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Archive for March 2012

I’m going to share something I wrote the other night after a particularly awful ‘family’ dinner out. Since writing it, I have had some time to reflect on Tiernan and his behaviour from a slightly less-objective viewpoint. We’ve also had three consecutive days of very manageable behaviour (not perfect, but manageable) from him, so I don’t feel as intensely that something is amiss. But I certainly did at the time.

I am worried about my beautiful boy, Tiernan. Or maybe I should be more worried about myself? I know Tiernan is beautiful – he is smart, sensitive, funny, loving, happy and gorgeous. That’s the boy I know, love and understand. But often there’s another boy – an angry, hurtful, silly, rude, impulsive, out-of-control boy, whom I simply don’t understand, and whom I struggle to like (although I tell myself, and him, that I love him). At the moment I feel like this second boy is visiting us more and more frequently, and taking longer and longer to leave.

His schedule is unpredictable. Sometimes, Tiernan will be quiet happy playing with his sisters, or with the whole family, and for no apparent reason the other Tiernan will appear and spoil the fun. This boy will sabotage the game, take jokes too far and deliberately provoke us. Then, when he is asked to stop, he will become angry and sullen, say hurtful things, and refuse to remove himself from the situation to calm down.

He almost always comes out with us, and since he is never, ever, invited, this makes for a very frustrating and stressful time. Playgroup, shopping trips, walks to the park – all are frequently turned upside down when this Tiernan repeatedly runs away, takes items off shelves and opens them, ignores all of my instructions (even those aimed at keeping him safe), refuses to hold hands or stay near me, enters shops without me and tries to engage me in a humiliating chase around the store, and then rolls on the floor and refuses to move once I have become cranky and tried to discipline him.

I know that children do these things. I know that parenting is not easy. But is it supposed to be this fucking hard nearly every day?

How many other parents (at least once a day) lock their 4-year-old out of the house for short periods (in the safe, fenced back yard) because their behaviour is so uncontrollable and there is no other way to get them to stop, and you are so cranky you’re worried you might snap at any moment? How many parents have to physically move their 4-year-old out of the room, and how many 4-year-olds respond by scratching, kicking, pinching and name-calling. How many parents regularly feel completely humiliated by their 4-year-old’s behaviour out in public, to the point where even going out together as a family on weekends seems to be nigh impossible?

How many other parents can’t take their 4-year-old to a family friendly venue for dinner because the 4-year-old will spend the entire time refusing to either play in the play area or sit at the table – instead wanting to run around, climb all over things, touch buttons, pull leaves off plants, interrupt other diners, etc.? How many other parents end up dragging their 4-year-old downstairs to have ‘time out’ and the 4-year-old is so worked up that he won’t let you touch him and keeps asking you to go away and leave him alone. How many parents put their head in their hands and wonder what the heck is wrong with him? (For the record, I chose this moment to say ‘I love you, Tiernan, even when you’re being like this,’ and I did eventually talk him into calming down and joining us for dinner).

So maybe you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above? Would you say it every day? Right now, I feel like I could say yes every day. But maybe that’s not the case. I know we’ve had good days recently, I just don’t remember them at the moment.

But if all the other parents out there are also saying yes to all of the above, then where are you? I don’t see you in the supermarkets, blocking Aisle 11 with your intense stand-off over buying Ben 10 plastic crap. I don’t see you chasing your 4-year-old out from behind the counter in the bakery, moments before he grabs himself a chocolate donut. I don’t see you hiring professional negotiators to talk your child down off the top rung of the six-foot ladder someone has helpfully left out. I see plenty of 2-year-olds doing these things, but none who are almost 5.

I know I shouldn’t compare my children, but my 3-year-old seems to behave more appropriately (out in public) than Tiernan does. Yes, she gets silly. Yes, she has tantrums. Yes, she misbehaves. But usually I can at least understand the reasons behind her behaviour and sometimes talk her around before it escalates. With Tiernan, I am clueless, and even if I am able to figure out the cause, Tiernan often will completely shut down and refuse to listen. So we just have to wait.

