April 26, 2012

Waiting For It To Be Over

I have been really FEELING the meaning of the phrase "tearing my hair out" recently. Henry is BREAKING me. On one hand, this is good, because it certainly has beaten out any last remaining traces of wanting another child. On the other hand, I am having MULTIPLE incidents per day where I feel like I would really enjoy getting to hit him, and I feel like I use up all my patience and good parenting on this one child and then have only scraps for the other four, and that seems like it can't go on happily.

I was telling Paul yesterday evening that I seriously don't know how to handle him. Henry seems like he is relentlessly disobedient and unpleasant, ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Well, I mean with cute/pleasant times too, and with an OVERLAY of cuteness/cheeriness to the unceasing naughtiness. But even when he's on my lap and being all cute while I read him a story, he will then giddily whip me in the face with his blankie and then put the blankie over my head and drag it off so a bunch of strands come out of my hairclip; and then as he's climbing off my lap he won't be careful, and he'll end up (1) whacking his skull into my glasses and then (2) kneeling right on a very painful muscle in my leg and then (3) elbowing me hard in the chest. Then he'll say several things in a loud unpleasant crazy-voice he's not allowed to use, and then he'll hit his sister with the blankie and she'll scream and he'll laugh, and then he'll say taunting things to Edward, and Edward will yell and Henry will laugh, and then he'll climb onto the coffee table he's not allowed to climb on, and then he'll stand up on it and fall off and cry. A few minutes later I'll offer everyone the pretzel bag, and everyone will take a few, and then Henry will plunge his hand into the bag so hard it knocks it out of my hand, and then come out with an enormous, pretzel-shedding handful he drops all over the floor. Then he will laugh, and as he laughs he will careen around stepping on the pretzels.

It's super super frustrating to have it be 6:24 in the morning and have him already in time-out after breaking four well-known and well-reminded rules. And I'm just so INCREDULOUS that he could STILL BE DOING IT. HOW CAN HE STILL BE DOING IT? We've had so many TALKS about it, with me patiently explaining to him (1) what he can't do and (2) why he can't do it and (3) what the consequences will be if he does it anyway, and then asking if he understands, and then later administering the consequences, and then after administering them MANY TIMES, asking if he knows WHY he can't seem to control himself, and him answering in the crazy unpleasant voice he's not allowed to use. I have actually put my hands into my hair and squeezed.

I was thinking things through for the millionth time yesterday. Could I try yet another different consequence? a different explanation? a new parenting concept? a boarding school? duct tape? I was also thinking about how I could do a post asking what other people would do, but I found I didn't really want to ask for or receive advice on this ("Have you tried giving 5 yesses for every no? catching him being good? meditating? changing his diet? being more understanding? having him tested for celiac? having him tested for a behavioral problem? reading this parenting book? giving him time-outs but calling them 'breaks' because 'time-outs' sound too much like punishment? being more consistent? making a sticker chart? offering rewards for good behavior?").

And so then I thought, "Well, what would I advise someone else, if they were having this issue?" And I think what I would say is to hang on until he grows out of it. Stop trying one thing after another. Stop spending so much time being agitated and hand-wringy about it. Hang on until he grows out of it.

There are so so so many issues with children. But with most of them, Paul and I will suddenly say to each other "...Hey! Whatever happened to such-and-such an issue?" and we realize it just petered out and stopped being an issue. It's easy for me to get super-focused on SOLVING A PROBLEM---when the problem is part of a developmental stage (either for kids in general or for this kid in particular), and there's no solving it except by waiting for it to not be an issue anymore. "Kids waking up wanting to nurse in the night" is not an issue anymore. "Kids resisting the potty" is not an issue anymore. Elizabeth no longer requires us to sit in her room while she falls asleep. Rob no longer shrieks in the bathtub as if he's being killed. Henry no longer cries all the way through swimming lessons. Rob no longer repeats everything a million times. William no longer makes that horrible sound. I haven't fretted about a certain child's certain issue in YEARS, and it used to occupy a good part of every single day.

