Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kind and Gentle

Yesterday when Chris picked Gwen up from her caregiver's house, he was told that Gwen's behaviour had been significantly bad. He ended up talking with the caregiver for a good fifteen minutes to hear all about Gwen's day, which included:
- not listening/obeying the caregiver
- drawing all over her playmates' pictures even when they asked her to stop
- acting out when her playmates then didn't want to play with her
- grabbing toys away from other children
- LYING DOWN on one of the other kids and not getting up even though the other kid was crying
- running full-tilt into another kid and knocking her down

The caregiver suggested that we emphasize listening to her playmates, in addition to listening to adults. Her behaviour didn't improve at that point: she even hit Chris in the face when he tried to take her out of the car.

I feel worried and discouraged about this, because it's such a struggle to get through to her with her incredibly selective listening skills. Moreover, she has no empathy at all - cognitively, she just doesn't get it. I ask, "Do you think your friend felt sad when you knocked her down?" and she replies, "Yup," with no emotion whatsoever. She truly doesn't grasp that her friend is a person just like she is, and that her emotions are just as valid.

Speaking of Gwen's emotions, she is definitely a turbulent girl and always has been. Lately this takes the form of extreme crying and shrieking fits that she can't come down from. She will be nearly hysterical crying and saying, "Mama, help me calm down!" Her emotions are beyond her control and that scares her, which makes the whole process worse. With my help (she will rarely accept Chris's ... more on that in another post) she will get herself somewhat calmed down for a moment, but immediately breaks down agan. Over and over.

So last night when I tucked Gwen into bed, I told her a special story. This, I have noticed, is one of the few times I can really connect with her and feel that she is really hearing me.

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl ..." and she fills in, "named Gwen!" "She had a grouchy, grumpy day. She didn't play nicely with her friends. She took their drawings and drew on them. She grabbed their toys away from them. Her friends didn't want to play with her because she wasn't kind or gentle with them. She wouldn't listen to them, and she even hurt them."

Gwen's eyes, at this point, were huge and even starting to fill with tears. Her voice was shaky as she said, "Mama, that story was a little bit scary!" It was certainly a different response from our earlier conversation where I'd tried to seek out empathy for her friend's hurt feelings.

"Just wait, Gwen, there's more to the story. Then Gwen came home with her Mama and Dada. She was still grouchy. She wouldn't listen to Mama and Dada. She shouted at them. She wouldn't do as they asked her to. She even hit Dada in the face.

"Then Gwen went to bed. She cuddled up with her bunny and her lambie. She snuggled down under her blankets. And just as she was about to fall asleep, she heard a noise. She opened her eyes to see ... The Magical Ballerina Fairy Princess!"

(This is a character who often makes appearances in our bedtime stories. For example, I have often told the story of how the MBFP gave Gwen her bed, which is magical and helps her have a good sleep and wonderful dreams. The MBFP, she is a MIRACLE WORKER.)

"She was so BEAUTIFUL!" Gwen interjected. Her eyes had lit up as if she really could see the MBFP in her room.

"The Magical Ballerina Fairy Princess said to Gwen, 'I hear you didn't have a very good day today.' And Gwen said, 'No. I was grouchy and angry and mad!' 'Well,' said the Magical Ballerina Fairy Princess, 'I have something very important to tell you. It's always okay for you to feel angry, or grouchy, or mad, or sad, or any way that you feel. But no matter how you feel, you always need to be kind and gentle to your friends, no matter what. And if you don't feel like you can be kind and gentle with your friends, then you need to say, 'I need some alone time,' and cuddle up with your lambie, and calm down until you feel ready to be kind and gentle to everyone.' And Gwen said, 'Okay, Magical Ballerina Fairy Princess, I think I can do that.'

"And then Gwen went to sleep. And the next day, Gwen got up and she was cheerful with her Mama and Dada. And she listened to them and did what they asked her to do. And then she went to daycare and played with her friends. She was kind and gentle with them and her friends were so happy to play with her. They shared toys with each other and played together and had such a fun and wonderful day. Sometimes, Gwen felt mad or angry or sad or upset, and when she did, she said 'I need some alone time,' and she cuddled with her lambie until she felt better.

"Then Gwen came home with Mama and Dada. She listened to them and did what they asked her to do. She was kind and gentle with them. They read stories together and did puzzles and had a yummy dinner. Gwen even got to help make dinner! Everyone had a really nice evening together. THE END."

