Wednesday, 28 October 2009
post from Mama True
We’ve been working on a little something called, “I want some attention” at our house recently. In the zone between independent play and Mama-I’m-ready-for-you-to-drop-everything-else-and-only-be-with-me, Cavanaugh and I are apt to have some trouble.
Recent incidents include painting on the umbrella stand and daybed, putting crayons under the pillows in the bed, and dumping toys, instruments, art supplies, or whatever else is handy on the floor. The difficulty is that I’m not always in the room when any of this is happening. Cavanaugh will be happily building duplo block towers while I unload the dishwasher or carry the detritus that has gathered into a hazard up the stairs. Either an unlikely silence or much crashing has come to indicate that my presence is needed.
The first time I was aware this was happening (heavens knows how many it had occurred when it just hadn’t registered), I got out of the shower and heard no noise coming from downstairs. None. Here’s the thing about my son, he likes to chat. He narrates what he’s doing or talks to his toys as he plays: “Oh no, the tracks are falling apart. Percy crashed. Come to the rescue, Butch.”
When I walked downstairs, still damp and swathed in a towel because my mama senses had gone on high alert, I found ballpoint pen all over the couch. I reminded Cavanaugh that we only draw on paper. I asked “Why?” I took some deep breaths. But I know Cavanaugh knows he’s not supposed to draw on the furniture. He hadn’t forgotten. He had made a choice.
“I dinnen’t want you take a shower.”
So I ran through my options: yell, explain calmly why what he did was not okay, threaten to put all markers, crayons, pens, colored pencils, or any other marking device up so that he can’t play with them on his own, make him sit on the couch and think about what he had done. While I thought about which might actually be at all effective ad reminded myself that I believe in positive discipline rather than in punishment and fear tactics, I googled “ink stain removal couch.”
In my exasperated, totally not positive voice, I said, “Cavanaugh I need to be able to take a shower. If you want or need me, you can come upstairs and talk to me. We can sing a song. You can play with your cars. But you can not draw on the couch.”
Then it dawned on me that Cavanaugh was trying to get my attention. He didn’t want me to take a shower because he wanted to play with me. So I sat down on the floor where I could look him in the eye and asked him, “Cavanaugh were you trying to get my attention?”
He nodded and flopped into my lap in one motion. I so didn’t feel like cuddling. But that was exactly the point. He just needed me to slow down and be with him.
“Okay Cavanaugh, here’s the deal, we can’t play right now because we need to clean this pen off the couch. If you want my attention, do you know what you can do? You can say, ‘Mama I want some attention. If you draw on the couch, do you know what is going to get my attention? The couch is.”
So the couch got attention from both of us. (Hand sanitizer gel on microfiber works wonders, by the way.)
Though we’ve had a few repeats, for the most part they are de-escalating. Cavanaugh is intentionally doing something he knows will make me stop everything else, even if what I’m giving him next is my “mad voice” instead of some positive attention. I watched my high school students do this. I still do this, to my husband. When my blood sugar gets low or I’ve had a long mama day with no adult contact, rather than just saying, “I want some attention,” I’ll pick a fight.
Rather than the labyrinthine route most of us go through just to get a little notice, I’m working on teaching both of us how to straight up ask to get our needs met. My goal is as many ways to ask for positive attention as he can figure out methods to get the negative kind. I’ll list them below in case anyone in your house could use a little help with this too.
- “I want some attention.”
- “Can I have some cuddles?”
- “Be with me.”
- “I want to play with you.”
- “Carry me.” (Okay, I don’t actually use this one myself. But it works great when Cavanaugh says it.)