One of the hardest things about Jacob's difficulties these days is that I feel so disconnected from him. Part of that is because he barely lets me get near him without beating on me, and part of it is because Craig does his best to manage him and shield me from the ridiculousness. It saddens me when I think of how Jacob and I were once nearly inseparable, much like Carter and I are now. He smiled every time he saw me, stopped crying when I picked him up, came to me when I arrived at daycare, and spent every waking moment wanting to be near me in some form. And while I knew some of that would wane as he got older and Daddy became cooler (in part because he's his sports buddy), obviously I never imagined the situation we're in.
The other night Craig and I had a little bit of a tiff because we both forgot to send something into school that Jacob needed. Craig has been managing a lot of Jacob's schoolwork lately, for a lot of reasons. Jacob likes to be with him more, Craig has more patience, and it just sort of works out that he can work with him on homework while I cook dinner, or before I get home, if he picks Jacob up a little early. As a result, he's been the one cleaning out his take-home folder every night. He's been leaving the papers in a pile on our very messy dining room table, and I'll be honest, there are so many piles of papers (old assignments, artwork, notes, etc.) and I have so many things I'm trying to get handled in the evenings that I don't always get to the piles to see what's important. Well, the one note slipped both our minds after the initial reading, and we felt so bad when we realized we missed the due date. Craig was annoyed with me because I'm not that involved with Jacob anymore, and I was annoyed with him because leaving the note in a pile of papers is not helpful when I've got a million other things going on. Obviously we were both at fault and we need a better system. But believe me, I hate that I'm so disconnected from Jacob right now. I want to be talking to him and snuggling with him and playing with him. But so many interactions end up with him hitting me (even in "fun", or so he thinks--despite our insistence otherwise), or yelling at me, or stomping off, or just acting plain weird, and it's hard to bond with a kid like that.
The fact is, I don't love him any less, but I feel like that love is sort of, well, in hibernation. I think this is the case for a few reasons. First, he won't let me express my love to him. I can barely hug him without getting hit. I try to talk to him, and he walks away, yells, or ignores me. I'm hesitant to buy him anything to show that I'm thinking of him, because he acts spoiled and entitled a lot of the time.
By the way, just yesterday, as we were doing his "What I'm Thankful For" homework, he said he wasn't thankful for anything. When I challenged him on that, he said he'd be fine if he didn't have a house, family, toys, or even food and water. I tried to explain to him the suffering going on in the Philippines right now, that kids just like him are experiencing that very reality, and he kept trying to play it off as not a big deal, like how he'd be the exception. It's hard to have a meaningful conversation with your kid when they dismiss everything you say and don't appreciate what they have.
The second reason is because there aren't a lot of good moments to celebrate right now. I mean, when I think of how things are with Carter at the moment, I tell that kid I love him a dozen times a day. Aside from just being my little piece of sanity and bliss, he's such a little sponge right now. He's learned how to crawl, perfected clapping, and started waving, all pretty much in the past week. He's so cute, sweet, and funny, and I'm just so proud of all he's learning. He brings me so much happiness and I often express that joy by telling him how much I love him. As far as Jacob is concerned, I would gladly do that for him as well, but there's just not much to applaud. I know he's learning at school, and when he illustrates that for us, I definitely praise him as much as I can. I love to see him identify words, do math, or draw a cool picture. But we don't see too much of it, or if we do, it's too often accompanied by the less enjoyable traits he's been displaying lately. No matter how hard we try to find the good in what he does, there is usually so much bad that it overshadows everything. It's not that I love him any less, but I do have to dig a little harder to find the lovable traits, and some days that's just hard.
Finally, I think to some degree it's a defense mechanism. To be gushingly in love with your child only to be repeatedly rejected and attacked...well, it's simply heartbreaking. And based on my own experience, that can only go on for so long before it just breaks you. So the walls go up, to some degree. It is a means of self-preservation. You almost have to treat it like a business transaction--do what you've got to do, get in and get out, nothing more. I'm not saying that you're a jerk or even a robot, but right now, the simpler and quicker the better. While I'd love to give him kisses and hugs, I settle for polite conversation. While I'd love to encourage him to draw elaborate drawings in his homework, the reality is that we need him to get it done as soon as possible, before a random meltdown derails the whole thing. So while I'd love to shower him with affection and encourage him to excel, those things only lead to disaster right now, and it's not worth the disappointment time and time again. I'll always try to make sure he knows that I love him, but I have to keep my expectations low and take what I can get.
I want to emphasize that I love Jacob so much. So much that what we're going through right now hurts terribly. I'm moved to tears just thinking about it, almost every day. Despite the anger, frustration, and sadness that I feel in the midst of his tantrums and all of our struggles, I want so much more for him, and so much more for the rest of us. He's missing out on a lot of love, affection, and fun, and we're missing out on enjoying the amazing kid we know he can be. We don't know what stole that away from us, but we're doing everything in our power to get it back.