Monday, November 22, 2010

Should I feel better or worse?

This morning when I dropped off Jacob, I had an uncommonly long discussion with his teachers. At his old daycare, I used to stay and chat at least a good five minutes every morning. The teachers were friendly, and we always had something to chat about--Jacob's night, his behavior, his milestones, etc. It may have made me late to work on more than one occasion, but it was nice to have that kind of rapport with the people who spent so much time with him. Nowadays it's pretty much in and out as soon as possible--for many reasons. One, I've never gotten the warm-fuzzy-chatty vibe with these teachers. They're perfectly nice, perfectly friendly, but it's just different. And in general they're busier with ten active toddlers and there's probably less day-to-day stuff to chat about. Finally, a quick good-bye usually makes for less drama, which is always a good thing. Lately we have had a couple short chats about his behavior and potty training, but today was longer than usual. They asked how his behavior had been, and I confirmed that it was a horrible weekend.

And you know what stinks? It started out so promising. Friday night I picked up Jacob and headed off to the doctor. We had run out of his antibiotic for the blossoming ear infection that the pulmonary specialist caught at his scheduled appointment the previous week. We were three doses short, which perplexes me to no end. I know I medicated him correctly and can only think it had something to do with the drops here and there that get stuck in the tubing and syringe that it's administered in. Anyway, there had been a couple times in the previous couple days where he mentioned his ears hurting, and while I assumed it might have just been a pity/diversion technique when he was in trouble, I couldn't be sure. So, with those two factors in mind, we went in to get him checked. He spent the time in the waiting room playing (fake) baseball and running around, but it was empty enough that he wasn't really disturbing anyone and he was entertaining himself just fine. We had to wait awhile in the exam room, and he sat nicely on my lap looking at books the whole time. He was great during the exam, and got a clean bill of health. Then we headed to McDonald's for a quick dinner, and all things considered he was great there as well. He ate fantastically--though with a little prodding--and generally kept the running away and rubber legs to a minimum. He even sat nice on his own little stool--not a booster or high chair. It was like some sort of miracle. At home he kept himself entertained while I packed up for our weekend trip to my parents' house, and we even had some nice little conversation in the car before he conked out on the way there. It was a great evening, and I told him that quite a few times. I thanked him for being such a good boy, told him how proud I was of him, and explained to him that behavior like that makes it so much easier to do fun things.

And then it all fell apart. I don't know if it was a wacky sleep/nap schedule, or a general change in scenery, or if he decided that nice is boring, but the weekend was tough. Even WITH my parents as backup. We had a nice weekend, though we didn't really do anything extraordinary. My mom and I did a little shopping on Saturday with Jacob. We made a quick-ish trip to the outlet mall in Niagara Falls that would have been considerably quicker had there not been a million people there. It was hard to find a parking spot and every store had a LONG line. I went there for two things and we stopped in maybe three stores, but most of the time there was spent waiting in line at one store. I wanted to get Jacob new hockey shirts since two of his are now too small, and the Oshkosh B'Gosh store was the only one I could find with any decent selection. I bought three, all in 3T, so we'll see what he gets for Christmas and what gets held until at least his birthday. We also stopped at a church bazaar, but we were probably only there for about 30-45 minutes, wandering and chatting...and five minutes of that was changing Jacob's diaper. After lunch Jacob had a heck of a time going down for nap and didn't end up falling asleep until about 4:30. I think part of the problem was the 20 minute nap in between our two shopping trips. Why one catnap means that his real nap isn't needed, I have no idea. I let him sleep until 5:30, and then we were up for dinner and playing. My mom and I did spend some time at my grandma's house that night, which is in the process of getting emptied of her stuff now that she has moved to an apartment. I picked up a few kitchen things, a couple keepsakes, and some Duplos (the big Legos) that will be a Christmas gift. I was going to buy some, but those will work! I think the one set was the set I played with at our house as a kid, so that's cool. Jacob was pretty good alone with my dad, though he did ask for me a bit, and potty time was an experience for my dad!

Sunday we went to church and then headed off to my Grandma's new apartment. We stayed there for a while and Jacob was busy but mostly tolerable. He took a few rides on my grandma's walker (it has a seat) and enjoyed (as usual) her beanie baby collections. After that we went to lunch and struggled to keep Jacob awake until we got there. He didn't eat much, however, though his mood did improve while we were there. He stayed awake until we got back to my parents' and I packed up. He fell asleep shortly into the drive home, around 3pm, and slept the whole way. We spent the rest of the night at home and enjoyed a visit from Lori. I unpacked and he went to bed at a normal time.