I told Chris about the phrases and strategies that I had emphasized, and asked him to pass that on to the caregiver so we can be consistent. I don't know yet how successful this will be. Gwen was very responsive during the story, which gives me hope, and this morning I reiterated the concepts and she voluntarily practiced saying "I need some alone time," and removing herself. We'll see how she is at daycare today.

If anyone has any other suggestions or strategies or resources, I'm very open to advice on this topic!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In January when Chris finished his lengthy career assessment process with SetBC, we learned that the type of work he was most suited for, across all variables, was Military/Law Enforcement. And then I had to go and veto it, because I don’t want him being shipped overseas (Military) or required to relocate every few years (Law Enforcement) or being shot at (both). Guess what? It turns out there's a Military/Law Enforcement job that doesn't require either of these - the Sheriff Department. And this Saturday, Chris will have his chance to complete Step 3 of the 7-step application process to become a new Sheriff recruit.

So you guys, I need a favour.

This Saturday, May 28th, between 12:30 and 3:30, I need you to channel all the positive energy in the Universe onto my husband, who will be completing the SOPAT (Sheriff Officer Physical Abilities Test) that day in Victoria. After successfully completing the test within the allotted time, he will then be asked to move on to the next steps:

- Completion of pre-entry questionnaire which begins the search into your lifestyle
- Panel interview, including lifestyle and integrity questionnaire
- Background check – employment and character reference check
- Medical check

If this process seems intense, well, it is. Sheriffs are important people: they provide security at courthouses and holding cells, and are responsible for safe transport between the two locations. Thanks to the governmental hiring freeze, there is a province-wide shortage of Sheriffs across BC, which has led to some judges refusing to run their courtrooms, since there wasn’t adequate security. While the union and the public pressure are asking for as many as 100 Sheriffs to be hired in BC, there are currently only a handful of postings. One of them is in our hometown.

The combination of a desperate need and a hiring freeze has made the application process rather bumpy, and many of those bumps are not yet ironed out. Moreover, the competition is likely fierce. So like I said - I am asking for every ounce of focussed intensity to wish my man good luck, nerves of steel and boundless energy. After six months of unemployment, he has a real shot at his dream job.

I will keep you all posted on the result!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dear Gwen: Month Thirty-Seven

Dear Gwen,
Today, you are thirty-seven months old.

Your imagination has surprised me so much this month. Just about every night, you tell me the following story:

"I saw something in the air tonight! It was a rainbow. And a giant potato. The giant potato was crying because the rainbow was eating all its popsicle treat."

I have nothing at all to say in response. It’s a weird story, and it doesn’t vary at all from one night to the next. And when Dada puts you to bed, you don’t tell him the story. Just me. I have no explanation whatsoever.

Another excellent example of your imagination is your recent decision that “Mama is going to go to the hospital and get me a baby brother.” Oh, my dear girl. This is just the first of many, many dreams that your parents are going to crush for you. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t actually like having a little brother all that much. You would have to share all your stuff, and there’s no guarantee that your brother would take kindly to your endless bossy ways. I don’t know where you got the idea that I was going to get you a brother (perhaps the giant potato told you?) but it is just not going to happen, despite your starry-eyed exclamation that you just can’t WAIT to see him!

Despite the uncertainty of life, and the fact that I can never be sure if I’m doing a good job of being your Mama, there is one thing I know I am doing right. I tell you all the time how much I love you, how important you are, and how glad I am that you’re my daughter. I know that these messages are being received, because last week you snuggled into my lap and said, “Mama, you are my amazing girl.” Just like I say to you! It was such a lovely moment. And by the way, I do love how very snuggly you’ve become lately. Every morning starts with you crawling into “the big bed” for a snuggle, and you are often cuddly throughout the day and evening depending on what we are doing. Our snuggles before bed are the best, as we talk about what we liked best about the day – you actually answer questions like that now, even though you often tell me something that we did on a different day. It’s neat to see what memories stick in your mind.

Also sticking, at last, are your manners. You still need reminding, but the reminders are getting more and more subtle. A few days ago, we had the following exchange:
Gwen: I want some milk, Mama!
Mama: (stands patiently and quietly, looking intently at you)
Mama: Do you know what I'm waiting for?

Gwen: For Dada?

Mama: No.
Gwen: For manners?

