It’s been a tough couple of weeks in the K1A2 household. It started with a trip to hospital for myself, thankfully nothing too serious from what we can tell, but it took a couple of nights as a patient to figure that out, and some fairly strong painkillers! So while I was floating around on my little cloud (or, more accurately, scrunched up on a hospital bed hoping my appendix wasn’t about to burst!), poor Mrs S took over the household. She did a wonderful job, of course, as she’s a wonderful mummy! But whether it was my overnight stays or the unfortunate fact that it coincided with Marvin starting full time school days, he seems to have turned into a wild little animal!
Our previously polite, funny and sweet boy now spends most mornings before school, and every afternoon after school, and most of each weekend, screaming “NO!!!” at the top of his lungs, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing toys, spitting… Meanwhile Norman has become well behaved by comparison! Throughout the 18 or so months since the boys came home, they seem to have completely mastered the tag team method of driving us insane! Just when you think one of them has settled, the other swoops in and floods you with some new unruly, and at times disgusting, behaviour! I like to tell myself that actually it’s a sign of intelligence and strength, they sense a weak spot and exploit it… (side note – I’m writing this from my phone and “spot” just autocorrected to “spit”, perhaps that’s an omen?)
On a more positive note, Marvin’s teacher says he’s behaving well at school, but then she did teach Norman last year so I suspect the bar for her behavioural expectations is somewhat low at this point. But to highlight my above “tag team” point, Norman continues to struggle with his behaviour at school. His teacher came out to me yesterday to say that he had been a good boy for most of the day, but had been stomping around kicking chairs for the last 20 minutes or so, so instead of them being able to send him out to me, I went in to get him.
One of the things I noticed when the boys were first home was the intense anger that Norman experienced. He has many many reasons to be angry, some of which I’ve talked about before, but whenever he is angry, his whole face changes, his expression becomes very adult and at times he directs his anger towards himself, often nipping himself or pulling his hair. He still hasn’t quite developed the ability to explain what’s made him feel so angry, so trying to reason with him or make him feel better can be tricky.
Then there’s the other side of parenting. The bit where you want – or need – your child to do as you ask. It would be lovely to think that life could all be built around therapeutic parenting and helping one another work through troubles and difficulties, but there are times when you have a timetable to keep to or your own needs as a person that stop you being able to be the best you can be for someone else. The adoption books all say you shouldn’t send adopted children to their rooms when they’re in trouble as it excludes them and brings up feelings of separation. But what to do when the choice is to send the child to their room or yell at them because of your own anger or frustration at their behaviour?
It’s very easy to type away all the good things we do as parents, to hide behind a computer screen and not talk of our own shortcomings, but that wouldn’t be real. I’m a person. I lose my temper at times, I have my own needs, and if I don’t recognise that and fulfill some of those needs each day, I find it harder to be the best parent I can be. Recently I feel more and more that I’ve let myself run on empty more than is good for me, and I’m trying to address that and be kind to myself.
As for the boys, I am aware that they mirror the behaviours they see. Norman has an adult angry face because he has seen angry adults. Marvin tantrums because he has seen other children do it, his brother in particular, and I think the combination of exhaustion from school, fear from me being in hospital and the general frustration that all four year olds feel at times is causing his behaviour.
As a young adult, my gut reaction was always to fight fire with fire, to be stronger. As I move through my thirties I realise more and more that fighting fire with fire just means you get a bigger fire and more people get burnt. You need to pour water on, cool the situation down, and there is no truer proof of this than our lovely boys. I don’t always get it right, in fact I’m not sure I even get it right most of the time, but I strive to be the calm in their storm in the hope that some day they will find their own peace. In the meantime, I will continue to use sticks and string to make my own peace!