Lessons Learned While Riding & Driving in Manaus

We try not to spend a lot of time in the car here…as mentioned in this post. But because we only have one (rented Fiat Doblo aka boxy stick shift with no power) car, a lot of time ends up being spent driving or riding along.
G, M, & I take L to preschool in the morning before I drop G off at work and head back home.
I pick L up from school before Lunch.
And (since originally writing this post, a co-worker has graciously offered to give G a ride home each day-Thank you!!!) I take all the kids to pick up G from work at the end of the day.
I would estimate that to be at least 3 (generally terror filled) hours in the car for me de segunda a sexta (M-F).

G-master of the road

During one of the rides home at the end of the day, when the whole family was in the car, we drove by a stray dog digging in some trash. Unfortunately, this is a common sight here and I honestly thought nothing of it. Until L started laughing. He pointed at the poor creature and said: “That doggy’s eating trash! That’s silly!”

stray dog in Japiim stray dog in Japiim

At that moment we had a choice. We could either ignore the teachable moment and agree with our observant pre-schooler, or begin to teach him some compassion.

In Christine Carter’s book Raising Happiness she outlines how to raise kind children. You know what is number one on that list? Modeling kindness. If your children don’t see what kindness looks like, how will they ever be able to be kind themselves? Being positive and exposing them to need are also on her list. Living in Manaus it’s very easy to expose our kids to those who need. We do it on a daily basis when we drive through rickety, favelas built over the river on the way to Daddy’s office.

favelas favelas

I feel compassion when driving through those parts of town for the people who live there, but doing it every day has really desensitized me. It’s just part of the drive now. I need to verbalize my compassion so my kiddos know what that’s about and they can learn to feel the same. Volunteering here is out of the question for me, but I do what I can. I give change to those who ask and donate all of our clothes and shoes to those in need. M is constantly growing out of her clothes and just yesterday L asked why his old shoes were in the bag that we were giving away. It was a feel good moment to sit down and talk about how some little boys don’t have shoes so we can help them by giving.

How do you volunteer your time? Do you bring your kids along and involve them too?


Happiness Habits

When I read Raising Happiness, one of the steps was forming happiness habits. This step was not initially revolutionary for me. I read the section, took my notes, and moved on. When nap time got so bad I couldn’t stand it I decided to take action.

First, I took a look at Dr. Christine Carter’s worksheet and made my own spiffy version with lots of colors and space for stickers. I filled everything out, talked about turtle steps, and taped them on the wall just outside the boys’ room. I had a plan and it was going to work!

L's Happiness Habit Chart

I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know what it was going to do to my expectations. By breaking down my big goal of an easy nap time into tiny easily accomplished goals, or turtle steps, I lowered my expectations and didn’t get upset when the boys were using their normal diversionary tactics to delay actually going to sleep. I didn’t even get upset when they didn’t heed to their turtle goal that day. I simply said: Oh bummer, looks like you don’t get a star on your chart today…and kept going.

Let me be clear about this, my and the boys’ behavior didn’t actually change that much; my expectations of our behavior changed. And while it took lots of prayers, time and some tweaking to our routine, I am happy to say that we have an easy nap time! For the first time ever, really.

Celebrations are in order!

Wild Horses

During one of our many discussions about discipline, G likened the boys to wild horses. The full quote was something to the effect of:

Sometimes our kids are like wild horses. They just need to be bridled until they stop kicking.

I just read the book Raising Happiness by Christine Carter. Her ideas about how to discipline children in it are what prompted the discussion that led to the quote. It’s a pretty good parenting/personal improvement book about teaching your kids how to be happy (because it’s truly a skill) and teaching yourself as well. I’ve battled with post-partum depression and bad therapists, but this book actually taught me some things that I don’t think I ever truly learned. Not that I wasn’t taught, but I think I had to be beat over the head with it for it to really sink in.

I’ve always been a fairly emotional, wear my heart on my sleeve type of gal. Very in touch with my emotions and what they are and how they make me feel. I’ve never been very good at coping with them. I can very easily turn into a grouch or blubbering mess who shouldn’t talk because things always come out wrong or I say things that I regret or don’t mean.

Let’s go back…(and these are just a few)
…to middle school (did anyone have a good time in 7th grade?) when I would scream and cry two year old tantrum style on the floor of my room because I couldn’t go to a friend’s house.
…to high school when I was grounded through getting my driver’s license and my 16th birthday for mouthing off to my mom on a particularly grumpy day.
…to after college when food, messes, and dogs turned me into a ghost of a roommate who coped with it all by cleaning incessantly (not a bad coping mechanism?).

…and now? I’ve definitely had my fair share of clench your jaw, bite your tongue and walk away moments with the kids. Who hasn’t? Aren’t we all just wild horses that need bridling?

The book helped me learn a lot of things (coping appropriately being one of them), but one gem stuck out a lot (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Don’t ruminate when you’ve been offended-CHOOSE to feel better.” I had myself convinced I couldn’t control how I felt or how things made me feel. But I’m the only one who CAN control that. Lightbulb! Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Only took me over a quarter of a century. The silver lining on top of the silver lining here is that if I choose to feel better–that’s a whole lot less emotions I have to cope with. Double win.

Tell me about one of your wild horse moments…and since this post started out with the intention of being about child discipline, tell me about a parenting discipline win, too 😉