Well, in what is becoming a Gardner tradition, last Sunday was yet another emotionally charged day. The kids woke up happy which probably should have been the first indicator that things were only going to go down from there. We got to church and H was content for about 12 minutes before getting really squirrley. You know the routine... look over the 'placate-your-child-for-8-seconds' activity sheet, pour out crayons into the pew, rustle sheet, put all but one crayon back into plastic baggie, draw 2 circles on the sheet, get bored, put last crayon in bag and grab sister's pencil, scoot to the other side of Mommy away from sister, break pencil tip, sigh heavily, give broken pencil back to sister, open hymnal, close hymnal, put hymnal down, pick it up again only to realize why it was put down in the first place, fold activity sheet, crumple it into a ball, unfold and flatten when you remember it's the only toy you've got for the next hour and start the whole process over.
But enough about me... ;-)
Anyway, sometime mid-service H started picking fights. You may be asking yourself exactly how would a child, being lulled by the droning of someone speaking in a foreign language for 25 minutes, manage to get riled up. The quickest way is to ask questions where you know the answer is going to be "No." Such as, "Band aid, yes?" because, like where is Daddy going to get one of those? Or my personal favorite, "Today Game House, yes?" Dude, don't go trolling for wii time in the middle of church, that's just bad manners. And if Daddy's evil eye isn't enough to really set you off, just shimmy over to Mommy and ask exactly the same questions. Repeat until Daddy gives you what you want, which is to be anywhere other than here. Except today, Mommy and Daddy didn't play. The only one getting (visibly) frustrated was him. Church finally ended and H bolted out of the pew to the donut cart. Except someone apparently beat him to The One he wanted because he actually came back empty handed. When it rains, it pours, right? And while mommy and daddy were rudely talking to some other big people, he says to me, "Daddy, Car." I just looked at him and said, "No, no car, Childrens church," and you would have thought I had told him to kiss his sister. "No... car?" was all he could muster.
So I should probably say that this was the big Sunday school kick off week. Our church had games, crafts, food, and other activities all laid out Carnival style. It was really cool and we weren't going to just leave. Over the summer, both kids did well at Vacation Bible School, so one way or the other, our kids were going to experience this too. I slapped a nametag on Yordanos and pointed her in the general direction of other kids her age. Meanwhile her brother pouted and said, "No thank you" 400 times in 2 minutes. Chris made him go in the room where all the other kids were having fun. At one point he had shuffled out the door and I pointed back in and said, "Stay in the room." I didn't look up or make eye contact. No escalation, no reward. He did slink back inside. Otherwise Chris did most of the herding and was really getting frustrated, but there wasn't anything I could do. He feeds off of me. We know that, and so we have to deal with these situations by taking me out of the equasion. So he watched other kids play with slime and shoot baskets and eat snacks, for nearly an hour with the occasional extended "how could you possibly do this to me please see how angry I am" glare toward his parents.
Sunday school ended and I got a very rewarding snear from my daughter when she came out escorted by her teacher. In English it translates to, "Thanks for forgetting to pick me up when all the other parents came in to get their children, jackass. What is this, your first week?"
H went into buzzard mode. That's where he circles us from about 10 to 20 yards away, but always makes sure we know he's hovering with his "I'm ready to feast on your carcass" look. There's this kind of tense moment for about 30 seconds where the rest of us get in the car and wait for the vulture to swoop in. But he always does, and he puts on his seatbelt so we can all go home.
We pulled into the driveway and I went to open the door for him. We've got the safety locks on so if I don't open it from the outside, he has to crawl through the front. I didn't look down, I just grabbed the handle and met with resistance so I let go and the rest of us went inside. 20 minutes later he came in and stood in the kitchen snuffling back tears. Then he went up to his room and just let them go. I went on distract-the-other-child duty and kinda left it to Chris to decide when to intervene.
I'm ok with letting my children cry things out. I know some people have a really hard time listening to their children cry, but now that I can generally tell the difference between the real cry, the fake cry, and the pain cry it doesn't phase me. What did get to me though, was hearing my son wail, "PLEASE JESUS!!! PLEEEEEASE!!!!" over and over from his bedroom.
How do you respond to that? You don't just barge in and say, "Don't worry son, I'M here," when your child is calling for Jesus. I've heard him cry out for mommy, daddy, a glass of water, and the toilet, but never Jesus. Yordi is much more apt to drop the J-word, which is why Chevy's are also known as Jesus cars around here, due to the observation that they have all have a cross on the front. And who taught him that anyway? Not his Super Christian father. I don't think to say stuff like, "Talk to Jesus, honey" when my child is melting down. How could such an abstract religious concept possibly work through all the language and cultural barriers?
And yet there it was. No death glares. No restraining. No dragging upstairs. No screaming and drooling. No suppression. No intervention from local law enforcement.
Just "Please Jesus Please. Please Jesus Please," echoing through our house.
Chris eventually went upstairs and talked to him. She uses some great phrase like, "Do you know why you are upset?" The kids understand it and don't get flustered like they do when you stare at them and ask, "What's wrong?" He pointed to the picture of his birth parents and said his Ethiopia mommy's name. Nobody is going to take away his right to get upset about that, even if it probably wasn't the original cause. It wasn't too long after that that he came down and sat on my lap for about 5 minutes. Then it was lunchtime and all was forgiven and forgotten.
This marks the first time H used his bedroom for processing his emotions. And I didn't have to sit on him. It was a big day in the Gardner house, and as the kids like to say, "Thank you Jesus."