Wes is going to be the child that drives me to finally give in and get medicated for my anxiety. I’ve self-treated for my entire life, always seeing my friends and family who NEED medicine has having it SO MUCH WORSE so I never take that step because I feel like – in comparison – my anxiety is so much less. But lately? As I toss and turn at night worrying about my sweet youngest child? I think…Yep. We may be getting to the SO MUCH WORSE level any day now…
For age 2-5 the trouble was related to his anger and frustration and his inability to process those emotions in any way that didn’t require:
-Spitting on me
-Throwing stuff at me
When you have a lively child who doesn’t deal with their emotions well, you have two kind of reactions. I call mine SANE and INSANE because that is how they feel. The SANE reactions are the ones where I think to apply this new method I read about or maybe try that thing my friend said helped with their child. My SANE reactions are thought out or planned in advance and I have a hope that they’ll teach me something or help me in some way with my lively child.
Many (not most) of my reactions were of the INSANE variety and not well planned or thought out. They were off-the-cuff and strictly a product of the behavior of my child. They often involved yelling and periodically throwing. I threw a stuffed animal at a wall one time and the plastic eyeball left a hole. That felt GREAT.
It’s okay (I think?) to have those INSANE reactions. Most of mine involved yelling and I always felt shitty afterwards and vowed to not let his behavior catch me SO off guard that I couldn’t react sanely to the situations. But sometimes? It still got me off guard and the unread Mom came forward and just reacted in the moment, usually with yelling and sending to his room which had about ZERO effectiveness in the grand scheme of things.
SO! The SANE moments always revolved around helping him process his anger/sadness/frustration in healthier ways. I taught him the value of screaming into a pillow or punching his mattress. I taught him to ask me for hugs if he was just having a bad day and needed some love. (We use that one A LOT.) I taught him to TALK about what’s bothering him instead of throwing a fit. We learned to take deep breaths.
Age 5 through today (we are 6+) have been so much better in terms of how he processes those emotions. He asks for help a lot more and talks things out a lot more. He has his GGRRRRRRR! moments of frustration where he tries to stifle screams instead of throwing fits. He takes deep breaths.
But lately – the problem is new. Now we’re in a phase where he screams various declarations of self-hatred.
Last night, while I held him in my arms trying to just hug him to the point of relaxation he kept screaming:
I hate myself!
I’m so stupid!
I’m a bad boy!
I HATE MYSELF! I HATE MYSELF!
It was heartbreaking.
This has been trending for awhile but last night was the first time I really thought about what was going on. I wasn’t necessarily reacting with my INSANE self before, but I just would squash it by saying something like, I don’t like it when you say that! or That makes me sad because I love you!. You know, just mushy sentiments to try to placate.
But last night I tried to really think about it and I had no idea what to do so I just held him while he freaked out saying those things. I just sat there and hugged him while he kept saying, I hate myself! I’m so stupid! and my heart just shattered over and over and over again. This is a new phase for us, and I think it still very much relates to the old phase. The inability to express/process frustration/anger. I think it still comes back to me needing to work with him on talking things out. But sometimes I also wonder if he knows that saying that will get compliments thrown his way from me. Sometimes I’ll say, “Yes. You are being a big fat jerk. But you aren’t always a big fat jerk.” Because, well, sometimes he IS a big fat jerk. He colors on his sisters artwork or throws her favorite toy down the stairs. And he goes into the self-hatred fit when he gets in trouble. So I don’t want to necessarily respond entirely with compliments because he needs to know that his behavior is unacceptable.
But last night was different. Last night was just a full breakdown. He’d had a rough day (It’s Fall Break! Yay!) and he was frazzled and he had gotten in trouble a few times and it just culminated in one giant meltdown where he was just screaming about hating himself and all I could do was hold him. I didn’t even talk to him, honestly. I just held him and kissed him until he calmed down.
I guess I don’t have a point. Just maybe the first entry written on this new parenting road? So many firsts with this child. And so many chances – I feel – to screw him up forever.
Have you been there? Done that?