Considering nothing is working anyway, I am going to try waiting for this, too, to be over. It's not very practical in the "How do I handle it the next time he does X?" sense, but it's helpful for reducing my hair-tearing reactions to it. Instead of feeling like it's something I'm going to have to BEAT out of him by ANY MEANS NECESSARY, I'm feeling more like it's an irritating stage and I don't necessarily have to fix it. I can say "Henry, the voice" in a weary voice, and not have to turn every single incident into a long and hard-fought battle to victory/defeat.

It occurs to me that if this is such an amazing idea, I should apply it to the teenager who watches my every child-disciplining move and then explains to me how unfair it was to him. Certainly that too is a developmental stage that will one day pass. But I don't think I can manage applying a wait-it-out attitude to something that's so much closer to behaviors I can easily imagine on a highly unpleasant adult. I am thinking more along the lines of the scolding I just read in Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye:
"I just want you to know," she was saying, "that I'm going to have to apologize to your wife every single day of your marriage, for raising such a selfish and inconsiderate person."

53 comments:

nicole said...

My 4 yo daughter makes me feel the same way on a regular basis. But we have just enough glimpses of it getting better that we are taking the same approach as you and waiting it out. And also paying babysitters a lot to get breaks. Expensive but better than being miserable.

ToyLady said...

I feel for you. My son was an absolute horror at times.

JodieG said...

Thank you for reminding me, on this the day the nine year olds have wrung me totally out just getting ready for school, that my big parenting mantra is:
This too shall pass.

Because it does.

MomQueenBee said...

Yes! This, this right here, is the secret to parenting. This, too, shall pass: If you could patent it you would make a million dollars.

Swistle said...

Nicole- Ha ha, YES. I signed him up for TEN WEEKS of summer preschool. I was willing to make a LOT of cuts elsewhere for that.

Leeann said...

My youngest is a "more" child. I can't tell you the number of times I have cried and moaned and felt like one of really might not survive his youth. He's now ten and it is mostly better but there are still days of me sincerely hoping I can get him to 18 and out of the house with both of us still breathing.

I have earned every single parenting day with this kid-- but I also have to say he is wildly creative, funny etc. But damn, I also have to say that I would never ever marry someone like him in a million years!

PS- I finished the new Anne Tyler book last week. It was all right. Not great. I am currently reading the first book of the Gone series- a YA series that my almost-17-year old daughter got me started on. It's pretty good!

Jen LC said...

ugh. they're just kind of jerks sometimes.

not that we don't love them and cherish them and feel utterly blessed to have every single minute with them. but sometimes: jerks.

i hope it does pass because your youngest is the same age as my oldest, and there's a firecracker baby sister coming right up behind her.

amyunicorn said...

Oh I do remember going through things similar to this. The FRETTING and the GUT WRENCHING and the TORMENTING MYSELF. And then, wait... what was I worried about again?!

And the teenager? Yikes. I'm heading into it with a 13yo girl, and I spend a LOT of time asking her how she'd feel if that was said/done to or gossiped about her.

kate said...

Henry is the same age as my daughter and oh my God, yes. I love this. Please please please let it pass.

Ann Wyse said...

This is really *just* what I needed to hear today. I am really struggling with my oldest, a 5 year old who is just - well, let's just say out of control. I'm hair clenching, calling my mother daily, searching and searching for the silver bullet parenting book - because, What am I doing wrong? There must be a way to make this better!

If I say, oh, it's developmental, I'm worried I'm not addressing it. What if I make it worse by ignoring it??But, yes, MY anxiety...it's not making anything any better.

So thank you! Thank you for writing this. Because especially with my first one, it's hard to have this kind of perspective.

And I just I need to hear this A LOT right now.

Amanda said...

I remember this stage as well and think you are COMPLETELY spot on. Wait it out. My former little beast is now 11 and dh and I keep looking at each other in awe and saying how delightful he has been the past few months. I'm sure the teen years will bring it all around again but right now...we are enjoying him.

Of course this is the time that the youngest, now 9, is ramping up the drives-me-nuts behavior. It's like they tag in and out.

Thanks kids. I appreciate never having a dull moment. <---sarcasm

Jen said...

