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Frustrated No More (Except With Ourselves)

Frustrated No More (Except With Ourselves)

By Amalah

The all-powerful Amalah,

I wanted to follow up on the wonderful advice you and commenters gave to help us get through the surprising onset of severe emotions in reaction to daily challenges with our oldest son. Your advice, and one commenters in particular ended up magically flipping the switch (I realize with kids, there is almost never a “this solved the problem!” moment, but we were lucky enough to have one). You recommended a quiet area as a tent or fort, and emphasizing it’s not a punishment but rather a place to feel all the emotions, at daycare. A commenter, a longtime preschool teacher, also commented that for kids who have constantly been in that group setting with others (ours both have full time since 11 weeks old), at some point their subconscious just might need a break for some 1:1 time with an adult.

So we took all of that advice, meshed it together, and used it. Daycare did change their quiet area to be much more of a comfy, chill area that is not mobile as needed, but a designated space. My son even uses it in the morning sometimes when he’s cranky upon first arriving at school. Heck, I would totally use it if I had time in the mornings too! They weren’t able to accommodate a staffer getting him out of the classroom a couple of times a day because they were unexpectedly very short on staffing at that point in time, so my husband and I installed intentional 1:1 time at home multiple times/day, and upped our sometimes visits to school both in number and to take him out of the classroom on a walk with us for 10 minutes. I didn’t even realize this is something I should/could have been thinking about – we’re big on lots of family time, and we have 1:1 time with each of our kids occasionally with a mommy/son date night or daddy/son trip to Lowe’s, but I’ve not sought out special 1:1 time very often. I guess my oldest seemed to adjust to having a brother A-OK, so I figured it was all good! But two years into having a pretty needy younger brother, is two years of seeing that attention, especially from Mommy, zapped away consistently. So we have a reading time in the morning, just me and him. We also have designated time sometime in the evening where he gets 100% attention from only one parent, and his brother isn’t around to interrupt. Just 10 minutes of making paper airplanes, having a pillow fight, walking around the block, or making some LEGO or play-dough creations. I kid you not, we instituted this game plan on a Thursday evening, and the NEXT DAY he had the best day at school he’d had in six weeks. And he hasn’t had an incident report since! Still with the whining, frustration, or general grumpiness as circumstances change (let’s be honest, we all act like that without the excuse of being 4…), but no more of the throwing chairs, hitting, biting, unable to calm himself down.

In many ways, I felt awful for a bit, because why didn’t I, his own mother, who knows how much like me he is (I’m an introvert, but I’m just over the border from extrovert, so sometimes I forget that he’s similar) even think to say hey, let’s give him more attention in a very specific, uninterrupted way. A way that makes him feel refreshed, instead of depleting his energy. But then I remember that most parents, myself included, don’t know what the heck we’re doing half the time, and I felt slightly better 🙂

This is particularly good because my younger son will be two in one week, and has almost to the day at 23 months started having small tantrums, not listening, and generally acting like he’s in charge of his o’n self. Oh, and croup symptoms started cropping up in both of them this week. LIFE, I tell ya. Magnificent and terrifying.

So thank you. For listening, which is really what all of us seem to need. And for being in the trenches with us.


High Fives All Around


I don’t publish every update I receive, but yours resonated with me in particular — not just because the advice you received actually worked (GO TEAM SMACKDOWN GO!), but what you wrote about feeling AWFUL in the face of a parenting SUCCESS. You had a problem. You found a solution. And then you beat yourself up for awhile because the solution seemed “obvious” in retrospect.

I do this too. All the dang time.

Sometimes, I admit, I feel awful while writing this very column, because I know the words I’m typing are not the actions I always take with my own children. I sound like a much better, more patient, more “together” mother than I probably am on a day-to-day basis. I give other parents a script and then forget all the lines when it’s my turn.  I lose my patience, my temper, I choose my words and tone poorly, I forget to praise and compliment the positive and focus instead on the negative. I miss “obvious” things like the fact that my kid is acting like a jerk because he’s coming down with an ear infection, or isn’t sleeping because the floor vent in his room got closed so it’s a million degrees in there.  I assume everything is okay until it suddenly isn’t, and wonder how or why I didn’t see the problem coming because DUH.

Many of the solutions/suggestions I make here I learned the hard way too. I had babies who wouldn’t nurse/sleep/nap/stop barfing. I had toddlers who wouldn’t eat/talk/potty-train. And now I have kids who don’t always listen to me, who fight with each other, who occasionally get in trouble at school, who worry about things, who just want screens all the time, who still reject dinner every once in awhile and throw tantrums at the table because they’re completely overtired or seeking attention, etc. etc. etc.

They’re not perfect. And I would never expect them to be. But for some reason I secretly, sometimes, expect perfection from myself. Even though I would smack a letter-writer down six ways from Sunday for wasting time with that kind of useless guilt. Like you, I’ll often blame myself for the problem being a problem in the first place, or because the solution was “obvious” or I was just inconsistent in the follow-through. (OH HOW MANY BEHAVIOR CHARTS HAVE I STARTED AND ABANDONED OUT OF MY OWN LAZINESS  EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THEY WORK?? SO MANY.)

Anyway, wow. Sorry to take your celebratory update and turn it into a total downer with my ramblings. But it’s been a long (and very imperfect) summer around here, and your letter unexpectedly prompted a little self reflection. Which I needed. So high fives right back atcha.

(Also yayyyyyyyyy I got an answer right! With a commenter assist! The system works!)


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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