Emotional self regulation.

My favorite part of home schooling my children is how we get to talk through emotional experiences and process them as they are happening. We don’t “react” then move on and have to deal with something else. When we hit a big roadblock we stop dead until it is resolved.

For example, my eldest child is seven. From developmental books I understand that to be a very self-critical stage. It is a time of “I’m a failure”. So it isn’t that my kid is being over sensitive or ridiculous when my child over reacts to small mistakes as if they are global indications of self. But I feel grateful down to the tips of my toes that when this happens we can process it. We had two such events yesterday.

The first event was in the morning. I have been working harder on establishing a “get up and get ready for the day” routine because we are leaving the house almost every day right now and having to get ready later is frustrating. For most of their lives we have had many “at home” days and I’ve been fine with starting to get ready to leave at 2pm. Right now that isn’t possible because I’m working 14+ hour days. When we have to transition at 3pm, you have to be ready to go.

This represents a change in expectations for my kids. It is an adjustment and that means growing pains. My seven year old would really like to spend two hours brushing her hair because she is really reading comic books and not brushing. I have to remind her to pick up the brush dozens of times.

I kinda snapped yesterday. I was very frustrated. I told her that she needs to stop trying to be like me because she isn’t like me she is like her dad. She asked me what that means.

“Have you ever noticed that your dad is only capable of doing one thing at a time? He does not multitask well. If he is cooking and you come in to talk to him, he stands there and stops cooking. So if you want dinner you have to leave him alone. You need to stop trying to multitask like me. You completely fail at getting anything done.

She looked at me with a kind of horror and pleasure. She said, “I’m not just failing? I’m not stupid?”

“No. What you are is trying to force yourself to operate like me and it isn’t working for you. You need to adapt to doing things in the manner that works for your brain and your body. I work best if I’m doing three things at once. You stop working. You need to pay more attention to what you need and less to what I need. Also: why did you stop making morning checklists? That was working very well.”

“Well, the lists started to get too long. If it is going to take all day to finish the list… I just don’t want to.”

“Ok so what I’m hearing is you should wake up and make a checklist that is three things long. When you are done with that list you can decide if you want to make another checklist that is three things long or if you need a break because you are tired.”

“Yeah! I think that would work really well!”

(I suggest this because for a while she was waking up every morning and writing down: “Get Dressed” “Brush Teeth” and “Brush Hair”. Guess what, she got it done in a timely fashion for a while. It was awesome. Then she started adding to the list. Then I added to the list, like the big jerkface that I am.

Then that failed.

So we learned a lesson about tolerance.

We had that discussion yesterday and this morning was a lot easier.

Later in the day yesterday she asked me if she could help me with the tile mosaic I am building for our bathroom. (That project is why I’m not typing much — I am wrecking my hands on another project. I’ll post pictures some day. It is going to be a magnificent work of art.)

She came in and did an hour and a half of really solid, good work. Then she started getting really sloppy and inconsistent. I was fairly patient about how I drew attention to the mistakes and she burst into tears. She started sobbing that she is a failure who can’t do anything right.

I dropped everything. I turned to face her. I asked her to look at me.

“Baby, you did an hour and a half of work that is hard for me with barely any mistakes and then you got tired. Getting tired doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. It means you need a break and to rest your body and your mind. You did really well and you should be proud of yourself. Don’t get mad because you hit your limit for the day.”

She sniffled for a little bit and looked at me. Then she smiled and hugged me really hard. She said, “You are right. Thanks mom. I am tired. I want to go read for a while.”

I hugged her and sent her on her way and I kept working.

This is why I love my life.