Success can be mesmerizing some times. This evening, I found myself wondering how the afternoon went so well as Little Girl C arrived from school, had no extra activities (Lockdown 2.0), did homework, played joyfully and did not engage in the usual “fight-for-everything-mode”. On my side, patience made an appearance. All happened as I worked and had calls while dictating her spelling or correcting her piano practice. It was so unusual post lockdown 1.0 that I found myself saying out loud “I wonder what I did right”? Hubby B agreed her mood was excellent and asked me why I was worried.
“I am not worried”, I said, “I just want to replicate it further”
Myths for success
When something works, you want to understand where it comes from. It feels so good that you want to figure out what enabled it so it does not go away. A bit like Ronaldo with his pre-game rituals and the way he has come to believe each of them matters. Rituals give us the comfort and confidence to make things work, despite being absolutely unrelated to the actual outcome.
A history on football
There was a time in my early teens, when I would eat a Magnum on the break of my team’s football games. After a few games, I could not bring myself not to eat it. Just in case that would jinx it. Same thing with the shirt or scarf with which we won the championship. Or the scarf that never saw any victories so I just started leaving it home and spent the game fearing the outcome if I happened to bring it in stadium.
Looking back, it is still an intellectual challenge for me to understand how passionate I was (and am) about football. And the myths around it. It makes no sense. Which is probably why it works for me. In my late teens, football was a large part of my self-expression. It was the place where I allowed emotions to roam freely. I could go from shocked to ecstatic in 10 seconds and feel like the world was ending at the 93′ losing at home. And then party the night away with my BFF, who inevitably supported the opposite team, but would not allow anyone to bring up the subject to protect our fun. It was the easiest pain to get rid of – football. I still like it for that.
And as often is the case, I digress.
Back to replicating success. Myths are tough acts to follow, as we believe in them so vehemently. And we construct biased patterns in our minds that can perfectly align with reality. So when looking for patterns, it is good to recognise that they don’t always represent causality. And by the way, I am analysing an event that happened once this week, and whilst Little Girl C has had multiple good days in the past I do question if I even remember the patterns around each of those circumstances. So trying to do any matter of association is futile. I can however, identify 6 things that are likely to have influenced the outcome and which I will endeavour to repeat. And 1 that influenced for sure.
And guess what? They are mostly to do with my behaviour. Dr. Laura Markham would not be surprised.
Yesterday, I pre-warned Little Girl C that we had to start a different routine this week. I explained it was important that we did homework early rather than at 8pm as had been happening recently as we needed to ensure she got enough sleep and was not too tired. Moreover, given I was now home every day of the week there was no reason to let it slip so late. We discussed eating before or after homework, and she asked that she eats first as the lunchtime has shifted in school (because of Covid rotas) and she is very hungry by the time she gets home. I agreed that was a good point and we settled on that.
As she got home I was on the phone, and in most days she would interrupt. My face must have shown otherwise and by the time I was done she was having her snack. I made a point about going to her, giving her a hug and asking about her day. Only after did I remind her that we would do homework once she had a chance to eat and relax for a bit and after I had yet another call. As she came into the leaving room later, I would usually shush her. Today I brought her into my lap before she moved to her desk. She relished in it. The first thing I told her was not “come and do homework” but rather “I care about you”. If that is not part of the pattern, I don’t know what is.
I have given her lots of choices this afternoon. I know it is a strategy you use when kids are 3 and she is 7. But in fact, I feel like some of her EQ requires that still. So she got to choose piano or spellings. And when piano got tough I stood up for the 2 minutes she needed rather than shouting out an answer from the other side of the room while staying at my computer. Spellings were smooth and as I showed her the mistakes I came up with songs and tricks for the 2 words she got wrong. If you have been around in the blog you know failure is not her forte. So it needs to be managed carefully. And still, it worked.
It has been months since she has done proper computer work, given she now has 1 piece of homework a week that she does on it. Last week, she expressed her frustration that maths was too easy in school and she was never going to be a scientist. I told her she had options. I reminded her of the coding she never did again since lockdown, the maths I offered to do with her at home under heavy tantrums from her side, and all the other things we could do to continue learning. Science was about wanting to learn and having fun doing so. If that resonated or not, I don’t know.
Today, as homework finished I gave her the option to do her typing course (weird, I know, not my idea), coding course or the maths games website we use. It was a hard choice, because she wanted all of them. Phew, in any other day I would have gotten eye rolls (yes, she eye rolls at age 7). She picked typing and engaged in it with fun and excitement. I was in awe of her not shouting at the computer each time she did not pass to the next level. After more than 10 attempts, while I encouraged her and even tried to get her another keyboard, she made it and celebrated. No doubt encouragement without losing my patience helped.
I am still one of those weirdos whose kids don’t watch tv during the week. Even screen time is very limited. Whilst Little Girl C can stop, Baby S is still not good with limits and unless you put him on it for 2 hours he is unlikely to be satisfied with any iPad time. So he gets mostly none. I know it is not the right solution by the way, but we have not yet crossed the barrier of the reasonable so we try different approaches.
Today, they asked to watch videos and I suggested they could watch BBC Bitesizes lessons. Little Girl C negotiated watching the BBC children news, and I admit it is hard to say no to that. So points for me for not saying no. After the news they watched video lessons on Vikings and as they tested whether they could go further I made a deal to close my own computer when their video was finished. They tested me, and I complied.
It was game time. Something that rarely happens on a Monday night or, to be fair, any school night. Partly because of the days I commute but honestly also because I stretch the days I don’t commute until the dinner table. It is just too easy. So I complied with my part of the deal and we took a board game.
As I pushed back on her choice to always be the first to start I knew I was maybe taking it a step too far. I held my ground and talked about how we all like to go first. After the first moments of heightened tension as Baby S also tried to disrupt the game because he also wanted to be first, we got back on track. We played happily until dinner and I did not rush the end of it because soup was on the table. They could eat it cold yet again…
Ultimately, all of the above choices related to one thing: patience. I have been lacking it miserably. Exhaustion is step #1 to remove my patience as we get to the end of the work day. Extending the work day probably does not help either.
Patience is what allows me to stay calm when I ask for something 3 times and eventually some very slow movement starts to happen clearly sub-par to what I believe it should be.
It is patience that allows me to smile when Little Girl C pinches me in the arm to give her the next spelling word.
And patience that allows me to tickle Baby S when he punches the board game rather than to scream at him.
Patience is what allows me to get up again to adjust the night lamp that Little Girl C needs to sleep.
And patience is what allows me to play with magnets while feeding Baby S the 20th small piece of pear knowing he only refuses to eat on his own because I am there.
Patience is what allows me to feel no guilt when I go to bed. And that, is the key to success.Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash