Kiki left the reunion early to attend a 5 day educational camp, so I didn't expect to learn about her. However watching the two female cousins who bracket her in age and how those cousins interacted with their mothers taught me a lot about typical pre-teen behaviors. It was so nice to see my 12 year old niece whining at her mother over hairbrushing, because I've had the exact same arguement with Kiki more than once. In particular I noticed a tendency for these pre-teen girls to try to make anything that doesn't go exactly right into the mother's fault. So when today Kiki tried to tell me that it was my fault that she still struggles with typing because I should have made her learn it two years ago, I was able to identify it as normal pre-teen behavior and keep my cool. Kiki didn't much like my counter argument that I was forcing her to do it now so that in two years we won't be having this same conversation. She may not like it, but she will be practicing typing this summer. And I will be keeping my cool because I'll be able to recognize pre-teen behaviors instead of being baffled by the changes in my daughter.
My insight into Link came in one of the moments I was ducking responsibility. Other adults were in the kitchen busily chopping food for a dutch oven cookout, I wandered out back to where Link was jumping on the trampoline. I watched him for a moment, thought about my resolution to swim through life rather than just wading, then I climbed on the trampoline to jump with him. Link was delighted. We spent some time jumping and then we just sat together on the trampoline. Link grinned at me and snuggled into my lap. I asked what he was enjoying about the reunion and my boy of the monosyllabic replies began to babble to me about all the things he'd enjoyed. Among other things he told about making his box car for the derby using spraypaint. He informed me that it wasn't a car at all, it was a tank. The paper plates that I'd assumed were poorly placed wheels, were in fact armor. The single cup on the front was not a cyclops headlight, but a cannon. None of this information had been told to anyone before, not even when Link was asked on camera to describe his car before the races began. I think the sum total of his on-camera description was "This is my car. I made it." Link's head is full of amazing thoughts and ideas, but he needs a quiet space and a calm moment for those thoughts to shape themselves into words. I need to create more quiet moments to talk to him.
Gleek is a strong willed person. I've known this ever since she was first able to run away from me. Lately this has manifested in refusing to obey instructions until I've repeated them mutiple times, repeated them angrily multiple times, and finally begin moving to bodily apply consequences and require compliance. I had a conversation with several siblings about the pattern which resulted in me deciding that I need to skip some of those steps. I need to request once or twice then move directly to applying consequences. Gleek loves the trampoline at my brother's house. She never wants to get off of it. With 11 kids around, turn taking was a must, but Gleek steadfastly refused to exit the trampoline. I was inside the house and someone came to appeal to me to make Gleek behave. I figured she'd already been asked nicely, so I didn't say anything at all. I was going to simply climb onto the trampoline and remove her to the house where we would discuss being obedient to house rules. Unfortunately I tripped climbing on the trampoline and ended up with one leg down through the springs. I persevered though and as soon as the pain lessened enough to let me know I was only bruised not broken, I grabbed a wide-eyed appologetic Gleek and carried her into the house. This event made a distinct impression on Gleek. Thereafter I only had to walk towards her looking intent and she would hop right off that trampoline. She wouldn't do it for anyone else though, just me, although threats of fetching me did seem to have some effect. With Gleek limits need to simply be limits, not starting points for negotiation.
During the course of the reunion I realized that Patches does not like crowds. He was fine the first couple of days, but by the third day he'd reached a sort of overload. He wanted a quiet place to play by himself and there were simply none available. Unfortunately I didn't recognize the extra crankiness and clinginess for what they were until we had a complete breakdown. The tantrum began at a picnic dinner, continued through the ride home, paused when he fell asleep on a couch, then started up again after 20 minutes of sleep. Patches was very very angry with me. When he woke crying, I went to see what was wrong, and the first thing he did was try to hit me. This is completely atypical behavior for easy going Patches. Fortunately he wound down enough that a judicious application of ice cream resolved the tantrum. I was very careful for the rest of the reunion to make sure that Patches got quiet time when he needed it. I watched and he definitely avoided the crowds whenever possible. When he couldn't avoid the crowds he was much crankier than usual. This is an important personality trait for me to understand about him and I'm glad to know it.