Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Word

ISO 100, 100mm,  f/5.6, 4.0 sec.
Humility. Sometimes I need it. I am not at all an immodest person nor am I not humble, so there is probably not a person who knows me who would think I need humility, but I realized this past Friday that is what I need currently and I am hoping, if I can focus on humility a bit, this can be helpful with some problems I am having with my son, Ian. He is eight years old (almost nine). He is the oldest of my two children. He has always been feisty and stubborn and set in his ways . . . a bit of a difficult child. There is no denying; he gets those traits from me.

He is also very single minded and has this sense of 'justice'. He has decided just how he thinks things should be. When things are not as he thinks they should be . . . well, sometimes, all hell breaks loose.  So I have struggled. And my husband has struggled.

Eighty to ninety percent of the time, Ian is fine; he is a joy to be around and we have a wonderful time . . . BUT it is that other ten to fifteen percent of the time that he can just turn our world upside down. He throws terrible tantrums. He yells and screams and hits. He tells us he hates us and that he does not want to live in our house. He has tried to run away. He has said he will stay in his room forever, never go to school again; he'll starve to death, because, what does he care? He does not want to live.

When this is going on, I don't respond correctly, I know. It is just too emotional. I am too attached and I feel so completely out of control and to be out of control is the thing I fear most . . . so it is a disaster nearly every time my son goes down this path.

These things he says in the heat of his emotional outbursts are not truly meant. Of course, he always goes to school. Of course, he does not actually run away or attempt to starve himself. Once he pulls himself together, it is like he never said anything of the sort. 

Thursday night was a particularly bad night. My son was exhausted to start with and his grumpiness was apparent from the moment he and his sister got home from school (in addition, I had not had the best day at work and had gotten home just in the nick of time to meet the school bus, so I was kinda grouchy myself). My kids ran ahead of me and into the house. As I was coming up our porch steps, I could hear my daughter, Margot, crying and yelling, "Mom!". When I got inside, Ian was holding the Wii remote and starting his game Zelda Skyward Sword (something like that), which he got for Christmas but has only just started to be able to play because the game required a Wii Motion plus and we had to order this; they are no longer being made as attachments. The items took nearly a month to come in the mail.  Margot told me Ian had grabbed the Wii remote out of her hand and had hurt her in the process.

"But, Margot, this is MY game. I got it for Christmas. It is MINE."

"Mom, that game should have been for both of us. It's not fair. Ian is never going to let me play."

"It's MY game. I don't want you playing."

Bicker, bicker, bicker. I said something along the lines of I did not want Ian being selfish about his game and it was only fair for him to share. He wasn't seeing this. It is his game and he should be able to decide if he will let his sister play or not.

"How would it make you feel if Margot was not willing share her games?" I asked.

"I don't care. Margot's games are stupid."

Obviously I wasn't getting anywhere with that reasoning, but they both calmed down enough that it was tolerable to carry on with the household chores--mail, dishes, straightening up, etc. I set the timer for the amount of time Ian could play the game until we had to leave for swimming lessons.

We were on time for swimming lessons. The lessons went well, but Ian got his heart set on having pizza for dinner and Margot wanted tacos. Margot started crying that Ian always gets to choose. Ian said that wasn't true. I said because it was late and Ian had a lot of work to do tonight, we'd have to have tacos. It was much faster. Ian was not okay with that but he settled down enough to accept it, eventually.

The thing was that after dinner, Ian had lots of work to do; he was not to play his video game anymore. Margot finished her dinner first and got excused from the table. She went immediately for the game. He told her to stop, but she did not stop. Margot was determined. He got more and more angry. My husband tried to diffuse the situation by joking with him, but he was in no mood for joking. In the heat of Ian's anger, he slapped my husband, who immediately grabbed him up by the armpits, yanked him out of his seat, knocking it over in the meantime and carried Ian up to his room.

I thought it was too harsh. I yelled at my husband. Ian was up in his rooming yelling and stomping. I was angry. Ian was angry. My husband was angry.

After a while, Ian came back down and he started for the game. I told him no way. I did manage to get him up to his room again with me so I could talk to him. But he was too far down his negative path at this point. The more I talked, the worse it got. He said he was not going to school anymore . . . never, ever again. I said he mostly certainly was and he needed to start on his work that was due tomorrow. He said it did not matter because he was not going.

"You are going," I said. "But if you choose to not do your work you will suffer the consequence of getting an F".

"There are no F's in third grade!" he shouted.

"Okay, a zero then."

There was no reasoning with him and even if there was, I certainly was not doing a good job by continuing to engage him in his nuttiness. I was responding with too much frustration and anger. I should know this by now, but I continue to think that I can get through to him, even when he is like that.

This is where the need for humility comes in . . . there is more to it than that . . . I also need calm, which is very difficult for me, but perhaps I can achieve that as well through humility.

I don't mean to use this word in the sense that I need to be meek or submissive, but instead in the sense that I do not have all the answers here and I am not always right nor am I handling these outbursts correctly. I have to work hard to recognize that I am part of the problem and work hard to change my response. My husband needs to work on it, too. I am too far on the reasoning end of the spectrum and he is too far on the stern end of the spectrum. I think there is a place in the middle that will be more helpful. In any case, none of this will be easy, but I NEED to work on it and I need to remember and I need to train myself to respond correctly. I need to practice and not just know later what I should have done.

There are a couple of other factors here, too. Ian is a smart, imaginative boy, but he is a bit of a nerd and he is socially awkward. I have a suspicion that he is having some trouble in school (not academically and not in terms of behavior . . . not one of his teachers that he has ever had would ever, ever believe that he could act the way he does at home in the example I am including here. He is never in trouble, but that has a lot more to do with his shyness, his tendency to not draw attention to himself and the fact that he is so quiet in school that every one of teachers has told us that they don't know much about him.) I suspect he is bottling up some of his emotions and they all come flowing out at home. My husband and I have long been concerned about his lack of emotional maturity and difficulty making friends in addition to his emotional outbursts, which I believe are all connected.

A couple of months ago, Dave made a suggestion: we should start going to church. I dismissed this suggestion right away . . . out of the question. No way. I am not a person of faith . . . at least not in the traditional sense of the term. I am a nonbeliever. I am okay with this. I am also accepting of  anyone who does believe and has faith. In fact, I think it is (usually) a wonderful thing.  I rejected the idea that going to church was any part of a solution or not going to church was any part of the problem, but, see, that was my stubbornness and that was not okay. I have no plans to impose my beliefs on my children. They must decide for themselves and if this new social circle in addition to moral teachings CAN help Ian. . . even just a little bit; can play a part in all of us to change how we think, how we look at things and most importantly, for me, at least, how we respond, then there is nothing but good.

I have looked into the Unitarian church here in Indianapolis. That is a place, I believe, I can feel comfortable. A couple Sundays from now, we are going to go for the first time (the Superbowl is in Indianapolis next Sunday; it will not work to go downtown on February 5th . . . so it looks like Feb 12th). I think we can make this a great opportunity for family time as well. We'll go to church and go out to lunch together and maybe spend some time taking in a museum or other activity in downtown Indianapolis.




No comments:

Post a Comment