Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Worry Be Happy

My kids are sick. They have goop dripping out of them. I think they might be melting. When they cough, Kiah perks up because she thinks they are barking dogs.

I kept Ben home today but sent Caleb in, even though (and this is horrible) I wish he had been sick enough to keep home.

Caleb hates school.

He doesn’t like his teacher. She is too serious, she inexplicably raises her voice at him, and she is impatient. Every morning is a struggle with Caleb, but Monday mornings are the worst. He sulks all morning and, with tears brimming in his big blue eyes, comes up with worst case scenarios in the form of “what ifs”:

“What if I had homework that I didn’t know about? What if she yells at me because I have to go to the bathroom? What if I don’t understand the math and she tells me she won’t help me?”

“Caleb,” I respond, “You are ruminating again.” (I have been picking up self-help lingo from a book I’ve been reading: The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi.) Caleb now knows what it means to “ruminate.”

“It’s really hard not to ruminate,” he says.

You got that right, kid. Especially on cloudy Monday mornings when you’ve got to face a grouchy 8-month pregnant teacher whose ankles have recently melded with her calves. Of course she’s grouchy! Her boobs are about to be ruined forever. (I don’t tell Caleb this.)

The past few Monday mornings, I’ve vacillated between being Caleb’s energetic cheerleader and being visibly annoyed about the whole Monday-morning production. (Those are mornings I’m not proud of.)

This morning, I was feeling especially sympathetic, so I made all sorts of promises and grand gestures: We’ll make cookies with frosting when you get home! I’ll come have lunch with you once your brothers and sister have stopped dripping with ooze! I’ll bring pizza! We’ll read THREE chapters of Pippi Longstocking tonight!

This is probably the incorrect way to handle the situation. I don’t want Caleb to associate negative rumination with rewards. But acting nonchalant about his concerns trivializes his… life. This is his life.  And he’s so unhappy! And I know, from experience, that stuffing your face full of cookies will only dull the pain for a while.

So, I’m developing a “life strategies for Caleb” plan. It involves memorizing an inspirational bible verse every week, dwelling on the positive aspects of the day, taking baby steps out the door and onto the bus, wearing a goldfish around his neck, and receiving a giant kiss on the hand that he can hold up to his cheek any time he wants.

Now, I just need someone to make such a plan for me. Excuse me- it's time for my morning ruminations.


Toaster said...

Someone in my household is also a ruminator...and it's not me. ;)

(Btw, one of my nieces just LOVES the Little Miss/Little Mister books!)

Holly said...

Mr. C a ruminator? I don't see that AT ALL :)

Anonymous said...

If she's 8 months pregnant, she's got to start maternity leave sooner or later, right? Here's hoping for a really un-serious, patient sub... :)

Holly said...

She'll be gone soon. :)

Elizabeth said...

I feel so sad for Caleb. I hate that feeling of sending kids off to school when you know they are sad about it. You impress me with your strategies. I know a mother COUGH COUGH that has allowed a child to stay home when there was too many tears.
Here's to mat leave!

Toaster said...

Did you see this week's TIME magazine? I read it right after I saw your column & thought of Caleb--they talk about emotional issues in kids, and they recommended a particular book for helping kids through worry. I think it was this one:

Or wait, it might have been this one:

I think it was the second one; either way, they are both highly rated on Amazon!

TIME also suggested this book for parents:

I haven't read it, but I have read several other books by Martin Seligman & am a huge fan of his work on optimism, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him.