Today was a quiet day of hanging around the house. We usually go to The Little Gym on Friday mornings, but we overslept this morning and missed it. It's just as well because we would have had to rush home anyway to meet the workers who were going to check out and repair our dilapidated sprinkler system.
Neither Doug not I are really into yardwork, nor do we have the time, interest, or expertise to maintain a yard. We've had a lawn care service ever since we moved into this house 9 years ago (in fact, making sure we could afford a lawn service was a condition of buying a house with a yard at all) and that has been great for keeping our yard in decent shape. But the horrific drought we've had here in the last year stressed our lawn to the point that it really started looking bad, and I knew that the problems with the irrigation system really needed to be fixed if we have any hope of it coming back. The system is old and run down, and though we've replaced sprinkler heads here and there, the scope of the work needed is far beyond our DIY ability.
So I called a service, and today they came out to work on it. Every head needed replacing and many of the lines needed to be re-run, and it took them nearly 8 hours. It was definitely a big job, and it was expensive. Carter was fascinated by all these guys digging up our yard and turning the sprinklers off and on. Every time they rang the doorbell to ask a question (or report a new problem they'd found), he'd run to the door and then go outside to see what was going on.
We went to WalMart during the afternoon to buy some groceries, and we stopped by the toy area so Carter could check things out and play. He loves toy stores, but what he wants to do is play with everything. He will play with a toy for 15 minutes, and he'll have no interest in buying it. He just likes to check out the toys!
We went over to look at the bikes and he found a Radio Flyer tricycle/big wheel that he took to immediately. He rode it all over the store, in fact. These are the kinds of things you can get away with on a weekday, heh.
He decided that it was a "Porsche with pedals" since he could pedal it so quickly. He hasn't been that interested in pedaling before. He can pedal, but he finds it frustratingly slow and prefers to zoom around on a balance bike or something else that he can just push with his feet. This vehicle seemed to be an exception, though. I asked him if he wanted to get it (fully expecting him to say no, as he so often does), but he said yes, he would like to buy it. It was small and fairly cheap, and it's something he can easily ride around the house, so we got it. After a fairly frustrating assembly experience, we got it put together and he had great fun riding it all around the house.
Doug came home from a trip to New York and we decided to go out to our favorite Japanese place for dinner. Carter loves going there and is always really excited. Here are a couple of blurry cell phone pictures.
This evening Carter had a major meltdown. I'd kind of expected it, since he almost always has a meltdown soon after Doug comes home from a trip, but the intensity of this one caught me by surprise. It was triggered by him realizing that I'd just started a load of laundry, and that he'd missed his chance to turn the machine on. I offered to turn the machine off and let him press the button again, but then he got even more upset because he wanted to load the machine and put the detergent in too. So clearly this was not about the laundry.
I keep reading that when kids this age melt down about seemingly trivial things, the intense emotion is almost never about the trivial thing. It's interesting to watch it happen because though it seems so completely ridiculous and out of proportion, it's actually a really valuable opportunity to watch and listen to a child. You can learn a lot about them when they're melting down, and you can do so much by just being fully present and accepting that emotion and being sympathetic and loving in return.
I've been trying to figure out what is the best thing to say to Carter when these meltdowns happen. Saying "I see that you're mad" doesn't seem to help, nor does "I hear you" or "You really really wanted _____". In fact, it sometimes seems like me expressing sympathy and understanding just pisses him off! Tonight I tried to tell him that he was safe, that I was going to stay with him while he got his feelings out. He immediately responded that he didn't want to be safe -- he almost always rejects anything I say when he's upset, which most likely means he's telling me he doesn't want me to say anything at all. (I should try that sometime, I know.) But then he really seemed to latch on to the "getting his feelings out" idea, and that became something we could talk about. So it felt like we actually accomplished something there. A little while later we snuggled on the couch and read a book, and he said he felt a lot better.
I feel like I've come so far on this parenting journey already. Dealing with strong emotions was definitely a challenge for me, but the approach I decided to take was one of love and support and acceptance (as opposed to walking away or punishing a child for having a meltdown). It's one thing to say that in theory, but it's entirely another to simply sit and love your child who is thrashing around on the floor over something seemingly trivial.
But it's also powerful, you know? I love you, even now when all of your most unpleasant emotions are pouring out. I will not walk away and leave you alone with all of these painful feelings you don't understand and can't yet control. I am here, and I will stay here and anchor you until you can stand on your own two feet again. And when this storm passes, I won't make you feel bad about having those feelings. I won't shame you or chastise you. I will simply love you.
After a couple of years of working really hard on myself, that's what's in my head during a meltdown. I feel good about that. :-)