It’s been a long time since we’ve had to use a reward chart for “Em;” I think the last one was while she was potty training. When we did the rewards back then, she received a sticker on her chart for each successful trip to the bathroom, and when she had that mastered, she earned a sticker for each day that was accident-free. I don’t remember what the reward was for filling a chart with stickers, but it was probably something like “pick any toy from the $1 section at Target” or something like that. There was no consequence for not using the toilet, other than not receiving a sticker for that attempt/day.
However, Em is much older and consequences are now appropriate. We’ve struggled with a few behavior quirks in the past, usually related to Em’s return from her dad’s house in the summer which resolved themselves within a couple of weeks. This year these quirks have quickly evolved into full-blown behavior problems. It seemed the traditional removal of a prized possession or privilege wasn’t cutting it. I was venting my frustrations with a friend of mine and she told me about a system she’s currently using with her son who is a couple of years older than Em. I modified it a bit and this is what I ended up with:
In order to teach Em that every poor choice has a negative consequence, she loses more points than she would have gained if she’d done the right thing. Em and I each have a jar with pennies inside, every point being worth one penny. We mark off points as they happen so there is an immediate consequence, though it seems small at that exact moment. At the end of the day we total everything up; if her grand total is in the positive, we transfer the earned amount of pennies from my jar to hers. If she’s in the negative, she must give back that many pennies.
One of the major problem we were having was lying. No matter how many times I encouraged her to tell the truth to lessen the amount of consequence, the lies would just be piled one on top of another. She’s quickly learning the value of telling the truth. If, for example, she does not complete a task I asked her to do and she lies about it, she’ll end up losing 4 points, 2 for not completing the task and 2 for the lie. If she continues to lie about the task she didn’t complete, she loses another 2 points for each lie. We ran into this scenario last week and I reminded her that she’d lose fewer points if she just told the truth right away: rather than lose 4 or 6 points, she’d only lose 2 and potentially be in the positive by the end of the day if she did everything else correctly. Once Em saw the math, she understood that even if she does something wrong, telling the truth can help keep her final total in the positive.
Last week was our first week with the chart and while I wish she’d earned more pennies, at least she ended the week with some pennies in her jar. One bad day led to a serious deficit and a potential for around 30 points per week ended up with a final grand total of 9.
After I created the chart, Em and I worked together on the rewards she could earn with her pennies and came up with some ways for us to spend extra special time together with various values. The reward redemption amount starts at 50 pennies and increases in value depending on how “big” something is to Em. 50 seemed like a steep amount to start with for a “smaller” prize and I almost wavered a bit last week when I realized that it will take her at least a week and a half of “perfect” behavior to earn something, but considering the struggle we went through week 1 of this new system, I think 50 is a good number for her; it’ll help her to set a goal and see that her hard work is paying off.
Here’s hoping to a better week than last and a heavier penny jar in Em’s hands.
Tonight I attended the wedding reception of two very wonderful people. After the initial thought of, “oh great, now what am I going to do?,” I found myself sitting among friends at a table far away from the dance floor. The evening went very well, full of wine, beer, and food truck hamburgers. Toward the end of the evening, I found myself with one of my good friends “Tim.” Though he’s close to my parents’ age, Tim is very special to me, and I look up to him and cherish everything he says to me. After some light wine-filled conversation, Tim asked me a question that was loaded with serious.
“When are you going to stop putting your life on hold for others?”
After I tried to deny it, Tim asked me a different question.
“What are your goals for you? Marriage? More children?”
I tried to explain that my life is very busy, and I know that life is easier for me than for other single parents. I’m fairly certain that I’m done having children of my own, given that I’m not in a relationship right now, and having a child after I’m married again would be a difficult change for Em. I feel very blessed to have my family and my church family around whenever I need them. And I have many people in my life who love me.
“Yes, we all love you very much. But you don’t get to go home with us, do you?”
And then I cried.
Tim is right. I can surround myself with lots of love from family and friends, but at the end of the day, in the quiet of the night, it’s very lonely.
It has been a very lonely period. With no dating prospects in my line of sight, it seems a very good likelihood that I will not be in a serious relationship or marriage for another seven years.
There was an article published in the Huffington Post lately, a “journal entry” would be a more accurate description, that a woman wrote explaining why she did not need a man. Having been married before and now divorced with children, the woman explained how she had so many family and friends surrounding her, she didn’t need a man at home to make her feel loved.
I agree with her to an extent. But it is very lonely to not have somebody to talk to, to cry to, to cuddle up with, to love, to cherish.
Human beings need companionship. Extended periods of solitude can be very, very trying.
Tonight I’m left wondering: is Tim right? Am I putting my life on hold so that I can help others have a life? Is my gift of giving aid to others causing my life to stop?
Have I stopped walking along the path that has been laid before me? Or am I just taking a very long detour? Am I behaving like an insolent child, sitting down in the middle of the road, refusing to continue until someone pays attention to me and gives in to my demands?
