Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beating Our Heads Against the Wall

Tony and Charles are the same person and it’s driving everyone nuts.  “Like father, like son” is cute and all, but right now this phenomenon has me careening wildly between exasperation and rage.

And Tony, bless his heart, doesn’t see it.  At all.

“He’s just like you,” I say.  “He gets absorbed in what he’s doing and he tunes everything else out.”

“He’s stubborn, and just like you, the more you push, the more he will entrench his position.”

“Tony, you have to cut him some slack, even if you would never cut yourself slack in this situation.  He’s seven years old.

“Kind words, please, boys, KIND WORDS.”

Charles, for his part, has taken to saying, “Daddy’s just grumpy because he has to work all the time.”

Now there’s the understatement of the century.

Is clash of wills a short-term phenomenon or will we have to endure the two of them butting heads forever?  I don’t know, but I can tell you that I do not relish my role as mediator.  I sometimes feel like yelling, “Everybody CALM THE FUCK DOWN!”  Not sure how helpful that would be.

I get it, though.  I understand Tony’s extreme irritation.  I understand why he just wants to throw up his hands and walk away.  That child, our child, pushes us to the brink of insanity every damn day and I’ll tell you what: there’s no quicker way to feel like a failure as a parent than to go a round with Charles.

On Monday, Charles, my little nihilist, decided not to go to school (again).  Why should he, after all, when school is “boring and stupid” and he doesn’t like it?  No reason I give is good enough, that’s for damn sure.  I LOVED school, at least until I realized that I was “different” for loving learning and wanting to be the best.  I was naive and had poor social perception, much like Charles does, so I anticipate him not understanding why some kids don’t like him in a few years.  Then again, maybe it’s cool to be a nerd now.

Refusing to go to school is Charles’s new thing.  It was so bad a couple months ago that four administrators and I couldn’t coerce or even physically pull him from the car.  This time, instead of getting into the car when it was time to go, he hid.  He hid so well that I couldn’t find him for fifteen minutes and I started to panic.  Did he get on the bus (that goes to a different school)?  Did he start walking to school?  Did someone kidnap him from the front yard?  Did he fall off the roof and break his neck? 

He was curled up in a cupboard, as silent as a mouse.  I very nearly cried with relief.

Every day that kid insists that school has no purpose and every day I chirp in my best Pollyanna voice, “Guess what YOU get to do TODAY?!”  And then I extend the carrot that either convinces Charles that it’s worth bothering with school or distracts him from the fact that he must spend the best part of the day in school instead of playing LEGOs or reading or climbing trees.  I don’t give him a reward, but I do highlight the positives in a way that is unbearably cheerful (“Reptile Man is coming today for an assembly!” “Remember!  We’re going to ninja gymnastics tonight!”).  And if things really go south, I break out the chocolate because a jolt of sugar can sometimes bring his mood back to even when nothing else can.

He’s only seven and he’s bored.  From the time he was a baby, he has needed to be constantly engaged, constantly stimulated in order to be happy.  He’s not old enough to talk himself into doing the drudge work to get to the good stuff, so it falls to us to keep him occupied with frequent trips to the library, multiple activities, begging his teachers for more challenging math homework, and the occasional kick in the ass to “go outside and play already!”

There is no easy answer, but grace.  I try to keep my cool.  I’ve resolved to yell less and I’m slowly making strides in that direction.  I can usually identify the look on Charles’s face that tells me he’s about to freak out about school or homework and I try to head it off with chocolate and love and silliness and absurdly happy retellings of the good things to come.  I remind him that his daddy loves him, even though he gets frustrated.  I remind Tony that Charles loves him and looks up to him, even when he pushes back and stubbornly refuses to eat his dinner.

And when they all go to bed, I sip my tea and worry.  How did we make it through another day with such a strong-willed child?  How can I help him to deal with his emotions without crushing his spirit?  Am I neglecting his more easygoing brothers?  When will it get easier?

1 comment:

Mom and Dad said...

I feel like I am responsible in some sorry this is a trial. Remember I took classes to get over the are much smarter than that, I can tell you that much. sounds like you are on the right path, just a bumpy ya