Thursday, June 24, 2010


A while back, I mentioned that my husband and I were in counseling. We did individual appointments with the goal of transitioning to couple sessions. Then my husband’s employer changed insurance providers, and our counselor was no longer covered. The counselor cut us a deal because we were having a love fest in a counseling kind of way, and it was too exhausting to even think of starting over again with someone else. We cut back on the frequency of the appointments and paid out of pocket for a bit. It got to a point that enough was enough, and besides, money’s tight.

So let me tell you about the issues that led us to counseling in the first place . . . yeah, right. Maybe in a couple years, I’ll be posting about it like a madwoman, but it remains in the vault for now. What I would love to share is the most valuable piece of advice I received from the counselor.

Are you ready? Hear this. If at all possible, give yourself a time-out when you need it. That’s it. I came by this piece of advice while discussing a parenting issue with the counselor. It’s so simple, I almost missed it. Yeah, I know about time-outs. I give them to my children . . . cause they’re naughty. What I hadn’t considered in this particular situation is that telling someone to do something is never as effective as showing them how it’s done.

I had really had it with my family Monday evening. That day began with running late to my summer school class over the hill due to various unnecessary kid complications. There might have been an elevated voice moment before we even left the house. We hopped in the car, and I discovered an empty gas tank. After fueling up, we were late to meet Grandma for the kid transfer. I couldn’t find my phone when I went to call her and swore softly under my breath. My reaction had something to do with the learning center’s new policy of docking bonuses for tardiness. Daisy asked what I was saying. NOTHING.

Everything turned out fine. The kid transfer was made and I found my phone. I made it to class at a respectable time. I called Grandma when I was done to learn she had taken the girls shopping. We decided to meet at a mall food court. The kids love shopping with Grandma and she loves shopping with them. The kids had more than an ample amount of their desires fulfilled by the end of the mall experience, and then it was time to head back over the hill for aikido.

Later that evening, Daisy refused to clean her room once again. Then she lied to me about taking care of something Grandma just bought. And on top of everything else, she pouted when I told her I didn’t want her to experiment with making a rope swing . . . we have feeble trees and hello, NOT SAFE. As I was starting to lose it, I looked at the pile of new merchandise from the mall, and I was so done with spoiled children. Actually, it’s a longer story . . . I was so done with the lot of them – THE WHOLE FAMILY. I opened my mouth and a yell started to come out. I couldn’t really stop it at that point if I wanted to. Instead, I announced that I was giving myself a time-out, continuing to yell on the way up to my bedroom. There was a door slam. Not my best moment. Then heavenly silence. For about three minutes.

Violet popped in. Then my husband. Finally Daisy. I spoke with each of them at varying lengths then sent them back out. I needed some space and was really tired of what I would describe as low quality behavior. That’s my perspective. I’m sure they could each tell a remarkably unique story.

Here’s why I’m sharing this with you. I found that giving myself a break in an obvious way was far more effective than any time I’ve given the kids a time-out or suggested the same to my husband. Both kids cleaned their rooms – Violet ran straight to her room and started pushing her mess out of view immediately - and my husband listened without arguing. I was freaking amazed.

I hope my daughters will learn to give themselves time-outs before doing or saying something they regret. I also hope they don’t yell on their way to their time-outs or slam their doors, but who am I to expect perfection?


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