Thursday, October 30, 2014

Data Collection

In an effort to understand what motivates Maddie and to know if we are making progress in certain goals we (her therapists and me) "track data" constantly. How did she sleep, eat, poop? What percentage of times does she look at me when I say her name? How often does she look for my attention? What happened just before this tantrum that might have caused it? Etc. The data, oh the data. It is interesting, though, the conclusions that you derive from the data vs. what my perspective is on the situation. Through this data collection we have come to understand all kinds of patterns that I would never have noticed on my own. It has also made me doubt my own perceptions, but kind of in a good way. It's easy to become such a tyrant as a parent, assuming you understand what life is like from their perspective, that you know who they are (or who they should be) and that you know the best way to handle any situation. And I think a lot of the time we do have the right instincts but I think having a gentle dose of wariness is healthy--and not being offended if your child is fundamentally different than you are--is even more so.

Through this data collection I've learned that Maddie is not nearly as prone to constipation as I thought (she's actually quite regular FYI :), she loves circular shaped things, she eats when she's bored (don't we all) and that though her tantrums may begin because of frustration--once she starts hitting herself it is primarily to get attention. There's plenty more to add to the list, but I just think it's so interesting what is revealed beyond our own fuzzy observations. I knew she hit herself out of frustration--but I didn't see that there was another reason. I knew she loved slinky's and bracelets and coins--but I didn't put together the circular part. I thought she had a mammoth appetite-- and while she can still pound some serious food, there are plenty of times she comes around the kitchen because she's under-stimulated. Maybe it's just me--because although I consider myself smart, I can also be a total airhead (like how Teddy gets great reading comprehension scores if he remembers to take the tests)

As part of Maddie's therapy, they are actually doing some training with me. Phase 1 is tracking me making "attending" statements to Maddie for 5 minutes. Attending statements are just observations--not requests or demands or suggestions. It's just me sitting in the background of her play making comments like "you put the horse in the barn," "you are holding a brown horse." You would NOT want to say "put the horse over here," or "what does the horsey say?". I'm just a narrator. I am not supposed to interfere, guide or play with her unless she invites me. This is surprisingly hard to do. And this is kind of what I'm talking about with the parenting thing--you do a lot of teaching by suggesting, guiding, and requesting your children to do things...so much so, that it's surprisingly hard to just be with them no strings attached.

I know I mentioned this book I've been reading called The Child Whisperer. It's has some pretty interesting insights, I'm not sure if I buy all of her energy flow stuff, and I think she could have condensed the book somewhat--but anyway. She categorizes children (and all people) into different types. I heard about this book from a girl who posted on Instagram that she never thought she would understand her daughter and that this book had changed their relationship. I bought the book with Elsie specifically in mind. And I have to say it's been very eye-opening. Her theory is that every time you fight against your child's true you actually increase the tendency for the very problem you want to avoid. This book has helped me see ways that she and I are different and even ways we are the same. And for the areas where we are different--she's helped me see the value in those attributes that Elsie has that I quite frankly just didn't get! And now that I have this different perspective I see things in Elise that I didn't before, how much she wants others to be happy and how fun-loving she is. W

It's just weird to have things made plain before you that you feel like you should have seen--kind of a 6th sense 'I see dead people' sort of feeling. I'll have you know I also have an app on my phone that tracks my sleeping patterns and I've learned that I sleep SOOO much better if I wear socks (yes, grandpa thi-thi) and if I go to sleep between 9 and 10. Its not just the amount of time, the quality of my sleep is better too, regardless of when I wake up. Weird, huh? It's weirdly empowering though to analyze this data and these personality types. At the same time that these studies emphasize how much I'm not able to just organically understand the world and/or the people around me and/or my own daughters--deep down I already knew that. I feel like existing without that pretense and putting forth some effort is ironically very freeing. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it is. Like living on a budget, or exercising, or getting up early--it's not that I really enjoy it--but actually doing it--you have to admit everything goes better and feels better when you do.