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.

1 comment:

  1. I am sending well wishes your way - and a virtual martini. You are a loving and vested mom. Don't let anyone tell you different. Or I'll beat 'em up.