Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My rough little one

Let's just say it like it is: Paxton is a tough kid.

Well, sometimes. Somedays he's a total joy, and others he's just a normal little kid, but there are days where, well... there are just days.

And they are very rough days and sometimes they are hard to get through.

Paxton came home on his second birthday after knowing us for only a week. He had started his life as the youngest of three sons in a tiny little hut on a tiny farm in a jungle of coffee plants in Southern Ethiopia. At barely a year old, maybe even younger, he saw his mother die, and then his father. He and his brothers went to live with his aunt and her family. He has a cousin the same age as him and while he still needed to be nursed, so did the cousin. I think it was here that his intense jealousy took hold. He KNEW there wasn't enough and he KNEW he had to get the food, had to cry and beg and be as needy as possible or he wouldn't eat and would be passed up for that other kid, you know, the other one that needs food too (not like a one year old can process that).

After several months his aunt finally couldn't do it anymore. It was just too much, financially, emotionally, mentally. She could not care for him and her own nursing child, and so he went to live in the orphanage. I can only guess the pain that followed, the months of knowing what she'd ultimately do and dreading it, the guilt, the worry, the sorrow...

But this is about my son. My son who was alone, again. The parents who had babied him were gone and the aunt he tried to make a new mother was gone, and even the brothers who had always been there was gone. He even had to learn bits of a new language.

He became one of almost fifty kids in the big kid's home at the orphanage. Among his third set of caregivers he was doted on and loved. There are a few interesting tidbits I learned or saw in the orphanage. I know he stopped eating and got special treatment. I know he was picky with his food and again got special treatment. I know he cried a lot and, again, got special treatment. In short, he KNEW how to impress himself upon his caregivers. He'd been the center of attention as an infant, the semi-cast aside child as a new toddler, and now as a full fledged toddler in a home with far too many children he was going to get his way.

I saw him steal a toy, smack the kid he stole it from, then scold that child for having the toy he wanted to begin with. I saw this on my first time seeing my son. I saw a lot of chaos there, children hitting and punching and kicking and standing on smaller children and children being hurt and no one noticing because there were just so many. I can't say that I know everything my child went through, but I can say that I have a rough idea as to his foundation.

And I can say that the result is a hard child.

He was violent, excessively violent, for several months. I had bruises and marks and was often gasping for breath after a kick to the neck or crying in pain from a punch to the eye. It wasn't that he wanted to hurt me, most of the time anyway. He just knew it worked.

And there are so many other things that he knows work. He KNOWS how to work people. He knows how to throw himself down and cry and how to say his leg hurts and cutely ask for a kiss and how to smile adorably and shyly like he's oh so shy and then give a little hug. He can figure people out, he knows what works with them.

In a way I'm glad he doesn't pull that crap with me. He knows I'll be here no matter what, and he knows I don't fall for it. Make no mistake, this kid is bonded. But there's sometimes and anxiousness to it that I'm just not sure how to address.

He's no longer violent but for the random slap or the threatened throwing of something, though it's often halfhearted and always spur of the moment reactions. He flirts more with others, but doesn't ignore me when he doesn't and never challenges my bond with him (ie, doesn't throw a fit at me if someone else gives him too much attention). Most of my complaints now rest with his defiance (duh, he's 3), his refusal to actually pottytrain for good, and his sudden mood swings that always surprisingly show up around the same time he grows another quarter inch.

There are still times, though when I worry for him. I know love isn't enough, but it's a lot, and I know we need to be conscious and see things others don't even to the point of paranoia. I need to catch when he's getting scared (it's in the way he holds his hands) and when he's overstimulated (it's in his laugh) and when he's simply trying to push my buttons because, hey, this kid is really a lot like me and that's what I'd do to my mom (still do!).

I do worry about things that maybe I shouldn't. I worry that when he's grown up he'll take his intelligence for granted, get on a bad path and stay there because, man, this kid cannot be easily swayed! I'm scared that his need for attention, especially from females, and his fear once he gets too close to them (too worried over the possibility of a new caregiver) might one day translate to infidelity or lack of an ability to commit, or even ill treatment of a women he very much loves. And sometimes I worry that his own charisma and intelligence might get him and others in trouble since he does seem to be able to work people in ways I rarely see other kids able to do.

But then there are those times when I put my mommy worries aside and I think to the future. I think of him finding the right lifemate, someone who understands him and takes him for all he is, maybe when he's a bit older and more sure of his place in the world. I see him using his intelligence, studying, going to school and making a great name for himself. I see him travelling to his homeland, coming to touch with its history and his own. I see him using his charisma for good, becoming generally well liked, and also becoming comfortable enough that he doesn't always have to act like a different person in order to please them. And of course, I see him compulsively cleaning every corner of his house, because man, this little Type A over here, casanova though he may be, is the biggest neat freak I've ever seen (though he still manages to make the biggest messes!).