Oh this sounds exactly like mine right now. I mean for the last two weeks, EVERY DAY, our child has had an "incident" report where he is the instigator or a note on his daily sheet saying he yelled at his teachers multiple times. *sighs* This too shall pass. I like that.

I feel for you. And really thank you because I was seriously stressing and at my wits end on what to do about it, feeling like we've tried everything, to no avail.

Joanne said...

I was just saying the other day that my two older daughters are such JERKS. I meant it with regard to them being so, so noisy around their six month old sister and it's impossible to get her to nap with them bleating away. But I said they were jerks to some friends of mine and they were kind of horrified. I am used to it, I say the truth about my kids and other mothers look at me like I've said I'm going to kill them at the end of the year. It's crazy! They are acting like jerks! It's not inappropriate for their ages, four and three, but it's still THERE, the jerkiness.

I am just waiting, waiting for it to get better, particularly with my four year old. I just have to not think about my three year old coming up behind her and being the same kind of jerk, or the six month old, being a jerk too. Just one jerk at a time, ha!

juliloquy said...

Awesome post, and right on. I have to say that I mostly disliked my son when he was 4-5. Six got a little better and 7 is golden.

Great quotation, too -- will file it away and hope not to have to use it.

jen(melty) said...

I have one of those too, and I was reading some parenting book because of issues with another one of my kids and there was one thing in that whole book that stuck to me, which was, you have 3 choices in the matter... 1. you can stick to your guns and choose this battle.. 2. you can try to wire up your day to avoid this particular issue. 3. You can do nothing. There was a whole section there about how "doing nothing" is NOT going to screw your kid up, that the kid probably knows he's breaking rules left and right, and that kids want to be good, but sometimes they can't. If that's too preachy for you then I will say that I was driving down the highway at 70mph yesterday while he screamed and threw stuff at me and kicked my seat and I told him to "stop being an asshole and let me drive!"

Shari said...

I totally thought you were talking about my 4.5 year old. The daily, hourly, breaking of known household rules. And the utter surprise when he is punished! And the complete uselessness of any punishment.
Sigh - I HOPE it is a stage, becuase I keep blaming it on the fact that he is in daycare all day and is jealous of his little sister. And of course, it must be my poor parenting, so I would love to blame it on a stage instead!

liz said...

Sending hugs and love and supportive thoughts.

I too, have been there and done that (though I have an only child, so the sibling dynamics don't come into play).

And I'm not going to give any advice about how to handle it, except to say that you should handle it in the way that is easiest on your psyche, whatever that is.

Anne said...

Having a slightly older child than some of my friends (born in 2008), my advice to them is almost ALWAYS, he/she will grow out of it. Six months ago was a VERY trying time in our house with little miss 3 year old, and it is a distant memory now, because she is fun, pleasant, nice, etc. Nothing I did, she just grew up a little bit. So yeah, just hang in there :)

Mary said...

Oh, this should be printed up and put in the owner's manual that you get when you have a new baby. My kids are older, and you're exactly right, it always passes. Some days, the best you can do is just not kill them.

I also love that you can have such a sense of humor about dealing with the teenagers. That's the only thing that got me through it.

Hang in there. My mother says that grandchildren are the reward you get for not killing your teenagers.

Josefina said...

Oh, I sympathize with you. And, I agree with you completely.

Sometimes I have been in awe at how many times I have to repeat something (..."the VOICE."). I am coming to realize that it just takes a very long time to socialize a child. They've arrived in a strange land and need to learn all the ways of the humans with whom they now live, and I am the one to teach them the ways of humans.

el-e-e said...

*Joining arms and lighting candles in a communal "ME TOO."*

Because seriously.

Blythe said...

My 5yo is killing me softly (loudly) as well. And to make matters worse, I thought, "Oh I'll read the Ames & Ilg book about five year olds and maybe it will make this all seem normal!"

NOPE.

According to the book, five-year-olds are supposed to be so wonderful that you can't believe it. ARGH. Apparently my 5yo was not part of their study.

Doing My Best said...

I REALLY like that quote. I think I will need to MEMORIZE that because I can see it getting A LOT of use around my house!

Jenny said...

