…is about where I’m at tonight. Blogging is really a vulnerable hobby. Blogging about your family and your children and your problems is even more so. On the one hand, my *rare* posts feel like a good vent session for me, from my brain to the computer. But on the other hand, to write about myself just so others can read about my feelings? It almost feels whiny. Do I want to share this? Do I want to put myself out there? I often go back and forth but today the answer is yes – I do. Maybe for no other reason than: perhaps someone else has gone through something similar with their child. Perhaps someone can relate. Or at the very least, maybe it’s just someone’s good read on a lunch break. Regardless, I’ve been sitting on this one for a few days and that’s how I know it’s time to share.
Yeah, I’m mostly writing about B. Hasn’t it always seemed to come back to him, even since he was a baby? I really don’t have much for NEWS. But man, is he hard to parent.
I would love to know – how many people out there have raised a child that was REALLY hard to parent? I mean in some way – all children are hard to parent. Parenting is just hard by definition. Even on my best day as a parent, and B’s best day as a 4 year old – between the fighting as twins will do, a baby who gets into everything, explores everything and wants total independence, a dinner that *maybe* gets cooked, a house that *maybe* gets cleaned – it’s still hard. But that’s not what I’m referring to here, at least not in this post. I mean a child who takes 98% out of you and gives 2% back. A child that sucks the life out of you often, and leaves you drained at the end of each day. I would be lying if I told you going to school, teaching 22 ten year old’s from 8:30-3:00, getting one short break a day to catch up on emails and correcting and lesson planning, etc etc…was harder than parenting two 4 year old’s and a 16 month old. I’d be lying.
So is every day absolutely horrible? No – not at all. And tonight was pretty typical, with the usual culprits for B, those that we are getting used to. Because of that, I almost feel guilty sharing this tonight, as if I’m saying that it was a bad night. It wasn’t. But it doesn’t change the fact that raising him the last few
months year years has been unbelievably frustrating.
We are currently in the process of having him evaluated. We gave his life story over to a doctor and a program and they are checking out every option, ruling things out one at a time. It’s funny – a year ago I would’ve said that B is the way he is, he’s my son, he won’t change, and I’m happy to accept him that way and not look into whether or not he “has” anything. That was a nice train of thought, and I wish it had stuck. But you get to a point where the behaviors are just out of control, and your head feels hollow and empty, and it’s sort of like – I need to know if he “has” anything. I need a label on my son for my sanity, because this can’t be typical. This can’t be what he’s going to be like for the rest of his life. You reach your breaking point where you can say, this can’t just be “the way he is”. A label is a helpful place to put my blame, so that it doesn’t fall on B (not his fault, of course) or moreso, on myself. That won’t help us get through the next ____ years. We need assistance, we need strategies. I need a place to lay down the blame. And I’m hopeful that we are finally on that path to some answers.
So what’s it like? As I said, it’s not every moment of every day. But it is every day, and many times, on weekends especially, it’s non-stop. I visualize B and his “issues” sort of like a tree, and it helps me make sense of it. His branches all represent the little contributing factors to who he is, both positive and negative. He’s super smart – not just in an academic “I know things” kind of way – but in the conclusions he draws, the way he figures things out. His wit. His thirst for knowledge. That’s actually my favorite branch. He soaks up information and LOVES to share what he knows. He’s happiest when he’s learning. He went off with this doctor who is evaluating him, having never met him before, without me, for an hour and a half. Eagerly. Because he knew he was going to get the chance to share what he knows.
And some of his other branches include anxiety and worries, fears (of dogs – even living with two of them, and of being startled, and thunder, and noises, heights, and spider webs), sensory issues (mostly just a few certain textures – this is really a minor issue at this point), his sensitivity to so many things (when the baby cries, he screams. When C screams, he screams. When the dogs bark, he screams) and OCD-like behavior – which comes and goes in waves. And of course, there are triggers. I know him like I know myself, and I know how he will react to certain situations given his mood. Ice cream is still an issue, every time. He loves it but he can’t handle eating it on his own. The soft serve melts too fast, the hard ice cream is too hard to scoop and in both cases, the food is altered, out of his control, and he can’t get it back to its original shape. Yes, I know this is strange. He hates when something happens that is out of his control, that he can’t undo. You can’t tell him, “It’s fine”, or “It’s okay”, or “Maybe next time…”. Those things make him feel worse, not better. And after a year of this, I’ve learned that instead of forcing him to keep trying to eat it independently as he himself melts into a screaming puddle, I either 1) feed it to him, which he prefers, or 2) give him a milkshake.
The trunk of B’s tree is the “main issue”, which contributes to all the branches. In his case, the trunk is defiance. And opposition. Yes, it’s completely in his control and yet, that doesn’t make it any better or easier. He often chooses aggression over love. He chooses to hit instead of hug. If he’s screaming or raising his hand to hit and nothing is wrong, I will say, “Nothing has happened. Use your words – what are you upset about?” And sometimes he’ll say, “Nothing. I just feel like hitting.” He hates to be independent. Depending on his mood, forcing him into doing something by himself just because he should be able to can lead to a massive meltdown. He CAN dress himself, wash his own hands, get on his own bike, push in his own chair, etc etc. But the majority of the time, he refuses. And one of the most frustrating things is that I am unable to coax, bribe, persuade, beg him to do anything. When B feels something should be done, he does it. It will have nothing to do with whether I told him to or not. If he agrees with the rule, he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. No taking away of ipad, or dessert, or outside time, or anything will be enough to change his mind. I can’t outwit him, I can’t trick him. I can’t get him to do something simply because I’m the parent, and I asked him to. That’s not how he works. What I know about parenting kids, and teaching kids – it’s out the window with this boy. He gets his own parenting handbook, because he doesn’t fit into the others.
So often, this looks like enabling. Of coddling. I see why an outsider may think this – here’s this badly behaved kid (thankfully reserved for the home, most of the time), no manners, who is rude in tone and quick to anger, who doesn’t take responsibility for hurting others (and refuses to reflect on a situation to save his life), who argues with everything we say, who screams just to scare people, screams for the shock factor, who hits and kicks and knocks over towers and yanks things from other hands – and there I am, on the floor at his level,
holding squeezing his body until it calms. Or helping him wash his hands. Or feeding him ice cream. Or hugging him as he tries to hit me. I don’t agree with enabling, but this doesn’t feel like that. This kind of parenting feels like survival parenting. And it all boils down to 2 choices: I can fight him back, demand manners every time (and we do, often), demand he does something himself, leave the threats on the table “or you won’t be able to ______”, punish him for back-talking (what punishment is even a punishment to him?), and lose my cool (and YES, I have lost it a time or two or ten in the last six months and it sucks and is completely ineffective) OR I can continue to remind him – No, we don’t hit. We give hugs. We use manners. All while hugging him, telling him I love him, and snuggling him in bed until he says, “Get out of here, Mommy”. I can continue to Mom the way that feels right, or the way that feels appropriate given the behaviors but yet, wrong. I can keep what shred of sanity I have left, or I can throw it all out the window.
So as I scrape the last bit from this previously-full pint of ice cream (Halo Top, I love you) – the choice is obvious.