Sometimes there are days where I seem to be failing at my job. I lose my patience, he's acting horrible and making a scene, and I'm trying to damn hard and every minute that goes by it gets worse and worse and harder and harder until finally we end up in a bathroom or sitting outside or with him on his bed, door closed, while I'm on a computer downstairs ignoring him, and it's like I just can't handle the anger and flightiness and sudden deaging that certain activities bring. Sometimes going to a storytime is the hardest part of the week because he cries and complains and ruins props and grabs attention for himself and is mean to other kids. And yet sometimes...

This past Tuesday we went to storytime and then an activity. He was roughly okay for storytime with Ms Carol. Then we read books, went potty, and had the activity. He was awful. He cried and threw a tantrum and wouldn't stop talking or complaining and would pay no attention to the great woman leading it. I tried to keep my patience, I really did, but eventually it was time out in the bathroom with him sitting on the changing table crying and me trying not to look because I was just getting so dang frustrated! It's HARD when your kid de-ages in front of your eyes and won't listen to you and it's like nothing you do ever works and you feel like such and awful mom and the looks people were giving you as you went to the bathroom, yanking along a screaming child...

Well, it wasn't good. And for awhile there I worried again. Would he always be like this? Always be set off by dumb little things like a storytime that's just a little too much like the together time at the orphanage? Would he always scream when I asked him to sit? Would he always misbehave in public when I actually knew people there?

We went out later and the rest of the activity was fun, but I was just... well, I was PMSing anyway and somedays I really do worry about my son just so much. I mean, he won't even make eye contact at all when we're in these sort of situations....

At the end I got my normal "why are you here again?" looks from a few people and the "I'm glad you're here!" looks from others. We said our thank you to Ms Stacy, said our goodbyes, grabbed our books and jackets and headed off to leave. Suddenly, as is normal, Paxton ran off through the shelves, streaking out of sight while I lugged a full bag of library books. I did my barely controlled "Paaaaxtoooon!", you know the sorta half whisper and half yell.

I ran to the front expecting to find him pushing himself out the door and into the parking lot, but no. There he was, looking for something. And then he saw her. You see, while I had him thank Ms Stacy, I'd forgot to have him thank Ms Carol. He ran straight over to that desk and cried out "Thank'um!" his way of saying thank you. Ms Carol looked up to see who it was and Paxton stood on his little tippy toes and held onto the counter, barely peaking over. When he knew she'd seen him he said "Thank'um for sing wiv me!" When she said "you're welcome" he said his "byebye" and turned to leave, walking over to his stunned mommy and happily taking my hand.

I can't say I'm totally surprised to see my son showing spontaneous care for others. He says excuse me (kyoo meez) to get by people, sowwy if he bumps into someone, and thank you if someone holds a door for him. He doesn't think, he just does it, and if he sees someone crying he always tries to make sure they're okay.

Heck, I didn't even mention how a few days ago I had a little hissy fit and started sobbing while he was crying. He stopped crying. He stayed near me until I calmed down then hugged me, kissed my head, stroked my hair and cheeks. He asked if I was sad and I said I was, so he kissed me and said I was "all better now." When I asked if he was still said he told me "no, Pax'on all better! Pax'on good now! Mommy better now too?" I felt like such an awful mom since I'd just yelled at him and he'd been crying so hard and, well... there he was, telling me that he was perfectly fine, reassuring me that it was okay, hugging my head and kissing my cheek and telling me he was making it better. Several months ago a similar thing happened, only instead of kissing he just punched me over the head as hard as he could while I cried. In both cases I just couldn't stop crying, but obviously the latter's case is certainly better.

So I guess amidst all these icky once a month emotions (you know what I mean) I do have to look at everything objectively and say, y'know... I think my kid might just be turning out okay. Yeah, he might drive me absolutely nuts somedays, but really for all he's been through... Yeah, I think he'll be okay. Though I might believe it more once this week is over and maybe I'll believe it even more when he's through his bimonthly growth spurts and not Mr Pissypants all the dang time.

But I'm still a mom. I think I'll be worrying about him with my dying breath. Ah, motherhood, ain't it grand?

And no, I don't honestly know what point I was trying to make here other than that I am way too emotional this week and he's having another growth spurt and on top of sleeping all the time and eating everything in sight he's also a raging pissant who likes to scream, tear things, and mostly just cry over eeeeveryyyythiiiiiing.

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