Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking back the reins ... sort of

When it's been a while since I've written, it's usually because things feel unresolved around here. Right now, I'm waiting to learn my lesson. Waiting impatiently. I feel heavy and discouraged.  This may come out Virginia Woolf style, so try to keep up.

I've been trying too hard to make paid editing work appear out of thin air. And even as I write, I'm thinking that I should continue to beat that apparently dead horse instead of sitting here writing for nothing.

I've been trying too hard to calm my oldest's passionate outbursts. And by that, I mean I've been spending way too much time stewing about how wrong he is and how right I am.

I've been trying too hard to bend my oldest's will to mine. And he fights so hard that it makes me question whether my will is even reasonable.

I've been discouraged lately at the mess and the destruction and the crayon writing on the walls and the howling and the whining and the demanding and the meltdowns. And I've been looking at my children with resentment and thinking "Why are they such little jerks sometimes?" Then I try to ignore the small voice in my head that answers, "Maybe it's you that's being a jerk."

In the time I've been away from here, though, some wonderful things have happened. Danny learned to ride a two-wheeler. Fiona started riding her training wheel bike. Owen started talking more. Jim and I went on a two-day mini vacation alone.

Jim and I went to Ocean Isle Beach and stayed at an oceanfront hotel with an indoor pool and jacuzzi. The weather was perfect, the view spectacular and the time alone was just what we needed. We rode bikes, took walks, looked for shells, fished, waded into the ocean, swam, relaxed in the hot tub, ate without anyone screaming at us and rested. We even did a little Christmas shopping at the thrift shops ...  yes, we found thrift shops at the beach. It's going beyond the shop local drumbeat of this holiday season. Gifts don't have to be brand new. So, just a heads up, if you're getting a gift from us this year, you may be getting one that helps both the environment (it's recycled!) and a charity. You're welcome.

We discovered, too, while we were there that this spot could very well be our family vacation destination for years to come. The pier, the slushie shop, two arcades, several restaurants and mini golf are all within walking and biking distance. From time to time, one of us would say "The kids would love all these shells (or tide pools or the slushie shop)" or "We could all ride bikes around here eventually." 

The kids with Nigel the dog.
It's easy to say those things about your children when they are three hours away terrorizing some other adults.

The important thing, though, is that we got away. We stopped living three inches from our face and starting seeing the big picture. And we realized that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of early childhood and it's not an oncoming train. For the first time, we could envision a family vacation. The idea of a vacation used to exhaust me. Now, I can see that by next fall we can take a short beach trip with the children and not come back completely gray and twitching. The kids may even all be riding bikes by then. They may all be able to ride go carts or play mini golf or swim independently. They may even go to bed in a strange place without having to be drugged (just kidding). Maybe they won't be fighting as much. (Hey, let me have my fantasy, people.)

And then we came home to our actual children. While we are pretty sure they will be vacation ready by next fall, the question remains whether we want to take these obnoxious little maniacs anywhere.

This week has been a bit of a reality check. I have an almost 5 year old whose favorite sports are arguing and melting down to the ground. He has ideas and they are never, ever exactly in line with or even close to what I have told him to do. And when he doesn't get his way, he screams and cries loudly like a 2 year old for several minutes. Well, that's not true. Even his sister doesn't scream and carry on like he does. I'm worried.

Yesterday morning, he had a meltdown because his father told him he couldn't just have the money in the water cooler. He did not take it well. Later that day, he and I talked about money and made a list of chores he could do around the house for money. It felt like a productive encounter.

This evening, however, he had a fit in Wal-Mart because we wouldn't buy him anything. Twice. My worst nightmare, actually, is to have the kind of kid that other parents look at and say, "At least my kid isn't doing that." Jim marched him out of the store both times. On the way home, he said his belly hurt. No doubt from all the belly aching he did in the store. 

When these meltdowns happen, every muscle in my body tenses for battle. I had to walk away tonight and let my husband deal with him. On the way home, I thought out loud, "Either we've done something seriously wrong or there is something seriously wrong with him." And I feel so guilty that it's come to this, that I think these things of my own child. I am even convinced that we're going to land in the shrink's office with him. Soon.

I heard someone share this week that he could not calmly respond to other people's emotional turmoil.

Right now, I have a complete inability to respond calmly to a raging bonfire. My instinct is to put out the flames, but in this instance, my involvement, however reasonable and justified it seems to me, is just gasoline fueling the flames.

This man went on to say that later, when that person was calmer, in a different frame of mind, that is when constructive criticism or advice or guidance can be offered to some effect.

Ah. Timing is everything, isn't it? I've been convinced that I need to change his mind and his mood before we can move on. No wonder I feel so stuck. I've been convinced that a child's memory is not sufficient enough to wait until later. But not everything has to be resolved in the moment. This feels like a breakthrough, but not enough of a resolution for me to feel comfortable.

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