Conrad was getting over a cold/ allergic reaction to campfire smoke. We were on edge and making wise calculated decisions seemed harder and harder to accomplish. Our empathizing with each other’s exhaustion only made things worse. We started dragging each other down. Like a derailing train we were. Nothing too unusual on the outside, but that’s how it felt in my head.
We made a commitment to go out of town for the weekend. We met my parents up in the mountains, at my grandmother’s house. And the girls loved the outing. They are so hungry for adventure. It’s pretty evident. We made special memories and we had the chance to go for brisk walks with everyone, with the kids, with my mom and the girls, just with Conrad. It was what we needed to refresh and refocus.
Because she is doing distance schooling, Friday morning she opened gifts during her breaks, she even had a visitor who dropped off a cool gift (a book I read half of during this trip). And the last hour she listened in from the car, on my phone with headphones on. Yay for unlimited data!
A we arrived Friday evening we took the tele-gondola to the top of a mountain. We all ate croissants at the top of the mountain. We rode the gondola back, bought a cake, went home and celebrated Jackie. Again. She loves is every time we sing happy birthday to her.
The next day both girls threw rocks in the river, played outside all day, walked up the mountain, ate on the back porch a rich spread of absolutely delicious comfort food cooked by my parents. We all slept well and rested our weary minds.
During this weekend I read a book and two interesting articles, one that convicted my sin of easy anger. And another that I google translated for conrad because I don’t have the patience to do it properly.
Sometimes a therapeutic reflex like “I hear you / I see you / I understand you / I validate your emotions / I assure you that I love you anyway / but how do you feel / let’s label emotions and make them aware” is not suitable because it is one too intense and sophisticated, such as, for example, sewing a button with fine surgical instruments. Sometimes children just need to hear that what they are doing is socially unacceptable and that you forbid it. Your ability to instinctively delimit the terrain between what is allowed and what is not, without splitting the thread in four, is healthy when you have to put simple prohibitions on a child we know who has most needs met and no identifiable traumas: no we hit another, we don’t put ourselves in danger, we don’t offend, we don’t buy today, you don’t play computer now, etc. So, when it comes to the primary rules of social reporting or physical health, it is ok to impose your will as a parent, without unnecessary explanations and justifications.
If you have the feeling that your child is constantly demanding attention, pulls at you, squeezes you with energy, annoys you for nothing, always needs you for minor things, then it can only be one of the following things: either when you are with him you give mixed signals: you are physically there, but with your mind elsewhere and he always has the feeling that he wants you completely, not incompletely; either you are always super available, helpful, dedicated, looking completely at yourself. In both cases, it’s all about your instinct to set clear boundaries between presence / absence, his / her personal boundaries. Either you are duplicitous or too symbiotic. Snap out of it!
If you choose to explain to the child why you made a ban or a refusal, move on to it, without repeating the explanation many times, as if you expect him to make the decision for himself. Do you want to stop spending so much time on screens? You don’t talk to a 6-12 year old child every day about how bad they are and you still wait for him to “understand” and give them up. You must give up waiting for him to act for him, making up for your lack of power to protect him directly and firmly from what is hurting him.
If you expect the school motivation to appear only on the channel of teachers’ ability to fascinate him and make the didactic act entertaining, you are in error. The children need, from home, the firm message that we go to school to honor the work to the end. Again, I’m not talking about dysfunctional schools, but about that category of parents and educators who still work. Inside, there is the illusion of learning as a game, during which the child is a spectator of a show well crafted by teachers. Not. Children who end up learning well in the long run are not only smart, well entertained at school and well cared for at home; they are also verified, organized and accountable. Without falling into the rhetoric of “make me proud of you” or “learn that it is not in vain that we invest in you”, parents of children who work harder at school than their peers know how to impose expectations and support, verification and validation from the beginning. They expect the job to be well honored in general and everywhere, and their children feel it. They have rules at home, healthy living routines and a culture of voluntary and conscious effort.