While all of that sounds relatively simple and fine, I left out the three million times Jacob threw a tantrum, got jello legs and turned into dead weight, hit or kicked me, or said "no". Any time he doesn't get his way, or doesn't want to go where you do, or you try to redirect him for any reason, he gets upset. He always wants to be playing sports--throwing or kicking balls in the living room, swinging a lacrosse or hockey stick, or pretending to play baseball with a phantom bat and ball, complete with base running and sliding...which is what he was doing in the doctor's office waiting room. It's fine when he cleans up the balls or has consideration for people around him or does it in an open area where the risks are less. But when he won't clean up, won't keep his stick down, or runs around in crowds of people (particularly older people with hot coffee, like yesterday after church), it's a problem. And no matter what, he won't be reasoned with. Therein lies the problem. I'm not sure we could truly stop him if we tried (and if we did, would feel so restrained that it would cause more problems?), but how can we get him to understand that there's a time and place for everything, and when right now does not fit that criteria, that he just needs to stop? But like I mentioned earlier, once he gets something in his head, it is nearly impossible to redirect him. And even the times we manage to, I think we just try long enough that eventually his toddler nature kicks in and he's ready to move on anyway. But it makes almost everything impossible. Cleaning up is a tantrum, putting on a jacket is a tantrum, getting ready for dinner is a tantrum, going up for bed is a tantrum. And usually that involves screaming, crying, hitting, and kicking. Half the time I throw him over my shoulder like a potato sack because it's the simplest way to incapacitate him and move on, but even last night he took to punching me in the back when I did that.

I don't know if the violence is from watching sports, or if he's one of those kids that totally internalizes the spankings or hand slaps he's received and perceives it as okay to do back (as far as I remember I was too scared to even try that!), but it's definitely a problem. I've been trying to watch my own temper and cut out punishments like that completely--with some success--as it's obvious that he's modeling our "out of control" behavior by yelling and hitting back. And while we try, sometimes it just seems like a spanking or hand slap is the quickest and/or most emphatic way to express displeasure with what's going on. And you'd think that a bit of repetition on that--meaning, naughty action = discomfort--would eventually click in his head, but apparently not. Instead it tells him he should fight back. I spend most of his two minute time outs trying to sit him back on his bench while avoiding his swings at me. Last night Lori said that the Supernanny would be proud, but I feel like such a failure right now anyway! How did we raise our sweet little boy into the crazy child he is today? Where did we go wrong? And how do we fix it?

I feel bad that daycare is dealing with the same stuff, for so many reasons. He's my child and I'm supposed to love him (and yes, I do!) but they don't have to so I imagine it's hard to put up with his crap sometimes. It's also hard trying to keep the other kids from copying him. And considering how many kids they're dealing with at any given moment, I would have to think that behavior like that is not very convenient to take the time to deal with. We pay them well, however, and I know other kids have their moments as well. But I do worry when they talk about it and you just know from the sound of it that perhaps he's just a little more intense with this stuff than most kids. They told me flat-out the other day that they've never seen a kid this obsessed with sports (or probably anything else, I imagine). Making a kid like that work amidst other kids has to be a challenge.

The whole thing just makes me sad, especially because I know he CAN be a good kid. I have pictures at my desk at work with big, adorable smiles, and I want that kid to be waiting for me at the end of the day, not the one that screams and hits and kicks. I have a night like Friday and know he's capable of being normal, but wonder what goes wrong when he's not. Is it me? Is it something he's eating? Is he going to be bipolar someday? Does he have ADHD? Even some of his behaviors remind me of the kid with Asperger's on Parenthood (and yes, I know it's TV and I know the kid is considerably older, but the obsessions and tantrums are all too similar sometimes). It's scary. I'll probably take our doctor's advice and bring him in for a 2-1/2 year well visit. Since we don't have a copay and it's a crazy time developmentally, she suggested we do it even though some offices only do yearly checkups once kids hit age two. Hopefully then we can have a chat about his behavior and see if it's normal or a bit extreme. It's a sobering reality, though, to know that your kid is different. While it may not be different to the extent of a serious medical problem, at this point we just don't know yet. But after discussing things with his teachers this morning, I didn't know if I should feel relieved that it's not just us and take comfort in the comiseration, or if I should feel worse because it's becoming a wider reaching problem. It's tough either way and I just hope we figure out a solution soon. It's making me concerned about the "fun" we'll be able to have this Christmas, and how his issues could limit us. And even worse, I don't want the craziness of the season to make matters worse. It's so hard to know. Day by day, I guess...

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