I know I’m not painting a balanced picture here. He is not always horrible. He can be wonderfully sweet, kind, loving and generous ,as well. His teachers love him at preschool and at Family Day Care. He behaves appropriately (most of the time) for other people, and when visiting friends. He is able to engage and play beautifully with other children, no problems at all.

But when I look at the overall picture, I just can’t help but wonder what’s going on. Is it Tiernan, or is it me? Am I expecting too much of my 4-year-old, or am I simply not coping with the normal, everyday demands of parenting? Does Tiernan need help, or do I?

Since that night, Tom and I have discussed our feelings on the matter, and we both agree that maybe, regardless of whether Tiernan’s behaviour is completely normal or not, we should seek some help. I have done parenting courses and read books about ‘positive’ behaviour strategies, and while I feel they have their place, I don’t believe they are the whole story. I think parents need to use a variety of strategies because children are all different, and what works in some situations may not work in others. My biggest problem at the moment is being able to pinpoint exactly what is causing Tiernan to become so unmanageable. I have been looking for possible triggers but can’t find them – it doesn’t seem to matter whether he has slept or not, whether he has had a quiet day or a busy day, whether there are two parents in the house or just one, whether he has mostly done as he’s pleased for the day or whether he has been dragged around for a day of ‘errands’. I can’t figure it out, and therefore am at a loss as to what I should do to change things.

The only possible lead we have is hearing. About a month ago we had Tiernan’s hearing assessed because we were worried about his behaviour (children who have difficulty hearing can demonstrate similar behaviours to children who have ADHD, but the behaviours are motivated by different causes). The hearing test showed he has a mild hearing-loss in one ear, but as he had a slight cold at the time of the test, we are still waiting for a re-test next week. I guess I am hoping that his frustration at having to work so hard to hear is the reason for his difficult behaviour. Knowing won’t fix the problem, but at least we will have somewhere to start.

So this is where I’m at with Tiernan right now. Stuck between thinking everything is wrong, and then thinking everything is fine. Wondering whether to seek help, or not? For the moment, I am happy to wait it out a little longer (we’re on a roll at the moment, after all), and we do have another hearing test next week, so I guess we’ll see what happens then.

“‘…What a thing it is to have an unruly family!’ said Mrs Tabitha Twitchit.”

(Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Samual Whiskers: Or the Roly-Poly Pudding, 1908, p. 14).

Exactly, Tabitha. Exactly.

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And today I learnt that I have one leg shorter than the other.

So now I finally, finally have an excuse for hating running so darn much.

Phew.

I haven’t done anything creative with the kids since… Christmas. I think it’s because I overdosed in the Christmas lead-up and afterwards the limited interest I have in crafty projects with the kids diminished completely. It’s not that I don’t like craft. I’m pretty crafty myself, when the mood takes me. But I’m also a control freak and don’t like relinquishing power to the messy ones. Because they are messy. They don’t care whether all of the paint ends up in one tub, or all of the tiny little googly eyes end up scattered all over the floor, or whether the things we end up making even remotely resemble the things we actually set out to make. They don’t care one little bit. I try not to, but I do. I really do.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling guilty about not having much time to sit and do things with the kids lately. Or, more to the point, that sometimes I do have time, but I choose to spend it checking Facebook or my email instead. So today we did craft. It was inspired by the craft that was offered at playgroup – they blew up balloons and stuck stuff to them to make animals. I thought, “Sure, we have balloons, we have crepe paper, we have googly eyes – we can make octopuses!”

But Tiernan had different ideas. He wanted to make a bee. And because Tiernan wanted to make a bee, Molly, who had been excitedly describing to me the octopus she was going to make, changed her mind mid-sentence and also declared she was making a bee. So they made bees. I didn’t really give them much guidance about how to make their balloons bee-like, I just helped them with the steps they wanted help with. Here is what they came up with:

Beeeeeeeeeeeeees!

