Sometimes, we have periods of days at a time where J’s behaviour is fabulous. Not flawless, because what four year old child is, but days at a time when we don’t have meltdowns or tantrums, hitting or throwing things.
At other times, we struggle to get through a day without several instances of up / down behaviour. Days like these are exhausting. Days like these, when I’m pushed to my limits, I wonder how I can cope, I wonder what I’m doing wrong, I wonder why I’m such a rubbish mum that he acts this way. Days like these are, unfortunately, more often than not.
Today, we’d had a fabulous day. He was up this morning in a good mood, well rested and energised. He ate breakfast and got washed and dressed without me having to prompt him every two minutes to hurry up. We left the house on time and he walked nicely to school, holding my hand, chattering excitedly as four year olds do at 8.30am about who he was going to see, who he wanted to play with and talk to, and the things he wanted to do. At school, the door opened and he gave me a hug and a kiss and with a casual, “Bye mum, love you” over his shoulder he ran full pelt up the ramp and into school. The teacher who stands at the door looked over to me and gave me a big smile and two thumbs up. I smiled and gave her a thumbs up back. A successful morning.
At the end of school, the teaching assistant Miss Brown said to me that J had a good day. She said they’d spoken about the school trip tomorrow and he was excited about it – I had been dubious as he’d been rather apprehensive last week at the prospect of travelling out of school without me or Daddy P – but she said today they’d had a chat and she’d told him some of the things they’d be seeing and doing and he was looking forward to it. One of the children celebrates their birthday tomorrow, so their birthday lunch was today and each child in the class walked out with a cupcake. Miss Morris, the other teaching assistant, smiled at me and said it had been a good day today. J came out happily, clutching his cupcake, and took my hand to walk out of the school without any issue.
We walked part of the way home with his best friend, K, and her mum and baby sister. J and K were chatting and hugging the whole time, as they do, and when we got to the point where they head in the opposite direction to get to their house, K ran off from her mum because she wanted to come home with us. Instead of running off to join her, J stood next to me, holding my hand, and called her a silly head for running away from her mum, and told her she should come back and hold her mums hand, because we were on a main road and, as he pointed out, main roads are dangerous and she shouldn’t be running around like that next to one. When she ran back, her mum managed to get hold of her hand, and she and J hugged and kissed and said goodbye. Without any argument, J then turned and walked away from her, still holding my hand, and we walked home. A successful school pick up.
At home, he got changed and then we sat down to do his homework. He was a bit silly about it at times, and got a bit distracted, but I reminded him that it needed to be done before I’d let him watch any TV (the biggest threat there meaning he couldn’t watch his beloved DanTDM Minecraft videos on YouTube) It helped to focus him, and the homework was finished before the timer went off. He watched some YouTube videos while I cooked his dinner, and ate most of his dinner before the timer went off. A successful homework and dinner time.
Daddy P got home from work, and we watched TV together with J cuddled up on the sofa with me, and Daddy P and I ate dinner. Unfortunately it ended up that it was later than it should have been by the time J went upstairs with Daddy P and that’s where the issues started. To start off J didn’t want to get into his PJs – then he started being silly about brushing his teeth, and started arguing with Daddy P about it. It didn’t take long for this to escalate, as they (metaphorically) butted heads as only a parent and a child who share a similar personality will do. The job of brushing teeth before bed, which should in theory take only a couple of minutes, turned into a 20 minute mission with J becoming upset, frustrated, crying, shouting, kicking, hitting, calling Daddy P a meanie head and generally the both of them becoming wound up by what should have been a straightforward situation.
Once it was done, and J was back in his bedroom, the switch flicked again and J was calm, wanting cuddles, seeking my affection and wanting to snuggle down and have stories read to him, as if the screaming and shouting of the last 20 minutes hadn’t happened.
It was only a small hiccup in an otherwise fabulous day. For J, it was a tiny glitch and given that it wasn’t a huge meltdown and it only lasted 20 minutes, that was a very minor moment over the whole day. But it’s an example of how quickly his mood will swing.
