Two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back. Frustrating, but it gets you there eventually right?
First, a quick Ambrose update. Ooooh, is he a toddler! Running, starting to jump climbing everything in sight! I find him on the dinning room table frequently, reaching for the chandelier. He puts his shoes in the closet and his clothes in the hamper, tells us exactly what he wants to eat, kisses and hugs, and he just learned how to blow so now he's pointing to food, going "hot hot!" and blowing before opening his mouth for a bite :) Still no real progress in getting him to fall asleep on his own. Tomorrow a babysitter is putting him to sleep so we can go out. Fingers crossed for her :)
And onto the point of this post.
Two steps forward, one step back.
For a long while we've been in the "two steps forward" phase. A good, lovely, delightful long while.
And now we're back into "one step back".
Admittedly, P is actually holding himself together pretty well. He has a little brother who is suddenly a raging, running, hitting, talking, adorable toddler. He has another baby sibling on the way sometime, no clue when. He has his carseat moved around and is now in easy striking distance of a bored little brother. He is entering kindergarten in the Fall and knows it. We've been cleaning the house and moving things around. And to top it off I've been trying new techniques with him to make things work.
A lot of change for a little boy who has already been through too much change in his life.
So now we're back to a "bad place." A place where he tries and tries and tries his best to get only negative attention. He writes on walls in Sharpie, he wakes us up in the morning, he pinches his brother, he hits, kicks and head butts me, he screams, he pours sand down the back of his friend's shirts, he does everything he can to ignore you and/or push your buttons when you're trying to speak with him, etc.
The thing is... this isn't 24/7. The "bad place" USED to be 24/7. And the fact that it's not is a huge step forward. In fact, it comprises far less than half of his wake time, and when he's not in a bad place he's willing to talk about it and help us brainstorm how to get him out of it.
The biggest issue right now is leaving the gym nursery. He's only there for an hour or so once or twice a week. And he always, ALWAYS, throws a tantrum. Down on the floor, refusing to move, trying to break their Wii remote, screaming at me, hitting, pulling my clothes, etc. Other kids actually come over to him to tell him how poorly he's behaving. To say it's embarrassing is an understatement....
Last night my husband pointed out that this isn't new behavior, that this is exactly the way he acts whenever we let him play computer games at NickJr.com. He can handle Yahoo Games, but you log him into NickJr.com and you're just asking for a fight. Same thing can happen with having the tv suddenly turned off without warning. And at the Y he's usually playing Mario Kart on the Wii and even though I'll let him play for an extra 5 minutes he still freaks out like I'm killing him. I typically have to just grab his arm and yank him to the car with Ambrose on my hip and 2-3 bags perched precariously on my shoulder. Then he kicks my seat and screams at me the whole way home, then he screams at me for another half hour, often from his room where he's in time out, until Nik comes home.
So yeah, this is a pretty bad habit, and the sad thing is this whole thing -- the kicking and hitting, the tantrum, the mean words, etc. -- is a habit. A rut. He started doing it one day and now he literally has no idea how to leave the gym nursery without doing it. And honestly I'm unwilling to stop going to my afternoon classes based entirely on the behavior of a child who should know better.
So we're trying something new today: No Mario Kart. At all. And he knows it, and he's not pleased with me about it.
But he also understands.
One of the hard things about having a five year old is that he should know better. He's five. He's about to start real school. He's not a toddler. He's big and strong and he knows that he should not behave like this.
One of the most awesome things about having a five year old is that you can take a cool-down walk around the block together and talk about his behavior, about how you feel and how he feels, ask what he would do in your situation, and forgive each other.
And as frustrating as this is, and as irritating and embarrassing as it is, it's also a learning experience for both of us. He's old enough to explore his actions and in some ways it's actually fun (if not enlightening) to help him do so.
Some days are hard. Some days I'm just so tired and just want him to be like every other kid (you know, the perfect dream child that doesn't exist?). But on those days I look back to where we were a year ago, or two years ago, and wow, the difference.
You know he hasn't had a rage in a year? None of this "holding him down while he freaks out and shrieks and flails for an hour or two" business.
And when he hits it's so light. He honestly does not want to hurt me, he just wants me to react.
And even though he can be a butt to his brother... he doesn't actually hurt him. A light pinch here, a floppy little slap on the chest there (with only fingertips making contact), a push that sends the baby onto his bottom, etc. He knows, even in his darkest hour, that he cannot hurt his little brother and even when he's lost control he still reigns himself in for him.
He's growing. He's maturing. He's learning to control himself when he's totally out of control.
And when it's done, when the rage is over, he is so, so sorry. He writes his apologies accompanied by pictures of us smiling and happy together. He picks me flowers. He hugs endlessly. And he kisses and cuddles and loves.
So yeah, one step back sucks. It really sucks.
But we're still moving foward, and if we've come this far since last year where will we be next year?
That being said, please wish us luck at the gym today. I'm going to try a new tactic that he and I have agreed on together and we'll see if it works to make the transition from gym nursery to car to home smooth enough that we're still friends by dinnertime.
We talked about our gym itinerary and restrictions yesterday, hammering out terms and agreeing to them. We spoke about it this morning, and again this afternoon on the way to the gym. We even role played a bit before the nursery opened. He told me he was nervous that he'd mess up, that he'd break his promise and play Mario Kart and be angry and kick and hit. He was very, very worried about this.
But he still did an awesome job :)
They told me he was very grumpy and unhappy with them, but he wasn't mean and they didn't have to come get me. And we didn't experience any violence or anger, just a general grumpiness. I can totally handle grumps!
I loaded on the praise in the car, possibly overdoing it but I honestly feel that he should receive just as much, if not more, attention for doing the right thing as doing the wrong thing. And to see his face light up as I told him again and again how proud I was... :)
Technically this means that he has "earned back" Mario Kart for the next time we go. We'll have to discuss and role play a bit for that too, but fingers crossed it's a success. As is, I'm just so happy right now that we tried something and it worked, and he's ecstatic that he gets to watch TV instead of being sent right to his room like normal.
Ooo, Nik's home! Early! Happy day!
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