Archive for November 15th, 2008

Time In: The Zen of Parenting

We're taking a class entitled "Parenting the Challenging Child," that is being taught by our developmental pediatrician.  It's interesting, actually, because many of the techniques and philosophies being presented in the class are things that he has already presented to us in our appointments with him, but now we are seeing them presented in a much more methodical manner, rather than in the more bandaid-approach we've been getting. 

One of the key philosophies of the course is that techniques like "time-out" and ignoring undesireable behaviors only work effectively if it is time-out from positive attention.  So before adding the negative, reactive strategies to our parenting toolkit, so to speak, we are building our strategies for positive, proactive strategies.  Last week, we talked about the importance of "Time In." 

Time in is much what it sounds like – in many ways it's the opposite of a time out.  It is time spent with your child, but it's more than that.  It's not just ANY time spent with your child.  There are rules, you see.  Time in isn't an opportunity to teach.  It's not a time to discipline.  It's not a time to be a parent, per se.  It's a time to let your child BE a child, and for you to spend time with your child BEING that child.  You don't answer the phone, you don't do dishes or make dinner in the kitchen while you're half-paying attention to what your child is doing in the other room.  You don't ask any questions, you don't give any instructions.  Unless your child tries to do something truly dangerous like lighting the cat on fire, you don't issue any reprimands.  This time (15-30 minutes a day, ideally) is completely child-led play time.  You should try to see the world through your child's eyes for this brief period of time.  Instead of asking questions about what your child is doing, you should comment on, or narrate, what your child is doing, give lots of positive praise, and play along, or take directions from your child, but really let your child lead the way.  Your child should be the one to decide what happens during this time, you shouldn't be the one dictating any of the activities or the nature of the play.  Like I said, hard as it may be, this is not a time for teaching moments, or for interrogations (no questions!!  This is the hardest part!), or for reprimands.  Make sure that you've got a child-safe and child-friendly environment where your child is free to act like a child free from admonishments to not touch that, or not go there, or not do that, or whatnot. 

Get the idea?

This wasn't my first introduction to the concept of Time In.  Several books discuss the concept; most recently when I read Russell Barkely's "Taking Charge of ADHD" I was reminded that we should be practicing the art of Time In.  Dr. S. had emphasized the importance of Time In during our office visits.  But I'm not good at Time In.  I'm okay with generally spending time with my kids.  But this specific kind of Time In technique?  Not my strong suit.  Seth?  Seth is great at it.  He's a natural at this kind of Zen Parenting where you can just let your kid be a kid and let all the parenting instincts and teaching moments and reprimands go.  Seth gets in the moment and crawls around on the floor and builds legos and wrestles and lets J lead the way.  Me?  If you take away my questions, my teaching moments, my ability to lead in any way… I get tense.  There's no Zen of Parenting in Time In for me.  So the whole Time In thing has naturally fallen to Seth, not really on purpose, but because it's his strength and my weakness.  We're a team and we play to our strengths, right?

But that's cheating, according to Dr. S, and we have to learn to share responsibility and share the fun.  So last week, after our class on Time In, our homework was to practice our Time In technique.  Mommy isn't used to not doing well on her homework, so I was determined to make this work!  Thus began my first foray into the world of Time In. 

J was playing with Transformers and I started to play with him.  He didn't like what I was doing, so he switched Transformers with me.  I hate Transformers, passionately, so I was sort of at a loss for what to do or say.  "Golly what a nifty Transformer, and gee, how deliciously violent this game is" somehow seemed terribly inadequate.  I was tense and fairly miserable.  "Grr!" I said.  "My guy is attacking your guy!"  "No he's not," J said, "My guy has a shield and he blocked your guy! Take that! Kablam! Kablam!"  I stifled the urge to remind J that we don't like him making shooting sounds.  "Um, well, then my guy has shields too and um, your weapons can't penetrate them!"  "No, your guy doesn't have shields, and now I shot him," J countered.  This wasn't going well. 

"Gosh, J, this is a really neat Transformer!  Can you show me how to make him back into the sports car??"  Whoops!  The Time In Purist would be tapping the table to remind me that I'd just broken the cardinal rule of Time In… not only had I asked a question, but I'd redirected the play.  Fortunately, it didn't backfire this time.  "Oh yeah, look at this, Eema!  It is SO cool!  You do it like this, and you move that around, and then you…"

 I gradually became more comfortable playing with him, and we chased each other around the living room.  I became a giant transformer-eating monster, waving my arms about and stomping my feet in Frankenstein-like movements toward him. 

And then it happened.  I finally experienced the true moment of Zen Parenting:

J jumped up onto the couch, bounced over onto the chair, jumped to the automan, bounced back over to the couch and climbed onto the back of the couch and declared himself the winner (winner of what?  I'm not really sure).  J knows that my absolute most non-negotiable rule in the living room is that he may not climb up on the furniture and bounce around on it as if it is a playground.  He knows it is a sure-fire way to test what kind of mood I'm in.  But just as I was about to remind him to get off the couch, I remembered that would be against the rules.  Not only did I not have to reprimand him right then and there, I wasn't allowed to.  He wasn't in immediate danger, the cat wasn't about to be set on fire, it was time to just let this one go. 

In that moment I felt like all my tension just went out of my body and I was free.  Finally I could just let J be J.  I could just be with him and see the world from his perspective – perched upon the back of the couch, and you know what?  It looked really nifty from up there.  I understood what drove him to be up there, for just a moment.  For that moment I didn't have to be the mean old mom who has all these rules.  I got to be the cool mom who overlooked that relatively minor infraction in the grand scheme of things.  And then?  The giant transformer-eating monster scooped in, picked him up off the back of the couch, tickled him, and wrestled him down to the floor, giggling madly, with nary a reprimand to be heard.  Mission accomplished.  No arguments.  No fighting.  No pushbacks.  And without missing even a second of quality time with my son.

