Friday, October 11, 2013

Dear Jacob...

Dear Jacob,

Usually I only write you letters on your birthday, but perhaps I feel the need right now because I feel like you haven't listened to a word I've said in months, and I miss that connection.  Even if you'll never read it, I hope this at least makes me feel a little better getting it out.

Suffice it to say that we haven't had a good few months.  It's definitely been tough since Carter was born, but the last couple months have been impossible.  All you want to do is hit us, kick us, and ignore every word we say.  Getting you to do anything is nearly impossible, and Mommy and Daddy are both so exhausted dealing with it that sometimes we have to switch off out of necessity.  To be fair, Daddy has taken the brunt of it lately, mostly because you want to be with him all of the time anyway, and partly because he can control his temper around you far more than I can.  I do spend a lot of time with Carter, mostly because Daddy's usually busy with you and because keeping track of Carter's schedule and needs isn't really his strong point.  In the morning and at bedtime he needs a series of medicines and once you get a system down, it's hard to break it up.  Most of the rest of the time you just want to be playing with Daddy anyway.  I miss having fun times together with you.  And while I'd love to have more, right now every moment I spend with you is a literal battle...I'm constantly deflecting your flailing extremities.

I can't even describe to you how hard these months have been.  You haven't always been the easiest kid to deal with, but right now I'd give good money to have a version of you from a couple years ago hanging around, because at least I could have a decent conversation and some fun with you without being under attack.  I don't know what's going on with you, and that is killing me.  I don't know if we somehow screwed up along the way with discipline, or if the gluten or something else is causing your brain to misfire so badly that you're nearly impossible to live with.  I feel like we've tried so many tactics to manage it, but nothing seems to work.  It's taken a lot of joy out of parenting, and I can't imagine you're really having a good time either, even though you seem to think it's pretty funny when you try to hurt us. 

You call us bad parents and mean parents, mostly because we discipline you.  You don't seem to understand that it's our job, no matter how many times we try to explain that.  Going to bed is not just something mean parents make you do.  Neither is going to school or getting dressed.  That's what we're supposed to make you do...really.  It's good for you.  Seriously, you have no idea how good you have it.  Your complete denial of reality and logic right now are what make me worry that your issues go beyond gluten.  I know gluten can have a huge impact, but your entire sense of reality right now is so confounding, so bizarre, that I fear for your future if we can't get this figured out.  We're at a loss right now, and when you're a parent, that is a very scary thing.  All you want to do is help your child succeed, and when that is challenged, it is crippling.

A lot of people want to blame your issues on Carter's arrival.  I'm sure it had a little something to do with it, but the timing doesn't really match up.  You may have gotten a little worse when he was born, but the worst of it came six months later without warning or reason.  I really hoped you'd like him by now, but it hasn't happened yet.  You're sometimes intrigued, but that's as far as it goes.  I'm sad for both of you, because you're both missing out on so much fun.  And I'm sad I don't get to see you enjoying each other's company, since that was one of the things I was looking forward to most.  That you were getting a brother was one of the things that eased my sadness of not having a girl.  But I guess that was all for naught.  We wanted to give you a sibling that could be your friend for life.  We really thought we were doing something good for you.  Turns out that, at least in the short term, that may not be the case.  But I'm holding out hope that someday you'll understand how awesome it is to have a brother.  And you may not believe it right now, but he's really been low-maintenance as far as babies go, so he's already done you a big favor.  God only knows how much bigger of a mess we'd be in if he was colicky or a major crier. 

I keep hoping that years from now we'll look back on this time and marvel at just how messed up things were.  Hopefully by then it'll be a distant memory and we'll have moved on to greener pastures.  We'll wonder how we made it through and you'll laugh at how silly it was to think hitting us would have gotten you your way.  Just like all of your other health issues over the years that we worried about like crazy, hopefully this one will be just another blip in the radar.  Yes, going gluten-free is going to be a big change, and we'll be so sad to not be able to go certain places or eat certain things anymore, but I'm going to do what I can to make this transition easier on you. 

I can't even describe how amazing it would be to have the real you back.  To have the intelligent, silly, creative you, stripped of the violence and the defiance that overshadows the just sounds so nice.  The moments when we were in Florida where you were genuinely excited, like when you finally got into the waterslide, were little flickers of the you I wanted to see on that trip.  Unfortunately those flickers never became anything more, and so much of the trip felt like a wasted opportunity.  You're finally old enough to remember some of these experiences for a lifetime, but it's so hard to see you holding yourself back with stubbornness and anger.  Other people I know have these awesome conversations, photo ops, and experiences with their kids your age, and yet we're fighting battles at every turn.  There are so many things I'd like to do with you, but most of the time it's not worth the effort because all we get is resistance.  You're only going to be five for a little while, and I hate that this is the version we're getting.  Five should be so much better, for all of us.  We miss the old you so much.

Of course, my big worry is that my dream of a happier you might never happen.  I worry about what happens if going gluten-free doesn't help, if you get diagnosed with something so much bigger than we could have ever imagined.  Mental illness is a scary thing, because so many people try to get help and for whatever reason, it doesn't work.  Sometimes all the money and the love in the world can't fix everything, and my greatest fear is that we won't be able to help you.  I look at the many pictures I have of you--perfect, sweet baby pictures, smiley toddler pictures, even pictures where I'm reminded of how stubborn you may have been in that moment--and it breaks my heart to think of where we are now.  How it's hard for me to be in the same room with you, how I wonder to what lengths we'll have to go to to help you, and how what we do might not feel like help at times.  I wonder if what we do could crush your spirit forever and make you feel like we've given up on you. 

Part of the problem is that we're not sure what you can help and what you can't.  Sometimes it seems like you can control things, and sometimes you can't.  It's unpredictable, and it makes it hard to have an appropriate reaction all the time.  When we feel like it's something you can't help, it's easier to be patient, but then when you do something that seems like you did it on purpose, and it's hard to keep our composure.  It's awful to have your own child beating on you constantly, and if the roles were reversed, we'd be in jail.  But there just isn't much we can do right now beyond what we're doing.  We're in a holding pattern at the moment, and it's so incredibly hard.

When I started this blog nearly six years ago (!), I hoped that someday you might want to read it.  It's gotten pretty long so it would be an awful lot of reading for anyone, but knowing how things are right now, I'd have to say that the chances of you reading it are pretty slim.  That makes me a little sad.  You don't seem to have enough focus to make it through one post, let alone 1,000.  But I hope that if you do read it, you understand how much we love you.  I know that it may seem like I complain about you a lot, and yes, this blog has definitely been a place to sound off about the trials of parenthood.  But the other side of the coin is that your behavior has frustrated me so much because I love you so much.  If I didn't care about you so deeply, your behavior wouldn't bug me as much as it does.  But because I love you so much, I hate to see you put yourself in a tough spot.  I hate to fight with you.  We want so much to have fun with you, but right now we can't, and it breaks our hearts. This isn't the life we wanted for you.  We're going to fight for you as hard as we can, but we're so tired of fighting with you.  I can't say we haven't made mistakes, or that we won't make more, but this is uncharted territory for all of us and there's no manual to follow.  Heck, we don't even know what's really happening here, so it's hard to know how to respond appropriately.  All we do know is that we miss the old you and pray continually that we'll get that little boy back as soon as possible.  I know you'll still be a challenge, but if you could get back to loving your parents and being cooperative at least some of the time, it would be much appreciated.  Our hearts are breaking in the meantime, and we love you so much.

Try hard to control what you can, and know that we (and a lot of other people) are praying for you.


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