Mama: Yup.
Gwen: Can I please have some milk please?

You knew what was expected, and all it took was a look to get you to do it. Perhaps there is hope for your little lizard brain after all.

We’ve had some very challenging moments lately, in addition to the lovely ones. One night after dinner, I asked you if you wanted to have a shower with Mama or if you wanted to play for a while before bed. (Now that you are potty trained, you don’t bathe every single night like you used to.) You chose to play. I reiterated that this would mean no shower, and you agreed. However, twenty minutes later when it was time to start our bedtime routine, you were absolutely devastated to realize that you would not, in fact, be having a shower. There was simply no explaining to you that the time in which you _could_ have showered was now over, that you had made a different choice and had to live with it. It took probably another hour to get you into bed, what with all the theatrics and tantrums. NOT my favourite night. Next time some parenting expert tells me to “just give your children choices”, this is the incident I’m going to remember.

Another unlovely moment came just a few days ago, when I was shopping with you at a large store. You ran away from me and I lost sight of you. When I got to the end of the aisle where I’d last seen you, you were nowhere to be found. I started walking all around the store, looking up every aisle, calling your name. You were gone. At first I was sure you were just around the corner. Then I started to get annoyed. Then, very suddenly – like a switch being flipped – it was time for the cold terror. I approached a salesperson and asked for help, describing you and your clothes. It was only a moment later that we were reunited. From what I understand from you and the other salespeople, you had asked someone for help finding me. You did tell me that you were a little bit scared when you couldn’t find me. I’m grateful for that fear, and hope that it will help you remember not to run away from me. I’ve certainly drilled that lesson into you a number of times since then, but sometimes it’s like talking to a brick wall.

Speaking of a brick wall – a few days ago I said the following:
“Gwen, please don’t blow the dandelion seeds. Mama and Dada and Gramma are working really really hard to make the yard look nice, and when you blow the dandelions, they make a big mess all over the yard and it’s really hard for us to clean up. So when you see a dandelion, just leave it alone, okay? That way our yard will stay nice.”


So, yeah. Sometimes I don’t know why I talk to you.

Every time I sit down to write this newsletter, it gets more challenging to capture just what life with you is like. But I keep trying, and I hope at least it brings you some laughter and joy when you look back on these letters in the future.

I love you a million, billion, kajillion and three, and I always will. Thank you for being my amazing girl.



Thursday, May 19, 2011


Last week I got to attend a Myers-Briggs workshop through my employer and take the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This personality assessment is meant to become aware of my personal preferences in how I make decisions, how I interact with the world, and how I take in information.

The most compelling part of the experience for me was also one of the least surprising. I doubt anyone who knows me, even purely through online interaction, would be surprised to learn that I am an introvert. But what I was surprised to learn is that "that word doesn't mean what you think it means." 'Introversion' and 'extraversion' have been kind of repurposed by pop psychology and the modern connotations of these words are quite different from what was originally intended when Carl Jung coined them in 1923. When we think introvert, we think shy, quiet, timid. When we think extravert, we think friendly, bold, centre of attention. These connotations may be accurate for some people, but they're sort of beside the point.

As the workshop facilitator explained, the introversion/extraversion spectrum is really all about how we are energized. Some people are energized by being with other people: by spending time with friends, by group meetings, by brainstorming sessions. Those are extraverts. Some people are energized by being alone: by taking time to reflect and process and spending time in solo pursuits. Those are introverts, and that description fits me to a T.

So many times over my life I have bumped into my very real need for what I call 'downtime', which is time in which I am functionally alone. I don't necessarily need to be physically alone, but I need the other people present (generally, husband and daughter) to treat me as if I am. That is how I re-energize: by reading, writing, watching a movie, puttering with one of my hobbies, etc. Through this workshop, I came to realize that many other people - namely, extraverts - would have different requirements for their downtime/re-energizing time. I can't totally put myself in their shoes to understand what that would be, but I do know people who love to have other people around all the time, and I guess that's how they get their energy.