I was JUST saying to my friends that I get so caught up in these issues, like they will ALWAYS be part of my kid's life, whatever the issue is. Like, my daughter has been teasing someone, and that means that she is THAT kind of kid, the mean kind, and will grow up to be a cruel high-school girl and an adult with no real friends, and what kind of parent am I, to raise such a person? Even though I know perfectly well that every parent should have written in letters of gold over every door: This Too Shall Pass.

Lora said...

I call this parenting method "Surrender" and it has worked wonders! For me, not the kids. But that solves the problem anyway. Once I surrender to an issue, just accept it and wait it out, it eventually goes away and there is not so much unpleasant arguing.

Elizabeth said...

OH MY GOD YES THIS IS ELI IT IS KILLING ME. I mean, I HATE parenting this child. I love with every fiber of my entire being, but I HATE parenting him right now.
How old is Henry? They are the same age ish, right? Because man, do I pray to God every minute of every day that this is a phase and he is not just a TOTALLY HORRIBLE PERSON. He is the first, so I have less perspective that it's something that we'll just through, so I really appreciate yours, however hard fought. And I can't write about it either, because then someone will sugggest "Choices! Reading Love and Logic! Positive Parenting!" as if I have not tried everything ever in the history of time to try parenting this child.
You just described it so well it made me ANXIOUS! It's me in the middle of all this trying to do NICE THINGS (like read a book or give out pretzels) and Eli just WRECKING IT every time and me wondering why I even bother. Why do I even bother? BLARGH WITH THESE CHILDREN.

crimsonkirk said...

This is an excellent post - so honest, and such a trying account of one mishap after another, and of course I have been there, continue to be there at times, and I like your take on it...it is mine sometimes, too! And other times I yell, or escape into books or the tub, or overindulge...the circle of life, I suppose!

Jess said...

We are right there with ya sister. Holy moly. My four year old. Bless her. Bangs head against wall...

Nicole said...

Try the duct tape.

Swistle said...

Elizabeth- He'll be 5 in May. Which I just realized is next month. Huh. Five more months until kindergarten!

Elizabeth said...

Eli turned 5 in February, so yes, about the same. Which is SO WEIRD because I still think of Henry as your tiny baby.
Anyway. I am thinking of buying one of those giant LED countdown light bar thingees and installing it in the dining room so it can count down the hours until kindergarten starts. Too much?

BKC said...

The 1-2-3 Henry whacking, kneeing, and elbowing you is what made me yell, "Me too!" Because my kid just turned five last month and she is HURTING ME! WTF, kid? She slams her head into my lips/teeth, or accidently pokes the corner of her book into my ear. We talk about slowing down and noticing people and even though it's obviously accidental, if feels so damn careless it's almost deliberate.

Also, the back-talk? Delivered with a smirk, then an "angelic" smile? I deserve a medal for not thwacking her. The timeout chair stays warm from one incident to the next, I swear.

a-non-mouse said...

My oldest just turned 5 this April and I have slowly been losing it. Almost every night for weeks, I've pretty much stormed out of the house with the baby and/or toddler, leaving DH to deal with the 5-y.o. at bedtime. (nice conflict management modelling! nice stoking of fear of abandonment! vicious cycle! I know! but it's better than any other impulse I have. hence anon)

I take a parenting book with me for once the little one(s) fall asleep. BTW, the book says that the three ages of rebellion are 2, 5, and puberty and this too shall pass.

Anon

Angelique said...

I loved this post and all the comments. I feel like my five year old is behaving worse than my two year old. I'm so glad I'm not alone in this.

CARRIE said...

I am forever carrying on in my blog about my middle child. I even went out and, gasp, purchased a $5.99 parenting book because I am so.stinking.desperate. And it boils down to what you say, a developmental thing, and his personality.....neither of which I can do anything about. So I've decided to have more dates with my husband and drink more liquor.

Leigh said...

My younger daughter was ... a handful, let's just say, when she was preschool-age, and NOTHING worked. Time-out? Wouldn't stay put. Swat on the behind? No big deal. Take away toys/privileges/TV? "I didn't want to play with that/do that/watch that anyway." We were at our wits' end, and then ... she just grew out of it. She's 10 now and is actually quite pleasant to be around most of the time.

