It’s hard as parents to know when a child is crossing the proverbial line from being willful, high energy and strong towards being potentially diagnosed as hyperactive or having ADD. Preschool is difficult; it’s too soon to tell. Kids are still learning their boundaries, mastery of school skills is only starting and kids are barely capable of changing their own clothes, let alone handling themselves with the control of an adult. But a parent knows their kid, and a parent knows a gnawing in their gut and “waiting it out” is utter torture but “overdiagnosis” may also be a very real issue.
We carefully look for milestones in kids from babyhood through toddlerhood, and we try and encourage the development of interests through preschool. Maybe sometimes with a lot of outside pressure from family, online communities, the knowledge of a failing school system, or friends kids who are ahead of the curve and add just a little guilt to your plate through no fault of their own.
Teaching the ABC’s from scratch is shockingly difficult when you’ve spent thirty years completely accustomed to them. What I am most frustrated by is how easily my son gives up on himself. He begins with a bright spark, his eyes light up and he asks a wonderful, curious question that I either can explain or have to google. (This is probably the greatest application of the internet.)
Understanding that my child is learning differently than I do isn’t the hard part, he has a skill set for building with blocks and Legos at a level that I lack the aptitude to master. At different points in life we all find our thing. I don’t want to pick battles over activities and interests with my kids because the simple act of existing with them is hard enough.
I am a pitiful teacher; I’m too wordy for a four year old. He gets bored with how I’m explaining things and says, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” or the worst, “I can’t do it”. And that’s how we are completely stunted at writing the letter “T” for Teddy and the rest is a wash behind his big brown, brooding eyes. I haven’t found my way into his head yet.
My son shuts down very easily. He rarely takes interest in sitting still to observe or absorb. He has two modes: frenetic, wild, running, screaming, jibberish baby talking or silently and contentedly building fantastic creations out of magnets and Legos. Those moments are stunning and brilliant and they make my heart swell. I’ve learned to sit back and watch him as quietly as I can because when I speak I ruin his concentration and he’s instantly frustrated again.
My son is sensitive, he’s a crier. I never foreshadowed myself being upset with a child for the act of crying. I myself cry very easily, but my son cries every time he’s confronted. If I don’t handle every situation with absolute delicate care, he crumbles. Even in times when he is the assailant and tormentor. Because even though he is sensitive he is not innocent. I catch him hitting his little brother, stealing toys, refusing to share and using his body inappropriately and defensively.
Sometimes I’m awesome. Sometimes I say the right words, separate the kids or remove the toy they’re fighting over.
Sometimes, I scream.
I feel awful and regrettable and mean for screaming when he acts out, and then he cries at my reaction and I scream again because in some ways, I wonder if he’s crying to get out of the confrontation, but honestly, I think I know in my heart that he’s crying because he’s overwhelmed. I cry when I’m overwhelmed too, I should have more compassion but sometimes that well runs dry.
We assert that he should to sports, or karate or organized physical activity because learning how to be a part of a team is healthy and good preparation for a future in society.
He spends practices with his shirt over his head, standing in the middle of the room spinning in circles.
I am embarrassed. I am also ashamed that I could be embarrassed by my son. I have to be stronger for him and be his defender, and do it in a way that acknowledges when his inconsistent behavior is a distraction. It’s tricky and I admit that I like the days when we skip practices, in fact, my husband and I argue about whether he is ready for classes or not.
If he’s like me, he will never have a genuine interest. But to my husband’s stern point, you can’t just raise a quitter.
Having my son at home with me during the day became nearly impossible this year. I had my third baby and I absolutely relish quiet time. My son seems to thrive on destruction and jumping off of the couch screaming his head off about Spiderman.
Meals are an absolute nightmare. He takes food off his plate, smears it across the table and licks it off. Or he throws it on the floor, or mashes it in his hands and eats like Mowgli. He sits for ten minutes, announces he’s full, and wants to be excused. Ten minutes. He eats almost nothing; he weighs 38 lbs. and has for a full year.
I don’t want my son to spend his whole life in time outs.
I don’t want him to feel dejected in public school.
I don’t want his siblings to continue to copy his behavior and follow in these footsteps.
I don’t know what to do with my son.
I said the words that have been eating me alive for the last year. I do not know what to do. He is hard, so hard that I don’t cope with him being home all day and I shell out for day camp just to keep him busy and active and to give myself some space.
I walk the line daily and waffle back and forth. “Is he a normal four year old?” “Is every single thing supposed to be a struggle?” “Am I supposed to have to say something six times before I start screaming and he finally listens?” “Is something wrong with Teddy?”
I think I might be failing my child and I have to figure out what’s right before it goes more wrong.
I hear you all in the ether talk about lack of discipline, spoiled kids, lazy parenting, and making up excuses, more spankings and all other ways of refusing to admit that sometimes we get a hard hand and not everything is in our control. We do the best we can do and we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what that is. It’s anything but lazy, it’s an absolute struggle.