Sunday, June 7, 2009

Progress is Not Linear

Husband and I have had 2 parental mantras: "no stage lasts forever, it only feels like forever." (also known as "Rome was not built in a day") and "progress is not linear". The latter could be restated as "two steps forward, one step back".

We would like to think that once we've seen any progress in our kids, we can leave that behaviour behind and move on to the next challenge. But improvements are sometimes temporary, cyclical or fleeting.

We've said it in the midst of 2 year old tantrums, when dealing with one of our off spring narrowed her acceptable food groups down to one, and persistent bum sparkle (i.e. bathroom) issues. But never more than amidst emotional periods for our J Boy.

Just last week I was marvelling at J's ability to cope and his (apparently) lessening ennui. The cosmos appears to have taken that as a challenge.

Last Friday after school, J played nicely at the park at school and then when we were about to leave remember he lost Ted. Ted is the frog we adopted from the Frogstone Grill when flying solo. It's red and rubbery and worth about 2 cents. Unless you're a beleaguered Mom after school doing a quadrant search for such a frog and then it is worth $10,000.

J felt sure he put it in his backpack after silent reading time in school yet couldn't find it at the end of the day. I bravely unzipped his backpack and waded through the cesspool of aged snacks, decomposing leaves and a selection of rocks that explains how heavy his backpack has become. No frog.

We go back into the school and to my great relief found the class room open. The kids and I each covered a zone but Ted is not to be found. We retraced our steps from the classroom to the playground without finding our lost lamb, er, frog. Beleaguered Mommy, inconsolable J Boy and accommodating Girlie Goo headed home frogless.

J completely lost composure once home. He regained it only to lose it again over snack issue. S resolved issue by giving him her snack and then J reverted to being upset over missing frog.

Parenthetically, Ted was discovered on the overhead projecter in the classroom the following week.

Then this Friday afternoon again we headed to after school park and J Boy exhibits the familiar upset/hostile behaviour over miscommunication with regards to what part of the playground we are going to. While he festered on that, a mosquito pissed him off and so he picked up a 4 foot stick and started hitting the tree where the mosquito once was. Since J is in the company of other kids, I sacrificially blocked the butt end of his stick as he's not exactly safety conscious in this state of mind. The stick broke in two and I thought that a 2 foot stick is better as there won't be 2 feet sticking out behind him to potentially impale his sister.

Apparently 2 foot stick is not large enough to punish the mosquito so he returned to the woods and dragged 10 foot log. I am not exaggerating. I grabbed onto one end of the log and he is adamant he is not letting go of the other end. Ever. He wondered aloud whether the mosquito or his mother is more unpopular to him at that moment. This turned into intransigence over never leaving the spot he is sitting clinging to log, including going home to sleep, going to school, or leaving for meals. It was a long road back to civility.

So, while J has made a lot of progress this spring, with which we continue to be pleased, we are again reminding ourselves that his coping is trending better, his emotional outbursts are far fewer than this time last year and we have many good days between the ones we'd like to forget.

I remind myself that on his own initiative he cleaned, tidied and reorganized his room for hours this week. It is hands down the cleanest and tidiest room in the house and perhaps the block. He has made some very entertaining comics and even worked closely with S to help her make one. He tidied the family room when asked, and even offered to help me clean my side of the master bedroom because he thinks I don't know how (which, given the state of my side, is not an unreasonable assumption). Just now he is making a potion that will make things disappear.

And so we do have progress, just not the linear kind. And it's two steps forward, one step back. And just for good measure, no stage lasts forever, it only feels like forever. And Rome wasn't built in a day.


Ellie said...

I am going to remember those sayings, too - sometimes a good mantra is worth everything. My friend Karin always reminds me that "the days are long and the years are short". Good to remember.

I love your blog - you are a terrific writer and you make me feel not-so-alone in this murky, startling joyride that is parenting. Thank you!

Konnie said...

I like Karin's mantra too. When S was a baby, J was about 2 and I used to say "the days last so long, but how can time be going so fast?"

Thank you for the compliment. Our kids are not too far apart in ages. I find most Moms I know are on the same roller coaster (up one day, down another).