Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Caught off guard

The thing about raising any kid is just when you start to think you have settled into a routine, your child will flip it on its head. Nothing about being a parent is regular or dependable. The good thing is that it is definitely not boring!  Not that things here are routine in any way, but there is an element of stability that is slowly taking hold, and seeping into the core of our new family. And I feel much more able to predict what the day will hold. Ah, that is the word that has me in a pickle. Predict.  A predictable day. Just let it cross your mind, and your kids will smell it, laugh riotously, and take your plans and stuff them down their pants.
The other day, I was scrambling for a solution to a scheduling conflict.  Our first son was having some sinus/ ear problems and had to get an early morning CAT scan. I was able to drop off the girls at the elementary school early, and figured I would just take Fort with me, since I wouldn't be around to bring him to preschool nor could I guarantee that I would be back to pick him up at lunch. Then the hospital called the night before with some instructions, including the fact that siblings were not welcome, due to germ exposure, etc.  Luckily I have a girlfriend with twin girls that are Fort's age. The mom is a dear friend, and the girls take a music class with Fort, so they know each other well. She said I could drop Fort off in the am and she would bring him to school and also pick him up of I got stuck. I started to prepare Fort for the changes that were going to happen on the way to school. He said "I go to Her house? Wif no Ben and no Evie?"  "That's right Fort"  "Yessssssss!"  He was excited to go on his very first play date, without me, just like his sisters and brother get to do. Never mind that it was for 10 minutes before preschool.
I was relieved that he was so ready to go. Our appointment at the hospital went smoothly, and I knew I would be back in time to pick him up from preschool at noon. I called Lori, who said he was totally awesome that morning, just walking around to check out the house, but was talking and ready to go when it was time. I was worried he would have a hard time leaving. So I was thrilled that it all was so easy.
I got to school to pick him up, and as he came around the corner and saw me, his smiles changed from a shy excited one to a crestfallen look of disappointment. He came to me and put his head down on my shoulder. I immediately understood that he had been expecting Lori to pick him up. "Hey, buddy - did you think Lori was coming to get you?"  "Yeees- I don't want you!"  So I pulled him aside, kneeling down to talk quietly. I often will say out loud what I think he may be thinking, just in case he can't put the words to it. "Oh, you thought Lori was coming and you were excited. And now you are sad that it is just Mommy". Yup, that was it. He was able to say it, but didn't cheer up. He walked put to the car with me, and then it really began. He lay down on the floor of the car. I told him it was okay to be sad, and even mad, but we need to get in the seat and buckle up. I was working hard at staying calm and understanding, because I could see what a disappointment it was. When I told him he could get into his seat, or I would do it for him, he begrudgingly got into his seat and buckled. I praised him, because that was a pretty good step- being as upset as he was but still doing what I asked. We got home, and he didn't want to get out of the car. I picked him up - total dead weight- and brought him inside & sat him on the counter. When I went to take off his coat he started to struggle...and then he hit me. Sigh. That's a hard rule. You hit mom or dad, you go to your room. I knew a battle had begun.
It wound up being fairly easy- he did not hit again, nor did he go into any of his other frantic or out of control behaviors. But he was MAD. Mad to be in his room, mad that he was home, mad that he was not at Lori's. He had an expectation in his head and he had been disappointed. This little thing, that he misunderstood - that I clearly had not expressed well in my worries of the morning- had exploded. The other kids might have been disappointed too, but it would have been a few minutes, or a shrug, and then moving on. But Fort got stuck. He could not get over this. It was so upsetting to him. He finally lay down in his bed, and I told him I would be in the other room when he was ready to talk. I was not 2 steps out the door when he started calling "Mama! Mama! Mama!"  I went back in and he snuggled down, still sad, but needing me. I carried him to the couch, and he fell asleep. It had been an hour. About 1:30 he woke up, still a little groggy and withdrawn. He had swim lessons coming up at 2pm, and hadn't eaten yet. I was thinking we could make it if he was up for it.   I had a half a muffin from the morning with Ben, and set it in front of him in the kitchen to see if he wanted it. "Yuk". He shoved it across the table. Big sigh. Not acceptable behaviour.  I took the muffin away. He put his head down on the counter and started crying again. I gave him a few minutes, then I asked him if wanted the muffin (I suspected he really did). "If you can find your manners and say yes please, then you can have it". He sat looking at the counter for about 20 seconds. He made a decision, said yes please, ate the muffin, and it was over.
It was 2:30 and we had missed swimming.
But this is how he processed this disappointment. It took time, it was frustrating, but he had made a number of good choices along with the bad. He had buckled his seatbelt, refrained from hitting other than the first one, called to me when he needed me, and made the decision to have good manners so he could eat. I could not have anticipated this, but I realized how well I can read him now. His preschool teachers tried to cheer him up before he left with a sticker, and some fun news about the little chicks being born in their incubators, but they didn't understand that his letdowns are deeper and cannot be brushed aside. Has he never allowed himself to have expectations?  Does he have farther to fall?  Does he just get a plan in his head and it is tough to deviate from what he thinks will happen?  I can wonder, but I can't know. I know that he is learning, always learning. With each difficult and sometimes painful lesson, he is growing and changing the patterns of his psyche. He may have been sad, and reacted in a disproportionate way from his peers, but look!  From this he sees that some disappointments in life are small, that he can get over them,  and life marches on and he is just fine.

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