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Defiance – how to handle it, how to recognize it?

It becomes a habit every day, day after day.

Every day at about 7:50 I announce departure time. Time for school. It’s the last transition of many, in our finely honed morning routine.

Currently we have a new hic-cup. My announcement prompts him, a reminder. Now he knows that it’s time to leave it also means that he remembers that he wants to take a Garfield book to school to share with his new pal. Instead of prompting him to move towards the car, I inadvertently give him a tip off to go and seek out the book. Wrong direction. Wrong prompt. Insufficient time to accommodate this new step.

I bound after him, up the stairs, three at a time because I’m cross and I am utterly sick of the deviation from the routine. Late for school is a really bad way to start the day. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could just nip upstairs and grab a book, but nipping isn’t in his nature. His nature dictates that considerable quantities of time must be expended upon choice, far too long for the tightly micro managed schedule. If the morning routine is derailed, then the last transition can unravel the previous hour’s work.

I yell at his swiftly departing shoes as they disappear. Yelling is nearly always a mistake. A louder voice is no more likely to be heard than a quieter voice. “Stop now and come down here!” A shrieky voice is quite properly tuned out.

This habit has developed as a direct result of my own behaviour. Unwilling to leave the other two unsupervised downstairs, I have permitted him to saunter off at the last minute to get a book. Day after day, day after day. If I leave the other two unsupervised downstairs those last few crucial minutes of the routine deviate down a cul-de-sac. The little one removes shoes, the coat gets lost, a bathroom call means that clothing is superfluous but worst of all by far, is that he’ll start to do something new, which means that there will be an additional ‘stop,’ and an additional ‘transition,’ which means an additional meltdown.

If time allows I can prompt him through re-dress, re-shoe, wash hands, flush the loo, hunt the coat. If not, I can do them all for him in about 4 minutes flat. The one thing I can not do is prevent the inevitable meltdown from ‘stopping’ the new activity. I do not want to deal with additional meltdowns just before school. The minutes before school must be calm, organized and structured so as to give them all the very best chance of experiencing a successful day.

Today, the hic-cup must be eliminated. I find him in his room sprawled on the floor surrounded by a slew of Garfield cartoon books. I close my mind to the downstairs scene where the clock is ticking backwards. Downstairs the morning routine is in reverse. I look at my son. He is approximately twelve and a half minutes away from making a positive choice. I can feel steam bursting from my ear-drums. My voice is too hard. My face wears a scowl. I grab the nearest book and pull him to his feet. Outside the engine revves as his father waits for the delivery of three children on the driveway, the sound pumps my blood pressure. I march him and the book back down stairs as I berate him with a detailed example of defiance. Too harsh. Too fast. Far too many words. Irritation makes me irrational, too quick to categorize.

Back in the kitchen he is small, shiny eyed and round shouldered but just about holds it together despite the over-kill. His little brother blinks out of the toilet, stitchless, hands full of Pokemon Trading cards, alarmed by the static electricity that ignites the room.

Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I can prompt him, twelve and a half minutes prior to departure, to go and choose a book. It’s not defiance but determination

Fortunately for me, he’s a very forgiving kind of a child.

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0 – 60 diddly squat

Children thrive on routine or so they say.

We nay sayers decided to adopt a more modern approach to our children. None of those strictures for our little free spirits. We planned to copy our laid back, easy going Californians cousins. No mean feat for the average Brit, and we are terribly average.

Despite our best endeavours, it soon became apparent that laid back was more like flat out, or rather, flat out chaos and a great many horizontal meltdowns. We went over to the dark side, made schedules and schooled our children to follow them. Schedules and routine produced predictability, and a certain degree of calm, or maybe just less chaos. Before too long we slipped into the groove. Before too much later, we found that the walls of the groove had grown so high that we were scrabbling around in the hollow, unable to deviate right or left. The schedule became iron clad. There was no room for spontaneity as the timetable was rigidly enforced, indirectly, by the children themselves.

It infiltrates every second of our existence, the necessity to maintain sameness. I hear that this is quite common, indeed my good pal describes her life as a perpetually reliving the same day, day after day. Sometimes we get “bogged down” in the mire. It’s hard to “escape” from the strictures of the schedule. There is no room for flexibility, merely crisis management.

Currently, our family experiences another peak in the “anxiety” roller coaster. It is exactly at such times, that it is imperative to maintain the routine.

Our routine is for me to arrive outside the boys' classroom at least five minutes before the end of the school day. I wait. When they come out, we meet and greet, exchange pleasantries and wait for their sister to join us. It is important to remain in the same safe 10 yard area and wait. Sometimes we wait a long time, as she is usually the last to leave.

I have learned that it is unwise to be impatient, foolish to seek her out with the boys in tow. I cannot leave the boys behind to wait on their own because they cannot wait and they cannot wait on their own.

