By yesterday afternoon our typical Wednesday was quickly becoming a disaster. Perhaps everyone was more tired than usual. We had had a few very busy days the week before, and then the kids stayed up too late watching the final episodes of The Voice on Monday and Tuesday. (Totally upset by the results. Good thing we didn’t stay up that late on Tuesday and could find out via Twitter and the fact that we, on the west coast, don’t actually see it live.) Anyway…the day turned into more tantrums and yelling than I like (for them and me) and since it was only half over I figured we needed to do something to change up the atmosphere.
The day had started out pretty well. The kids kept themselves busy while I played with Juliette.
After I put her down for a nap I walked into Eliana and Stephen watching a video on how to make a new Rainbow Loom bracelet. Eliana was being so patient and helpful with her little brother, pausing the video and placing his rubber bands when his hands weren’t coordinated enough to do so. It was so sweet.
And then suddenly it wasn’t. Eliana was too frustrated with the complicated patterns, Juliette woke up and was being such an-almost-2-year-old. Fussy, demanding, whining. I was getting requests and demands from all three directions at once and was losing my patience fast. I kept apologizing for yelling, and then I would yell again. Ugh. So logically I thought of play dough(?!?). We had recently gotten a huge bag of lavender for some homemade Christmas presents, and I had been wanting to make play dough with it. The kids were on board with the idea, so Stephen, Juliette and I made it and then Eliana joined in so they could each add their own lavender.
We talked about how lavender is a calming scent and Eliana added that just playing with the play dough made her feel happy. We talked about how sometimes we need to take a break from whatever we’re doing and do something else to help us get in a better mood. Recently, after Eliana had a particularly hard day, with lots of tears, I helped her into the shower, lit a couple aromatherapy candles and turned off the lights. She loved it. We talked about how the darkness, quiet and candlelight can help us feel better and calm us too.
Everyone has different thresholds for the amount of sensory input they can take or how much they can challenge themselves with a new skill before it gets too frustrating. (Eliana had tried to learn one too many new patterns on her loom.) These thresholds can vary from day to day. I know my threshold is pretty high in the mornings (as long as it’s after my coffee) and pretty low in the late afternoon. This self awareness of recognizing emotions and why they might occur, along with then knowing what to do about them is so important for good emotional health. I want my kids to know how to take care of themselves in this way. It’s a life long process, like all good learning.
Last night I was still on edge a bit. Bedtimes almost always do me in, and as usual the kids were trying to keep me around as long as possible once they finally got tucked in. I explained to Eliana that just like the quiet time playing with play dough helped her feel better, I too needed some quiet time to myself. She actually understood and I left without anymore whiney requests.
Our tough day ended not so badly, and we now have some yummy smelling play dough to bring out when we need it again.
Lavender Play Dough Recipe
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
6 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups water
3 tbs oil
mix together over medium heat until firm, add desired amount of lavender
(I thought this would be much prettier a natural color, but the kids insisted it be lavender color. Our ratio of blue and red did not look like any shade of purple! Oh well.)