I’m not sure why I picked NOW to be a good time to write a post. I’m not even sure that I want to write posts anymore – because to write about parenting assumes that I actually know what I’m doing, and I absolutely do NOT know what I’m doing!
That aside, a lot has happened in 4 months. I had one of the best classes, if not the best class I’ve ever had in my teaching career thus far. Every student was lovely – and they all were funny, and supportive, and kind, and I felt I was able to connect with each and every one of them in their own individual ways. It made saying goodbye to them hard – not only because I knew I would miss their smiling faces every day, but also because the end of the school year came with knowing that full-time parenting is way harder than full-time teaching, and really, less rewarding.
I came to that realization within a few days. Teaching 11 year olds? Super rewarding on a daily basis. Parenting preschoolers and a baby? Ehh…not so much. And yet, here I am, 2 weeks into my summer “job”, and every morning I will myself to get through the morning routine and try to be patient, try to stop meltdowns before they start, try to turn their summer (and mine) into some sort of fun, and above all – look deep for what’s rewarding. A hug here, a squeeze there. C is very snuggly and constantly says things like “You’re the best, Mommy”, which is sweet. Even sweeter is watching her share, and be kind, and love her brothers. The baby is all about kisses these days, and open mouths on my arms and legs a million times a day. But better than that, I love watching him crack up over everything and nothing. Eating everything I put in front of him. There are rewards to be found. You probably know where I’m going with this.
It’s hard, with B. It’s been hard for years, I’ve been writing about it for years, and it’s still hard. Getting harder. There’s so much to love about him, and I know what he does and says and thinks that’s rewarding for me, as a parent. But he’s had a rough go of it, again, for a while now. And he’s not showing those sides of himself much, which is sad for me. For years, I’ve gone back and forth between “this is normal, let it go”, and “this isn’t normal, what’s wrong here?” And at the moment I’m in the second camp. He’s got a lot of struggles, and they’re no longer kept in my home. They’re showing themselves out in public, which never used to happen. With other people besides myself, which never used to happen. His almost 4 year old brain is going a million miles an hour and it appears that what he’s thinking most of the time isn’t – positive. We’re positive people in our house, we model positive thinking, and it’s been sad to see him in fight or flight mode most of the hours of the day.
I’ve been making a mental list of all I want to say, when I take him and C for their 4 year check up in a few weeks. I’m likely going to be asking for a reference to a child psychologist. His meltdowns are still numerous throughout the day. There’s still a lot of anger, a lot of screaming coming from his little body. I say little because he doesn’t eat like he used to, doesn’t like 95% of the foods he used to. He hasn’t shown a growth spurt in a very long time. B seems to be struggling with a few issues – opposition, anxiety/fear, and OCD.
I’m not a doctor, but I’m going on what I see. Sometimes he’s angry because he’s fighting every kind thing thrown his way. He doesn’t want friends, he doesn’t want to have fun (his words), if I give him two choices he says, “None!”. You can’t outwit him, play him, or talk to him like he’s a young child (which he is). He doesn’t want to talk about feelings, he doesn’t want to listen to me talk about feelings. He doesn’t want to show kindness towards his sister (though he does, when he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. If you point it out it abruptly ends with anger). He’ll hold out in a stubborn competition for hours. Days. Any single thing we ask him to do is met with defiance, simply because we asked him to. Anything that requires independence, for sure. He’s not interested in things he used to be, and it’s hard to connect, though I desperately want to.
He’s developed fears, which I know at 4 years old is normal, but his reactions may not be that normal. He’s a constant worrier – “What’s that sound?”. He repeats questions a few times over even after I’ve given the answer. “Are we on our street?” “Yes.” “No?” “Yes, we’re on our street.” He has developed huge, crippling fears to dogs big or small (even though we have 2), bugs (only those that fly – a fruit fly produced a bath time epic meltdown a few days ago), spiderwebs, and thunder. These fears aren’t the kind where I can hold him and tell him it’s okay and he calms. Again, it’s fight or flight mode for him all the time. We had to leave strawberry picking after 3 minutes once he saw more than 2 or 3 bugs. He’s screaming bloody murder, he’s ready to sprint home. No, he doesn’t want a hug. He’s still got some sensory issues, he hates when his hands are wet (unless they’re supposed to be, like in a pool). He hates getting his face and hair wet, he screams and says how badly his hair hurts when I wash it.
And the OCD thing – that’s been slow, up and coming. There were little things, here and there, even a year ago, but I hoped it was really a sensory issue. Maybe it is, but I’m not sure. Almost all the OCD-related issues I see are food based. There can’t be anything wrong with his food – no cracks in a pancake (that produced a massive breakfast meltdown), no edge broken off a piece of cheese (a tantrum from this just this weekend). Goldfish can’t slide around on a paper plate when it’s in his lap (also this weekend). The plate needs to be facing him, the sandwich put on the plate correctly. Melting ice cream has produced numerous meltdowns – he loves how it tastes, and gets so upset when he can’t take the right sized bite or when it changes shape as it melts. He won’t come to the table if there’s things on it – “Too messy”, he screams. If you’re pushing in his chair, he wants it lined up with a certain line in the table, and on that note, he hates having his chair pushed in – he wants it set in the right spot before he gets into it but when he can’t fit without pulling the chair out – screaming.
I don’t like focusing on the negative. He’s a wonderful child, he’s my baby, and though he’s always been high maintenance, I miss his slightly more care-free attitude. He’s so very smart, naturally drawn to math and science. He’s musical, he makes up his own words to nursery rhyme tunes like a fill-in-the-blank and he does it perfectly. He can be super silly. But he used to love the outdoors, and laughing, and eating – and those things have changed.
So, that’s where we’re at right now. I want to enjoy him this summer. He’s going to preschool in September and I’m guessing our lives are about to change for good. I want to find extra patience after dealing with him for my other two, so that they can enjoy their summer with me home as well. I’m trying to get us all out the door on a daily basis, whether we go to the zoo or Target. I’m trying to find the little rewards that I know are there that can leave me hopeful that being at home with my kids is more rewarding than being at school with my class.
I suppose it’s cliche, but I simply want my kids to be happy. And when they are, that’s probably the biggest reward I can get.