The seconds tick by as we wait. As they tick, so the anxiety increases, “where is she be?”
“She'll be here any moment dear.”
“How many minutes? How many seconds. Is she be lost? Is she be selled?” He starts to suck his fingers and rock, small mewing noises get louder. I pull him onto my lap and he curls up small and tight. He slithers off and bolts. “We must be find her!” he yells as he charges off around the corner. I grab his brother and the backpacks as we scuttle off in hot pursuit.

It's only 25 yards away but the court yard is crampt with a sea of bodies, parents and children and siblings and strollers. I spot him, dressed in red from head to foot outside her open class room door, blocking the way as he peers inside. Every face in the classroom is turned towards the little boy in the entrance way, crouched, mewling and swaying. Wounded in distress. I slip through the crowd to him and point out his sister, a long straight arm to guide vision with a rude finger at the end. He yelps with glee as I herd him away to a safe distance to join his brother. His brother is gone. “Agh! Where is he been?”

I spot him ambling away in the opposite direction. We gallop after him. I can already see the lure, a baby. We catch up just in time. He's overtaken the mother, child and baby, to walk backwards in front of them whilst he asks questions to the mum but stares at the baby. I burble a torrent of compliments to the mum, child and baby. Yes, my nine year old is very fond of babies, all babies, and this is a particularly fine specimum of babydom, how could he resist?

Many parents have strong objections to large filthy children touching their purebred offspring, it's quite natural. Luckily, we are in luck. The mum permits touching, cooing, smiles and pats, very tender gentle ones. I prompt goodbye greetings, as busy mums can only be hindered and detained for a short periods of time. It can never be long enough for my son to get his baby fix.

I turn around with a firm grasp on each boy as we stride back to the classroom. The class room is empty. “Oh no! Where is she be. We are be lost her! You and yur stoopid babies. It's all yur fault.” The only reassurance that will work now is for him to see her, alive and well. Nothing else will placate him. The boys squabble as I haul them around the corner. They debate the merits of temporary relationships with strangers versus long term blood relations.

Animosity and anxiety vie for supremacy.

I see her waiting outside the boys' classroom in a state of confusion. I yell as I see her heels disappear around the corner as she returns to her own classroom. My son hangs on my arm, a dead weight, the child that cannot be hurried. I dither. Double back and cut her off at the pass or follow her around again? I shoulder two backpacks, secure my grip on the snotty hand, hoik the nine year old onto my hip and galumph back.

We stagger and stumble our way amid bleats and rooster crows of the truly desperate. I glimpse her again, just as she begins to retrace her steps but I lack enough oxygen to yell. The snotty one spots her too, slips from my grasp and careens over screaming her name at 50 decibels. I watch her turn, pause, tune in, align sight, open arms just in time to catch him as he collapses into her. A swoon, worthy of a Southern Belle. As we bring up the rear he has gained enough composure to machine peck kiss her inner wrist. He pants like a puppy, exhausted, “you are be alive!” he puffs.

Only just dearies, only just.

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Action Mum's New Year's Resolutions

Better late than never!

1. Kill anything living in the refridgerator before it goes forth and multiplies.

2. Endeavour to regularly rotate the piles of clean laundry stacked on the sofa.

3. Fully evaluate cost/benefit analysis of moving to Canada.

4. Train cats to appreciate that children are their friends, not the enemy.

5. Train children to appreciate that confining cats in small places means that they'll visit the Humane Society [the cats, that is to say.]

• Curb enthusiasm for tumble drier
• No! The tumble drier is not 'big.'

6. Read paper daily to improve brain capacity

7. Seriously consider advice re
'you deserve it.'
Find some useless, expensive pastime to indulge in. Short list possibilities;

a. Book club [remember that you're teetering on maximum brain capacity!]
b. Tennis [you're clothing would never be white enough and you would also increase pile of laundry on the sofa]
c. Become a 'lady who lunches.' Reconsider post jaw surgery and braces.

8. Commence new beauty routine to ward off advancing decrepitude;
• Cleanse, tone and moisturize twice a day OR
• Wash face with Dial [translation Fairy Liquid!] if you manage to remember.

9. Research self improvement courses;
check availability for 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

10. Invent labour saving device to continuously suck all dirt from house. [Consider consequences for self prior to commencement e.g. unemployment]

11. Avoid lawsuit from neighbours; train children to wear at least one garment of clothing [preferably around the nether regions] by Summer. [2007 not 2008] Nakedness is no longer acceptable now that we are all Americans. N.B. hats don’t count for the purpose of clothing categorization.

12. Keep large hall cupboard permanently empty so that all 'mess' can be hurled inside at short notice to achieve instant 'Homes and Gardens' effect.

13. Count on fingers [and toes] blessings.
[Limit this exercise to once only, in any 24 hour period to avoid becoming too much of a fluffy bunny {translation = American}]

Perish the thought!

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