Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Would You Believe?

If you know a child in elementary school, chances are you are familiar with the color system as it relates to behavior. Most classes use some variation.

This year my daughter's class starts out with their cards on green. Green is good. Green means the teacher only has to remind them to stay in their seat once or to raise their hand. Green is what is expected from first-graders. If your behavior is less than green, then you flip your card to yellow which is a warning and small consequence and then blue which means a consequence and parents are called. Any worse is red which means a trip to the principal's office, a parent call and major consequences. Every day the students color the square on their calendar with what color then ended on. A parent has to sign the paper each night.

Last night as we drove home, I asked Munchkin if it was a green day. She said, "yes" (she's always been on green, or purple which is for extraordinary behavior) but then asked me what would happen if she ever came home with yellow, blue or red. I explained that those were not acceptable behaviors and that Daddy and I would have to discuss consequences. Munchkin became very quiet and said that she had been on yellow one time but by the end of day had earned back green. She further explained that the rule was no talking in the halls, but that day they had been told not to use a specific water fountain because it was broken. Her friend started to use that fountain and Munchkin told her not to use that one. The teacher caught her talking and put her on yellow.

I explained to Munchkin that I was glad she had earned back a green card. We all make mistakes or have accidents happen, but what is most important is learning from them. The fact that she re-gained green shows she learned from the incident. I asked her what she might do differently next time and she said tell the teacher the student was using the wrong fountain. Munchkin asked me if she would have gotten in trouble at home and I told her, "no." I explained that I thought she had been trying to help her friend and that her intentions were good. I praised her for thinking of her friend and then told her I thought it was a good idea next time to tell the teacher instead. I told her in that situation having to flip her card to yellow was consequence enough.

Munchkin got quiet and asked me who I would believe. I didn't understand and she said, "what if my teacher said something different. Who would you believe?"

-------- silence ------my thoughts ran wild ---------

Do I tell her I'd always believe her? I know kids stretch the truth sometimes. I know kids lie. I know kids try to cover up when they get in trouble. But I want to let her know I trust her and I believe her. But what if there is a time she tells a ridiculous lie? Remember that time in preschool when she was obviously lying and I knew the teacher's version was correct.

------- deep breath --------

I told Munchkin that I trusted her. I made sure she understood what trust meant. I told her that trust was a very important thing. I promised her that I would always want to find out from her what happened before I made a decision and that I would talk to her about what the teacher said. I told her it was important for her to always tell me the truth. I explained that just because a teacher flips her card to yellow doesn't mean the teacher didn't believe her. I ended by saying, "I love you and I believe in you. You can always tell me anything and I hope that you will always tell me the truth. I will love you no matter what you do and I trust that you will always try to do your best."

We pulled into the driveway then and we stopped talking. But I replayed the conversation over and over in my head. Did I say the right thing? Does she understand? What should I have said.

This parenting thing is not easy. Not at all. And not having had good role models makes it even harder. I'm thankful for good friends and moms of similar aged children (like Kim) who help me navigate through this journey.

What about you? Have any of you been in a similar situation? How have you handled it when you know your child isn't being fully honest about something but your child wants you to believe them over another adult?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blog Carnival - Inner Child Edition

Check out the Blog Carnival - Inner Child edition hosted by Dan at Thoughts Along the Road to Healing. There are lots of submissions for the inner child theme, as well as other posts generally related to child abuse. Go check it out! If you can, comment on the articles too and let them know you found the post through the carnival.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I might have Been

Do you ever wonder how you would have ended up had you not been abused? I suspect every abuse survivor has had such fantasies. Imagine if you had a mirror where you could see what "might have been."

My daughter is very much like me. In some ways that is good. In other ways, I am trying to influence her to be different. In her I see my love of books which is a positive. I also see my tendency toward being anxious, for which I am trying to teach her some coping skills.

This past week Munchkin came down with a stomach flu. The only person she wanted was Mommy. It was difficult to even get away from her to go to the bathroom by myself. In some ways the illness had nice results. It's hard to find time to really spend as much time as I would like snuggling with Munchkin. With illness, we couldn't go anywhere or do anything much. We spent all day napping, snuggling, watching TV, reading books and talking.

There was also a lot of time for reflection.

Of course I had the typical childhood stomach bugs, colds, chicken pox and other ailments. I do not remember much coddling or sympathy. When I was really young and sick, my mom would make a poached egg with toast dish. It was the only time she cooked that dish. It is the only concession I remember to being sick. There was no bell to ring. I learned early on how to hold my own hair back and my own trashcan. I learned how to clean myself up. I learned that being sick was not an excuse to interrupt mom's soap opera habit. You certainly never whined. Near death was the only reason an illness would require a trip to the doctor. Being sick simply meant you kept more to yourself.

At 6:30 am on a Sunday morning when I heard the pitter patter of little feet coupled with "Mommy my tummy hurts," I immediately scooted over on my bed, grabbed a trash can and wrapped my arms around Munchkin. I held her hair back and tucked it up in a ponytail when she was vomiting. I changed sheets, wiped her nose and mouth, and held her shoulders. I cleaned her up. I held her when she was sick and after. I made sure she had Gatorade, 7-up and everything else she needed. On the few times I did leave her sight, I was ready to run back in at a moment's notice if she called. I sat with her and watched hours of TV, let her nap on my shoulder and read her chapters and chapters of her favorite book.

I don't say this to toot my own horn. I can't say how I know to do this stuff. Some of it comes naturally. Some comes from what I've seen others do. Some comes from what I wish I had experienced.

I see much of myself in my daughter. It's interesting to see "myself" in a totally different environment from my childhood. In her I can catch small glimpses of what I might have been. I'm not sure yet what to do with the glimpses I'm seeing, but for right now I'm storing the information away to be sorted later.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Update to below post

BIL is home. The doctors have no answers. They accuse him of not taking his bipolar meds, despite the fact that (1) Sister saw him take them the morning he passed out and (2) they gave him the meds in the hospital - yet he has zero levels in his system. So then they say maybe he metabolizes things quickly. Their other explanation is a seizure, but he's on anti-seizure meds for anxiety. Or a heart attack. Or anxiety.

So the good news is that he was released and his home, albeit with a heart monitor. Bad news is no answers. My sister is getting him in with a different practice that has a team approach - psychiatrist, cardiologist and neurologist.

Thanks for everyone's prayers and thoughts.