Monday, June 14, 2010

Fed Up

I had a bad weekend. That almost never happens. I spend all week waiting for the weekend (yeah, way to wish away my summer), and then weekends usually go all too quick. I look forward to time with Jacob and Craig, and hope to do some fun stuff like hang out with family or go to the zoo or shopping for stuff we need or on some other adventure. For example, this coming weekend is Father's Day and we'll be heading to Buffalo for at least some time with family. We also want to try, if possible, to hit up the drive-in to see Toy Story 3. So just the mere prospect of those adventures is enough to keep me going all week. But this past weekend...ugh. It just stunk. And perhaps it's my own fault. But not entirely.

The biggest problem was that I just didn't do anything. I didn't even leave our property until Sunday morning for church. And beyond that we did go out to dinner. But that ended up just being a painful capper to the rest of the weekend, so I'm not sure it counts. Like I said, it may have been at least partially my fault. I should have just invented something to do instead of sitting around the house all weekend, but that's easier said than done. Friday night I had hoped to go out for ice cream or something, but that just didn't happen. Craig was mowing the lawn when Jacob and I got home, and all of a sudden he just stopped. It took a while to figure out, but a belt came off of our NEW lawn mower. Seriously? Figuring that out took a while, and by the time that was done (it's covered under warranty but they're not picking it up until tomorrow--our lawn is going to look awesome), we had a late dinner and it was really too late to do much else. Saturday Craig was playing in a golf tournament with a couple of the Knighthawks. Originally I was fine with that (although I don't think he told me until like, mid-week last week), but as the day wore on, it got to be frustrating. The weather was annoying...hot and humid early on, then cold and miserable after that. The weirdest thing about Saturday was that it actually wasn't a bad day. Jacob slept in late, was actually fun in the morning, had a slightly frustrating beginning to lunch, but ended up eating pretty well (albeit on my lap), then took a good two hour nap. I got some cleaning and yardwork done during that time, and then after some so-so playtime, we had a nice visit from Lori that lasted until Craig got home. Dinner actually went well, but then we stayed home that night again and I guess I was just sort of bored. Like, I waited all day for the evening so I/we could do something interesting (even if it was just going to the mall for a few minutes alone) but much like Friday, for various reasons it just didn't happen. And it was just disappointing.

So along came Sunday. I knew from the moment Jacob woke up that he was a little extra hyper, which didn't bode well for church. But breakfast was fine and church actually wasn't terrible. Near the end Jacob started getting loud and darting back and forth around the room, but fortunately there was a little boy there about the same age that was worse, so in comparison he didn't look too bad. More "high energy" than a "pain in the butt". Once we got home, the "fun" started. Jacob fell asleep on the way back from church, so we immediately put him in bed when we got home. Before we could even eat lunch, a guy came over to help Craig open our pool. He was there for five hours. Which meant that it was just Jacob and me for all five hours. His nap wasn't nearly long enough (maybe a little over an hour), and once he was up, he didn't sleep a wink for the rest of the day. He actually ate his lunch very well, but beyond that, he was hyper and fought me on everything--diaper changes, clothing changes, going outside and coming back in, what we did outside, you name it. By late afternoon, I was ready for the pool thing to be done so we could just go out to dinner. Oh, and did I mention that I was exhausted? I'm trying a new allergy medicine that can cause drowsiness, and while it doesn't seem to do it to me all the time, I have been having short spans where I am absolutely beat. One of those spans coming at the end of a very long afternoon (not helped by pool issues, either) just about did me in. And dinner? Ugh, it was a disaster. I don't think Jacob ate a bite of his food. He had a couple things off of our plates, but nothing from his. And I refused to let him eat the large helping of mandarin oranges he got with his meal until he ate some of his real food...but since that never happened, no oranges either (because I can't give in later, right?). And then he just got annoying. He starting throwing his placemat, screaming, hitting me (not hard, but repetitive), throwing food, squirming out of the booster seat (it got us a table immediately...they didn't seem jazzed about finding us a highchair-compatible table, and he HAS done a booster before so we figured we'd give it a shot--bad idea, though I'm not sure a high chair would have been any better), and just generally being a nasty little boy. Craig and I ended up switching spots, but eventually it got bad enough that even Craig was fed up and took him out for a spanking. And believe me, it usually takes a lot for that to happen. It was awful. Craig ended up taking him out for good when his behavior didn't improve, leaving me to wrap up the food and pay the bill. Jacob was falling asleep by the time I got into the car, so I know he was overtired. It was still frustrating, though, because he actually had earlier bedtimes all weekend than he usually does, and it was still an issue. Nothing felt better than plopping him into bed the moment we got home. I literally could not spend another moment with him.

