I attended a mini-conference last week, and because I am me, I’ve been mulling it over ever since. It was one of these parenting seminars destined to be either spectacular or spectacularly dumb. I should assert here that my inner skeptic was expecting the latter.
A little background. I do not approve of parenting via the fluffy-cloud method. Scott and I once paid some $400 for a parenting course that was ALL 1970s schmaltz. The class text even used the phrase “hang-up”. Does it get more 1970s than “hang-up”? And yet, I loved that syrupy thing. Every annoying idea that irked me actually had practical applications that were anything but stupid.
Every class, I would go in thinking “What a bunch of fakey shit” and come away saying “Oh, we could do this and that and this too!”. It’s called Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB). And I’d love to teach it. If you ever get a chance to attend, do it. The session Scott and I went to was in a church, and I still loved it. (In Lexington, there was a church intellectual enough that I could shut up my agnosticism and join because I learned from it. But I digress.) If you can’t attend a class, grab the book. It’s got good, practical stuff if you can overlook the fluffy-cloud wording.
So. This mini-conference last week was called Celebrate Calm. I did a lot to promote it in advance, in spite of my inner skeptic’s warnings, because it was being sponsored by my daughter’s school. (I’d shovel shit for those people if they asked it. I love them that much.) And also, we’re desperate. With Sam and even Caroline at all time stress highs even with huge improvements, Scott and I are at our absolute breaking point these days at a number of levels. (Note: The marriage is still strong. Not that kind of ‘breaking’. Not unless things are a whole lot worse than I realize. And I’m a know-it-all, so that can’t be the case.) So I was willing to shut up the skeptic if there was anything of value at all. Still. Just go look at the website a minute, OK? I’ll wait.
Do you see the people on the covers of those videos? Do you not expect Richard Simmons to burst out and start sweating to the oldies AT ANY MINUTE? Can you FEEL the fluff compressing behind your screen? The Jester Queen was anything but enthusiastic, and in the end, the real reason we went was because The Bitch said we would go. (Um. By “we”, I mean The Jester Queen, Madame Syntax, The Bitch, and I. Scott had to teach and was exempt.) She even made us get a fucking sitter so we didn’t have to take the kids. (The sitter’s awesome. We love her. It’s just that getting a sitter to attend an activity that sounded like torture when I knew there would be kid-friendly moments and activities at the conference didn’t exactly appeal, K?)
Here’s what I thought. This was in the back of my head driving over. He’s going to give us one of these presentations that doesn’t take into account kids who can scream for four hours. I don’t care what he claims on his website, these motivational freaks rarely know anything about special needs kids, and the first time Captain Kirk Martin says “you just have to back up and walk away from that behavior” or anything like it, I’m fucking history.
Yeah. I’m a little hostile when I’m forced to do things I don’t like. I come up with mature nicknames for the people in charge and engage in creative heckling even before I’ve gotten halfway started. Ask Linda sometime about the first ever Zumba or my one-course flirtation with body-pump. And if you think nobody was forcing me to go, then you have never met The Bitch.
Anyway, I think he read my mind. I think Kirk Martin held a …whatever you call it if you séance up somebody who’s not dead yet…and said, “Ah. These are Jessie’s objections and I should address them right away to save everybody a little time”. (Of course, if that had really been him speaking, he would have actually preceded that thought with “Jessie is entitled to her Bad Attitude. If She Chooses To Be Angry, That Is Her Choice. I Do Not Need Her To Be Happy Doing Her Chores”.)
Get this. Within the first five minutes, he had described Sam. Within ten minutes, he’d done everything but name the kid. Seriously. He’s never met my son. He has no idea who Sam is and (séance and Star Trek jokes aside) has no idea who I am. And he created for the audience this fictitious/hypothetic child who could scream for hours on end, who was the sort who had to touch the hot stove to find out it would burn him, and who needed firm limits and pretty strict guidance. And he said, “All your kid hears if you get angry while he is angry is that you can’t handle him. You’ve got to be able to field everything your child dishes out.” (Or something like that.) And then he listed some practical reasonably simple ways to do that.
I bought all 7 items in his DVD / CD series, which, even at the discounted conference rate came to a fairly high price. Because he’s the first parenting coach I’ve heard of who even begins to ‘get’ my kids and have strategies that will help me parent them effectively.
And do you want to know something? Something that really frightens me? If ballet and bedtime go well tonight, then tomorrow will mark 7 full days since I’ve completely lost it with one of the kids? Poor Scott? Not so much. But with the kids, I’ve hardly even yelled. They’ve been as normal (which is to say obstructive and uncooperative) as ever, and I’m just not mad. And for me, the human volcano, that’s something of a record.
So I’m a fan of Kirk Martin and his Celebrate Calm. But I’m not an unqualified supporter. Just like I have to overlook 1970s hippy-dippy bullshit from the RCB people, Celebrate Calm has some serious problems I’m having to ignore in order to implement the useful stuff. But I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. Because I’ve got other fires to put out just now and two kids to pick up for ballet in less than three hours.