It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Best of Times

So, we had a recent bout of tough times in our household. Our daughter, Maya, does not have after school on Fridays, and her teacher brings her out for pick up. Since school resumed in January, it had pretty much been a dismal weekly report from her teacher. Maya was not listening or following directions like usual, to the point where the principal was observing the class one day for her teacher’s mid-year evaluation and even took the opportunity to pull her aside to have a one-on-one conversation with her about behaving and it seemed to have no effect. Her teacher was as baffled as we were. Maya’s a generally good kid, and if she gets out of line at school, she usually falls back in line when she’s called out. But for some reason, nothing was penetrating.

Unsurprisingly, things were matching this pattern at home. Mornings had dissolved into battles about eating quickly without laying down on the bench and kicking her foot over her head and getting her clothes on so we could get to school on time. Evenings usually dissolved in tears (sometimes hers, sometimes mine) over similar issues: she just wouldn’t do what she needed to do – things she has been doing for months, in some case years!

Discipline Equals Freedom

I swear that my posts won’t always center on books I haven’t actually read yet, BUT this is the central tenet of Jocko Willink’s book by the same name. While I haven’t read the book yet, I listen to Jocko’s podcast as well as many others that he has been a guest on and who often reference this book and its principles. Basically, the argument is that having discipline in some parts of your day, for example in a daily routine, allows for the freedom of action in others.

Now, it’s not that we run our household like a Navy SEAL boot camp, but Maya is definitely a routine girl. We’ve always raised her that way, and she does really well with it. The problem occurs when you disrupt that routine, when you disrupt that discipline.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Now imagine a routine-centric child, who begins a vacation on Thanksgiving Day, goes to Disney World for 17 days, is back to school for a two and a half days, and then begins Christmas Break. After the break, layer in the fact that I was out on a business trip for almost a week. Considering I’m the primary caregiver for most of the school week mornings and evenings, a pretty big disruption for her. As soon as I arrived home, who follows close on my heels? My parents – Maya’s grandparents – arrived for the long weekend to celebrate Maya’s birthday.

Now those who have either benefited from having active grandparents or those witnessing them secondhand can attest that when they’re around all normal rules fly out the window. I grew up, fortunately, with both sets of grandparents alive for most of my childhood, and ended up seeing one or both what seemed like weekly, and so got the weekly(ish) dose of grandparental spoiling. The foods and treats we were never allowed at home were always featured menu items, and pretty much anything goes.

Now, I firmly believe in allowing grandparents this very special role since I experienced it myself; HOWEVER, the issue we have run into with my parents is that since they live across the country and only see her for a few days or a couple of weeks every few months or longer, they have a compression issue. They basically try to cram 52 weekends worth of grandparental spoiling into the five-day period they’re visiting. For a routine kid, and one who is being raised with very limited sugar intake (now that we know better than my parents did when they raised me), it’s a recipe for a crazy weekend.

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

She has had a couple of really good weeks since then, thankfully. Getting her locked back into her routine and a few other activities we’ve done around the house that helped engage her more have helped. Unfortunately, for those based in the New England area, we are heading into the (still mysterious to me as a native Californian) February break this week, so stay tuned to know whether or not we have any fallout from that.