Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day One of Freedom

As expected today was a little...bumpy.  Breakfast was just the three of us in our little rental place and ended up being somewhat of an epic battle.  I was unsure of whether to stay with them and provide encouragement or leave them alone so it wasn't more pressure for him. I opted to leave them alone, but after consulting with Laura, will be staying with them for future meals.  I realized it's totally unnatural for them to eat alone when we're trying to normalize his eating, and she sure as hell can use the moral support. Laura said this morning felt like the level of push-back that she saw week 2.  I have no doubt, since it sure sounded unpleasant from the other room.

We tried to do a morning snack with a full house at the table (Laura's dad, her sister, brother-in-law, our 7 year old niece and very rambunctious 3 year old nephew).  We aborted about 5 minutes in and went to another part of the house.  We got in what we needed but were definitely feeling nervous about how this was going to work since we're not going home for another 3 days.

We were much better prepared for lunch.  I made sure to gather up paper, pens and favorite books to use for cheerleading and he and Laura made it through the meal with only moderate resistance.  We also were able to coach family members on what to do to support us during meal times.  Basically don't feed the bear, and don't play with the bear.  No offering other food or trying to "help", just observation and encouragement. They're becoming pros in record time.

I've been thinking a lot about my role and co-parenting since we started this program since Laura is officially the "Primary Feeder".  She's been the Primary Parent for the last 5 1/2 years which has meant that I often take sort of a back seat/supporting role on a lot of things by default. The delineation of me as secondary is a lot more defined in the program, which has actually be helpful. It doesn't mean I'm less important, it just means Laura is "driving" more.  She's gotten a lot more training and the responsibility mostly rests on her, so  my job is really to back her up as we try to move Simon to independent eating.

I think one of our strengths as parents is that Laura and I prioritize backing each other up in front of Simon. That means that even if one of us thinks the other is asking him to do something unreasonable or doesn't understand why the other parent is doing what she's doing, we keep our mouths shut in front of him.  I might pull her away for a minute to give my input or ask for clarification or explanation but I don't undermine her and she does that same with me.   Whoever was "driving" might change their request of him or tactic based on the conversation, but it's not clear to him that one of us had beef with the other (usually). We are a united front.

After going through the feeding therapy program, I realize how totally necessary this particular parenting tactic is for this thing to work.  This is all about setting reasonable expectations for Simon and supporting him in doing what was asked of him.  If parents are working at cross purposes or one parent is undermining or questioning what the "driver" is doing, the kid is going to seize on that weakness in the unit and use it to their advantage to get out of doing the really hard work they need to do. I am constantly whispering to Laura "okay, how many more bites to you want him to take" or "what's the next thing you want him to do" so she and I are on the same page and I can back her up.

I cannot imagine someone not losing their mind once they get out if they have a co-parent who can't back the primary.   I know of/have heard of so many couples who really struggle in  this arena and get it. It's freaking hard for me to put my ego and control freak tendencies down sometimes, especially when I'm stressed and tired and about to kill my kid. It's taking everything we have to keep this eating momentum going and we (fortunately) aren't having to learn a new way to co-parent on top of a new way to get our kid to do one specific activity.  I say this all to say that I consider myself really freaking blessed that we have sort of figured out this one little slice of parenting together before the program.

I also have really been practicing this new framing of discipline with Simon and seeing amazing results. Today Simon and his 3 year old cousin were playing with the same toy and Simon got super bent out of shape and started destroying the structure we had built because he didn't want to share. I started with my usual tactic, saying "Simon, you have to share with Charlie.  That's what we do.  If you can't share, you can't play with this".  Of course he flipped his shit because who wants to be told what to do and told that if you don't do it, you can't get what you want?

My gut was telling me to do something different but I couldn't come up with the words to I just took a minute to chill out and think.  Then I tried "Simon, when you're ready to share with Charlie, we can play with the toy again.  Are you ready to share with Charlie yet?" We went through this about 4 times, with me affirming that I heard that he was upset and not ready yet.  Then magically on the 5th time, he cheerily said, "yes, I'm ready" and bam, they went back to playing.  So simple and yet...magic.

Learning how to really rock these foundational pieces of the feeding program, being consistent with expectations/request and re-framing things in the positive,  are going to totally change my life as a parent. I can already feel a lot of my own anxiety and stress about how to parent fading as I get better at this...

Can you say BONUS?

And now, for a few photos
They took lessons at Monsters University

Someone loves their auntie!

Someone loves their sister!


Jeri said...

This is so true! Kids are a little diabolical, and can sense really quickly if the parents aren't united.
I've been trying to be more aware of my pride lately and how it causes unnecessary troubles in our home. I think it's also really important for parents to stand up for each other when a child is disrespectful, "You can't talk to your mother that way!" So that the child knows that there will be no "divide and conquer." It will also help him some day in a relationship. Thanks for this post, it made me think a lot. Hang in there!

monicabodle said...

Hi,checking this out Larry mentioned the progress for Simon.I glanced at the pictures,
Monica (Larry's sister)