A New Schedule, A New Tack
I mentioned a few days ago that we were trying to rearrange our daily schedule, and that I intended to get input from the Beaner about it. In the end there was really only one option that worked, so he was not consulted. He was informed, however, and though it wouldn't be his choice—his choice would be for Mommy to do everything... except when he wants Daddy to do it—he's adapted pretty well. Al's now in charge of the morning routine so I can leave between 7:30 and 7:40 for the gym, and I'm now in charge of the nighttime routine. We've basically swapped. I still put the Beaner to bed as I always did (again, unless the Beaner begs for Daddy), Al still drops him off at school, and I still pick him up at 11:45am and feed him lunch. (This is the main reason we swapped; with me having to pick him up at midday, being in charge of a morning routine that was dragging on past 8:15am meant that either my workout or my working hours had to go. I didn't want to give up the former, and I can't give up the latter.)
After much discussion, we're also trying a new strategy for dealing with the Beaner: We're making a concerted effort to pay more attention to him. Haven't you been doing that already, you may ask? Well, yes and no. We've been spending time with him, certainly. But we realized that we weren't giving him our undivided attention nearly as much as we thought we were, and we realized we'd fallen into the habit of dragging him around and/or deciding where we could go, what we could (or couldn't) do, and when we could do it according to our schedule and desires. (See above for evidence of that. :-) As I've said many times before, here and elsewhere, I am a selfish person. I like my time and my space. I don't play well with others easily. (I can and I have worked/played effectively with others, but being by myself is my first choice.) And this was the primary reason I did not want to become a parent.
I'm glad I *did* become a parent, and in my humble opinion I've done a little better at the whole parenthood thing than I thought I would, but the selfishness/need for solitude thing will always be my achilles heel. It'll always be the rut I fall back into after resolutions to Do Better and Interact More. I'm sure I'll fall back into it again eventually after the current push to Pay More Attention. But for right now I'm doing everything I can to make the Beaner feel like he doesn't have to tap dance, become class clown, or be a stubborn, petulant, defiant, and disrespectful little shit in order to get me to focus on him.
I've been asking him for a while now whether he'd rather have me yelling at him and giving him time outs or spending quality time with him, and the answer is obvious to both of us. Our definitions of "quality time" were a bit different, however; if it were really a choice between yelling and, say, sitting down to lunch together and discussing whatever's on his mind face to face, I think he would have stopped misbehaving instantaneously. The choice was really between yelling and us doing different things in the same room, however, and that wasn't really what he wanted. I think he was willing to risk the yelling to possibly gain a more interactive experience with mom.
So for the past two days I (and Al, too—I should give credit where credit is due and mention that this insight, and the strategy that emerged from it, were his) have been putting the theory to the test and giving the Beaner my full attention when we're together. It hasn't solved all the behavior problems—we're still working on a LOT of things—but things did go from All Bad to Mostly Good. The side benefit is that when we do have to reprimand or correct, we have more credibility. Instead of being at DEFCON 4 all the time and knowing that only the nuclear option remains, we've got the full range of options at our disposal. We're able to be calm and reasonable more often when an incident occurs. This is not to say that I don't get angry, but I am finding that spending QUALITY time with him—REAL quality time—is not such a chore, and that it can, in fact, bring joy. This means it's a longer leap to exasperation and despair.
Yesterday, for the first time since our Disney vacation, the Beaner said to me (as we were eating lunch together at the dining room table), "my heart feels super happy." I think that's a good sign.