Where to even start? Little Man used to be so easy. He was by the easiest baby of the three. Then we hit three, and it all went to he**. Suddenly, my precious, happy, outgoing baby boy turned into a stubborn, defiant, independent child who spoke only when he wanted, became seriously stingy with the hugs and affection, and seemed to live on his own planet. Four years later, I am still struggling to figure it out. And with school added to the mix, I’m stressed. Every day as he leaves for school, I worry…what will today bring? Will he be able to behave or will he act out when he gets frustrated or angry? Will his teachers be able to see beyond his prickly exterior to the very smart, funny, creative boy inside? Will his peers accept him and want to be his friend? At pick-up from school each day, I wait to see the teacher’s face to get some clue of how the day has gone. It isn’t any way for either of us to live.
I remember a conversation I had with friends a couple of years ago about children being born happy or sad. We were trying to figure out if that were truly the case, and if so, what each of our children is (happy or sad). I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, but I felt immediately that E was/is my “sad” child. He isn’t always sad as in depressed or crying, but he isn’t often happy. Laughter – that belly-shaking kind – is rare for him. Very few things entertain him. And when he isn’t doing those things that do entertain him, it’s a battle.
It seemed we had turned a corner after Christmas this year – the oft-called “First Grade Christmas Miracle” where maturation seems to click in overnight. He still had his moments, but he seemed to be learning to deal with his own emotions and frustrations, was more outgoing, more easy-going. Summer started out okay, but by the end of July, battles were a daily occurrence. By the end of each day, I was exhausted – mentally and physically – from the fight. I felt like I was micro-managing every day trying to keep him from flipping out, throwing a tantrum, affecting the friends around us. We instituted a “smack-down, crack-down” a couple of weeks before school started, trying to get him back where he had been before school got out. Tantrums earned him an immediate 20 minutes in his room. We were quick to nip in the bud angry words and reactions from him. He lost, more often than not, the privilege of “technology” (Wii, DS, computer) time. He remained defiant, angry, prickly. I was terrified what the new school year was going to bring.
We found out he was going to be in a combo class this year. I will admit I freaked out completely. There were lots of tears from me and from him the night we found out class assignments. He is so easily distracted and side-tracked. He does not make friends easily at all and none of his friends are in his class. He does not deal well with changes or disruptions in routine. A combo just seemed the wrong answer for him. I lived in fear of the first day of school. The night before school started, he cried for over an hour until he wore himself out. We survived the first week, and his new teacher as well as his teacher from last year have reassured me this is the best place for him. I think I would be stressed no matter what classroom he is in. I just worry. I want so much for everyone to see what there is in him to love but to do that, you really have to work hard. I know most people won’t make that effort. It hurts me to think about that. I love this precious boy so much and I just want him to be happy.
The porcupine analogy came to me a few weeks ago. He is very prickly on the outside. If he doesn’t want to do something, it is a serious battle of wills to get him to do it. And even then, he will do it in his time and in his way. It drives me crazy. He would rather be home than anywhere else. He doesn’t sleep well. He would rather play on the computer, with his DS, or with his Legos than anything else. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, but he is very attached to the friends he does have. He obsesses about certain things which may seem random to other people (ie having a water bottle at his desk at school, getting new Legos, our cats, certain foods). But if you get past all of that, he is so very funny and creative. I am amazed at the way his mind works sometimes. He is crazy smart. I am so proud of him for so many things. But good grief – he is so hard.
I have two books on my night stand at the moment – Simplicity Parenting and The New Strong-Willed Child. I also have The Explosive Child on order. Lately, letters have been passing through my mind…ADD, ADHD, ODD…..do they apply to him? I don’t know. We already have one ADHD child in the family and Little Man is nothing like Big Man was before he was diagnosed. Maybe I just suck as a mom. I find myself more and more tearful and fearful. I am frustrated. I try to remain calm when he starts flipping out, but there are days I can’t keep my own frustration contained. I am just searching for a diagnosis to explain his behavior? And what do we do, how do we go on if there is no diagnosis, no way to “fix” him? I just want to cry. Maybe this has something to do with why my stomach hurts all the time? I am fearful every hour he is at school – literally waiting for the day we get a call from school he’s gone completely sideways and we now have a meeting with the principle. He does lash out, he does throw tantrums. I don’t know how much of that, if any, he will let fly at school. And what will I do if he hurts someone else? Last year, he ended up with two “pink slips” towards the beginning of the year – one for rough-housing with other kids (the other kids were just as much at fault as him and his words, they were playing a shoving game), and another for some reason I forget. He has never been physically violent with anyone not his sibling, but I keep waiting for the day that changes. He tends to just kick things, throw things, stomp, slam doors, and throw himself around when he reaches his point. What do I do if that changes?
I’m looking for answers. I need solutions. We all need to reach some kind of balance. I want to see beyond the porcupine more often with him. Our family can’t keep going on this way. It’s affecting all of us. I am exhausted. I am stressed. I want my baby to be happy.