Hang in there; this, too, shall pass.

Christina said...

This sounds exactly like my Goddaughter's sister. We often joke that she should be rented out to teenagers as birth control.
Honestly, I think it's just a personality trait. Nothing you're doing "wrong" or anything that needs to be tested or altered or "fixed."
My Goddaughter is 5 and her sister is 3, so it can be so distracting to spend time with them. Esp since I'm trying to cultivate a meaningful relationship with my Goddaughter and give her attention, but the 3 year old is just SUCKING IT UP.
I heard a terrific analogy from another acquaintance that knows these 2 sisters-- the 5 year old is a cat and the 3 year old is a puppy. Cat children just need to be fed, watered, and will ask for minimal attention when they want it. Puppy children are just spaz in your lap, in your face, lick, lick, whine, pee on the floor, eat your shoe, always needing attention and affection.

Sarah said...

Great post, Swistle. I've spent the last couple of weeks trying ever so hard to STOP parenting out of fear. My middle child is so willful, so tempermental and I've been so scared that it's some harbinger for a future personality. But it's not, it'll pass, he's FINE. Grumpy, yes; F'ed for life, not so much.

And posts and comments like this are keeping me in check when we spend every single morning engaged in a giant struggle to WEAR THE DAMN SHIRT.

shriek house said...

GREAT post. Man, I really appreciate hearing your perspective 5 kids in. I fret about my youngest (of two) SO MUCH and while in some ways it is warranted, in many more ways I should just ease up a little. Thanks for the really good reminder.

Mrs. Irritation said...

Thank the gods for vodka.

M.Amanda said...

If my daughter could understand it, I would sometimes explain my crankiness to her the way my husband and I explain it to each other, "I love you so much, but right now I don't like you very much."

Maggie said...

It's always surprising to me how often I have to relearn the lesson of this too shall pass. I'd think that after having one kid, I'd have got the hang of it. But no. With kid two the issues are different but the desire to tear out hair is the same. My husband and I look at each other, wonder what we're doing wrong, look forward to a life of hell, and finally days later (sometimes) remember whatever the problem is will pass. Sometimes waiting for the passing is a bitch though and that's when I have wine with dinner. Every night.

Sarah said...

Just chiming in to the cacophony of empathetic moaning because, as you know, ME TOO with our will-be-five-in-August boy. I sometimes feel awful for how often I document our frustrations with him, but then I feel like maybe I'm doing him a favor because if he ever has bewildering memories of being constantly either scolded or hugged, I'll be able to show him my blog and say, "See? It's because you were ALWAYS being rotten and getting in trouble and then I was ALWAYS feeling bad about how I had just yelled at you and then had to give you cuddles to make up for it!" Save him a few therapy sessions, maybe.

vanessa said...

I love this post. ..perhaps you could make a Henry dartboard?


with most of the boys that I have known who fit into this particular mold, the things that helped were, basically, running them a lot and....waiting. ignoring everything possible (if you read the explosive child, it gives you this basket system--basket A for stuff you will fight over, basket b for stuff you will let go, baslet C for stuff you will negotiate about...and the idea is that there are developmental stages when a lot of stuff has to go in basket B). That was actually a really long parenthetical statement that basically said everything I wanted to say...

Alexicographer said...

Oh yes. Thanks for this. I sent my son (5) away from the table (really the kitchen island) the other night because he was swiveling ... swiveling ... swiveling his chair like a maniac. But I mean really, what mom sits her 5-year old at supper in a chair that spins (all our island chairs spin) and expects him to sit still? What mom? Duh. I actually went and apologized to him and invited him back. And reminded myself that ... he will grow out of this. By 40 -- right?

Slim said...

I was all set to recommend a good boarding preschool, but you beat me to it.

How about time travel so you can be an upperclass Englishwoman with a nanny, who can lead Henry into the drawing room after his bath to say good night?

Misty said...

I find that 4 is a tough age. In some ways even worse than 3, because (in my mind) they should be practically human by 4, you know?

It really will get better.

Vegas710 (St) said...

