Some things said to a child are so entirely bright, intelligent, and straightforward that I feel ridiculous and incompetent. While raising the children, teaching better coping skills is more challenging than you think. Our youngest, Sadie, brought home a little ditty, to help with anger management at our house.
“Anger is a short madness.”–
The Fits of the Youngest
The skinny, aka “the 411,” aka history:
Up until 2010, our kids were gentle and mild-tempered. My oldest (step)daughter, Ryder, had a few fits during her terrible twos, but they stopped when we laid the law down. Our second daughter, Keely, is still our old soul, wearing her heart on her sleeve, but she’ll find some sass to slap onto anything she says. Even though our only son, Jax, suffered colic as a baby, he is now “Mr. Mellow,” a bit shy, and always smiling. Our “family bliss” took a turn when our last daughter blessed us with her early presence. Miss Sadie Jo wrapped up this 6-pack and I tied ’em up.
Sadie was born earlier than expected at 33 weeks gestation, weighing a whopping 3 lbs, 10 oz. Her first three weeks we spent in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). I recovered from placenta previa with a portion of my uterus gone from my only c-section and tubal ligation.
Sadie managed to impress doctors and nurses with her strength and growth, and boy was she stubborn. It wasn’t until she was about seven to eight months old when we met her…” temperamental” side. As she developed, these issues became a tad problematic.
Smell the Flower, Sadie!
Around 15 months old, we began to worry about Sadie’s flare-ups’ and her actions’ minor physical consequences. Sometimes she would throw her head back in anger, utterly unaware of whatever danger she would do to herself if she follows through. Sadie failed to realize the floor or wall or anything behind her hurt much more than her bruised ego. This new “owie” sent her into a “psycho mode” that would bother any sane person with normal hearing.
Sadie didn’t care where we were either – school, grocery store, funeral, weddings, doctor’s office, library, church – yes, church. She did not care where we were or how embarrassing it was to anyone involved – she did her and did so LOUDLY. We didn’t know what to do or how to help her cope. We would hold her, whisper to her, and as she got older, we finally started time-outs for her “bad choices.” We were coerced into the whole “bad choices” wording…sigh. We aren’t as PC as I thought we were either.
While in preschool, Sadie’s teachers practiced a simple phrase when kids threw a fit or three. Such a simple concept:
“Smell the flower, blow out the candle.” Sadie’s fave teacher, Ms. Lucy, explained that the body “naturally calms itself down by taking prolonged, deep breaths.” I wanted to “Elle-oh-Elle” right in her perfect face. Still, I’m pretty sure Ms. Lucy’s house was a butterfly filled, Zen-like garden with fairies, flowers, and gnomes – obviously, no children.
If a child in class shows their “angry face” or pulls out their “angry eyes,” they stop as soon as they notice the or. Then they’re supposed to pretend to smell the imaginative flower in front of them while inhaling a deep breath through the nose. Holding it as tight and as long as one can and then ever so slowly and gently blow out the candle, exhaling slowly through the mouth, like you’re blowing out a candle.
Of course, this exercise is difficult to grasp for all intensive purposes. Still, with persistence and constant reminders, it quickly became the gospel of the classroom. We tried this phrase at home with Sadie because, oddly enough, her teachers never saw one of her fits. In fact, they could not say enough wonderful things about her gentleness and mild-manners – always willing to help others at school. Yeah – she saved all that other glory for us.
This little nugget of wisdom lasted maybe two days at home, and I’m generous with that time frame. Little shit became an absolute expert at teaching others what to do if they got super upset or started screaming.
When her friends get mad or upset and drop to the floor in an intense fury, Sadie runs to the rescue! As if she is the all-knowing master of Zen and with genuine concern in her eyes, she walks up to said fit-thrower, puts her hand gently on their shoulder, and whispers,
“It’s okay, buddy…shhh…take a big, deep breath. Now, smell the flower…. all the way in, and hold it as tight as you can! Now, slowly, SLOWLY blow out the candle on your cake. There you go, good job, buddy! Knuckles!”
(Of course, all given with her expert demonstration).
Sadie made this mantra her bitch. Owns it. Doesn’t do any of it herself, but she’s a teacher see.
She acts as if she invented the expression,
has trained many others on how to “cope,”
and practices it herself on the daily.
I assure you, she does not.
Blow Out the Candle
Since its inception, “smell the flower, blow out the candle” has become somewhat of an inside joke in our house. I admit there are times when I do not want to hear this little phrase come out of a child’s mouth. Usually, it’s when I’m hella pissed while shouting profanities after finding a mess made by these little fuckers.
Surely as soon as I “fit-out,” I will hear a shout from another room,
“MOM! Remember…smell the flower- “
That’s usually when I start throwing things while screaming,
“OH HELL NO. YOU CAN TAKE THAT FLOWER AND SHOVE IT STRAIGHT UP YOUR ASS! GET IN HERE AND CLEAN UP YOUR FUCKING MESS OR I’M…”
And that usually falls on deaf as shit ears.
“And though she be but little; she is fieRcE.”
– Shakespeare (1600), A Midsummer Night’s Dream