What I also realized in the workshop is that many of the things I thought were just my particular quirks, are actually functional traits of my introverted nature. My printed report contains so many stock phrases that I would have sworn were just me. For example, "Prefer to be alone when you do have to make phone calls, especially social calls." Who knew that was a thing?! I thought I just had a bizarre phobia. After many years, I can actually talk on the phone while Chris is in the room, but I do prefer not to. And I HATE overhearing other people's conversations. I've had to work really hard on this at my current job, since our office offers no privacy, and making phone calls is a big part of what I do. A common scenario is that I receive a request from a co-worker that involves making a phone call, and then I make the phone call with the knowledge that the same co-worker can hear the entire exchange. This makes me REALLY uncomfortable for some reason, and the less time between request and fulfillment of request, the more uncomfortable I am. I will do whatever I can to avoid it, such as waiting until my co-workers are on the phone themselves so they don't overhear my conversation. Yeah, I'm QUIRKY.

There are other phrases that sum me up really well, also. "Keep your feelings and interests to yourself; feel capable of solving problems on your own and prefer doing so." At least in my work life, I would very much prefer if other people solved their own problems as well, and kept their personal lives to themselves. Anyone who's ever read my numerous journal posts about a certain former co-worker will be nodding knowingly right about now.

But enough about introversion. What about the other three measurements? Well, the second scale determines how I take in information. Sensors work with known facts, focusing on what can be perceived by the five senses; Intuiters look for possibilities and relationships, perceiving patterns to reach conclusions. My results indicate that I am a Sensor. I "value efficiency, practicality, and cost-effectiveness; favour practical utility over intellectual curiosity; concentrate on what is happening now rather than thinking about meanings and theories". Yup, that sounds like me.

Next is the decision-making measure. Thinkers are logical, reasonable, questioning, critical, and tough; Feelers are empathetic, compassionate, accomodating, accepting, and tender. I'm a Thinker: I "believe that logical analysis is best for decision making; live my life logically, with premises leading to conclusions; are results-oriented and comfortable focusing on the bottom line". (Don't you love that phrase: 'live your life logically'? As if such a thing is possible.)

The final measure came up with the clearest results, meaning that when I did the test I was highly consistent with choosing my answers on this particular scale: the method by which I organize my external world. Judgers prefere a planned, decided, orderly way of life. Perceivers prefer a flexible, spontaneous way of life. Do you even have to ask? Let's see if these sound like me: "Dislike any kind of diversion; do not like surprises; work within a superstructure of efficiency; work on multiple tasks comfortably by starting ahead of time and working on each task for short, concentrated periods of time; arrange your world so you don't have to deal with last-minute rushes; are comfortable with routines and do not like them upset; prefer to control how you spend your time". Note to those who have criticized me for being a planner: TURNS OUT I WAS BORN THIS WAY.

I have kind of a hard time with this particular scale. Perceivers, at the other end, are casual, open-ended, pressure-prompted (think: all night writing session the night before the paper is due), spontaneous, and emergent (letting procedures and plans evolve throughout). It really seems to me like that kind of strategy is doomed to failure. I know I am very set in my Judging ways, but I honestly do not see how the two approaches could possibly be equally effective. It reminds me of the fights my ex and I used to have about housework. Neither of us liked doing it, but I recognized the necessity of doing it anyway. His take was, being disorganized is just as good as being organized. I just don't buy it. It's bad for your health to live in a filthy house. It's bad for your life to never be able to find anything you need. It's bad for your reputation to be seen as a slob. It's bad for your job if you don't have any clean clothes to wear. Similarly: you kind of need to be organized and planful in order to be a success. Don't you? The workshop facilitator made it very clear that on all scales, there was no one side that was better or worse than another. But I really have a hard time believing that panicking at the last minute is just as good a strategy as planning ahead.

Ever since taking this workshop, I have been examining my actions and decisions in a slightly different light, and even looking back at former experiences and preferences (especially those situations that made me uncomfortable) and reflecting on how my ISTJ personality colours my reactions. The Introversion and Judging measures are the ones that interest me the most, as you can see. I've even become a little bit defensive, about my Introversion measure specifically.

There does seem to be an expectation by the extraverts that everyone wants to engage in conversation with them. That woman sitting there reading a book? Probably just waiting for a better option. Why don't you go tell her about your pet's diarrhea? I know people who really seem to believe that "everyone wants to hear what I have to say, so I’d better say it! All the time!" I've concluded that introversion is not only about my own habit of remaining quiet, it is about my very real need for other people to be quiet sometimes too. Now that I know this need is valid, it is getting harder to ignore it and I get more annoyed when my need is not met, especially by people who know that the need exists (i.e. those who know I am an introvert).

