Weekend in focus: homework, church, and how babies come out of tummies

In Weekend in focus I review the weekend and look at our therapeutic parenting successes and failures, with the aim of learning something each time. 

Friday night
On Friday after school I took Charlotte to the library while Joanna had football. Charlotte behaved beautifully in the library until we bumped into one of her friends, and then a shrieky game of hide-and-seek ensued. Hmmm. Thankfully it was soon time to make an exit and Joanna was in bouyant mood after football (which she loves). We walked home without incident and made it almost to dinnertime before they started arguing.

Pete arrived home as I was putting their dinner on the table and they were having a moan about having to switch off the TV and come and eat. He oversaw the rest of dinner without too much incident and then off they went to bed and we stared, glassy-eyed, at screens small and tiny for the rest of the evening. Friday nights will do that to people.

Saturday
On Saturday morning Pete the wonderhusband went to a men’s breakfast at church. I was not entirely awake so there was a lot of CBeebies and Lego going on with just an occasional ‘please stop arguing and play nicely’ interjected by me as I passed through the living room with a pile of laundry on my way to the washing machine and then retreated back upstairs to the duvet and my book. At about 10.00 I decided that I probably ought to get the girls dressed before Pete returned, but they were a bit too volatile to risk having a shower and leaving their antics unmonitored, so I was still pyjamaed when he returned at 10.45.

Once he was back I went through Joanna’s homework with her while Charlotte read her book to Pete in another room. Joanna had to count in fives as high as she could and write them all out. She loved it, espcially once she started seeing the patterns. She got stuck and briefly grumpy a couple of times, but talking through the patterns really helped her. Once she’d cracked it and I’d reminded her that she is, in fact, a complete genius, she was all smiles and was off again, writing multiples of five all the way up to 400.

Next was spelling, which she finds a bit harder. She really struggles with getting the right vowel, and with getting the leters in the right order. I am starting to wonder whether it’s just age-appropriate wobbles, or a concentration issue, or dyslexia. Thing is, if I show them all to her for a minute before she has to write them out, she’s fine, but if I asked her to write the same words by sounding them out withough seing them, she’d put the letters in the wrong order, or miss letters out, or both. Anyway. We got there. She wrote all the words we could think of with ‘aw’ in them, and made sentences with this week’s vocabulary. We added ‘Everything is awesome when you work as a team’, which she found very amusing. Phew.

After lunch then plan we for us to put a DVD on and for Pete and the girls to watch that on the sofa while I got the ironing done. (It scares me too much to even think about ironing when they’re playing, because they zoom about with very little care for the fact that the iron is on and there is a cable attaching it to the wall. So ironing only happens when they are asleep or safely installed in front of the TV.) But I went upstairs and read a book instead. No one died. The ironing pile grew a bit. It was Quite Lovely, and frankly good self-care. And you know I’m in favour of that.

Sunday
On Sunday it was church as usual. No drama there, just the usual business of us starting out sitting on one chair each and then both the girls wanting to sit on me when I’m sitting down, and when we stand for the songs, C wants me to hold her on my hip like a toddler and J wants me to hold her hand. It’s just about doable but isn’t tremendously comfortable. Neither of them want Pete, which makes him feel rubbish, and he’s unable to peel them off me without them making a scene, so we usually just muddle through. This week, just before one of the songs, I suggested that Joanna tried to read as many of the words from the screen as she could. Then I realised the song choice. Crown Him with Many Crowns not only has about 14 verses, it contains lines beyond the wit of many adults, let alone our little six-year-old. Words like ‘sceptre’, ‘piercèd’, and ‘ineffably sublime’. Yup. Well played, Hannah. Numpty.

Anyway. Church over, we zoomed off to our friends’ house for lunch. It was lovely. Their eldest is in Charlotte’s class, and they all played relatively happily together. Joanna and Charlotte got out almost every toy in the house, which was a bit embarrassing, but there were no meltdowns by any of the children, so we’ll call that a success. We did have to call the girls over to us for a bit of ‘time in’ a couple of times as we could sense a bit of simmering going on. Joanna finds it hard to navigate social situations where she isn’t in charge, and she was itching to be the boss of the play, espcially as she was the eldest, our friends’ daughter is quite quiet and shy, and there were all these exciting toys to play with, preferably all at once. So we had a quiet little chat about how things work when you’re playing at someone else’s house (not something she’s experienced a lot, to be fair to her) and the social niceties of letting the host decide what’s going to happen and what you’re going to play with. And, bless her, she tried really hard and did a great job. I was really impressed with her and made sure she knew it. Charlotte, too.

We came home and Pete zoomed back off to church for the evening service. I fed the girls and then started to field questions from Joanna. ‘Did X (her friend) come out of Y (the mum)’s tummy?’ ‘Why wasn’t she adopted?’ ‘How do babies get out of mummies’ tummies?’ ‘Why couldn’t I have come out of your tummy?’ ‘Was our birth mummy a bad mummy?’ ‘Why did she drink and smoke and take drugs when we were inside her?’ I did my best with all of those. Then Charlotte joined us. ‘Why did Daddy [name] hurt me when he brushed my teeth?’ Her first disclosure. I’d suspected, but she hadn’t voiced it before. And that solved a behavioural puzzle we’ve been wondering about for months about why she shrinks from an innocent Pete (and occasionally me) in the same situation.

The questions, and my attempts to give them the answers they deserve in an age-appropriate way, continued for about 40 minutes as we moved from dinner, to cuddles on the sofa, to bedtime. Joanna does most of her life-story work at bedtime, which is when she struggles to be left alone with her own thoughts and feelings. (Charlotte has shown very little interest in talking about her birth family until now, so we just let her know every now and again that the option is available to her and wait for her to initiate conversations. She will when she’s ready. )

Today after school me and Joanna are going to see if we can find a quiet corner of a café to carry on our conversation. She’s had her weekly art therapy session this morning at school, so I’m keen to find out if she has yet felt able to open up to the counsellor about her past. Last night she was saying it was still too soon (it’s only been running since Christmas) so We Shall See. Meanwhile Pete will be collecting Charlotte, and hoping she doesn’t repeat the tantrum he had to come with on the way to school this morning. I’ll be reminding him that when I was discussing the differences between Pete and her birth dad, I referred to Pete as ‘Daddy Pete’. She looked at me like I had lost my marbles. ‘Daddy Pete? He’s not Daddy Pete. He’s DADDY!’

I’ll take that.

Summary

Successes:

  • self-care on Saturday afternoon
  • one-to-one in a room with no distractions for Joanna’s homework
  • visit to friends’ house with calm ‘time in’ when things started to simmer
  • helpful (I think) life story work

Failures:

  • ‘Why don’t you try to read this old, impenetrable hymn?’ *facepalm*

Next time:

  • we’ll try to do homework in the same way with lots of one-to-one time
  • I might try to get dressed a tiny bit earlier on a Saturday morning
  • we’ll have more confidence about taking the girls to visit friends’ houses

How was your weekend? Do you have any tips for surprise life story work or sudden disclosures? I’d love to hear your comments.

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