Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Middle Child Syndrome to the Tenth Power

I am nearing the end of my rope and teetering on the edge of helplessness when it comes to dealing with my second child's emotionality. Let me preface this post by saying that while I appreciate all the parenting critiques and suggestions that will follow your reading it, we have tried almost all of it--charts, positive reinforcement, time out, spankings, rationalizing, you name it. Our kid is not spoiled, we are not ineffective parents, and going back to the good ol' days when an ass whipping solved all of life's problems is not the answer. If that were true, I wouldn't be sitting here agonizing over what to do and using my blog as an outlet for worry and frustration.

Our son is an introverted middle child who lacks confidence, the ability to read some of life's social cues, and a healthy outlet for processing and dealing with his emotions. After meeting with his teacher and the school counselor this year, I'm confident he has finally learned to reign in some of his behaviors in the classroom. He even made his second good friend this year. The flipside to this coin is that he vomits up all the anxiety he's internalized during the day all over me within minutes of coming home from school. Now that school is out, I thought things would get better. Instead, I brace myself for screaming tantrums and verbal outbursts every time I decline a request or we transition from one activity to the next.  I'm not sure how much more "I hate yous" I can take.

As I type this, he has confined himself upstairs to his room and refuses to participate in family activities. His behavior is beginning to drive a wedge between the two social relationships I can count on in his life, which are the ones he has with his brothers. They are playing together beautifully and picking up right where the gap the absence of my middle child leaves off. In turn, my reclusive, emotionally fraught son retreats further within himself and abandons coping skills he's built up over the school year. He feels left out, but he doesn't know how to pick up and move on from anger so that he can interact with his brothers in an engaging, playful way. This vicious cycle has been repeating itself day after day. 

He's come so far in so many ways. He started out agonizing and worrying over leaving me and going to Montessori school every day when he was two and a half. In pre-k I had to move him from one program to a smaller, quieter environment because he was a complete sobbing, reclusive mess for weeks at the first school he attended. He smiles at adults he knows, gives hugs to grandparents, and makes eye contact when he meets new people now. But he also destroys his room in fits of rage and launches into uncontrollable tirades when calm turns to chaos. He's the kid playing by himself when the other seven kids at the playdate are screaming and running around upstairs.

I'm the mom who loves her kid so much it hurts and at the same time can't even enjoy his presence because our situation makes me so unhappy. Our next move is a play therapist who comes with glowing reviews. I'm investing all of my hopes for my son's emtional well being (and mine) in her very capable hands. We need people to cheer us on and support us on this journey as we search for help in a matter that is beyond our area of expertise. I think my kid has potential to impact the world in a powerful way if I can just figure out how to equip him with the tools he needs to navigate this tricky journey we call everyday life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Look Back

Hello to my little blog, which I've so grossly neglected over the past few months. The eve of my ninth anniversary seems a very appropriate time to delve in again because looking back on the years with my husband always stirs feelings of pride and strength that have carried me through times of both difficulty and joy. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I think about the two of us working so hard to build our family, a job that began with us freaking out on my 26th birthday as we stared at a pregnancy test. We had only been married for six months, and we were simultaneously excited and terrified.

When we saw a positive the second time, I was excited, and Jason was terrified. I remember watching him in amusement as he tore through the instructions to verify the results. We were aiming for two kids 18 months apart, so I think the 15 month age difference we were facing seemed a bit daunting for him.

The third go-round was a complete surprise--not mapped out like the first two. I flung the positive test at my husband and subsequently flung myself onto the couch and burst into tears. Ugh. Nine more months of grouchiness, hormones, and sore boobs after only a four-month reprieve. Jason was calm and collected, which was great considering I continued to cry for five months.

Our three boys are incredible and worth every day of nausea, every grumpy exchange between two exhausted parents, and every agonizing hour of labor. Having the three of them so close together has provided us with a built-in adventure. We're generally ready for anything, and most of the time, we try to be present enough to laugh and eye roll in all the right places. One of the early best parts of having three boys in three years was enduring everyone's awed stares when I went anywhere, usually pushing a double stroller with two toddlers and carrying an infant in the baby Bjorn.

Today the best parts are being unfazed by chaos and having ready-to-go play dates in our own home. Adding our daughter to the mix caused some apprehension, but she has proven to be just the right mix of spark and sweetness to wrap her three brothers around her cute little fingers. She's given Jason adoration the boys reserved for me, and she's given me quadruple the love. Each child is so different, and learning to appreciate and anticipate their individuality keeps me on my toes.

 Through it all Jason and I have faced every happy time, content time, and dark time together. Sometimes we have done so harmoniously, and sometimes we have failed epically in providing a peaceful, conflict free environment for the kids. I've never worried that either of us is going anywhere, though, and I've never worried that trials don't lead to a better understanding of each other and our marriage. He's my hot tamale attorney; a fantastic dad; a driven worker; an unfailing supporter in my endeavors; a quiet enigma of wit, intellect, and inner beauty.

He's my best friend and the person God intended to stand beside me. I'll never doubt his capacity to impact the world around him in the kind, unassuming way he has, and I'll never stop feeling completely crazy about him. We're nine years into our legacy of love, and all I can think about is how rich my life is because I share it with him. Happy anniversary to my husband. I love you!