Mindy is a performing arts teacher in the greater NYC area, and the writer behind ThoroughlyModernMommy.com She lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Greenwich, CT. Their family was brought together through transracial adoption.
“I have an idea, Mommy! Let’s sleep in a fort in the living room!”
A simple suggestion like this can send me to the brink of panic. I start to argue with myself.
It’s a Monday night. She has school in the morning.
But she sleeps well in forts. They make her feel safe.
She can’t just take over the living room whenever she wants. If I say yes tonight, will she try to make this a daily thing?
She has been so good today. She’s trying so hard. Maybe I should just let her.
It should be such a simple thing. She is allowed to do the thing she is asking, or she isn’t. But for the past year, we’ve been working with schools and therapists and doctors and experts to try to figure out what works best for my 8-year-old girl who has debilitating anxiety. Childhood anxiety that can lead her into out-of-control and sometimes even violent tailspins. After hospital stays and a change in schools and two different intensive therapeutic programs, we think we now have her in the level of support she needs. But I feel like I know so little about parenting now that all the rules seem to have changed.
So. Do I let her build a fort in the living room to sleep in? I have no idea.
A few months ago, our therapist was talking to us about making sure we have structure at home.
On the one hand, that suggestion was laughable. I have two Masters degrees- one of them is in education. I have run theatre companies. I have taught in a school for students with special needs. I know how to break down a task. I am the Queen of making schedules and rules.
On the other hand, that suggestion was laughable. My husband had lost his job a year earlier because he was called so often to pick up our daughter from school. I was working 14-hour days on a regular basis to try to keep the family afloat. We were constantly attending meetings with teachers and appointments with doctors. And then we lost a close family member to cancer. And she wanted me to try to set up schedules and charts and point systems that constantly changed?
In desperation one night, I searched the App Store. “Kids Calendars.” “To Do lists for kids.” “Family Planning.” (Which of course led me to apps that help track fertility. Not what I was looking for.)
And then I found Stridepost. And I knew I had found the answer. A place where we could plan my daughter’s routine and allow her to earn points for things that are difficult for her. (Like brushing her teeth and going to school.) A place where we could leave each other encouraging messages throughout the day. A place where she could check for herself how many days it was until her birthday.
I downloaded the app, and explained it to the other two members of our family. Last Sunday, I heard my daughter call from the other room. “It’s Family Meeting time!” She had seen a notification. And I knew this was working for her.
So last night, when my daughter asked if she could build a fort, I had a brainstorm.
“Would you like to add that as a reward?”
My daughter’s face lit up.
She put her head on my shoulder as we looked at her daily list of to-dos. She had accomplished many of them. And a few, she hadn’t. She watched me give the red thumbs down for those, but took a deep breath as I reminded her how many things she had done well.
“How many points do I have?” she asked.
“Four thousand, seven hundred thirty two. I think sleeping in a fort should be worth five hundred. Do you want to do it?”
“Yes! Now how many points do I have?”
“Four thousand, two hundred and thirty two.”
“That’s a lot,” she smiled.
Stridepost has quantified things for my daughter in a way she understands. It has given our family structure and a common language in a time when we needed it most. It has genuinely changed the way our family operates.
Latest posts by Tammy Mayrend (see all)
- Tips to Simplify Your Summer Schedule - June 2, 2017
- Stridepost: Helping Busy Families With Routines That Work! - May 24, 2017
- On Living Room Forts, and A Million Other Tiny Decisions: Dealing With Childhood Anxiety - May 18, 2017