Friday, March 17, 2017

A time to build resilience? Or a time to just go buy a frozen coke at Maccas?

This week was our school sports day. I must say from the outset, the school did a brilliant job in running the event. The students were well behaved, we all had a brochure outlining the order of events for the day, the MC did a great job of keeping us informed of what was happening, the teachers were all positive and on task.

My own two children, however, did not have such a great day.

One of my children was emotionally fragile before the day even begun. A splash of water on their blue t-shirt resulted in a torrent of tears in the bathroom. Meltdown #1. We should have seen the early-warning signal!

I had set aside the day to attend Sports Day, not to be a parent helper, but to be a mother to my own two children, who do find these days difficult. The first issue occurred before the first race had even been run. I gave one child a pile of grapes thinking my other child wouldn't want any. Big mistake. They did want those grapes, but I had given them all to their sibling. Meltdown #2 for the day.

A running race for both children, long jump for one, high jump for the other. They returned to find that one of our drink bottles had fallen out of our bag and had been damaged when it had been kicked around by some students in front of us. Meltdown #3.

By this stage, it was 33 degrees and I could see that all the other students, although hot, were having a wonderful day. I had a choice. Persevere with the sports day, even though I was averaging one meltdown per hour, or take my children home before more meltdowns occurred. I decided to take my children home. I located both classroom teachers, briefly explained the situation and signed my children out. When I got back to the seating area, I found both my children in tears because one child had inadvertently bumped the book the other was reading thus losing the place they were up to in the book. Meltdown #4 for one child, Meltdown #1 for the other. What was lovely was seeing two other mums sitting with my children trying to calm them both down in my absence.

I sincerely thanked them for their help and explained to my children that I was going to give them the choice to stay at the sports day or go home early. Naturally both children eagerly took up option B. I then told them that we were going to go and get a frozen coke on the way home. There was happiness all round, especially from me, I love happy children AND frozen cokes! The supportive mums smiled with approval and one said "You have the patience of Job".
I smiled and said, "If I had the patience of Job, I would make my children stay for the whole day!"

Withdrawing my children from a difficult school experience does raise an interesting issue.

If I want to build resilient children, should I be yanking them out of school in the middle of the day?

Will my children learn that if they have a meltdown they will get out of school and have a frozen coke every time?

I would argue that building resilience is a life long journey. I want my children to 'toughen up' but I also want to show them that there are occasions when it's okay to say 'I give up - I actually want to step out of this situation as it is more than I can handle at the moment.' As their mum, I also knew that both my kids were going through a difficult time. We've just moved house, they had both had a big weekend and had been unwell recently. My mum is also very sick and the children are concerned about her. These meltdowns were about more than an aversion to sport, they were a symptom of my children in overload. Now was not the time to give them a lesson in resilience.

The reason for the frozen cokes?

Well, it was 33 degrees, I needed a frozen coke, I couldn't drink one in front of my kids and not offer them one - could I?

But seriously, if I had driven straight home from the sports day. The children would look back on the day as that hot, miserable experience where they kept on having meltdowns and then went home and watched tv.

The positive experience of the frozen coke re-framed the day. When my children reflect upon sports day they will remember that it was a hot day, they went in a few events and then got a frozen coke. They will remember that the last school sports day actually had quite a few good things about it. When sports day comes around next year, they will be keen to prepare for it. They will put their name down for a few events and I will come along and cheer them on.

If the weather is a little milder next year, my children are well-rested and worry free, sure, I'll make them stay all day! But either way, we will pick up a frozen coke on the way home! I deserve it!

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