Monday, August 19, 2013

The Saddest Part

Oh, Jacob...why?  Why, why, why?  For a change it's not him asking that question...it's me.  Specifically, why does he make it his mission to make things so stinkin' hard?  I know that five year olds have their moments...in particular because all of the t-ball moms were commiserating the other night.  But I'm pretty solidly convinced now that Jacob's issues go far beyond the norm.  I'm not entirely sure what to do about it, but one step may be to get him evaluated by the school district, and the other may be to find a good family therapist.  I know that sounds drastic, but we're getting desperate.  He defies us with everything--getting dressed, leaving the house, eating dinner, cleaning up, getting ready for bed, staying in bed, you name it.  We've tried stern voices, we've tried staying calm, we've tried yelling, forcing, spanking, whatever.  We've taken away everything.  Nothing helps.  We need someone neutral but in authority to remind him that he needs to listen to his parents, and also give us some tips to deal with his defiance.  I just can't even begin to explain how frustrating it is to have the same argument for 20 minutes every morning about clothes, particularly when he insists that he doesn't like clothes that he wore a week ago...and is slowly but surely eliminating his entire wardrobe from consideration.  To have to battle over everything is so hard.  It takes forever, it raises my blood pressure, and it makes eveything so much harder than it has to be.  And the saddest part (per the title of this post)?  We're all missing out on so much. 

Jacob's behavior has gotten to the point where it's directly impacting the activities we choose to do.  Whether it's simply that we take away a fun activity as a punishment, or choose not to do something for fear of the repercussions, we've definitely begun to pick and choose a bit more.  Just this past weekend we had considered going to the drive-in.  Craig and I used to go once or twice a summer, even when Jacob was little, but the late nights are tough on all of us, and we've stayed away the last couple years.  But we were tempted to try again this summer, and this weekend in particular when Craig was home, but in the end we didn't because we just didn't want to deal with whatever ridiculousness Jacob would inevitably throw at us.  Whether it would be from sleep deprivation from a late night, or not wanting to stay in his seat, or waking up Carter...we just couldn't go there.  We've definitely skipped activities like going out for ice cream as a result of his behavior.  I was *thisclose* to telling Lori to forget it when we scheduled a shopping trip for Jacob to spend the birthday money she gave him because he'd been so bad that he didn't deserve new toys.  I relented only because I wanted to get it over with before it got lost in the shuffle and because it gave us a couple other things to take away if he misbehaved.  But there are so many things--possible roadtrips with Craig, in particular--that he's missing out on because he is simply unable to behave or follow directions at the most inopportune times.

I marvel every day at how he doesn't make the connection that his defiance costs him valuable playtime.  He complains a lot that he doesn't have a lot of time to play.  And he's right.  Between getting out of the house in the morning, spending the day at day care, coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed, there's not a lot of time.  He usually has some time in the evenings, but we've had baseball two nights per week for the last six weeks or so, and between wanting to practice baseball and play inside with his toys, it's a tough balance.  But he'd have so much more time to play if he didn't battle us on everything.  He'd probably pick up a good 20 minutes in the morning, a good 10 minutes at dinner time, 15 minutes at playtime (usually because he's obsessing over what he's going to wear outside), and possibly as much as a half hour at bedtime, since we probably wouldn't have to send him to bed as early if he just went to sleep at bedtime instead of coming out half a dozen times about ridiculous little issues.  Bedtime has been a little better since we got rid of the nap, but he has a hard time staying awake around dinner time these days, which presents problems of its own.  But if he'd just stop battling us and do what we say when we say, I bet he'd pick up at least an hour of playtime each day. 

I feel a little bad for Carter right now, as he's sort of getting gypped on having a good big brother.  Jacob still mostly ignores him, at least when we're at home.  I'm sure there's some jealousy there, but at least he takes it out on us and not his little brother.  But where most people have adorable pictures of the older siblings holding and feeding the baby, we have only a couple awkward shots of them in the same picture.  Even though Carter smiles and laughs now (and stares intently at his big brother whenever they're in a room together--and he was seriously laughing just at the sight of Jacob the other day), Jacob hasn't gotten into attempting to entertain him.  I still maintain that he'll get into it eventually, particularly when Carter can learn how to play sports, but I sort of thought it would be better already, so I'm starting to get nervous.  Interestingly, Jacob does go visit Carter's room at day care, and lately he's been venturing down there when I drop Carter off.  He's also begun answering "no" (instead of the "yes" he gave for months) when people ask him if they can take his brother home with them, so there's at least something there.  I'm just not sure what it is--whether he really doesn't care or he's just playing it cool.  But in the meantime, we're all missing out on some great sibling interaction.  And on top of it, I am petrified that Carter will start picking up the bad stuff when he watches Jacob's antics, and I can't bear the thought of my sweet, easy-going, angel baby going down this same road.  One is enough.

Dealing with this stuff has made even the practical side of being a parent (let alone the emotional side) extremely difficult.  I'm hesitant to push him to try on his new school clothes, to learn how to spell his last name, to learn to tie his shoes, or to make sure his "J" is hooking the right way.  I know those things are important, yet no matter how normally and civilly those types of activities start, somehow I will get anger, resistance, or an argument.  I don't want him to rebel further, but I also want to actively help him learn, particularly as we head toward Kindergarten. 

I see people post pictures online of the cool things they get to do with their kids.  Their kids are smiling, no less, and they usually include some sort of status about how awesome it was to do that with their kid.  Jacob doesn't smile for pictures very much anymore, let alone stand still and pose for them.  Once in a while if it has to do with something he's totally into (like baseball, for example), I might have a shot.  But it's rare.  And most of the time anything we do is not going to leave us with a warm-fuzzy, happy-to-be-his-parent sort of feeling.  And it makes me sad because I feel like we're missing out on actually enjoying parenthood.  I'll be honest--having Carter has sort of "saved" parenthood for me at the moment because I know how it feels to enjoy it again and feel like it's worth the time and effort.  Most of the time with Jacob it's just drudgery.  I hate to say that, but when you're arguing about every little thing, something as simple as putting your kid to bed can be exhausting.  But Carter has reminded me of the good side, and I'm trying to take the spark from that and use it to deal a little more patiently with Jacob.  But eventually it wears thin.

I'm just sad that Jacob's defiance has caused so many issues.  I know parenthood isn't supposed to be easy, but we've definitely had our fair share of difficulties.  I just want to be able to enjoy this phase, which is supposed to be a fun one--after the needy phase but before the big-kid problems really get going.  We're supposed to treat our big boy like the big boy he can be, but for now we're lucky if we can get through without an argument.  And it's making our time with Jacob so much less than it should be. 

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