Some pretty cute bees, I reckon. I love the cheeks most of all.

I learnt some lessons in this: craft can more fun when I’m not trying to control everything – since there was no plan to follow, I didn’t have to stress when the plan didn’t go to plan; I also learnt that these two are pretty good at using the tape and the glue (which is no thanks to me – they must have picked it up at preschool and daycare), so I should give them more credit, and more freedom to explore, in future.

Did we end up with permanent marker on the table? Yes. Does it really matter? No. The kids had fun, and for a change, I did too.

More books

Posted on: March 14, 2012

A while ago I wrote about diversifying our book collection. I’ve continued on my quest for this, and recently added some more books to our library:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. This one was recommended to me by a friend. She said it was one of her favourites as a child, and I can see why. It has the word ‘bum’ in it, which my kids think is absolutely hilarious, but also, it’s about a girl with spunk who outwits a dragon and then tells a rude, ungrateful boy where to go. Fun!

 

The Skin I'm In: A First Look at Racism

The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas. I must admit I haven’t actually read this one to the kids yet. I think the language and the depth in which it explains racism is more suited to slightly older children than mine – I don’t want to put words into their heads (like racism) that they don’t really have a concept of just yet. However, when the time is right, I will introduce this book to them. The simple message that, as humans, we are all equally deserving of a happy, fulfilling life, and that it is easy to get along if we try, is an important one.

 

I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up

I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up, also by Pat Thomas. A lesson in perseverance, which is timely, as we have daily exclamations of, “Argh, I CAN’T DO IT!!!”, followed closely by the sound of shoes, shirts, puzzles, and various other sources of frustration being thrown against a wall.

 

Jane and the Dragon

Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton. This one we borrowed from the library. It’s a story about Jane, a courtier who, instead of becoming a lady in waiting, wants to become a knight. Even though she is laughed at for having this dream, she eventually does prove herself brave and worthy enough for the honour. My kids really enjoyed this story, as did I. Apparently, it’s also a TV series (says so on the cover). I especially love that this is a feminist book written by a man.

 

How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. This one was also recommended by a friend. When I started reading this one to the kids, they were horribly confused and wanted to know where all the pictures were and who the witch was on the front… Okay, I made some of that up. I didn’t read it to them (this one’s for me!), but they were curious about the ‘witch book’ that kept making me laugh out loud. This book was very enjoyable to read. Very relatable, often hilarious, sometimes very serious – a perfect mix, really. Read it.

I’m absurdly proud of this resource I just spent hours making for my class, and just had to share!

Not quite finished yet – I’ll have to photocopy, laminate and bind it at school to make it all pretty because they have cool toys like laminaters and binders at school. Only, I’ve just realised that if I bind it, I will probably end up with holes through the top row of pictures on each page… hmm. Oh well, next time I will remember to make them smaller and move everything down the page a little.

Not bad for a first attempt at a ‘Social Story’, though.

I am running around like a headless chook this morning, attempting to get all four of us fed, showered and dressed in time for Molly’s dancing class at 9:30am. As I herd small naked bodies into the shower, gather clothing items from wardrobes, pack snacks, drinks and entertainment items for the non-participants (Tiernan and Neave), I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m supposed to be excited about something. I check my email briefly as I plait Molly’s hair – nope, nothing new there; I take a quick squiz at Facebook while simultaneously dressing Neave – no activity since the last check five minutes previously; ‘Am I getting a package in the mail today?’ I wonder to myself, as I threaten to turn the TV of, for the third time, as Tiernan is still staring at it in a decidedly undressed state – no, I got that package yesterday… well, what is it then? What was I looking forward to? Then, as I march them into the bathroom for teeth-cleaning, I spy my abandoned tea-cup perched precariously on the edge of the vanity unit.

‘That’s it! My tea!’ I think, excitedly.

It’s half-full, and stone cold. Oh.