My Little Emphatic Boy

How does one help a child that has inherited your ability to feel? My little man has emotions that are far too big for his little heart and soul to absorb. His feelings are huge, his tears are confused and his temper rages like the Incredible Hulk, only to quickly flame out, leaving him just as bewildered as the rest of us.

He started seeing a child psychologist. What little boy scratches his arms to keep from crying so that the other boys in his classroom don’t call him the “emotional one” when he cries? My little boy, that’s who. He has always been sensitive. Others have noticed. His father complains about it when I drop him off, saying, “He is just too sensitive, he needs to toughen up.” But why? Why can’t he be allowed to feel? He can’t stand to think that he has done something wrong. He has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, which you can see clearly at school.

He is almost nine now and is still struggling. Instead of crying when someone corrected a simple mistake he started scratching. He said it helped to keep him from crying. He was confused about why I didn’t want him to do that, since it wasn’t hurting anyone but him. I scratched my arm lightly and he became very upset and grabbing my hands, saying, “Mommy, please don’t hurt yourself!” I didn’t, but then we talked about how sad and concerned that made him feel, and that is why Mommy is so sad when he does that to himself. He hasn’t done it since. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but I was hoping to appeal to his softer nature, to show him that he was so very loved that it actually hurts other people when he hurts himself. I don’t know if he got it or not.

He is well-liked. He even has a “girlfriend” that follows him around saying, “I L-O-V-E Y-O-U” and makes him turn red. I guess spelling it is not the same as saying it? He is smart. He tested high in math. He struggles in reading, it can’t hold his attention. We have tried book after book, program after program and it is improving. It just hasn’t quite clicked yet. But when he doesn’t get his work done on time, or makes a mistake he has a melt down. The tears turned into scratching and have developed into anger. He will crunch his paper, toss his book, kick the wall. He never hurts another person, but he certainly is having a hard time.

Last week I went to pick him up and he was pacing between the desks… face red, tears flowing. He had his hands up on the sides of his face, his emotions sending him into a panicky mixture of anger and sadness. He had tossed an eraser at another boy. The boy was grinning when he said he had tossed a scissors at him. The teacher did not believe there was a scissors involved but he could not handle that anyone would think he might have done that and was having a complete meltdown. I helped him get ready, explained that I believed him, and loved him and took him home. He quickly calmed. But how do I help him self-soothe? I can’t be there at school all day. I can’t intervene when I am not with him?

His father is a bully with a drinking issue. He thinks that he is “making him tougher.” He doesn’t need to be tougher. The kid is almost nine and only a year and half away from being a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido. He is tough, physically. His emotions are soft. I want them to stay that way. Once his father pinned him down and hit him in the back, in play, but too rough. He wanted him to stop. His father told him that “wimps tap out” so he finally tapped out. His father stopped but called him a wimp. His father checked for bruises. If he was playing so rough that there was fear that he left a bruise then he was WAY out of line. There were no bruises but my son was sore for a few days. Unacceptable. Documented. Documented as well with the psychologist. He came home with a bruise on his buttocks. His father said that he kept sticking his butt in his face so he bit it. He left a bruise. My son was mad at him for several hours and came home wearing two pars of underwear. Unacceptable. Documented and documented with the psychologist.

I asked him if Daddy ever hit him, or hurt him in anger. He said no, never. He knows he can tell me. He always tells me. His father tells him that his Mommy doesn’t have a real job. My son gets upset and defensive. It is not right for him to put a child in the middle of his thoughts and to disparage me. He is a child, not a pawn. He is a human with emotions that don’t need to be played with or confused. I tried talking to him. He does not listen. He listens to Captain Morgan or Windsor or Jack. One day he is the nice man that I remembered and loved, the next he is a jackass that I would just as soon hit with my car than speak to. It all depends on which man I get that day. He loves his son. He just is not good at understanding emotions. Understood, given his history, but not an excuse and not okay. We left in a hurry for a reason when my son was only five months old.

I am scared. I don’t want my son to struggle. I am trying hard. We are using the tools from the psychologist. It is hard to be patient. It is hard not to be frustrated. I pray the tools work. I pray we get it right. I pray that his father’s dysfunction doesn’t cause my son issues as he grows up. I pray that he doesn’t have a problem with addiction. Alcohol is not a way of life that I want him seeing and believing in. I try to curb my thoughts from voicing my feelings when he tells me things that his father has said about me. I can’t make it stop so there is no point in getting upset. It is hard when others say things about you that are not true and you can’t defend yourself because it would involve placing a child in the middle. I just tell him how it really is. I ask him if he sees me going to work every day. He says yes. I explain that if he knows I go to work every day then he knows that my job is real. It seems to satisfy him. This is only one example of too many of these conversations. I focus more on him. I tell him that he is not too sensitive. I tell him how smart and wonderfully funny and strong he is. I tell him how proud of him that I am.

