for us for a week, even though I was being Minnesotan and waffling about needing dinner help for the whole week (Billy was right, we totally needed help for the whole week).

fixed clavicle

Dylan’s fixed clavicle

Friends cooked us dinner, helped play with Little Bear, mowed our lawn, and generally offered to do whatever we needed help with and I am so grateful for it. I suppose my general point here is that even if it doesn’t seem like much, keep offering to help out the parents in your community. Be that extra arm or two to put the kid in the high chair, sing a silly song, mow the lawn, read a book, whatever. Even if you frequently get turned down, or if you asked to do something that seems sort of odd, it all helps and will be appreciated even if the parents can’t always thank you fully. We are still tired over here at the FaB house, but doing so much better than if we had needed to cope with my broken clavicle without all the care and help we’ve been given. While I am tired and sore and angry about getting doored, I am also fortunate and grateful to have such a strong network of chosen and biologically family.

Little Bear has definitely noticed that I’m injured. Granted, it’s hard not to with the giant “Ultrasling III” I am wearing. The night I got home from the ER right after getting hit she climbed into my lap and sat quietly without wiggling while I read to her. Let me tell you, having an almost two year old sit still in your lap is pretty miraculous. Now that I’ve had surgery Little Bear keeps pointing to my bandage and saying “Dada owie, ba ba!” Translation: Daddy has an owie and is wearing a bandaid. I went up to sooth her when she woke up in the night and she tapped my bandaid, said “Dada owie,” kissed my other clavicle, and then clapped because she was so pleased with herself. It still took a while to get her to go back to sleep, but at least she was adorable.

Giving It Up For…You.

An aside I can’t figure out a way to put in this rambly and sub-par post: our very own Dylan got doored by a car on his bike last week. All good and healing thoughts his way!
I never did have the courage to drink that coffee.

I never did have the courage to drink that coffee.

I started this from the doctor’s office. I’ve just gotten done with my visual field test—my third—for a problem I have called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. It’s fun. Right now, I have to take a pill every day, and it keeps the fluid around my brain from pushing down on it and giving me headaches, vision problems, and hearing problems. After the visual field test–where you stick your head in a machine that looks like HAL’s rear end:

I'm sorry, Dave.

I’m sorry, Dave.

After that there’s the part where they shine bright lights in my eyes, in order to see every crack and crevice of my optic nerves. I gave up contacts, in part, because I just couldn’t stand things coming at my eyes, long before I had IIH. So I get to have these every couple of months. For funsies!

I’m here during Jetpack’s brief time at preschool. Lately, his time at preschool has been taken up with purchasing a house, seeing doctors for my upcoming abdominal surgery, and not on writing or catching up on important other things like that. I’m behind on my email, behind on my writing, behind on the (unpaid) work I do with some non-profits.

I can’t imagine doing this while I worked full time. Or as a single parent. On the poverty line. In a rural area, or a larger city. Between caring for my sister, taking care of other family needs, Jetpack, and then somewhere in there, myself…I just don’t know how I’d do it.

I don’t have much of a good blog post this week, is what I’m saying. I’m moving in the first week of September, and in between now and then, I have to get my house packed up, and then do work on the new place, and a dozen other little things.

Parenting is hard when this kind of stuff is going down. Not only, like, making sure dinner gets on the table (not gonna lie, tonight we had fast food. It’s been a long time, but I just could not pull my shit together enough to get something else out there). But being the kind of parent that has the energy to explain for the sixth time where lightening comes from, to not let him have freezy pops all day long, who smiles and laughs and asks how his day was.

My point, though, where did I…whoops, it’s over there. Excuse me, all I’ve had today is a can of pop. And I don’t usually drink pop, but it was there, and I had just gotten out of fat-shaming-neurologist, and…right, right, the point.

Artwork by John William Keedy.

Artwork by John William Keedy.

I can do this, because someday I’ll be done moving, and I can come home after the doctor’s to the Mr and cry on his shoulder if I need to, and Jetpack has preschool, and I have the spare cash to buy us fast food when dinner is just Too Damn Much.

So this is my massive nod, my bowing at your feet, my buying-you-a-beer-or-coffee, virtually.

To every parent out there who makes it, every goddamned day. Who gets shit done, clothes cleaned, homework enforced, dealing with or putting aside our own mental and physical and socio-economical blockages. We deserve so much respect and love for the good we manage to do.

Hugs!

So, y’all, go out and hug a parent. Ask first, though.

Huuugs