It’s difficult, as his parent, not to continue feeling annoyed and disgruntled with him for the less desirable behaviour once the moment has passed and he is once again ‘up’ and behaving in a more desirable way. You have to literally take a moment to have a deep breath before you continue, because if you carry on feeling down after a glitch like that, you’ll very quickly push J back into another moment. The more moments he has over the day, the more tiring it is for you both, and the worse the day feels. If you can get over it as quickly as he does, and move onto the next moment of the day without carrying those feelings of annoyance over from one moment to the next, then you’re going to have a better day.
It’s difficult, because parents who don’t deal with this type of behaviour often (I’m sure) think I’m being soft on J, that I’m somehow not punishing him enough for the less desirable behaviour, that I’m forgiving and forgetting too easily – but he processes things and deals with things in a different way to the generally accepted way of processing and dealing, and I’ve found that for him, my way of dealing seems to work well (on the whole). I break each day down into small segments – as well as remembering that he processes differently, he is only four years old, he’s still learning and developing, and a day to him is a long period of time, so it’s important, I think, not to carry on about something that happened in the morning well into the evening – it’s lost relevance by then. By breaking the day down into smaller segments, it makes it easier for him to process and it makes it easier for him to understand consequences of his actions. There’s no point telling him off in the evening for something he did in the morning. At the end of each day, we talk about the day in segments, and I award him stickers for each segment if he has behaved well for that particular segment. If not, no sticker, and then we count up how many stickers he has earned over the whole day, so then this allows him to see whether he has had a good day or a not so good day.
I’m learning more and more each day from him on what works better, how he works, what works for us as a team as we try to understand one another, what’s expected, what’s accepted, and we both make mistakes on a daily basis. The most important thing to me, is that no matter what, J knows I’m on his side; I’m trying my best, and I know he is, too. This journey we’re on has only just begun, and it’s exhausting and overwhelming and daunting, but we’ll make it together, because after all, he’s my boy, I’m his mum, and that love gives me the strength to fight these battles with him, to stand up straight and look to the future and not to be scared of it, but to want to educate myself, and others, and to find out all I can to help me better understand how I can support him.
It does make me angry and frustrated when people stare because he’s stimming, or behaving in a way they don’t understand because he’s feeling overwhelmed in a situation, but it doesn’t help to try and deal with them at the same time, so I tend to block out everyone else and deal with J as if we’re the only two people there. Quite often when I’m doing that, other people try and talk to me, try to help, try to make suggestions, and I find it easier to ignore them, which I’m sure they think is me being rude, and in a way it is, but my point is that I need to deal with him and the issues that he is having at that time – He is my priority, and with someone else trying to interfere with that it is not helping the situation. If they stick around for long enough after the incident for me to speak with them, I’ll try to explain, but more often than not people tend to either leave you to it or when you try and explain they think you’re making excuses for what is a badly behaved child. I’ve overheard people say that I just need to tell him no, that I need to be more strict with him, that I need to give him a smack, and trust me when I say there have been times when I’ve wondered the same myself – but I’m not soft on him, he has rules and limitations and I don’t let him run riot, so even though I have these moments of doubt I can say confidently that this isn’t the reason for his less desirable behaviour. As for giving him a smack – well no, I don’t believe that solves anything. I have slapped his hands for things like reaching toward the fire or going to poke the dog, but I’m not the sort of person who believes that smacking a child to discipline them works, on the whole. I prefer to teach by example, rather than using fear of physical injury.
We’re no closer to any kind of diagnosis, which is frustrating, because I’m still waiting for an appointment for his assessment with the CDC. Having said that, I appreciate we are already at this point in the process, as I know of other people whose children are older than J who are still waiting for their GP to provide a referral, or for their child’s school to recognise an issue and start the ball in motion. I’m relieved that J’s school picked up on it quickly, and early on, and have taken it seriously, and I’m grateful to the SENCO at his school who has been by my side from early on supporting me and guiding me to get to the bottom of it all.
We’re just taking each day as it comes – as exhausting and exhilarating as it is – but by doing that we’re getting through each week, each month – and each year. He’ll be five in a little over two months time, yet it seems like just yesterday he was born. While some days feel endless, and I’m exhausted and don’t think I can do it all again tomorrow, we’re getting there together and at the end of each day, no matter what it’s been like, when he hugs me tightly and tells me he loves me, I know absolutely that every single moment is worthwhile.
Peace & Love,
x x x x x