Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our sanctuary

ANow first up, if I was to say the words 'home sanctuary' I can pretty much guarantee our home wouldn't be the one to come to mind. No, not the house where you are required to step over obstacles from the front gate right through to the back door (scooters in the driveway, school bags in the hall, a tipped over washing basket of things I cleaned out of the car 4 weeks ago, random toys, a bag of clothes for Vinnies and a box of clothes that were to go to the shed 2 months ago but have come around to being season-appropriate again). Not the place where you struggle to complete a sentence without someone  jumping in to complete it for you or add their own perceived version of events. Not the place where 3 days with of washing and not sorting means one lounge suite covered in clothes.
Ugh. I get sad reading that. That's not what I want for our home! But it is what it is, physically. 
So when I say home sanctuary, obviously I don't mean a place of zen and calm relaxation.
What I do mean is that finally (and it has taken me a couple of years!) I want my kids to be happy. I am allowing myself to care more about their happiness than their teacher's or their friend's or their friend's parents. Yes I care that they go to school and follow instructions and are nice people, but for too long I have worried about what other people think. I want our whole family to go to school or work, and when they get home to just shrug off the day and enjoy being home. For this to work, I've needed to stop worrying myself silly over what people think when the kids have issues with friends at school, when they don't go to school, when they cry at school etc etc some 'bad' behaviours don't need discipline as much as understanding. C1 recently refused to go on her school excursion and we were so angry and embarrassed. What 9yo would give up the chance for a fun day off school with their friends?! That question turned into 'what 9yo is too worried about being bus sick to ride on the bus?!' and also had us asking 'why doesn't she just trust us that she'll have a good time?!' And 'why won't she just do what she's told?!'. We still haven't got the answers, but now I've decided they aren't that important. If she felt too anxious to ride the bus an hour to the excursion, why are we angry at her and trying to force her?! To quote the author of one of my many parenting books, 'kids do well if they can'. If she could ride the bus she knew she'd have a good day once there...but she couldn't. Not only that, but she had been telling us for DAYS that she didn't want to go and why and we just ignored her. We ignored the whopping tantrums that were in retrospect caused by the stress, we ignored that she had been too anxious to eat for days leading up to the excursion and we offered her numerous rewards if she did make the trip (despite her telling us nothing we could offer her would help - that just became another challenge for us to try to overcome!). So her dad took her to the bus, she cried, he yelled, she cried some more, she was very quiet for a day or two afterwards...and meanwhile, the people we had been concerned about (while the one we should have been concerned about suffered) probably didn't give her a second thought once they left the bus stop. 
That's not the sanctuary I want to create, but it was the catalyst for change around here. And we are all happier for it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What to do?!

Well while first day back went off without a hitch, 2nd day was a disaster with c2 and c3 both returning to me in tears. This was a first for c3, she's not typically an anxious kid and usually is too eager to please to do anything outside of the rules. But today, as I stood next to c2 who was clinging to the car door, out c3 came from school with body heaving sobs and (as c4 would put it) drops coming down her face. She said she
was sad c2 was sad and that she had nobody to play with :( c2 had no reason for today's episode, except to say 'you know it's hard for me to go back to school after holidays!'. C1 came out sometime during all of the drama and I nearly laughed at the ridiculousness of my situation but it turns out she was ok and just trying to help.
It really is a juggling act with so many little kids (who aren't so little anymore but are needy as ever!). I count on them all being good and compliant and relaxed so as not to upset anyone because there can be an avalanche of emotion if just one isn't feeling stable. If c2 was feeling just a bit stronger this morning, he could have turned c3 around and gone into school to play handball with her. They look after each other, when they are themselves feeling ok. After an hour or so of alone time in their bedrooms (and a bit of cathartic screaming and stamping from c2) I gave them their homework to do and negotiated a time to return to school (recess). They both went fine then, and both said their days were good when I asked them after school.

But I always ask myself what could I have done differently...and usually come up with nothing. I wonder why other parents do not have to deal with this level of school refusal - I understand that if it was only c3 I could have taken her in to settle her a bit but when I had c2 refusing to move an inch from the car door that couldn't happen so she pretty much came along for c2's refusal routine. Why does he even have a refusal routine?! Isn't that ridiculous itself, that this keeps happening and yet we can't fix it...we can only ride out the storm. 

What was really bothering me today though was that I know these kids could be happier in a different learning environment. My heart tells me so. Why are they perfectly happy to complete schoolwork at home but not at school? Why can they socialise beautifully with other kids, that they know and that they don't know, in any setting but an instructional one? (Not that they don't socialise there, just that having those friendships at school isn't enough for them to want to go). How can they learn when they aren't comfortable where they are? But I don't want to stop working, and I don't want to homeschool them, and I want them to have a normal school life, and I want c4 to start school there just as we've planned and I don't want to give up on the fact they should just bloody well do what I say because I'm the parent and that's why! ;) I do wonder just how much we can all take though. 

Our last day of holidays - pizza and a family game in the park. No wonder they hate going to school.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

School holidays

Mostly good. I may sound a little jaded right now but that's because it's one of those times when everyone wants something of me just as I sit down. Meanwhile, dad is walking around and more than capable of doing what the kids are onto me to do! What's with that?!
I have enjoyed not waking up at 3am with insomnia related to the worries the kids have at school. It's a terrible feeling, anxiety, and it's kind of funny (but not funny ha-ha) that it took c2's struggles with anxiety for me to ever have experienced it chronically! I mean, I'm sure I must have felt it at some stage, probably when I had an assignment due at school or my best friend wouldn't sit next to me at school for some unknown reason, but mostly I've been as cool as a cucumber for most of my life. Hmm...just writing that I see that school is a cause of anxiety for even the most chilled people so no wonder my intense little minions are struggling. Anyway, the good thing is that no one is feeling it right now. Everyone is sleeping well, eating well, playing well and enjoying the limited pressures of holiday life.
I took this photo yesterday. They had been playing on that trampoline for 2 hours!!! There was the occasional incident, but quickly resolved.
So all of this time for me has made me realise I need a hobby. I haven't had this much free time for as long as I remember. Currently I spend my free time cleaning but that's not a very good hobby and I'm not a natural. I don't get a great buzz out of organising and having a home beautiful (probably because it never lasts long - I do have one room that I like to keep tidy and as long as I can sit out there without mess everywhere I'm happy enough). So, what could it be?! I'm leaning towards exercise but just need to decide what I'm going to do. I've always been interested in triathlon - I like running, riding and swimming - but I just have to battle the part of my self image that is telling me that I am not athletic, I am lazy and I can't commit to anything and see it through. The thought of me in Lycra is also amusing!