The Elizabeth doctor

The Bing and I have an imaginary friend. She started long ago, when BB was very small. BB would have these odd, looooong tantrums 45-90 minutes. They would begin the usual way, when she was angry about some baby or toddler injustice. But then they morphed and the reason seemed lost. In fact, BB seemed lost. She’d scream, cry and any typical consequence for such rotten behavior seemed ludicrous. Attempting to comfort the lost girl was also no use. Over time, I found two things that were helpful in bringing her back. One was to turn on any her favorite Signing Time DVDs. The music seemed to reach in and pull her out. Another way was to talk about her, but not to her, in front of her. I would talk to one of the cats, quietly and calmly.

Nicky, she’s okay. BB is really mad right now, so she’s crying. But she’s okay and soon she’ll stop crying and talk to us.

But sometimes there wasn’t a cat around, but this way of talking about her being okay, but not directly to her, seemed to help. So, one time I picked up a toy phone and had the same conversation on the phone, just like with Nicky. It worked.

After several times of this, BB would hand me the phone, when she was calm, and I’d talk to our friend, often about BB. I’d talk about our day, about how a BB was doing,… anything really. Sometimes BB would talk on the phone too. One day I asked BB if this person on the phone had a name.

Yes

she said

Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Doctor.

Doctor Elizabeth?

I wondered.

No, Elizabeth Doctor.

And so she is.
We still call her. No more emergency calls over tantrums, these days. I still give updates on BB, but we also check in on her. More often than not, she’s traveling. Recently she was on a long flight, from Australia, I think, but there were no bathrooms on board. Luckily she made it home, though I’m not sure where she lives. She never says and BB is careful not to have her visit. We keep her on the phone. Happily, we keep checking in. I wonder how long this friendship will continue?

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Teenager parenting for preschoolers?

The other day Hubs & I heard a story on the radio about parenting teenagers to help them resist peer pressure. I mentally tucked the information away for later, but Hubs said, “why not now?” Basically the idea is you teach kids to argue with you so they know how and can argue with their peers in a tough situation instead of following along. You know, and resist drugs, sex, and whatever they’re doing these days. I thought BB too young for this at 4, going on 5. I thought it would confuse and overwhelm her, but also thought if you want to try, why not?

So Hubs, when faced with a disagreement with BB has been challenging her to defend her position.

Tell me why it’s a good idea for you to watch TV now?

At first, she needed some coaching, but it’s really taking AND I think reducing tantrums. BB knows she has a chance to get her way. It’s not just “no.” It’s, “no, unless you can tell me why it’s a better idea than mine.” And she has given some pretty persuasive arguments.

I’ve been listening all day.
Will you brush your teeth & hair before TV?
Yes.
How about turning it off?
When you say.

So things formerly demanded are now negotiated. And her behavior has been great! Of course this will last for 2 weeks, at best, when she’s likely to turn into a troll-child with the latest development we didn’t anticipate. Phew…this childhood thing is exhausting! Yet, there’s something different about this. I mean, this technique should last through her teens, no?

Real or Pretend?

The other day in the car, BB and I were playing a made-up game, as we often do in the car.  I call this one, “Real or Pretend?”  It went something like this:

Me: Dragons… real or pretend?

BB: Pretend.

Me: Yup.  How about Mini Coopers?  Real or pretend?

BB: Real.  Bert is real.

Me: Uh huh.  It would be kind of hard to ride in a pretend car.  Santa Claus… real or pretend?

BB: Pretend.

Me: Easter Bunny?

BB: Pretend.

Me: Tooth Fairy?

BB: Pretend.  How about walking trees?

Me: Pretend. That would be strange, but I’ve seen them in a movie.  What about pandas? Real or pretend?

BB: Uh, real… and pretend and stuffies (that’s what she calls her stuffed animals). 

Me: Wow, yeah.  There are real ones and cartoon pandas and you have a lot of stuffie pandas.  Isn’t that interesting?

BB: What about buildings?

Me: Real.  What about dinosaurs?

BB: Pretend.

Me: No, they really did live once.  But they don’t anymore.  So, I’m not sure what that makes them.

BB: They were real; then they all died.  Now they are bones.

Me: Yeah, that one is complicated. 

This went on for a while, until we moved to a rhyming game.  BB loves to rhyme.  What was interesting to me is that we have never told her that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren’t real and she’s just beginning to hear about the Tooth Fairy at school.  We’ve been a bit agnotistic about Santa Claus, letting her form her own conclusion.  It appears that she has.  I made an effort not to tell her what I thought about this for now.  I think I’ll have the same approach to religious issues, bringing it up, but not telling her what to think unless she asks.  I don’t think any child is an atheist any more than they can be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist,  a Democrat or a Republican.  Perhaps they are all agnostics or skeptics, as they certainly question more than any other people.  I’ll expose her to the issues, in age appropriate ways.  Tell her what I think, as it makes sense, what others might think (to teach tolerance of ideas – I bet she’s aware that some of her friends think Santa Claus is real) and we’ll see what she thinks as we go.  It’s so much fun finding out.

Parenting differently

The Hubs and I have been talking about parenting and I’ve been thinking about how our styles are similar and different.  Mostly, I wanted to make sure he was okay with the differences, as I am aware that my style may be perceived as more passive and I wondered if he saw it that way.  In fact, when I’m holding back, I’m doing it quite intentionally.  The thing is, when we are together, he will step in long before I will.  I am aware of how this may look to others, which I don’t really care about, but I do care how it is for him.  Did he feel like a more active parent – the one always dealing with BB’s “stuff”? 

