It’s a battle of wills in the Cook house, and honestly, I’m not sure I’m winning. I might not even be considered a contender.
This morning’s blowout resulted in a black eye, which, you know, made me feel wonderful. Mom of the year.
No! God, no! I did not hit my child. But he was throwing a tantrum about taking his backpack (with change of clothes inside, which he needs more often than not because he plays in the mud and occasionally has a potty accident – yesterday it was WHILE he was in line for the bathroom, the poor kid) to school, after he had been in trouble of one sort or another for the previous half an hour for not listening and following directions and he went into the garage and slammed the door. When I went downstairs and opened the door (it opens into the house), he was hanging onto the other side and smacked his face right into the door frame. Cue screaming in pain. Cue my heart breaking, regardless of the last half hour of frustration.
He held an ice pack over it on the way to preschool, and he was really concerned that his eye would no longer be blue because I said he would get a black eye. “Is it still blue, mommy? Can my eye be blue again now?” You try explaining “black eye” to a four-year-old and not confusing the hell out of him.
The root of this problem is lack of sleep. Charles takes a nap at school and then refuses to lie down and sleep at bedtime. Last night, he was still awake when I came home from a cookie exchange at 9:15 pm. That late of a bedtime might be at the limit of acceptable if he slept in, but he wakes up when his brother babbles and shrieks and talks to the dog in the morning, and Charles can’t stand the thought of missing out on my shower, so he wakes up when I turn on the water. His bedroom door is closed and so is the bathroom door, so I’m pretty sure he’s possessed of some evil spirit. So if he finally fell asleep around 10 pm and woke up at 6 am, that’s eight hours. Not enough.
And I’m low on sleep, too! Jamie woke up at one am and Tony brought him into our bed, then he awoke for good at 5 am (then fell asleep on the way to preschool because 8 pm to 5 am isn’t enough!). My fatigue makes it tough to deal with Charles’ outbursts (11 pm to 5 am isn’t enough!).
But what can I do? I stand my ground, I revoke privileges and take away toys, I even deliver a smack on the butt should he talk back, but it all seems to escalate until I either have to fight him into his car seat or someone gets really hurt (usually him) from the tantrum.
Charles is well-loved by all the teachers and other children at school, and he wears his heart on his sleeve, so I’m relatively certain there’s nothing untoward going on there. The rest of the time, we’re together, and he’s mostly just a good kid. Active, interested, always, always asking for candy, a book-reader, a game-player, and a brother-indulger. But oh! The willfulness of him! He says “no” to me all the time. He refuses to do the most miniscule of tasks. He doesn’t seem to want to be a functioning member of society.
So I guess I’m just going to start feeding him more and see if that helps the tantrums? While we were gone last weekend, my mom gave both boys “bedtime snacks” and while there is all sorts of pop psychology/pop parenting strategy that says one should not feed one’s children before bed, but rather make them finish their dinner each night and like it because there are children starving in the world and you don’t hear them complaining, do you, and also this might build bad habits and promote obesity, blah, blah, blah, I, for one, do not live that way. If my kids are hungry, I’ll feed them. If they’re thirsty, they can drink water, even if it’s right before bed. Nighttime dryness is less important to me than complete hydration.
Charles is, essentially, forced to eat his dinner (so many bites of this, so many bites of that before you may be excused to play), and he does a pretty good job. But he’s often hungry at night and I don’t know why I had never thought to institute routine snacking before. But we do it now! And I think I’m going to make even more (healthy) snacks available throughout the day. It’s tough to limit the candy and cookies, given the season, but both of my children will plow through apple slices, raisins, and cheese if I leave a plate on the table through the afternoon, so that’s what I’ll do. And cereal or popcorn before teeth brushing at bedtime.
Does it make me feel better to have a plan? Yes. Do I think feeding him more will work to minimize tantrums? Not really, but action is better than inaction. I’m hoping we’ll all just start sleeping better soon and that will take care of some of the strife. Until then, I’ll keep that running list of punishments (take away books, take away toys, take away candy, take away bedtime stories) in my head and my butt-smacking hand at the ready. My only other thought is to make a better effort at Mommy-Son dates so he gets a bit more time with me alone, hoping that will change his behavior. Because I have to win, you know? It doesn’t do to have a child out-will the parent.