It is rare that we have whole weekends that are free of major incidents. I think that the major weekend related struggle for M is simply the change of routine from our very scheduled weekdays. This past weekend was one of those rare successes. Now, I am pretty sure that what I define as a successful day, other parents may feel like was a disaster. Changing my expectations of successful parenting has helped to keep me sane.
My strategy this weekend (which also happens to be my mom’s primary parenting strategy) was to lead the kids through physically exhausting activities. This is also was the key to success in training our overly energetic puppy 10 years ago. This can sometimes backfire with M as if he is too tired, he can get exceptionally cranky. This past weekend it worked. We spent 3 hours at the indoor playground on Friday after daycare, we went to the natural history museum and ran through the gardens on Saturday morning. On Sunday, we did our normal gymnastics class followed by a 3.5 mile (round trip) hike up to a waterfall. M hiked nearly the entire time. M2 needed to be carried a little bit, but not even as much as I thought.
After our hike, they napped in the car a bit, but awoke as we pulled into our driveway. M was a bit cranky as he normally is when he gets woken up. He had a small meltdown but I ended up getting him settled on the couch watching the Minions movie. Then the best thing happened, the boy who hates being touched curled up next to me and snuggled for a bit. It was lovely. Then a few hours later, he ate a mostly normal dinner. This is also unusual. He is usually too dysregulated by the end of the day to eat much of anything besides cereal. Last night when I put him to bed and we talked about the day’s activities, we recounted all the fun we had, primarily our snake sightings i.e. rattlesnake and king snake. When said “I had a lot of fun with you today, M” he said “Fank you, mama!” and gave me the sweetest kiss. It may not seem like much but he can be so oppositional that my expressions of love and affection are usually met with “NOOOOoooOOOOOOoo!” or just angry grunting. It makes me feel hopeful for more days when we can find the right balance of activities for him to get him regulated.
Now, the weekend was far from perfect. He had some obsessive moments. He had trouble at the museum when he wanted to have his snack on the stairs near the fountain but I wasn’t understanding his vague attempt at describing where he wanted to sit. He lost a favorite item somewhere and talked about it for 2 hours straight. He is still searching for a tiny plastic sword off a McDonald’s toy. He woke up obsessed with it two days in a row.
Another parent at the museum gave me a judgy sidelong glance as I was trying to help M sort our his frustrations over the stair sitting. I get it, to the outsider, my parenting strategies seem indulgent. I was trying to get him back to calm so that I could understand what he was trying to communicate. He escalated to frustrated very quickly, as usual. My best defense against a full on meltdown is to be exceptionally compassionate and patient while he sorts out his feelings. In this case, we were blocking part of an uncrowded walkway and I was crouched down beside M, repeating, “I want to help, can you take some deep breaths?” as he scratched and bit me. It was a bit of a scene. But within 5 minutes, it was over, we were seated where he envisioned. He was happily crunching on some chips. The reason I consider this a minor meltdown is because it was over in a few minutes, it didn’t ruin our day. I didn’t lose it. I didn’t have to drag him out of the museum. That parent’s judgements have stuck with me. Its strange to think that in that moment when I felt very successful, someone else was considering me a failure.