Imagine if, from the moment you woke up, someone told you every little thing you had to do. Use the bathroom. Come sit in this chair for breakfast. Eat your breakfast. Hurry up and eat your breakfast. Put your butt on the chair. Don’t sit like that. Use your napkin. Don’t spill. Be careful. Finish your breakfast because you need to brush your teeth. Put this shirt on. Pull your arm through the holes. Now step into these pants. Put your socks on. Open your mouth. Don’t eat the toothpaste. Spit. Wipe your face. You’re watching this show? Click. It’s off. We’re leaving. (Think about this one… what would you do if your spouse took the remote and turned off a show you were in the middle of watching?!) Use the bathroom. Wash your hands. Did you wash your hands? Put your shoes on. Wrong foot. Put your coat on. Hold this bag. Watch your step. Don’t run outside — we need to get into the car! Get in your carseat. Let me buckle this five-point harness over your chest so tight that you can barely move.
And that’s just getting out the door in the morning.
My son just turned 4. The past few weeks have been quite the turning point for this little guy. He and I have been battling it out on the homefront. He feels very strongly about just about everything. My usually easygoing little boy is trying to stand his ground and show his Momma what’s what in this world — and I’m not having it. Or I’ve been trying not to have it. I’m not really sure who’s winning here, but lately I don’t feel like it’s me at all. Last week, I called my husband home from work because I just couldn’t take one more argument. He was defying me at every chance. Every time I turned away he was fighting with his sister. Every time I asked him to do something, the answer was “No!” He challenged me and resisted me. I was in tears. He was in tears. Time outs weren’t working. Taking things away wasn’t working. NOTHING WAS WORKING! I felt stuck. My husband came home and picked up my son to bring him back to work with him. I was grateful for the break. I’m grateful that my husband has the flexibility to save me on days like this.
After my son went to bed that night, my husband and I talked. We talked about my life as a stay-at-home mom and how frustrated I get sometimes. We talked about how often I reach my boiling point and lose my temper. We talked about how our son’s behavior seems to change at the drop of a hat and what a sweet, sweet boy he really is. I threw out a bunch of examples from the previous weeks that influenced his behavior. He had a traumatic experience at swimming lessons where he fell under water while learning to tread and lost trust for the instructor, who had promised she would keep him afloat. The experience resulted in a refusal to participate in lessons for three weeks and ended in our decision to pull him from structured lessons temporarily. Around the same time he started complaining about not wanting to go to school. He will protest up until being physically placed inside the classroom and then is fine once inside. After class he is full of joy and will talk about how much fun he had.
It’s hard to be a parent and especially at times when your child is struggling through some life changes. My husband made a comment that night that has really stuck with me. He said, “If you think you’re struggling through this, imagine what it’s like to be him.” Right. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom. Something is not going on with me struggling as a parent. Something is going on with him and it’s my job to hold his hand and walk this path with him. He doesn’t have the tools to cope with changes that are happening within him and around him. He doesn’t have the words to explain how he’s feeling. He can’t explain “That swimming instructor betrayed my trust and I can’t be sure that I’m safe in the water,” so instead he sits on the side of the pool and refuses to get in. He can’t articulate “Going to school takes me away from you and I would rather be next to you,” so instead he hides behind my legs and refuses to walk through the classroom door.
Being a child is tough. Their whole life is like a five-point harness strapping them down. They are being told what to do and they don’t have the communication skills to express themselves. My husband’s wisdom doesn’t necessarily fix any of the problems we are having with our son’s behavior, but it changed my perspective. It’s easy to view the job of a parent as a hard one (it totally is), but the job of a child is the much harder one. I started having these bedtime talks with my son where we talk about what we want to improve. I promised him I would stop yelling. He promised me he would do a better job at listening. Things are getting better.