Since then, I've made it a point to spend time differently with J, even when it isn't specifically Time In time.  I try to be more animated while I'm talking with him, I let him lead the discussions more, I respond to the things that he's saying and I try not to just say, "uh huh" when he's talking about something I couldn't care less about (like transformers).  Even if I'm feeding the babies and he's standing there talking to me, I can still make him feel like he's got a few minutes, or even seconds, of my absolute, undivided attention.  And it's making all the difference in the world.

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We moved the nursery upstairs about a week and a half ago.  My three precious babies aren't just three steps away from my bedroom anymore.  Seth is in heaven; I am traumatized.  I thought I'd be over it by now, but I'm really not.  I admit it's nice having all four kids upstairs together.  It's nice having our own space downstairs, as we'd intended all along.  It's nice that J isn't all alone anymore.  Certainly, the babies haven't noticed any difference.  But…  it's so different at night – I'm so accustomed to hearing Sam's little sighs through the night, Ellie's cute little coos, and Abby's cries (Abby?  Not such a fan of sleeping). 

Our morning routine is completely different now, too.   It used to be that pretty soon after the first sounds we heard in the morning, Seth would get up and start changing diapers.  He'd change Sam first, and bring him to me to nurse.  Then he'd change Ellie and Abby, and bring me Ellie to nurse, and put Sam in the nursery to play while he offered Abby a cup of milk which she usually refused.  Now we hear them wake up, but we usually let them talk to each other for a while (and sometimes they even fall back to sleep!).  After J comes down to tell us he's awake, we tell him to go get dressed for school, and we go upstairs to get moving with the day.  Depending on whether Seth is still home (he often has to be at the hospital at an ungodly hour of the morning), we either split baby and J-man duties or I take care of it.  '

But first thing's first:  I open up the nursery door, and three beautiful, smiling, gorgeous heads pop up from their cribs.  These bright-eyed, bushy tailed, amazing babies never fail me.  They greet me with such joy and unconditional, overflowing love every single morning that I can't help but wonder why I ever questioned how I could handle triplets.  I wish, in those first few days or weeks of my pregnancy, when I was completely panicked about the prospect of getting through a triplet pregnancy and triplet parenthood, that someone could have adequately expressed to me how incredible a feeling it is a year later to have those three enormous grins shining at you when you open their door in the morning.  Or how unique an experience it is to sit down on the living room floor and have three enthusiastic babies giggling and crawling as fast as they can, racing to be the first one into your lap and climbing up to be the first one to get kisses.  I'm sure those experiences are incredible with one baby.  But they are nearly indescribable with three babies. 

Back to the nursery.

So you can see, this transition to the nursery is not entirely bad, it's just… different.  Once all the diapers are changed, we let the babies roam free for a while.  No more baby pit, you see.  The whole first floor (sans the kitchen, bathroom, and J's room) are baby proofed (for the most part).  I get J his morning medicine and then I nurse Sam and Ellie before I get the babies into high chairs for breakfast, about which time my nanny usually arrives (if it's a weekday) and takes over.   With the big difference in morning routine, it does making nursing the babies harder to squeeze in, and sometimes, it just gets skipped – I think we're getting closer and closer to weaning.   

So it's not an entirely bad transition, it's just a change.  And we all know how well I deal with change.


In other news, Sam is completely walking.  He rarely crawls, but when he does, it's incredibly cute, and I keep thinking I should get it on video before I lose my chance.  I probably never will, and I'll regret it.  Ellie has become quite a good walker, as well, though not nearly as steady as Sam.  She's catching up though.  Abby, who had steadfastly refused to even STAND, let alone walk, took three steps on Monday without me there to even see, the little traitor.  How dare she?  She promised me she wouldn't walk yet!  How could she do this to me?  Who gave her permission to walk?  Certainly not me!  Anyway, I think it was a fluke, because she hasn't done it since, and she hasn't even stood up without support, so I don't think it's something she's keen on repeating any time soon.

All three babies have been varying degrees of sick the past couple weeks.  They all had a cold that wouldn't quit for about 3 1/2 weeks.  The girls got ear infections and sinusitis.  Sam skipped that, but then developed a four day 102 degree fever.  He was so sad – he wouldn't eat or play, he just sat in our laps sucking his pacifier and holding his beloved elephant blankie.  I normally don't let him suck on a pacifier except during naptime or bedtime, but that's all he wanted, and I thought it was only fair.  Poor baby.  But everyone is all better now, or so it seems, so here's hoping.  J also had a cold and his normal reactive airway/asthma type stuff along with that, but fortunately, even though he won't take his ADHD medicine without a fight, he LOVES taking his inhaler, so at least THAT isn't a fight! Whew!

J is doing really well.  I'm really proud of what a great big brother he is and how well he's doing in school and with speech therapy.  He's such a loving, creative soul and wants to do well.  I'll write more about it in a separate post, but we're taking a parenting class on "Parenting the Challenging Child" given by our Developmental Pediatrician, and we realized that so many of the things that made J challenging are already less of a challenge just in the couple of months that we've been working with the developmental pediatrician – and I'm just so proud of J for the progress that he's made.  The class is still incredibly helpful and it's good to see the material presented in a very methodical way, instead of the more bandaid approach we'd been getting it in our appointments with the pediatrician, but I feel so much less like we need this DESPERATELY than I did two months ago when we first registered for the class (though it only started 3 weeks ago).

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