Have I stopped living my life for me?
And I’m left wondering a question that I thought earlier in the evening: how did I get here, and where did my life go?
I’ve been following the story of Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman and his Senate Bill 507 past the writing of my original article. Wednesday, I listened to an interesting radio interview between Grothman and Alan Colmes (from Colmes’ Friday radio show). In it, Grothman says some pretty revealing and disparaging things about his feelings towards the intentions of single mothers (please take the time to listen if you can, but be forewarned the audio is about 13 minutes long). However, what really caught my attention was the revelation about where Grothman has been pulling his statistics from.
In the interview with Colmes, Grothman revealed that the basis for his claim that non-marital parenthood is a contributing risk factor to child abuse and neglect comes from the fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent my entire Wednesday reading the study. It’s a total of 455 pages, and so I tried to concentrate on the study’s executive summary and the parts of the study Grothman was pulling from.
Here are some of my conclusions from reading the entirety of the executive summary and all of sections 4 and 5 (including subsections).
Today I have the privilege of introducing to you my first guest post on Single Mom Sanctuary. The writer of this post is a good friend of mine whom I met through my sister.
Today a friend of mine, a pastor in Arizona, posted on my Facebook page a link to an article on the Huffington Post. The subject of the article enraged me and immediately I took to writing a post on my blog. I could not get the thoughts in my head onto the computer fast enough. The author of the post below saw the link my friend posted and I offered to have her write what SHE had to say about it. I ask you to read and share this (and my) post even if you aren’t a single parent.
To Senator Grothman, in the words of Lily Allen, F*ck You (warning: explicit language)
Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman’s political record reads like an SNL parody of the GOP. If his stances on kindergarten, the celebration of Kwanza, and his belief that sex education is apart of the liberal agenda to make more children homosexual weren’t bad enough, he has now introduced SB507 to the Wisconsin Senate floor – and single parents (as well as citizens and parents of other varieties) are up in arms over it.
On it’s surface a bill that refines what the contributing risk factors to child abuse are doesn’t sound so vitriol as to leave single parents sputtering in disbelief. So what makes SB507 so enraging that the single mother writing this article literally spit all over her monitor in an embarrassing display of barely controlled rage? The fifteen words tacked onto the end of two proposed amendments.
The full amendments read as follows:
Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. (Writer’s note: Hey this sounds great so far!) In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
Wait, did I read that correctly? Is this oddly phrased legalese that I just misunderstood? Let’s read that last part again.
“the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”
I have to stop right here for a moment and let that sink in for you. EMPHASIZE [...] AS A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR. That is added as an amendment to not just one, but two current statutes in Wisconsin law. Senator Grothman’s proposed SB507 claims and wants to enforce the “fact” that nonmarital (also said as SINGLE) parenthood is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
Let me get this straight. ANY nonmarried parent, merely by existing, is a contributing factor to the same child abuse that occurs when children are beaten, malnourished, sexually assaulted, etc. What??
Let’s put aside how preposterous it is to say that being divorced puts you on par with pedophiles and look at all the other ways a parent might become single.
Abandonment – We all know at least one person who’s child has a single parent because one parent packed their bags and flew into the night with no explanation or warning. Partner bails on you suddenly and out of nowhere sometime during the course of pregnancy or child rearing? According to Senator Grothman, you’re now a child abuser! (If you don’t know such a person, you do now – this is why my son has a single mother.)
Death – One spouse dies. DIES. Divorce doesn’t occur, no one is selfish and flees, someone unfortunately and tragically passes away. According to Senator Grothman, if you get sick and pass away unexpectedly not only does this automatically turn your surviving spouse into a child abuser, I’m inclined to assume it means he thinks you’re an asshole for dying. (Blog owner’s commentary: Does Senator Grothman then think that all widows and widowers of service personell who have died for our country are abusers??)
There was never another parent to begin with – If an adoption agency has cleared and vetted a single person for adoption (granted this is extremely rare, but does happen), does Senator Grothman think that the agency that charged exorbitant amounts of money to run psychological and background checks on this parent were somehow completely wrong and adopted a child out to an abuser?
I can barely even address the incredulity of claiming parents who become single via divorce become child abusers automatically. This one so clearly and obviously does not have a cause and effect relationship on child abuse that to even point out WHY it’s a blatant lie would cause several of my IQ points to cry out in despair as they shrivel up and evaporate out of my brain.
Setting aside the absurdity of these claims, let’s ask why we should even be taking advice on how to reduce child abuse from Senator Grothman: As far as I can tell from my research, Senator Grothman has absolutely ZERO experience with the issue of child abuse. I mentioned he had some terrible opinions on kindergarten at the beginning of this post. He also believes in defunding anti-smoking campaigns. I say this as a smoker myself – what you put into your body is your business. Period. But even I don’t want to defund anti-smoking campaigns because I don’t think you should be allowed to smoke inside a crowded family restaurant (you’re no longer putting it into just your body at that point). I certainly can’t say someone who thinks smoking in restaurants and businesses should still be legal has earned any right to call himself a crusader for the children.
