Ask Ms. Gail

Found yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place with the kiddos? Or perhaps you’ve found yourself stuck in a weird nook in the clubhouse you’ve been told repeatedly that you really won’t fit in?

If you’re anything like me, we’re almost two weeks in and still struggling a bit with our new normal. Social distancing, shelter in place, watching the numbers of confirmed cases rise, counting celebrity diagnoses, juggling school work, vying for attention and computer time are all contributing to the fact that errabody at our house is getting a liiiittle bit twitchy. And maybe a little stabby. At the very least we’ve got cabin fever and a very short fuse.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Ms. Gail! I have this weird ability to collect very useful friends and right now, Ms. Gail might be the most usefullest of all. She’s a teacher at my kids’ preschool, happens to go to our church, and is an all around kind and decent human. She also has a Bachelors in Child Development and Family Studies, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and PhD in Urban Studies with a specialization in Learning and Development. Boom.

Ms. Gail has personally helped our family navigate some weird behavior issues (kid issues and parent issues, let’s be honest) and she is such a good teacher. When our kids started showing some signs of stress and I felt my parenting slipping into reactionary anger mode, I reached out to see if she had some advice I could share on Ye Olde Blaaagh. Happily, she obliged, and I’ve got some great info for you all. I’m going to split these up into a few posts, but for right now I want to leave you with these words from Gail:

 First of all, many children have been home for going on two weeks. The newness, excitement of not having to go to school, and being able to stay home is probably wearing off or long gone. Children are feeling stressed at this time. No matter how much we try and protect them from the news all children realize something is happening.

If adults haven’t already, they should have an age appropriate conversation about what is happening. Not scary but why we all need to stay home. Also, limit how much news and conversations about what is happening around children. Children hear everything, even if you think they are busy and not listening they are! 

I have said many times, “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what is happening,” and I, as an adult, have the ability to understand. Children do not have the cognitive or emotional abilities to fully understand what is happening, so they will make sense of what they hear in their own way and it will likely be much scarier than we can imagine. They are missing their friends and teachers and they are getting sick of their siblings and adults in the house!

Above anything else, let patience and kindness guide you. There is no best way of handling this situation. Don’t compare yourself to any other parent/family. Do what you and your children need.

I told you she was good.

I was going to split this up into a bunch of different posts, but decided to lump it all together into one resource. Here’s the table of contents:

  • “Reading” Kids’ Behavior: How Children Communicate Stress and How We Can Help – p. 2
  • Guidelines for Talking About Current Events With Children – p. 3
  • How to Manage Anger and Cabin Fever – p. 4
  • Navigating the Transition From Traditional School to Home – p. 5

Hard Reset or The One Where I'm a Big Fat Liar

Welp, we hit a wall yesterday. We hit. a. wall.

I didn’t sleep well, tossed and turned all night, then woke up to nerves because I was asked to do a (very short, not spectacular, I was only asked because I was probably the first one to pick up my phone) Skype interview with a cable news station about my doula work. 

Obv the computer camera wouldn’t connect to Skype. I had to do a hard reset and it finally connected, I’m happy to say I handled it maturely like the adult I am. PS. I’m a liar.

Obv I bribed the kids with candy bars and popsicles (yes, both) to be quiet while I talked to the news lady.

Obv they were only kind of quiet.

Obv I gave them candy bars and popsicles anyway because I’m all about mercy right now and you can only expect so much out of 4 and 6 year old boys, ammirite?

I was crabby all morning, but decided we’d turn it around! We’d take a neighborhood walk! We could do this! We got our shoes and jackets on and headed out!

At which point it started POURING rain.

Never to be deterred, with our great attitudes in hand (lying again), we just got our umbrellas and decided to embrace the mess. This was the high point of our day.

After baths and new clothes and starting some laundry, I settled in to digitally submit a week’s worth of school work for three children. It was a delight. It was quick and easy and required no critical thinking. I am a lying liar who lies.

Then whole afternoon just spiraled. To buy myself time to submit the school papers, I let them have screen time. But when I announced that screen time was over, the littlest bub among us lost his ever-loving miiiiiiind and literally screamed for 15 minutes straight because he couldn’t play Mario anymore. 

I responded with compassion, patience, and grace. I am a lying liar who lies. I lie a lot of lies.

Once the cherub was finally settled and I had broken up about forty-seven fights over topics ranging from the proximity of a chewing child to his or her cohorts, the volume of the chewing thereof, disputed ownership of a balloon, and the nature of squatter’s rights in regard to television viewing seats, I started to cook dinner. 

I had had a brilliant idea earlier in the day that I ought to try my hand at homemade focaccia bread. Because I’m good at picking the right day to try something new.

The particular recipe I used called for a steam bath as the bread is baking. “Cool, no problem,” I thought. “I’ll just toss this pyrex dish in the oven while it preheats to four hundred degrees and then I’ll pour the water in!” 

Now, obviously this is the time of the day that I *should have* remembered Mrs. Jackson’s seventh grade science class in which a hot beaker was filled with cold water and it broke everywhere and probably no one got detention because Mrs. Jackson is nice. But, alas and alack, I forgot Mrs. Jackson’s class (please forgive me, Kathie, I love you). At this point in the day, I lost all ability to employ common sense, so as you can guess I exploded a glass dish in my oven.

It didn’t really phase me. (Lying. Obv. Also, remind me to digitally submit my kids’ dissertation in a couple of weeks. It’ll be titled, “Swearing for Beginners: Fun and Fanciful Words I Learned On My School Break.”)

The child who spent his afternoon screaming his face off while demanding to be held (and also peed on me a little during the exchange) saw it all happen. He very casually informed me that he, “didn’t like that” and then asked for a snack. 

While I was cleaning up the mess, the eldest stood by observing and commented, “Mom, you’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s okay,” which would’ve been received better if her tone hadn’t been so condescendingly patronizing. 

We finally ate dinner, during which we go around the table and share two things we’re thankful for, one bummer from the day, and mention someone we’re praying for. Four out of four kids’ bummer was that, “Mom yelled a lot today.” Don’t fret. My husband and I had a big talk about how they’re growing up to be the most horrible little liars.

All of this to say, there’s still probably glass shards in my oven and I woke up this morning to find a new chin hair and pepper inexplicably stuck in my teeth. 

I’m sure there’s a metaphor of some sort in here, but I just really need y’all to know that it’s okay for this to suck and for you to hit a wall. (Literally? Figuratively? Only time will tell!)

(PS. I totally forgot about the part of the day in which I let the kids eat sprinkles so I could clean up glass and then they obviously dumped them on the floor. But I’m raising them to contribute around the house, so I tasked them with cleaning that one up…)