I could have titled this post "Jekyll and Hyde", but I'm pretty sure I've used that before and considering Carter's love for superheroes (and their villains), I figured "Two-Face" was more appropriate. We seem to have developed a bit of a behavior issue with Carter where our normally once sweet boy is now showing some sides of him that we're not liking.
This has been building for a while, I suppose. I've mentioned before that it seemed like Carter was picking up on Jacob's roughhousing, so he started to think it was normal to just run up to someone and punch them. Not that Jacob has done that specifically, but when most of his interactions with Jacob have involved some sort of wrestling or physical contact as they battle over something--be it toy or turf--I think he just sort of accepted that as normal and translated it to his own means of defense. So, he does run up and punch people. And for some odd reason, he tries to bite Jacob when they're fighting. And when he's mad he thinks it's okay to kick. His temper flares very hot very fast, and he will not hesitate to throw a toy or show his displeasure whenever something doesn't go his way.
I'm guessing some of the temper comes from seeing us fly off the handle with Jacob, and sometimes, increasingly, with Carter himself. The problem in our house is that no one likes to listen the first time, so there tends to be a lot of escalating incidents--yelling and very angry expressions that only get worse the more they're ignored--because we're trying to be firm, and when that doesn't elicit a response, where do you go from there? We have used spanking, though we try to reserve it for direct defiance or a last resort. I know that the spanking probably doesn't make the hitting problem any better, but again--when you're not getting responses, guess what? You resort to desperate measures. It's not something I'm proud of, but I do think it speaks to the stress we're under on a daily basis.
What's bothered us more lately is that Carter has been lying, stealing, and doing nasty things for no apparent reason. A lot of times he will lie and say, "I tricked you!", but most of it isn't funny trickery, but rather annoying. Don't say you want this kind of cereal only to tell me after I've poured it that you were tricking me and you want something else. And don't tell me in the middle of grocery shopping that you have to pee right this second, and then tell me after we rushed to the bathroom that you were only kidding. I explain that things like that are actually lying, and that tricks are normally reserved for something sillier. But he also won't hesitate to lie to get out of trouble or to tell an elaborate fib for no apparent reason. The other night I found Jacob's new basketball in Carter's toy cabinet. I asked him where he got it, and he said Jacob gave it to him. I figured that probably wasn't the case, so I asked him directly if he was lying. He insisted Jacob gave it to him. I reminded him that he'll get in more trouble for lying than for taking the ball, and gave him another chance to fess up, but he insisted...and honestly, his poker face is okay but not great so I had a strong feeling he was lying. And of course, Jacob had no idea Carter had it. Lately he's also been trying to sneak toys to daycare, usually in his pockets if his pants have them. This morning he came to me and said, "I don't have anything in my pockets!" and of course I found a superball and a Lego man flashlight in them. He's also snuck toys home, which is even worse because it's stealing. And no matter how much I explain that he can't do that because they don't belong to him, he insists he wants them so it's fine. UGH. Other people's stuff is not yours just because you want it, Carter.
Over the weekend Craig and the boys set up an elaborate battle in our upstairs hallway and between the boys' doors, which basically form an "L" shape at the end of the hall. Jacob's Playmobil guys battled Carter's superheroes, and there were Mega Blok fortifications and who knows what else. Well, at some point Jacob had to go to lacrosse practice so some of the stuff got put away, but other stuff stayed out. Carter played nicely for a while as I worked on a craft project I'd been staring down for a while. At one point I went into the basement to dig through my craft supplies--basically two bins that hold everything from my glue gun and googly eyes to a bunch of random crap I pulled off Jacob's art projects before I tossed them, just in case we needed foam shapes or beads for anything down the road. I wanted a couple things to finish off my project, but as I was digging through I decided it needed some organizing. While I was doing that, Carter came down and handed me a vehicle with the string from an anchor from one of Jacob's ships tangled in the wheels. I untangled it and asked him if he had been in Jacob's room. He told me that the ship was part of the battle in the hallway, but I reminded him to not go near Jacob's stuff anyway. Later on I saw that a bin of random crap (Happy Meal toys, goodie bag toys, etc.) had been dumped in Jacob's room. We had just been looking through that bin the other day, so I assumed Jacob had remembered something he wanted to grab, dumped it, and never cleaned it up. After all, that wouldn't be out of character for him, and Carter pretty much never goes in Jacob's room in the first place. But when Craig and Jacob came home and I heard yelling, I realized that Carter had been terrorizing the house while I was downstairs. He had dumped the bin, ransacked Jacob's room and toys, and taken a couple things from the bin as his own. Thankfully, the worst of the damage was a wrinkled sail on one of Jacob's ships (which he's still super mad about), but all things considered that was pretty minimal compared to what it could have been. But what he did was really awful, and we had no choice but to punish him. He spent most of that evening in his room, he's lost his TV privileges (it's still on in our house a lot, but he cannot pick his shows at all) for the week, and I'm aiming to get him to bed early whenever possible. It still doesn't seem like he understands how nasty he's being, though. And part of that is probably the age, but I just don't like where it's heading.
Add in that Jacob is a loose cannon himself and it makes for some pretty spectacular fireworks at times. It's exhausting, and it's part of the reason our not-happening trip would have been so enormously helpful for us. My parents have generously offered to help us out and we will be taking them up on the offer this weekend, but clearly it's not the same and I'm not sure how much a 24 hour break will do...but it's something. I worry about how they'll be for my parents now that it's more than just Jacob causing trouble. It makes me sad that my sweet baby, the one who made me think I actually wasn't that bad of a mom, is now becoming as big of a problem as Jacob. I can tell that their issues still seem different--although I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with another ADHD diagnosis down the road given a few things I've seen lately--but having double the challenges now is not exactly what I was hoping for as they got older. "They'll grow out of it" just doesn't seem like it's getting any closer right now.
I keep hoping that when we see the sleep specialist in June, we'll find out how compromised Carter's sleep has been and find out that could be impacting his behavior more and more as time goes on. The snoring hasn't been as bad lately, but he's still coming in our room most nights (and most nights we direct him back--though whether or not Craig comes back to our room is sometimes a toss-up), and that tells me he's not sleeping as soundly as he should. I can see the effects of that building up over time and causing issues. I've read about kids who got their tonsils and adenoids removed, and instantly their behavior improved. They also do better with nighttime toilet training, which is still an issue with him, despite the fact he had a long run of mostly dry nights about a year ago. All I can figure is that this stuff has progressively gotten worse over the last six months, and his behavior has gone downhill accordingly. Maybe I'm wrong and it's all just behavior that has developed based on his interactions with us and with Jacob, but I can't help but wonder where my sweet boy goes sometimes--because there are still enough moments to know he's there somewhere. I just find myself hoping that for once we can get a quick fix, even if it means a rough week or so of recovery for him. But we'll see where that goes in a couple months.
In the meantime, we're trying to figure out how to deal with rough bedtimes, constant sibling battles, and disappointing behavior we never had to deal with before. Once again I find myself at a loss on how best to deal with it all, but I guess this is what parenthood is all about. One day at a time...as always.