Today I resorted to taking parenting tips from my children. Allow me to set the scene. It is a rare day when there is nothing pressing on the calendar. No plans. I thought I would take the boys for a park picnic to play. No one to meet there, just my men and I heading off to the park.
This decision was followed by a much less rare scene, my children launched a familiar protocol called 'Cooperate with Nothing Mom Says, NOTHING.' Is anyone else familiar with this protocol?
The struggle began. Children were hiding...I was chasing. Bodies were contorting in ways that don't allow clothing to pass over them....I was trying to stretch tightened limbs into tiny arm holes. Shoes were flying... I was being hit by shoes. Children's cheeks were flushed with excitement...Mine were flushed with frustration. And so the scene went, until it occurred to me...
Why?! Do I really want to go to the park this badly? No! Shouldn't they be the ones trying to get to the park? I think YES.
They really want to go to the park but the whole burden of getting there was mine and they were fighting so hard against me. It occurred to me that something was terribly wrong with this scenario. I didn't want to fight my way to the park for them today.
Here is a truth my children have figured out: When I say we are going somewhere, we go there. Regardless of how difficult they make it for me to get everyone there, we still get there. The ending is generally always the same, we go where I say we will go.
They are not motivated to cooperate. Their cooperation doesn't affect the results.
Not today. Today, I decided to take a cue from them. When they don't want to go somewhere they activate a protocol called 'Dead Weight'. Every muscle in their body goes slack save for their vocal ability. This allows them to screech their complaints whilst I try to get their limp body to go where I would like it to go. Anyone familiar with this one?
I decided to give 'Dead Weight' a try. I stopped the struggle and crawled back into my bed. It felt great to let all those frustrated muscles just go slack. I took the 'going to the park' burden off my shoulders and practiced some self-care. I decided not to be frustrated or angry anymore. I was going to be calm and rested. I was only going to concern myself with my own problems, like feeling tired. Going to the park was no longer my problem.
It took a few moments for my absence to be noticed. When it was, there was an odd silence, followed by an astute observation, "Mom, I am not dressed."
"I see that honey."
"I need to get dressed so we can go to the park."
"Yes, you do."
"You need to help me get dressed."
"I am so sorry. I was trying to help you get dressed but you weren't cooperating with me. That has made me very tired. I am resting now."
"But we are going to the park."
"Yes, we WERE, but now I am very sleepy and need to rest."
There was panic, screaming, and tears at the thought of me laying in bed while we were supposed to be going to the park. I expected this would happen. I was ok with it. I was now the one who was relaxed and enjoying myself, while he was now the frantic and highly motivated one. Initially he got very angry and frustrated with me. I just calmly repeated that I was now tired and needed to rest.
I didn't expect his next response. He was moved to thinking and action. He took the burden of getting to the park onto himself. He actually began to dress himself. The pjs came off with ease. Getting his clothes on was proving to be more difficult. He was really trying to get them on. Soon his little face was peeking up over the bed. Nose to nose with me and with tears in his eyes, he said, "Sorry you are tired, mommy. Did you get enough rest? Can you help me get dressed?"
I helped him. He helped me pack up our lunch and cooperated all the way to the park. He also encouraged his little brother to cooperate for fear that they would make me tired again. We picnicked in the park today for a shorter time than I had planed but getting there was much more pleasant for me.
If you ever get the chance, I recommend giving Dead Weight a try. I can see why my kids like it so much.