Saturday, January 31, 2015

My son, his filling, OUR choices

A few weeks back, one of my twin three year olds needed to have a cavity filled. Not a great feeling as a parent having to take your kiddo in for a filling, but it needed to be done. The initial consultation with the Doc went as well as it could, with her recommending the "happy air" to help him through. My wife and I said that he wouldn't need it, but she insisted we at least have it ready. And by insisting, I mean she made it perfectly clear that there was no way in hell he wouldn't need it. All the while, we could hear screams & crying from a child somewhere else in the office... Unnerving? Yes..

My wife and I didn't feel the best about working with this particular dentist, but we decided to at least try it. If he wasn't happy and they were pushing the happy air, then we would just leave and try again another time or find a different dentist. You see, for us it isn't only about the worry of what the gas is doing to our kiddo, but more that if he isn't feeling safe enough to be there then it's not worth it. The filling could wait another day when he felt more in control of what was happening, and not being pushed by the timeline and agenda of someone else. We want all of our kids to recognize that they're comfort and the things happening in their lives are in their control. That the push of outside forces shouldn't dictate their immediate and final decisions.  

Now, this doesn't apply to basic deadline responsibilities like homework, chores, and commitments. Only real life decisions where at times we allow ourselves to take paths forced on us by others, because we feel worried about saying, "no."

We also know our son well enough that he can handle anything as long as mom or dad are there. That "happy air" wouldn't be needed if all of the people in the room were calm.

So the day of the filling came, and our boy put on his favorite Snow White dress and happily climbed into the car. When he and I arrived at the office we ended up having to wait for much longer than necessary with sounds of crying and some screaming filtering to the waiting room (a la LittleShopOfHorrors). Thankfully my boy and I just sat together reading books and making each other laugh. 

When the nurse brought us back, she immediately wanted to go over the plan to make sure they understood that my wife and I didn't want the "happy air. " And that if things got weird, he and I would go. 

All was set, the Dr. came in and talked him through each step. I stayed in his eyesight and held his hands through out, and without a whimper, a cry, or fidget our big three year old had his cavity filled. The dentist and the hygentist were so impressed with him. I used the "I told you so" line multiple times, because I like being right. But it t felt good knowing that my wife and I told them that he could handle it. We believed in our boy and put that confidence out there for him to have as well. And that confidence even found its way into the Dr. She was a different person after that, so much so, she gave me a gift to say thanks... It wasn't free dental work.. Sad face.. But the Starbucks gift card was nice! All because we believed in him, and confidently held our ground on what we knew was best for his comfort. 

So how do you feel about "happy air" during dentistry work?... For your kids that is. Please comment below. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Those" parenting moments

It's been a busy 4 weeks for my crew. Not only have we been adjusting to being a family of 7, we've battled strep throat, overflowing toilets, continuous never-ending  laundry, and a myriad of other appointments and mishaps. It's all enough to make a person's head spin.. and I know that mine does! It's so easy to get wrapped up in it all that I get to the point where I can explode over the littlest of things. My feelings become so fragile, its as if I'm competing with my newborn or even my 3 year olds on which of us has the least amount of emotional stability!

In those moments of breakdown, my attitude isn't about simply enjoying my family life, and the beauty of having us all together. Oh no.. my internal statements become very negative, and accusatory to my kids.. and spouse. You know those statement you say to yourself and don't mean, but in the moment you don't know any better. The exhaustion has truly taken over, and you become a troll-like version of your true self. It's not pretty, and everyone in the house is typically becoming just as fried as you, so then it becomes a raucous family of trolls trying to fight over any bit of self worth that can be found. It's something quite disgusting, but I'm sure, as a third party, very entertaining to watch!

When the troll-like behavior finally leaves, I feel terrible. How could I become "that" dad that loses his temper? How could I think, and sometime say those things? I never imagined that I would have those types of meltdowns or crazy parent moments. I know that these frustrations are typical of parents, but it doesn't make the aftermath feel any better.

It so happens that with these weeks of change in our family aligning with the start of the new year, I've been very focused on how to "fix" my controllable reactions. It hasn't been easy, but I've started generating a quick list of things that have been helping me stay away from being "that" dad:

1) Wear a positive attitude. I know after a long day of teaching I'm pretty spent, but I've accepted that the tired I feel has to stop at the door. I focus my drive home on pumping myself up for being home. I listen to my favorite music. I plan out a few fun things the crew can do together. But most of all, I make sure to feel excited to be home. This is the family I've always wanted and it needs to show. I want my attitude to be contagious... But in a good way! 

2) Get outside. After spending 10 winters living in Alaska, my kids can handle the Washington weather. I've been focusing on getting them outside each afternoon. Even if it's just to walk around the block, being outside grounds us all, and helps us clear our heads... and readjust our attitudes. 

3) Tap out! My wife and I have become great at tag teaming the stressful family moments, so if either of us sense  frustrations rising, we can send the other to a break to settle back down. The key here is to acknowledge the "tap out" and to go take the break. We all know that sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in the moment, and not walk away. But, it is in acknowledging the "tap out" that you become the better parent and partner. Also, it's super important that neither you or your parenting partner  keep track of who taps out who more. AND if you've just come back from a long day at work you do NOT get first tap out, especially if your partner has been home all day with the kids!

4) Work stays at work. I'm a high school teacher. Teachers are notorious for working at home after school hours. There are papers to grade, lessons to write, emails to send, and forms to fill. The stress of all that can pull me away from being daddy and send me straight into stressville. I've accepted that any work I have needs to be done at work or during my home hours when I'm not wearing my daddy/husband hat. Is it hard? Of course, but when I'm focused on my kids and not on work, I'm a much better and happier daddio.

5) Keep it healthy. As parents, we often neglect our own health or diet while we focus on the care of our kids. Knowing that, my wife and I have focused on making sure that we keep foods in the house that will benefit all of us. We've stayed away from high sugary drinks like juices and sodas. Snacks have become fruits, veggies, nuts, pretzels, and sesame sticks. And while we aren't members of a fancy gym, we do what we can to get exercise as often as possible. By keeping ourselves healthy, we have noticed that we feel better and in feeling better, it is easier to bring that positive contagious attitude each day.

I've found that by simply making myself aware of this list throughout the day has helped me avoid hitting the low points as often and as severely as in the past. I'm not perfect. No parent is perfect. But I know that by having this plan or focus each time I'm with my family, that I will always be the best dad and husband for them. And ultimately, that's my goal. I want to be the best dad and husband for them for as long as I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you have suggestions that help you through "those" parenting moments, please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you found this post helpful or informative, please feel free to share it and/or my site with your parenting allies!

Have a great day, because you can and should for your kids!

The Teacher-Dad