Saturday, December 11, 2010
Look at me! I am a helicopter!
OK, so honestly AJ and I are the epitome of the drill sergeant father and helicopter mother. That is the truth of it, whew...I am so glad I got that off of my chest! Seriously, we aren't "out-of-control" with it, I mean it doesn't cause arguments between us...at least not anymore. But, we have recently taken a "Love and Logic" parenting class. It was wonderful. Both AJ and I are true believers in the idea that each person is someone who is constantly under construction. We can never learn enough about how we can be improving ourselves. So, we took the class, it has given us some strategies for us to come off victorious with these four angels and not end up duct taped in the closet after a weekend with them!
This is where I have determined that I need to work on not being a helicopter mom. I want badly to "make it all better" for my babies, and I never want them to suffer. I honestly feel as though I have suffered enough for everyone in this household, and I truly don't like seeing my children hurt. Even in the little things. I already have a decent balance with it I just need a bit more. Hang-in there with me, this will work its way around to DBT, I promise.
Bradyn, our daughter, had P.J. day at school this last week. Her class worked really hard since the start of school earning stones for a jar that as soon as it was filled up, they would get to have a P.J. party at school and watch a movie. So off she goes to school on the P.J. day...without her P.J.'s. She has special needs, so I had spent the morning cramming her into school clothes that she had sensory issues with every single piece. Finally the bus gets here and we send her off to school and sigh a bit of relief. I then scurry around the house and get myself ready for the morning, I had an appointment to be at that would last until 11:00 a.m.
Here I am going about my business at 9:00 a.m. and I get a call from her school. It is her para-(a helper that stays close to her throughout her day while she attends classes a main-stream classroom) I am then informed that it is P.J. day. I had completely forgotten that the teacher had said that maybe it would end up on that day. I hadn't followed through with the information and now Bradyn, who I already know has a hard time being "different", is at school dressed in plain clothes while all of her classmates are dressed in P.J.'s and they have their favorite stuffed animals and she has nada. Mind you, she is in 1st grade. Stuffed animals are still very much part of a P.J. party.
What is my reaction? Inside I want to cancel my appointment, run home, hot-foot it over to her school, yank her out, dress her in her P.J's with a stuffed animal and send her back to her classroom proper. What to do...I know that helicoptering this situation would not be very effective for her, she is learning how to be flexible with her special needs. I don't want to defuse any lessons she has learned thus far. So I decide that I will wait until after my appointment and bring her her P.J.'s. At least she could have them for half of the day, right? This seemed reasonable to me. Sort of a half-way sort of decision between upholding not helicoptering and helping my baby out. Great. The decision was very wise-minded for me. So now? I needed to get through my appointment first. A dear friend of mine that was with me said, "MJ, will you be able to mentally wait until after 11:00?" Holy cow! She was right! It hit me, with my difficulties I struggle hideously with urgent feelings. Being slow-minded and accomplishing something mindful is so hard for me.
What did I notice? I noticed that since I had made the decision to wait until after 11:00, I was not going to go back on my choice, that can get a bit hairy too. Waffling is another enemy for a borderline. I thought, "OK self, we are going to relax, breathe and use some mindfulness exercises to get through until after this appointment." That worked for about... oh, I'd said two minutes. My heart rate started going up, and I immediately started checking my clock as if I would see the cure for cancer on the face of it or something. With urgency. This was not going to work.
Body sensations. I have talked extensively about them. Getting to know ourselves and what happens to our mind and body.
At first I had to make a scan every couple of minutes and amazingly each time I found that my body had completely tensed up, from my thighs to my checks, since the last check-in. At first it was exhausting. I couldn't comprehend how my muscles could get that twisted so quickly without me conscious of it. It made sense to me that if I were aware of my body tensing in my ankles, I would simply stop it when it started. But it happened without much cognitive awareness. So, after about 15-ish minutes of this, I was able to go longer between scans, and it went this way until miraculously my appointment was over and I was on my way to her school with P.J.'s in tow.
What did I learn? That having practiced my mindfulness exercise as often as I have outside of distress is what made it possible to do it, even though I was not able to stop and do it formally. One point for me! Next, I took the detectives approach to my dilemma and sorted through my options without judging myself as a bad mother for not rushing to her side, so I was able to make a wise-minded choice and not get lost in the waffling realm. Yay...another point for me! Finally, even though my exercise did not "take away" the distress, I had to work through the entire appointment with it; I did get through and it worked.
My experience made me feel competent and skillful. I felt good about myself and I did not have to "recover" at all during the day from my distress. Under circumstances that I do not tolerate my distress, I find that for the rest of the day I have to be that much more gentle with myself, because I am "recovering" from the experience. This was not the case. So, everyone practice, practice, practice those mindfulness exercises so they will be sharp when you need them! I know for sure that this has fueled my motivation to keep up the practicing.