All in good time

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.

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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.

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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.

worm s eye view photography of stop signage
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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.

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BSD

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Editing Scripts

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!’

Why?

‘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.

She reflected.

I interjected.

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 think I’ll avoid her for a little while daddy’

Mission accomplished

BSD

Peace; Health; Happiness.


As 2018 draws to a close, I’m moving into reflection mode.

So much has happened since the start of the year; some things I’ve enjoyed sharing, others I’ve kept a little closer to my chest. I like to get things near to completion before I publisice them to the world these days. It’s a response to my prior habit of announcing my intentions too early..

I feel I’ve grown; a lot. I’ve watched my cubs grow too, as I’ve continued to nurture their development the best way that I can.

I’ve matured into the co-parenting role too. On reflection, this wasn’t the easiest of years in that respect. The challenges that I have faced crescendoed to such a frustrating level that I genuinely feared for my health at the start of this month. That’s behind me as thankfully, self-care kicked in.

Bonds of words have been broken, so I’ve drawn a line in the sand. The final straw being Christmas Day. The cubs were blessed with gifts. Not so much with attention. That left me frustrated but determined, that it will not happen again.

For me, the power of relection is to take the opportunity to learn. It isn’t about regret, as life is too beautiful for that. I promise you, if you search hard enough, there is a positive message in every single negative event in your history. It’s your job to recognise and capitalise on it.

I am so blessed that simply focussing on what is in my life is enough to make me smile out loud.

The cubs have their issues, but none are insurmountable. Plans are in place to deal with those.

2019

  • Carry on with the plans, unabbaited. They’re progressing nicely, but require concentration and patience.
  • Build better relationships based on my values, mutual benefit and reciprocity.
  • Focus on my health. Healthy eating, exercixe, good food, fresh air and relaxation.
  • Kill procrastination; my greatest foe.

For the cubs

Reflecting, has got me reflecting. What do I want to teach my children? what do I want them to learn?

I narrowed it down to 5 life skills. I’m going to discuss one every week from the 5th January. I hope you enjoy them.

Here’s to 2019 folks; stay true to your dreams!

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BSD

Learning Lessons

It’s difficult

Not being around the cubs 24/7. They spend the majority if the time with their mum. This is tough.

I read a twitter post from a single dad a while back  where he admitted that he broke down in tears the first time they went away and stayed with their mum. I really felt for him. I also immediately wondered if I should have felt more when they first went?

Solipsistic thoughts aside, I realise that in this situation I have been quite fortunate. Although things aren’t a bed of roses between me and the ex, she’s stayed local and realises the importance of me being active in the cub’s lives.

I adore them; I really do. They are everything and I’ve always tried my hardest to build and maintain a strong relationship with them. It’s good for all of us.

The difficulty comes when you start to see the values of the other partner enacted in the cub’s behaviour.

We have differences. Obviously. If we didn’t or they weren’t insurmountable, we’d still be together.

We have; they are and we aren’t.

As parents, we always think we’re right, right? We sometimes find ourselves looking at other parents in scorn. We might not always say something, but we think it.. ‘You don’t do it like that…’

Well when a family splits, you can’t help but judge the other parent in the same way. I try not to.

Honestly.

But some times….

Money

I’m a values based individual; sometimes it can be my undoing.

I can turn off something or someone if they don’t share my values. My principles guide my actions and it tends to be a golden thread in my life. I struggle with those that don’t. I don’t understand them, or what drives them. That can be an issue.

I see my job, as dad, to teach and guide. I prepare the cubs for a future in an uncertain world.

A world which, despite Trump, Brexit and emerging far right threats is a lot better than it was a generation ago.

That said, some things don’t change; determination, fortitude and a positive mental attitude will overcome most obstacles. So will knowledge of self-worth. Never, ever, sell yourself short, nor let anyone undervalue you.

Early days I know, but have a plan.

They’re too young, so it’s our job to keep them on the right path. Respect for others, humility and honesty are rewarded, as is telling the truth. My daughter gets it and there have been several, teary confessionals. More often than not, she’s been rewarded for that honesty, or at least not punished as much. My son, well that’s work in progress.

Here’s the challenge.

They learn so much more from what we do, than what we say. Not only do they pick up on the incongruous but they will mimic whatever it is that they see. I’ve written about this before, but our children are the mirrors that we hold up to ourselves.

Make sure you like what you see.

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BSD

Written in the Stars

I’ve hit upon an idea, and it’s a good one.

Okay, okay, total honesty time, my daughter has hit on an idea which was actually a re-hash of how we used to do things before the split.

With her being 8 and he being 4, the usual rivalries etc. rear their heads from time to time. A household can descend into a lawless wasteland if behaviour is left unchallenged.

We’ve been going through the normal challenges that children pass through, where they exercise the human condition of testing boundaries. I am a disciplinarian, but also a humanitarian. Being brought up by a strict father (including corporal punishment) I decided way before I had the cubs that I wouldn’t be that kind of guy. After all, what does beating a child ever teach them, that the bigger and stronger person is always right?

Wrong.

I could never hit my cubs. Such outbursts smack of frustration, a lack of control and revenge for not being obeyed.

In a technique honed with my daughter, I prefer to reason things out in conversation, with age appropriate language. Tone of voice and cadence also came in to play, supported by changing facial expressions. It seemed to work. She’s well-adjusted and appears to be quite rational.

He’s a little different. He gets frustrated quickly which I suspect is linked with his rough start in life and the fact that his diction isn’t quite where it could be for a child his age; he struggles to be understood at times.

His sister can also press his buttons pretty easily and she does so often.

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We had just emerged from a period of them sniping at each other, where my techniques weren’t working. I resorted to separating them and temporary banishment to respective bedrooms.

She broke the embargo to come and talk to me.

‘You know dad you should maybe bring back the star system. Every time we do something good, we get a star. When we’re not so good, you take one away.’

This was something we used to do regularly and it worked particularly well. Great idea, I told her, and gave her a hug. I also asked her why she winds her brother up all the time.

‘Because he reacts!’ she states, before heading back to her confines.

The notice board in the kitchen now has two sections. One for her and one for him. Stars are drawn for good behaviour and removed for violations. I’m not too specific as what constitutes what, as I don’t want them to escape on a technicality.

It’s been in force about a week now and seems to be working. I added the further incentive that if either got to 10 stars, I would convert those stars into pounds, or an equivalently valued treat.

If only my dad had been as inventive.

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BSD

 

 

3 years on; I’ve figured it out

Why single parents are so tired.

Questions!

They come thick and fast and at any time. Now I’m a great believer in educational opportunity so I aim to inform as much as possible.

When I’m tired though….

Questions asked

What I  should have said What I actually said
What’s your favourite colour Adults don’t tend to have favourite colours Blue
Who’s that? (TV weatherman) I’m not sure; his name will come up shortly Alan
Who’s your favourite Power Ranger I don’t really have a favourite, as I’m an adult Alan, the Purple one. You may not know him as he only fights crime on a Saturday
Where are they going (car driving the opposite way) I couldn’t possibly know that Primark
How fast can you run (after watching Usain Bolt) Fast humans can do about 20 mph Just a little slower than him
Where’s that sheep’s mum Not too far away Driving that tractor
Why’s Saturday It just is ?????
Why are those birds on the roof It’s a safe perch away from predators They’re keeping an eye on you
What keep the planet spinning Interactional forces of the magnetic poles Children eating their vegetables
Why can you see the moon during the day It’s a satellite of earth that orbits independently to our rotation It’s keeping an eye on you

I’ll set them straight before they do any exams.

BSD