Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Struggle

For the most part, Carter is a sweet, funny little guy.  He cracks me up, and he's starting to tell elaborate stories that would make anyone smile.  His giggle is so cute, and his smile can light up a room.  I still get random people telling me how cute he is.  He gives so many hugs that I can barely get him dressed without having to take hug breaks, and I'm pretty impressed with how he got potty trained so early.  There are so many things that make having a kid like him so easy.

While I feel like we generally skipped over the terrible twos, the threes have been a bit of a different story.  Don't get me wrong--he had plenty of age-appropriate, typical two-year-old meltdowns, but for the most part, 95% of the time he was pretty easy going.  As he neared his third birthday, I could see the tide turning a bit.  He began to become more defiant.  He would have tantrums at bedtime.  He would refuse to come to dinner.  He started knocking the soft pillow-like decorations off the wall above his bed when he was having a timeout in his crib.  He would throw things or hit when he got mad.  Those were all new behaviors and caught us by surprise.  Of course, I suppose I wasn't shocked since we see variations of those behaviors from Jacob quite often, so it's not a stretch to think that Carter could have picked up on those behaviors along the way.  But it was a bummer.

We are still dealing with them on a daily basis, but I'll admit they still generally pale in comparison to everything we deal with with Jacob.  In fact, many of the undesirable behaviors we see in Carter comes directly from Jacob, as he has a tendency to encourage him to be naughty.  They ramp each other up with potty talk.  Jacob asks him if he wants to battle.  He "suggests" certain answers to questions or certain actions, and of course his obsessed little brother wants to do what his big brother suggests.  So we're running into a lot of that behavior, and I'm concerned about what Carter might pick up long term.  With Jacob we always worried about what he was learning at daycare, and this time around I feel like home is more of a danger zone.

But speaking of daycare, that's ultimately what this post is about.  Every morning is a struggle to get Carter to daycare and leave him there happy.  As you may recall, our daycare situation basically imploded last June.  The long-time director was fired for no valid reason, the assistant director (who we all adored) was basically forced out right after, some teachers were let go because they refused to comply with the ridiculous new regime, and other teachers left over time because the atmosphere was so poisonous in the aftermath.  We are one of the few families that stuck it out after that, only because Carter was in a room with two of the three remaining teachers that didn't leave, and I felt like as long as he was comfortable there, there was no sense uprooting him.  I miss his old friends and their parents so much, but most of them went to the crazy expensive daycare up the road and I just can't justify that right now.  While I can be pleasant with the current staff, I'll admit that even months later I'm still having trouble feeling comfortable.  It's not the same friendly banter I had with the old teachers.  I like the director, but neither she nor the assistant director are that visible on a daily basis.  I always felt like there was someone capable in charge at any given moment, and I'm not sure I feel that way anymore.  It's so sad because everything there was like a family nine months ago, and even now it's just...not.

A few weeks ago Carter moved into the three-year-old room.  One of the teachers has been there for a number of months now, but the other teacher left right before Carter moved, and there's been a couple different ones around.  While I don't have any specific concerns, I'm not sure what to think.  Carter doesn't really talk much about his teachers or his new friends.  In fact, he told me tonight he doesn't have friends in his classroom.  I know that some of what they're doing is above him right now, based on how his letter tracing sheets come home.  I know he likes the toys in that room, but there are a lot of kids and I can't help but wonder how he's managing.  But like a typical kid, I don't hear much at the end of the day.  I do know that most days he doesn't want to leave.  Even if he's happy to see me, he'd rather stick around and show me stuff.  So on some level I take that as a good sign.

But every single morning, Carter tells me he doesn't want to go.  Some days it's just that he wants to hang out in my bed and watch TV, or he'd rather play with his toys.  But some days he gets creative.  He'll ask me what day it is, I will tell him, and he'll say to me, "Oh, that means we go to daycare tomorrow!"  Or he'll just tell me no one is there today.  When I ask him why he doesn't want to go, he says he just wants to stay at home with me.  I have no idea if he still remembers his time home with me last year, or if he just loves Saturdays, or if there's really some compelling reason that makes him not want to go.  I will say that he got bit twice within a month or so.  The second one is still healing up.  He tells me both were from the same kid, who's actually younger than him and is only in the same room when they combine at the end of the day.  Both bites have been on the back, and they've scabbed and bruised pretty good.  I feel awful for him that he's had to deal with that.  I'm hoping that the staff is aware of who did it and is keeping a better eye on the two of them when they're together, but I don't know.  But he spends most of the day away from that kid, so I can't chalk that up as the only thing bothering him. 

It's horrible to get him out of the house in the morning, and he's usually grumpy as I strap him in.  When I drop him off, sometimes he will pretend he's sleeping in his car seat.  He's usually pretty pleasant about getting out of the car and walking in, but once we're in the door, all bets are off.  He doesn't like when I take off his coat.  He runs before I can change him out of his boots.  He will run from me every chance he gets, in fact.  I literally have to hand him off to a teacher in order to leave without him running after me.  I'm sure he's fine five minutes after I leave.  But I hate that it's like this every morning.

Of course, it doesn't help that I still long to be with him, too.  I can't lie--my time off a year ago was life-changing.  I never had the experience to be a stay-at-home mom where I wasn't mothering an infant, and it turns out that my time with him was really nice.  Apparently when you have a kid that doesn't have a tendency to make you nuts 24/7, parenting can be pretty decent.  I feel awful when he acts like he simply wants to be with me and that's why he doesn't want to go to daycare.  I tell him that I would love to stay with him if I could, but I can't.  He doesn't get it, of course, but I try.  I want him to know that I love him and that I wish I could be with him.  But reality is, I have a great job and this is just the way it has to be right now.  So daycare it is...

I'm still debating switching daycares, but I worry if that will just make things worse.  The clean slate would be nice for me, I think, but I worry about what a sea of new faces would be like for Carter.  Jacob insists he never wants to go to the daycare that we'd probably switch to, but I think he would adjust for the few weeks he has to go there over the summer.  But it's a big switch and it's scary having no one who you trust to look out for your kid.  Nine months after first considering changing, I'm still very torn.

I'm sad that he's sad, and it makes both of our days just a little bit more of a bummer that we can't spend them together.  But this is how it needs to be and I just need to figure out how to make it better for both of us until he adjusts again.  Might be a long road, but we'll get there...both of us. 

I love that kid, struggle and all.

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