Parenting books and blogs exist for a reason. Everyone wants advice on how to deal with their issues. It doesn't matter that every kid is different. When you're going through a tough phase, all you want to do is hear how other people got through it and try everything until something works. And while it's always helpful to try something (see my "progress" post from a few weeks ago), ultimately you can't get past the fact that every kid is different and there isn't always going to be an easy, cookie-cutter fix.
Raising a kid like Jacob makes this issue painfully obvious. As hard as it is to raise a normal kid, it's that much harder to raise a kid that doesn't fit any typical mold. We want to try to raise a well-mannered, responsible, caring child, but there are so many simple parenting tips and tricks that simply don't work with him. The fact is, he's now six years old and we're dealing with a lot of problems I thought we'd be over years ago. Sometimes I forget how old Jacob actually is, because I feel like I'm still dealing with issues we were working through when he was three or four.
We still can't get him to reliably use a fork, for example. We remind him, and five seconds later he's still got the fork in one hand but is picking up his food with the other hand. He cannot sit on a chair without eventually scooting himself to the edge...and sometimes falling off. You can imagine, then, how fun dinnertime is.
It's hard to get him to keep his room clean because he's just too distracted to get more than one thing put away. He can barely dress himself because picking out clothes is a chore (he's very picky with what he wants to wear from day to day--it needs to match his mood or chosen sport/team for the day) and because he gets distracted by the tiniest things. He will hang out forever without underwear on, and no matter how many times you tell him to put it on, he will get distracted a second later. When he's motivated to get dressed he can do it faster than me, but when he's not...he's slower than molasses. You leave him alone for 10 minutes, thinking he had a good start when you left. You figure he should be done when you get back, but upon your return, he's wearing less clothes than he was before--and probably still no underwear!
For a kid that has a vast vocabulary and knows how to use it, he's still big on potty talk and babbles nonsense a lot of the time (rhyming, nonsense words)--mostly to hear himself talk, I swear. Speaking of bathroom matters, don't even get me started on night training. It's the first thing on the list for his doctor later this month. I think he just sleeps too deeply, plain and simple, but UGH. I never thought I'd still be spending money on that stuff by now.
Silly me, I guess I thought that these were all issues we should have bypassed by now. Or, at least, we would only be dealing with them sporadically. The bigger problem, though, is that because we can't get past some of these really fundamental things, it's hard to move on to true character building. I know that Jacob's at the age where we should be giving him some chores or responsibilities around the house. But when even the simplest things are like pulling teeth, how can we convince him to do more without making all of us crazy? We can't get him to get dressed, let alone to reliably put his clothes in the laundry basket. He can't remember to throw away his garbage, let alone to have him take out the garbage. I feel like certain hygiene things (teeth brushing, butt wiping, face washing, bathing) should be able to be more independently done at this age, but he doesn't really care enough to do a good job, and that could lead to problems.
I heard so many people say that once Carter was born, we should involve Jacob--ask him to get a diaper, help feed the baby, etc. Jacob wanted absolutely nothing to do with Carter, and any request involving him was promptly ignored. We can barely get him to tolerate being in the same general area with Carter without him trying to shove him away or yell at him. How can we ever teach him how to be a good big brother when he won't even get near him?
I just feel like no matter how we try to encourage him to get better--to act older, to take care of himself, to help us get off his back--the added challenge instead turns into one more thing to make our lives harder. One more thing to distract him, one more thing to argue about, and one more thing to frustrate me to no end when he refuses to do it. Finding the fine line between encouraging him to grow and adding more frustration to his life is very hard. I'm not sure how to treat him like a six year old when we can't get past some three year old problems. I wish I knew how to help him...but the book hasn't been written for that yet.