I think what bothers us the most is that Jacob doesn't respond to any sort of discipline right now. Sure, if he gets a little handslap or spanking he might whine for a few seconds, but that's it. Raising voices does nothing. He will literally continue the bad behavior and smile at you. No matter how angry or direct you are to try to stop the behavior, he laughs through it. It's like he's missing the gene that tells you that an angry voice or actual physical restraint (i.e., covering his mouth when he's screaming in an inappropriate setting or holding his arm when he's trying to hit) is a bad thing. We haven't really gone the timeout route yet, but short of strapping him down, I don't know how we'd ever get him to sit down for one...because obviously yelling or constantly moving him back to the timeout area would not be effective. And how effective can it be if we're physically holding him there? We've tried taking things away. He'll lose his privileges to play with his baseball bat or hockey stick if he doesn't at least give dinner a good effort, or if he hits one of us with one of them. Usually it's just for the evening, because I'm not sure he'd remember the next day why he can't play with it, nor am I sure he's actually capable of controlling himself enough to make a continued punishment necessary. I think we need to start teaching him to be responsible with those things and to eat his dinner, but I'm just not sure there's enough malice behind it to prolong things. When we take things away, he usually spends the entire evening whining for that thing. We don't give in, of course, but I'm just not sure he's learning anything from it either because things never seem to get better.

It all seems like a big game to him, perhaps an attention grabber. He likes being cute and funny. And while I sometimes wonder if he doesn't respect me, I truly think that for some reason he just doesn't get it. And I just don't know why. Mommy and Daddy are mad. It's not funny. We're loud and we spank sometimes, yet he doesn't make the connection. There a few things more infuriating as a parent than being so angry you could spit, and yet having your child giggling through any sort of reprimand. I suppose on one hand it might be good that he doesn't fear us. I mean, I've read repeatedly that your kid shouldn't fear you, just respect you. Kids often misbehave more around their parents because they trust them and feel safe testing boundaries (yeah, lucky us). You know, there were times as a kid that I feared my parents and their punishments. And no, it wasn't fun. But if that's the only way to get Jacob to know we mean business when we scream at him not to run in the road or put something dangerous in his mouth, I'm willing to try it. But it's not my preferred method. Nor do I think it's working with him right now. Perhaps he knows we love him so much that he shouldn't possibly need to fear us. Or maybe he's just oblivious to needing to fear anything. There isn't much that phases him, actually. It's not too often he's glued to our laps in fear these days. But maybe he's just not cognitively at a point where he CAN respect us, or understand what that means. But to be unphased when we're angry...so frustrating.

I've tried positive reinforcement so he's not seeking out negative attention, but it only goes so far. I've tried talking to him calmly. But nothing seems to resonate with him. He just doesn't listen, no matter our tone or mood or method. This morning I asked at daycare if they could make a concerted effort to make sure that when they're reprimanding him, they're not injecting one ounce of humor into it. You know, like when your kid is sneaking somewhere he shouldn't, and you give them the, "What do you think you're doing?" line with a smile on your face. I don't want him thinking it's any sort of game or a situation where he can test us. And I suppose that's part of the problem--him being at daycare and us not having a lot of control over the discipline. While I don't doubt their methods, it's hard to make things 100% consistent, you know? But of course, as this weekend reminded me, I don't think I could do the stay-at-home mom thing either. All I do know is that by the time we left the restaurant, I couldn't even look at him. I had had it.

Of course, our kids can drive us nuts and we will still love them. It doesn't mean it's easy sometimes, but we do. And in the short term it can make it hard to even be a functional parent around them. It's easy to fall into a slippery slope where one little misbehavior on Jacob's part causes an overreaction on my part because I'm so sick of what we've already dealt with and freak out at the thought of going through it again. I need to try to put yesterday behind me and just deal with each day and each incident with a fresh outlook. I know that like all things, this phase will pass. He'll get into trouble of other sorts in future phases, but I just keep hoping that one day it will click in his head that he actually has to listen to us and obey us, and it will keep him (reasonably) out of trouble. And right now that's just not happening so we have to deal with it. We're not sure what the next step is right now, but we're just going to have to meander through it a bit.

Days like this bring up a lot of stuff in your mind, particularly when they coincide with a generally crappy period apart from child issues. As I mentioned, my allergy meds may have added to my misery (giving them a shot for a while to see if I adjust), and the weather going from hot and humid to cold and rainy and back didn't help. Having Craig out of commission for a couple days added to things, and so did stress relating to getting the pool open. The methods they used were desperation methods to get it all done in one day (next year we'll know how to start early) and it left us with a wet backyard. We actually had to call the former owners to figure out a couple things, and in general I'm hoping that I suddenly become a pool devotee so keeping it around is worth it. It's just one more thing to think about. So when you add in the Jacob stuff and think about where you went wrong, how you can fix it, what you'd ever do if you had to deal with another child at the same time, particularly one as difficult as Jacob can be...it's all pretty overwhelming. It makes you question a lot of things. Maybe I'll get into those in another post, but for now I'll say that I still had to remind myself this morning how ridiculously blessed we are to have a little boy who does bring us joy when he's not making us crazy, to have a lovely house (with a pool!), and all of these other "problems" in our lives. While it's frustrating to deal with it all sometimes, they're good problems to have compared to so many others. And in just a few more days, we will celebrate the two year anniversary of the day our lives changed forever. Wow.

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