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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tap out

Papa and I have long known each other strengths and weaknesses.  After 21 years of marriage and 19 of parenting, he can see it in my eyes... that need to get away from from the the constant noise and tugging and jostling and demands and... and... and... even for just a moment.  And by moment I mean bubble bath and ice cream all at the same time.  And I'm more than happy to do that same for Papa.  We tag-team parent at times because it's the right thing to do for our sanity and the health of our family.

I'm fully aware that 7 kiddos all under the same roof is crazy chaos at it's best.  Throw in a toddler skirmish about a Lego fortress and a parental-teenage disagreement about curfew and you got yourself a rip roaring cacophony of hollering and noise and stress!
This happens.
A lot.
This is life.
Despite the fact that our family is a bit better than most at handling the constant-ness that comes with 9 people living under the same roof, simply from massive amounts of practice, it's still a lot to handle and gets to all of us at times.

Enter Patch.
14 years old.
Growing into his man body.
Flooded with extra testosterone and "assertiveness."  That's a nice way of putting it.
We're pretty fluent in speaking teenage girl.  But we're still learning how to speak 14-year-old boy.  It's a new language for us.

Even when it has nothing to do with him, the noise and constant going-ons can flood his senses, and he doesn't quite know what to do with it.  It swirls around in his head and makes a mess.  And unfortunately it often comes out as poor choices.  Ya, poor choices were becoming the norm.  And that ain't pretty at all!  So my head has been full with ways to help him.  To help me.  To help us all!
In the middle of such a moment, it dawned on me.  I caught a glimpse of it in his eyes, that he had that same look as Papa.  That one-more-thing-and-I'm-gonna-blow look in his eyes.  A conversation with Patch was in order.  I mean I thought I covered this, but I guess not.  Or if I did, I certainty should do it again.

I explained how Papa and I (and many husbands and wives) have a "code" that if one needs to take a break, the other will always step in and take over.  That there is no guilt in needing a break from the noise and craziness.  That it's actually very very smart to know your limits and even smarter to know when to ask for a little help.
And that's when he came up with the term that applied so well.
You mean you tap out.  And dad takes over.  Or dad taps out and you take over. 
Tap out.
It was a phrase that he came up with and was so on his level.  And I was fully aware that by using his vocabulary, it would be something he'd more likely remember and use.
Yep, it's just like that.  Sometimes we need tap out and the other person takes over.  We discussed some things he could do if he felt like he needed to tap out.  Play basketball.  Close the door in his room and listen to music.  Go on a jog.   Ride his bike...

So in the next few days I was sure to practice using our new phrase.
Patch, I see you looking kinda overwhelmed.  You wanna tap out and go shoot some hoops?
Or sometimes I just touch his shoulder and ask, Tap out?
Sometimes he says yes, and he goes to one of the many quiet places that we had talked about.  Sometimes he said he was just fine, but it brought to his attention that he was getting worked up.  But no matter his reaction, he knows exactly what I'm talking about when I say tap out.  An instant way to get away from it all and think before one makes poor choices.  Someday... I hope that eventually he'll be able to read his own thoughts and actions and ask to tap out all on his own.
And he has responded amazingly!  Because don't we all need to just get away from it all every once in a while?  Tapping out surely hasn't solved all our issues.  But it has been an amazing tool - giving him permission to escape when need be.  I think it makes him feel safer and it gives him a choice in his life.  It gives him power over himself even in a tough situation.
And when you're a 14-year-old boy growing into your man body, that's really good stuff.  


  1. What a brilliant post! We have a almost 14 year old boy and last week we almost had a knock down brawl with him over his way he was treating his siblings. The next day we had a talk and asked him how we could avoid this situation in the future and we came with going to ones room until all parties could discuss in a calm matter. I like the tap out approach, now if we could just teach my boy about consideration.

    1. Ya, I know what you're talking about, sista! Hopefully the tap out time, will help step back and realize how his actions are affecting others. Unfortunately the littler ones start to mimic his coping strategies. So something's got to be done! Good for you for talking about it the following day and coming up with a plan!

  2. My teenage sister is 16 (I was 11 when she was born) and, oh man, I have to give it to my mom for her strength. I was a goodie two shoes but my sister is a little bit more of a handful -- she talks back and it gives me nightmares about what my life will be when Ethan is 16 YEARS and not 16 months old! I love your "tap out" system, and how great he came up with the new name. That really is a great idea. You're a rockstar mom!

  3. Oh my!!! I have 2 boy's, one who is Autistic and I thought I had my hands full!! What an incredible inspiration!
    Following back from

  4. Great work Nancy - really great work - we acutally use the "tap out" in self defense training - when you sparring and your partner is pushing / working / pinning a little too hard or you get an injury whatever - you smack the mat twice / or knock twice on your partner and they stop what they are doing immediately. That's a "tap out". In our family we say "uncle" - during conversations / horseplay / tickle sessions / whatever - and the other side has to stop immediatly (agreeing to come back to it another time!).

    Great stuff - hugs - aus and co.

  5. You are SO wise! This is such a good idea for teens and adults of any age!


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