My brain wants to reject that this man could possibly be real; that he isn’t indeed really some Orwellian character, pounding his chest and crying out “slavery is freedom!” with trembling jowls. To say I am offended by his stance would be an insult to your intellect.
I’m tired. I’m tired of constantly being assaulted by Neanderthals posing as political leaders who want to scream and rage and howl about social issues that aren’t ACTUALLY ISSUES. (And don’t even get me started on how spit-raving mad I am over the whole Limbaugh calling birth control using women sluts who should post videos of themselves having sex online so he can see issue). These are the same men (and women) who campaigned in 2010 on a platform of how terrible Obama was at fixing the unemployment rate in the country? Where are their solutions? Why are they wasting our time with legislation amendments that effectively criminalize being a single parent?
Senator Grothman, a few words: The day you start raising a child all by yourself is the day you can start pointing fingers at the evils of single parenthood. Until then you, and politicians like you, can step off and get the f*** out of my uterus, out of my bedroom, out of my marriage (or lack-thereof), and out of motherhood.
I’ll leave you with a few song lyrics from a man who understood the plight of the single mother:
You know it makes me unhappy (what’s that)
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up
To all the ladies havin babies on they own
I know it’s kinda rough and you’re feelin all alone
Daddy’s long gone and he left you by ya lonesome
Thank the Lord for my kids, even if nobody else want em
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I’m sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Cause ain’t nuttin worse than when your son
wants to kno why his daddy don’t love him no mo’
You can’t complain you was dealt this
hell of a hand without a man, feelin helpless
Because there’s too many things for you to deal with
Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless
While tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don’t all down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn’t take it
-Tupac Shakir, Keep Ya Head Up
Tanya is currently recovery from a nasty battle with Transverse Myelitis and maintains the assertion that her legs are on unpaid leave and will be fired as soon as they return from holiday. She has been fluent in sarcasm since she was old enough to annoy all the adults at the Christmas party with questions that were “too smart for her own good”. When she isn’t spending her free time enjoying Dr. Who and other sci-fi, she designs witty literature themed posters for sale through her store on Etsy. She moved to Colorado from Orange County in 2007 and currently resides in Colorado Springs with her beautiful four-year old son and amazing boyfriend.
Dear Senator Grothman,
How dare you?!?
How dare you insinuate that I am exposing my child to abuse and neglect? How dare you suggest that my very existence is sending my daughter down a road that will negatively impact her life forever? How dare you accuse me of becoming a single mother for the financial benefits?!?
Senate Bill 507, your bill, wants to declare me a monster to the public. Your bill wants to have the state government and the general public look at me as if I had been found guilty in a child abuse case. Your bill wants to designate me as a “contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”
What have I done to make you single me out as a public nuisance and potential criminal?
Is it because I’m a single mother?
Do you know why I’m a single mother, Senator Grothman?
I’m a single mother because my now-ex-husband and I decided to divorce 3 years (to the day) after we got married, 1 year and 3 months after our daughter was born.
So, because my ex-husband doesn’t love me the way he did the day we said “I do,” I’m automatically on the watch-list for being an abusive mother and a neglectful parent?
What have I done that is considered abusive or neglectful?
Is it the fact that my mother picks her up from school every day and keeps her in a warm, safe, friendly environment?
Is it because I let her read books 2 levels above her grade because she can and wants to??
Perhaps I shouldn’t teach her how to respect her elders by having her sit quietly in bible study classes at my church when there isn’t a babysitter available?
Maybe I shouldn’t have let her read scripture at the lectern in one Sunday morning worship because it could teach her how to be an exceptional leader and speaker?
And what financial benefits of being a single mom am I missing out on? I’ve already looked at low-income housing when my daughter and I moved into our first apartment: I make too much money (wait for it…). I looked into a Habitat for Humanity house that we could help build and move in to: I make too little money (there it is). The only “benefit” I get (if you can call it that) is a very small amount of child support from my ex-husband; it’s small because I work more hours than he does, make more per hour than he does and my annual income is 10% more than the median income in the state my husband resides. All told, the support my ex-husband has been ordered to pay is less than 1/4 of the living expenses I pay just to keep a roof our daughter’s head. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development I am considered “lower income,” and yet nothing designated to low-income families is available to me.
My daughter goes to public school; I drive her there and my mother picks her up. My daughter is enrolled in the before-school care and buys lunches at school occasionally; I do not qualify for subsidy for either of these.
I work full-time for a Fortune 500 insurance company, pay for my medical insurance, contribute to my 401(k) and participate in the Employee Stock Purchase Plan.
I pay my taxes on time. I give regularly to my church. I donate blood. Hell, I’ve even given away a kidney!
So remind me again how I’m a tax on the community, city, county and state?
I am appalled and disgusted at your Senate Bill and at the fact that you think that I, a single mother, am adding a significant risk of abuse and neglect to my daughter.