Here in the UK, we have a turn of phrase for being busy; we call it spinning plates. It harks back to the circus act of erecting a number of head height poles into the ground, then balancing spinning plates on them.
The trick of it was to wobble the stick in a circular motion, causing said balanced plate to spin and remain in situ unaided. The skill arrived in getting all your plates spinning, by running to each stick in succession as they slowed, friction getting the better of them, and impart more energy to keep them going.
To be successful, the artist needed to be a blur of movement between each.
The act never lasted long.
Back to reality
My plates were projects, desires, goals and work. It was fun for a while, imagining the utopia of each whilst imparting that energy, but it was extremely tiring. Something had to give and BSD was the [temporary] casualty.
I even considered ending this alter ego but in the nick of time, I realised that it was a pity party move.
It hasn’t been plain sailing in the BSD household recently, and I’m squarely to blame.
Youngest cub has made the quantum leap to being potty trained. A real milestone in the transition from toddler to child. I’m ever so proud of him; he even goes to the bathroom standing up, after observing daddy in some uncomfortably candid moments.
I was conscious of this milestone as he entered the schooling system last September. His birthday is in late August and he had only just turned 4. Personally, I think that this is too young to enter full-time education, but such is life. I wanted him to be dry by the time he entered the system.
There is no shortage of reading out there with useful hints and tips. I knew what I wanted to achieve and set about doing it. I had the appropriate discussions with him and we spoke about what we would do to achieve it. We were both quite excited.
At first, things went quite well. He would excitedly run up to my room in the morning to proclaim his dry night. Great success!
He then had a couple of slip ups, but this was fine; the road to success is rarely a straight one. We could handle it. Bed changed, cub washed, no harm done; on with our day.
We then had a frequency shift; the dry days were beginning to lose out to the wet days. As we awoke in the morning, the disappointment in his voice was heartbreaking. More cuddles and reassurances that this was okay and that he would get it in time were administered.
I changed tactics slightly. Both cubs usually bedded down with a bottle of water to combat nighttime thirst. This stopped. We also watched the volumes of drink that we consumed in the pre-bedtime hour. This was restricted too.
It didn’t help.
We then tried a reward system. The star system that was already established was utilised. A star would be rewarded for more dry nights than wet nights.
This was wrong.
Things seemed to be getting worse.
Not only were we experiencing more wet nights but his skin also began to suffer. He’d clearly been peeing early in the night and then sleeping in it. The damage was visible.
He was also getting damaged inside with feelings of regret and shame of not doing as was expected of him.
I had a paradigm shift.
It followed some soul-searching on my part and answering a few questions.
Why were we doing this?
Who would benefit?
How was it making him feel?
How was it making me feel?
The answers, were quite damming.
We were doing this because I had decided that we should do it.
Whilst we would both benefit, primarily I would.
It was clearly making him feel bad; he was neither dry nor earning rewards.
This made me feel bad.
Time for a change.
We stopped. We had another chat and more importantly we re-bonded.
This took the form of a huge cuddle whilst watching his favourite film and eating popcorn. Eldest wasn’t left out; she got under one arm (and near the popcorn). I could, quite literally feel us all renergising in each other’s company.
There were some big learning points here and they were all for me.
I realised that I had let outside influences decide on what was best for my cub, rather than let him tell me.
Please understand, I don’t mean that I expected a 4-year-old to vocalise what he wanted; our children tell us things in so many other ways. We, as adults have to shut out the external noise and truly listen to what they are ‘saying’.
I was guilty of comparing him to his sister, to his classmates, to books e.t.c and in doing so, I ignored the only one I should’ve really listened to; him.
Attaching desired behaviour to a reward system is an age-old methodology but I applied it incorrectly. I’m still not sure I should have applied it at all.
He’s fine now. His skin shows no traces and he’s his usual, cheeky self. He’s back in the training pants for bed as the realisation that he is a deep sleeper will most likely mean that he takes a little longer to get dry.
I have every confidence that he will be; all in good time.
After a rather successful half-term holiday break, I haven’t seen the cubs for a few days. They’re with me for the next four days but I’ve missed them terribly.
I pick them up from after-school club on what was for me a testing day at work. All stresses fell away after I saw them. Youngest came out first, looking thoroughly fed up; 50% of him seemed to consist of tomato soup, the folly of a white, cotton school top.
Driving home, eldest gives me the full rundown of events from the last time we saw each other.
Someone has used the F word. One of her classmates.
My ears prick up.
‘I told her that I was going to tell the teachers; she begged me not to then started to cry!’
My inner psychologist spiked.
‘It was fake tears though, she kept looking to see if I was looking!’
So what did you do?
‘I told the teachers, but then she cried and they let her off. Then she told other people that I had said it and I AM SO ANNOYED!’
‘Because she never got punished! Then mummy text her mummy and they had a row!’
I smiled ever so slightly, but probably wider than I realised.
I dig deep for a response. I immediately think of the different ways in which my ex and I have approached this situation. For me, this situation does not require a knee-jerk response. There aren’t many situations in life that do.
What I felt was an appropriate response, was to help her deal with such situations when they happen again. I wanted to give her a script that she could call upon in future. I could fix the situation, but how would that benefit her?
I immediately thought of the differences in upbringing between my ex and I, and how this was playing out in our own parenting.
After listening to her, we picked apart the interaction, adding a rationale to each step.
She swore – yep, some people do but not at your age. It makes you look bad.
She cried to get out of trouble – that happens a lot. It the response of someone who won’t take responsibility for their actions.
I got really angry – interesting response; you’re probably holding others to your own standards and values, then getting frustrated when they don’t meet them. That’s a fast track to heartache.
I want to see what she does tomorrow – why? she’s already shown you who she is.
You’re going to come up against people like her all your life. If you let them get under your skin, they’ll ruin your day whilst they enjoy theirs. Learn to blank them out and avoid them.
She went deeper.
‘So mummy texting her mum was wrong?’
I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but look at the motivation. We’re both trying to protect you; just in different ways. Both are done out of love.
I could see her brain ticking over. Then she shook her head.
I’d like to give you a short preview of my 5 week series on the life skills I’m trying to impart into my cubs.
I’ve thought long and hard about this one and reflected on their upbringing so far. Eldest cub, for the most part was raised in a semi-stable home and relationship, although the signs that her mother and I weren’t going to make it were already there.
Her formative years were moulded by the dual influences of both parents, even though I worked long hours and my partner stayed at home. Bonds were formed and taught values were reinforced in behaviours I showed daily.
The co-parenting paradigm shifts things onto a more challenging footing, and my son is now away from the dual influences of both parents. It’s difficult to know what effect this is having on his development as you have to allow for individuality in behavioural differences. I doubt that it’s as straight forwards as nature or nurture.
This whole piece wasn’t straight-forwards.
Having the cub’s best intentions in mind, I want to give them the best start in life that I possibly could, without overlooking their childhood by extolling vicarious values. I tried to be objective, with a topic that is hugely subjective, and I struggled to get the list down to 5 life skills. It changed numerous times.
My list may differ from that of others and I’d be keen to see how mine measures up, but when I reflect on the times that I might have stumbled in life, these are the skills that got me to my feet again.
Within each of these 5, I will attempt to explain why I think that the skill is vital, from the perspective of both an adult and a child. I will also attempt to explain how I teach this skill and then reinforce it in my own behaviour.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts and as always, I’d love to interact with you and have a discussion.