You've described my 3.5 yr old to a tee. She's equal parts Incredibly Frustrating and Crazy-Entertaining. The description you gave is exactly how our days go, I have countless bruises from her monkey-climbing my body. DH worries more than I do but I've had a couple of "come to cheeses" moments of realizing I have to work much harder to avoid spoiling her because it's so much easier to give in.

brzeski said...

Oh, punkin. I'm so sorry.
I will tell you this story in the hope that it gives you hope, and the strength to not pull out the whiffle bat just one more day:
In early December I talked to my therapist rather tearily about how difficult my (3.75 yo) son was and how I was really struggling and MAN why wasn't it getting any better. Then life intervened and I wasn't able to see her for a while and in late February, when she referred to her notes and asked how the son situation was progressing, I had to think for a minute to even understand what she was referring to. It had gotten that much better that quickly. I think we were right at the tail end of the really awful part.
I think you probably are too.
Hugs!

Jenny said...

@ Slim I have had so many Mary Poppins fantasies, I can't tell you.

I meant to say earlier that these days, when people ask me how my son is, I say in sincere tones, "Awful. Like Richard the Third. He'll commit a murder any day." They laugh but they DON'T KNOW.

beyond said...

i loved this post!
hope i remember to reread it in 4 years (or 2? or 6?) when i will have fantasies of selling my baby on ebay. (hard to imagine now, but i'm already certain it will happen.)
hang in there, swistle..

The Amazing Trips said...

Your Henry sounds very much like my Henry. Thank heavens for the moments of extraordinary cuteness or he'd be out on the curb.

A few months ago, he was under the kitchen table, gnawing his siblings on their legs while they kicked him about the face and head. After I asked once - twice - three times for him to please come out from beneath the table because sweetie, MOMMY IS LOSING HER PATIENCE and you are going to have your teeth kicked in - - I reached under and grabbed him by the waist. As I pulled him out, he pivoted and smacked his face on the floor. When he looked up at me, crying, his incisor tooth was gone. As in - knocked clear out of his head. His front tooth, which was dangling precariously, was knocked out two months later when he and his brother fell in to one of their (hourly?) daily wrestling matches.

The worst part of it all - aside from the pain for him and guilt and shame on me - is that my husband was out of town on a business trip. He was returning that night and we couldn't go pick him up at the airport because everyone was horrified over what had happened and I was on the phone with the pediatric dentist who was talking me off the ledge. It was a horrible call for me to make, "Sorry honey, I can't come get you at the airport because I knocked out our baby's front tooth...!"

Every time I look at him now, I think of that moment and whatever feelings of frustration are replaced by remorse and even gratitude that he wasn't hurt worse. So, that daily reminder to keep my cool is almost like a little gift from the Universe.

Considering only one of our seven-year-old triplets has lost any of their top teeth, Henry shouldn't have lost those teeth for at least another three years. We are definitely late tooth losers around here - unless you really tick Mommy off. (I actually heard one of the kids say to another, "Don't make her mad or she'll KNOCK your teeth out.")

God Speed, Swistle. God Speed.

swimmermom said...

My little terror is now 10. He is a great, amazing, smart, rule-following, self-motivated kid who gets raves from his teachers and has tons of friends. I echo the person who said she wasn't sure (and still isn't always) that both she and her trying child would both make it to his adulthood alive. I felt that way for about the first six years.

I made the mistake of venting to a childless friend about how challenging it was to parent this kid. A week later a package from Amazon arrived: she had sent me a book about living with a person with borderline personality disorder. After I got over my puzzlement (… why did she send me this book??) and realized that she meant it to help me deal with my **4-yr-old**, I died laughing.

I pretty much ended up where you are: hanging on, doing the best I could, choosing to greet him with love every morning no matter how much he pushed my buttons the day before.

Oh, ymmv, but my guy is also a man of action and I have to parent him physically, not only verbally. I can't call out to him from across the room, I have to actually go to where he is and SHOW him what he is allowed to do, or if it is a verbal thing, say it directly to him while making eye contact. It's even better if we can do some kind of activity/work side by side while I explain or demonstrate.

He is one of three kids and the others are nothing like him, so I know it is his personality and not something my husband and I did!