When BB has a tantrum, I can be quiet.  I let her do her thing, as it’s my opinion that she isn’t rational and she can’t understand me.  So, I don’t bother talking much.  I do sometimes separate her from me, walk ahead of her, hold her, whatever… keep her safe.  But rarely do I talk to her, except to give her a specific direction (go to your room, I’m picking you up, I’m putting you down…).  I do wait, watch, always looking for signs of change in the tantrum.  Recently, she surprised me by, after a long while of fury, starting to yell in the same agonized voice, “I’m having trouble,” at which time I knew she was ready for my help and I asked her, “do you want to calm down?”, as I wanted her commitment to try before I helped, not magical thinking.  She said she did, so then we started working.  When she calmed, and it took awhile, then I started the rational talk about what had happened.  This was such a cool sign of maturity… her asking for this help, which we talked about too.

Hubs style is more active, right from the start.  It’s just who he is.  It’s not better; it’s not worse.  However, when we are together, he is the more active parent.  My activity is quiet.  Hubs and I  also have a hands-off each others'” stuff” policy.  If I’ve started something, he’s to stay out of it.  If he starts something, I stay out.  Given that my parenting, early in an issue, is often internal, thinking, quiet or just a few words, he’s going to beat me to it and I’m out.  Happily, he says he doesn’t  mind.  He doesn’t see me as a passive parent.  Although, there are times, especially in a BB crisis, that I am a parent of few words.  This may change if she is ever more rational in crisis.

Going out of the way to say, “I love you”

BB often tells us she loves us.  She’ll come out of her room, after bedtime, just to say, “I love you,” then go right back to bed.  I admit, I wondered if there was a bit of manipulation going on… just a kid trying to stay up a little longer and knowing how to play a parent.  The thing is, she never asked for anything and she’d go right back to bed.  She’ll say “I love you” any old time.  It really struck me recently, at a family event, when she took off from a cousin and said, “I’m going to tell MawMaw I love her.”  The cousin said, “BB’s weird.  She goes the longest way just to tell someone she loves them.”  I realized then, this cousin had seen this before – going a long way for this purpose.  I happened to follow BB up the stairs and she didn’t fulfill her mission — not then, anyway.  She was distracted by others she ran into, in her 4-year-old way, but I’m willing to bet she fulfilled that mission a bit later. 

What makes this so meaningful for me, is that saying “I love you” took awhile in coming.  I remember telling her for a long time that I loved her and never hearing it from her.  I never asked her to say it, as I wanted it given freely.  I didn’t trust anything but.  What I did do was label her acts of freely given love.  When she initiated a hug, for instance, I said, “I love you, too.”  Anyway, here we are, and I gotta say, as someone who never said this easily, it’s really nice.

Black, white, and a little bit grey

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This Memorial Day weekend has been interesting.  BB and I have been busy with parks and movies and very complex discussions for a 4-year-old.  Her favorite movie of the weekend has been The Sound of Music and it’s themes have been weaving in and out of our talks all weekend.  I’ve been attempting to explain about soldiers who follow a bad man named Adolf Hitler and the good soldiers she saw in the Memorial Day parade.  Some of those soldiers (I didn’t explain veterans) fought Adolf Hitler and his soldiers, I told her.  I’m explaining the bad flag with the swastika and the good American flag, which she just got and is so proud of.  I explained how they are symbols representing things, places, people and ideas.  She had so many questions and it led us places I never expected to go with her, at four.  It led us to the black, the white, the grey.  We talked about how people can be faced with terrible choices and might choose to join, fight, or run from badness.  We talked about how good people might follow a bad man out of fear for themselves or because they want to look like a man (Rolfe).   She reminded me that soldiers can be women (she saw them in the parade).  We talked about just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean they are bad (like Hitler thought of the Jews and anyone who disagreed with him).  It is okay to disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean they are bad.  It is only bad if you hurt people, like Hitler did (I didn’t go into details).  BB thought of something:

BB: Miss L (her teacher) says we are all friends (in her class), but we aren’t.

Me: (Smiling, as Hubs and I have long been annoyed by BB’s school’s “policy” of the teachers referring to the students as all friends.  They say the children are all each other’s friends and they are friends of the teachers). You choose your own friends, don’t you?

BB: Yes.

Me: You don’t agree with Miss L about that, do you?

BB: No.

Me: That’s okay.  Miss L is still a good person and has many things to teach you (and thinking about the amazing lesson wrapped up in all of this).  You disagree with Mommy and Daddy sometimes too.

BB: Yes, and sometimes you disagree with me.

Me:  Yeah.  That’s okay.  Sometimes we think differently.

BB: Sometimes I get mad and hit.

Me: Yes; you are working on that.  Do we ever hit you?

BB: No.  Can I watch TV now?

That’s how it’s been this weekend.  Parks, friends, movies at home, interwoven with these talks about how people are different, how that’s okay, but we treat each other well anyway.  She does seem understand that she chooses her friends, but should treat everyone well, even if they aren’t her friends.  It’s just the right thing to do.

Games we love

The one above is a Melissa and Doug block balancing game.  Part of what I like about it is its flexibility.  There are at least a dozen different games you can play with it, not counting just building.  BB loves to build.

The one below is MindWare’s Imaginets.  BB is very good at puzzles (doing ones for 5 & 6 year olds now) and this is a great toy for her.  There are picture cards that you copy with the magnets.  She does them very quickly, then embellishes.

She also has Tangoes, Jr., which she isn’t quite in love with right now, but I am.  It has two levels, one is too easy and one is too hard for her, which is why it isn’t so great for her now.  In many ways, the Imaginets fits right into the middle.  I think she might like Tangoes a little better down the road.

As you can see, BB is very visual and enjoys building.  Sometime I should shoot a video of her putting a puzzle together.  It’s amazing to watch her.  I’ve never been good at puzzles and watching her… all I can say is wow.

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