Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I had a moment

We have recently transitioned Bubba to a twin bed, since he insisted on taking spectacular dives out of his crib, landing in awkward positions and screaming like he was mortally wounded. I considered the various schools of thought on this topic - you have the "get him out of the crib now before he hurts himself" side, then you have the "he probably won't hurt himself falling out" side. I found myself coming in on the not "hurting himself side". I'm not willing to risk a broken arm. Not to mention the fact that the boy has an iron will, and the one time I played the "just put him back in bed" game I lost. I relented after literally the fifteenth time he intentionally fell out of bed.

How is the transition going, you ask? Oh, very poorly, I answer! He has screamed himself hoarse over the last couple of days. But let me take you back in time, to the place my stress started building: Sunday morning, at Mass. We were in the crying room, and I was trying to keep Bubba in line. He did OK for a while, but the he started to melt down. I was holding Bubba, who was protesting mightily, and trying to reign in Bella, who was making faces through the glass at a school friend sitting a few pews away. I was standing close to the glass, my hand on Bella's shoulder to pull her away, when Bubba broke into loud, high-pitched shrieks and started hitting and kicking the glass. I immediately backed away from the window, but not before getting some rather...unamused glares from people sitting in the back pews.

I had also made the mistake of putting poor Bubba in a collared shirt for church. I know better - he can't stand collared shirts, but in my haste I didn't think about it. As I backed away my poor baby just lost it. He started flailing around uncontrollably, yanking at his shirt and screaming at the top of his lungs and hitting me. I sat down and started trying to soothe him and he headbutted me in the nose (it was an accident), so hard that I started bleeding. I had to put him down because I couldn't see for a moment. So he thrashed around on the crying room floor, banging his head so hard I could see the parents next to me wince. I gathered our things and we left. Bubba has a major meltdown every Sunday at church. Stress!

When we get home he refused to take a nap. He was in his room, throwing a fit, when I encountered a neighbor who informed me that, should she hear me letting my baby cry like that again, she was going to call the department of children and families and have me investigated. Stress. Now I feel trapped in my own home, like I can't do what I need to do because, should he cry too long, and who knows what this person's idea of too long could be, I'm going to have to deal with CFS. Not that I'm worried they would find anything undue, understand, but that's a headache I don't need in my life.

Now we are into nightly screaming fits. He doesn't want to be in the crib, he refuses to stay in bed, and bedtime has become a battle that I dread. Nothing gets done around the house, because by the time he finally gets settled he sleeps for a little while and wakes back up again. We are both getting fragmented sleep, and neither of us are the better for it. And I feel like I constantly have the spector of my neighbor reporting me to CFS hanging over my head, even though I know I haven't done anything wrong. Stress!

I'm having a little work stress, and a little money stress, and Bella's school is, in all honesty, driving me absolutely crazy. I am sick of policy changes and important memos and the constant complaints that parents aren't doing enough. It's just been one thing after another (like the day she got an out of uniform notice because her belt was tan and not brown), and it's piling up and adding to my worry. Bella is having trouble in a couple of subjects at school - worry. My car is acting up - worry.

So all that to say that it culminated tonight, when I was trying to get Bubba to sleep. I was putting him back in his bed for the fifth time, when I stood up my chest got tight, and my heart started racing, and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I had to go sit down and take some deep breaths and eventually felt better, but it was a wake-up call I needed. I need to calm down. Or, as a friend of mine would say, I need to settle my butt down.

I can't control everything. And I feel so guilty about poor Bubba, and about Bella having issues at school...I am awash with guilt. So my answer is: I can't fix everything at once. Progress takes time. I'll just have to take it slow. I just wish I had more time. More time to spend with Bubba, to help him with his issues and enjoy the bubbly boy that he is. More time to spend with Bella, to help her with schoolwork and just appreciate her for the joy that she is. But, since I can't make more time, I'll just have to adjust. I'm trying too hard to do everything. To work and take care of my kids and my house and my husband, to make sure that there are groceries and hot meals and a clean house and time to enjoy each other. I'm failing. What's the answer here?

Well, for starters, we are going to try going to an earlier Mass. Hopefully that will help with the meltdowns. I am going to do some reading and try and come up with some creative ideas for bubba's new sleeping situation. It might take a few nights and be hard work, but we will figure something out. As for the work and the money stress? Part of life, and will all work out. Bella's school? I'll just chalk all the irritating changes up to a new-ish administation settling in (although this is the last year I'll give them that credit) and hope that things get better. And I won't send her to school in a tan belt. Bella's classroom issues? We'll just work on that together. Nothing is happening that can't be handled through compromise or hard work. Maybe instead of complaining of how put-upon I am, I should be grateful that my problems are so easily solved. They might be stressful in the here and now, but looking long term, they're really just little issues. Humility is what I need. Humility and grace. And some sleep. I'm going to go pray for the first two and attempt the third. Good night!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Can't learn how to learn

Last year, Bella had fabulous religion grades. I could always count on her to have an 'E' (equivalent of an 'A') in religion. This year, she has been having some problems, and I was trying to get to the root of them the other day.

We were studying for her religion test last week, and I knew that it was all material that had been covered last year, so I was fairly confident. Things like the Holy Family, etc. While I was quizzing her from the study guide her teacher sent home, I noticed she was agitated, and the agitated turned into being flat-out freaked out. She didn't know any of the answers, and she was getting very, very upset. So we took a breather, and I asked her what was wrong. This was her answer:

"Last year, we learned the answers in order and the test was in the same order and as long as we knew the order that was how we passed the test! But this year the answers aren't in order and I don't know how to learn them!".

Say whaaaaaat?

I had encountered this last year - we were studying for her religion test and I asked a question out of order and she recognized it immediately. "That's not in the right order! I only know them in the right order!" Panic ensued. I calmed her down and just asked her the questions in the right order and everything was fine. I didn't think about it at the time, but I now know I wasn't doing her any favors.

So I told her last week that it was no big deal, we would work on them together. And we studied over the week, and I thought she had the material down (it was only about seven questions) and then when the test came home, she got a 'D'. I'm not too worried about it at the moment, because it's early yet and we have time to work on it, but this concerns me.

She also freaked out about her math homework. They are doing fast math facts, where they have to just look at a problem and know the answer immediately. The other night we were working on numbers 1-9 plus 0 and 0-9 plus 1. I started asking her questions out of order again, and she lost it again. "I can't do it that way! That's not how we learned it last year!" I tried explaining that she is in second grade now, and that things will be different this year, but it was to no avail.

When I say she gets upset, she gets really upset. She cries, her breathing speeds up, and she is terribly agitated. It seems to really stress her out. And I'm not pressuring her, yelling at her or anything like that. Just a casual, "What does the word 'divine' mean?" and she falls to pieces. She doesn't do that with spelling words. I am at a loss.

My question is: how do I help her actually learn the material, not just memorize the answers?