Who else has done this test, and what were your results? Do you feel they are accurate?

Monday, May 16, 2011


I had every intention of posting here on Friday, and in fact had half a post in my drafts folder, but Blogger seems to be experiencing some instability and not only did that post disappear (no great loss) but the one I actually posted, "My Particular Girl", only seems to be visible at certain times to certain people. It's always something.

Today I want to report that Gwen still mispronounces breakfast as brefikt, and milk as mluk and that I still find these things cute as hell.

Also, that yesterday she played by herself for large stretches of the day. She does this weird thing where she pretends the parts of her body are separate beings, with voices and feelings and appetites. To the point where if she is kicking while I try to put her blankets on at night, and I ask her, "Gwen, please stop kicking," she says, "It's just my feet, Mom," and I then have to say, "Feet, please stop kicking so I can put your blankets on." Yeah, it's a little weird but I figure it's all part of imaginative play and figuring out who she is in the world and so on. Anyway, on Sunday, she turned her hands and feet into playmates and spent a lot of time talking to them and having them talk back to her. The same way you would expect a kid to play with a doll or a car or a toy animal, only it was just her hands.

Okay, this totally makes her sound like a nutjob, doesn't it?!

The awesome part for me was that she was quite carried away in this play and left me out of it. I think there was a good hour or so when she was doing that, and I was on the couch reading, and life was just grand. This first glimpse of independence is just a thrill!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This post is lame.

I've been terrible at writing in this blog lately, and I don't even really have a cohesive reason why. Or to put it another way, I have eleventeen potential reasons why, but none of them are very interesting and none of them are big enough to explain my continued absence here. Enh. I think there is so much limbo in my life right now that I am constantly metaphorically holding my breath, and thinking that I'll come post when there's something to say. Because sometimes it feels like all I have to say is, "Everything's still the same. Nothing new." And that's a pretty lame post.

But, you know ... everything's still the same. Nothing new. One of the things about having a three-year-old instead of an infant is that she doesn't change as fast. And I don't have breastfeeding, diaper rashes, and sleep deprivation to rant about. I will say that I LOVE having a three-year-old; that Gwen is imaginative and affectionate and competent and energetic and adores exploring her world, and she is just completely freaking fun to be around. (I say this with the optimism of one who has not seen an earthquake tantrum in over a week ... how soon we forget.) I am over the moon about this little girl who loves to do stuff that I love to do, and with whom I can have endlessly entertaining conversations. I can't believe how lucky I am that she is my daughter.

And that's a point I've been reflecting on a lot, lately. I have a few friends with fertility troubles, at various stages of their journeys. I am so grateful for my healthy body and its ability to deliver a perfect, healthy baby with little heartbreak along the way. I am also reading The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son which is just the latest in my long list of parenting memoirs about disabled children. I don't exactly know why I love to read these books (and these blogs) but I do. In any case, reading Brown's book reminds me just how lucky I am to have a healthy daughter. I don't deserve this luck, but here it is. Thank God (and I do). I really wish I'd known about options like donating eggs and surrogacy when I was still young enough to be of use to people.

The limbo with Chris's job situation also continues. I feel almost paralyzed trying to write about it. We never thought it would go on this long. There is tremendous hope and optimism in the recent opportunity to become a Deputy Sheriff, which would be such a wonderful fit for him. There is also a lot of frustration and dismay as this is a government job, and all government jobs in BC are currently on a hiring freeze (and have been since 2008), so we are continually getting conflicting messages about how the selection process will work and when the various steps will be completed. In the meantime he has started working a part-time retail job, which is good for him in many ways. It's nice to have something to fall back on if the bureaucratic goofiness of government work continues through the summer.

I was very sad recently when I had to cancel my annual Circle Tour that Gwen and I traditionally take at the end of May. There's no money, and even if there was, we only have one vehicle, which means I can't exactly take that vehicle away for ten days. Hopefully we will be able to do the trip in the fall and visit all the friends and family we can. It's a quiet time at my work right now, so I would have enjoyed the break. I'm trying to see the positive and plow on with my schoolwork. I'm so close to the end, and yet so unmotivated - not sure how to rectify that other than just forcing myself to get the work done.

So this is what it's like inside my brain these days. Random, mood-swingy, disconnected thoughts. Maybe you all should be glad I'm not posting more often.


Related Posts with Thumbnails