I support his activities, hauling him from here to there and making every program, every game, every belt testing, only to see his little face fall when his father misses yet another event. I just tell him, “maybe he will come next time.” He shows up for maybe one a year. Each time I see my son hoping it will be “this one.” But it never is. My son said, “I don’t know why we bother telling Daddy, he won’t come and not because he is busy. He loves my sister more than me.” (He has a half sister that lives with his father sometimes). I don’t know how to answer it. I tell him, “Daddy loves you.” We move on from it. He knows. He knows because he sees it. She gets things if they go shopping, the last time it was a basketball, a softball and a softball glove. My son got nothing. Not cool at that age. He didn’t say anything but it hurt his little heart and he told me again when he got home that “Daddy doesn’t love me. He goes to all of her games. He doesn’t come to mine unless he has to.” My heart breaks for him. Love is not material but at that age, it was very unfair to do that in front of him. This weekend is his weekend at his father’s. He has a tournament. I offered to come get him and to bring him back. His father said he would bring him. I hope that he does, otherwise I will go get him. He did this once last year and came but then was upset because he wanted to take his daughter to a batting cage during the tournament and it wasn’t open. My son heard him and his little heart was crushed.

I maintain discipline but he is kind of spoiled. The age difference between him and his siblings is 11 years. He is pretty much an only child.  I spoil him but I also make him work for his special things. He saved $42 and bought himself 1/2 of a refurbished chromebook so he could use his school programs at home. I agreed to pay half. I was very proud of him. He comes to work with me some weekends when I groom dogs and earns part of what I earn when he helps. If he doesn’t help he doesn’t get paid. It is easy work for him, holding the dryer, brushing a dog, getting the shampoo… but he needs to be involved to get his cut. I want him to have work ethic, to understand the value of money, to understand that the harder you work the more you make.

I can only hope and pray that as he grows he will keep his head on straight and see life for what it is… a whole lot of opportunities. Right now he wants to grow up to train police and military dogs. He could do it. He already trains service dogs with us. He is good at it. His father says that he can’t do that, that he needs a real job, that he needs to join the military. It is a pipe dream because he has asthma and probably wouldn’t get accepted, but his father plants the seed as often as he can. If he chooses the military ON HIS OWN I will support him. If he doesn’t, I WILL SUPPORT HIM. His father should be doing the same. Who knows where life will take him? Let him grow up and see who he is and what he wants to be.

Venting time is over……….. rambling thoughts are still tumbling but I think I have gotten most of them out for now….. thank you for listening.

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The Death of an Old Friend

How should one react to the death of an old friend? Someone that you spent a lot of time around, laughing, joking and truly enjoying 20 years ago? Someone that may have asked you out once or twice, but timing and circumstances led you to decline? Someone whose face you are used to seeing around now and then but didn’t seek out anymore. Someone who you were still comfortable sitting down next to if you happened to be in the same establishment, sharing stories and laughing at jokes?

It hurt when I heard of his passing, and then I almost felt a little guilty because our friendship had passed into more of an acquaintance status and it seemed like I didn’t have the right to mourn his passing like those that were currently active in his life. Is there a correct way to grieve? Was it wrong of me to sit on my sofa and think of my friend, crying tears over the loss that I felt? Is it wrong that when I think of him now that I feel a little chunk of something missing from my heart. I probably only saw him once a month, yet I will still miss his face in the crowd.

I am not sure how I am supposed to feel. I think that each person grieves differently. I drew him a poster, when I was 18, a super-sized AC/DC Monsters of Rock poster off of a tiny little picture on the back of a movie cover. It wasn’t a perfect drawing. Still, on the day of his death, 23 years later, he had it hanging on his wall. The picture would mean nothing to anyone else, held no monetary value to anyone, but it meant something to him and it meant something to me. Maybe it was a connection? I don’t know. A friend that was helping settle the estate saved the poster for me and I now have it in my home. I am uncertain what I should do with it. Do I hang it up? I think I will, somewhere private, somewhere that visitors won’t see it but where every now and then I will be reminded of him.

I miss him.

On Lost Trust

Can you judge someone for crimes not committed against you? Can you look at someone that you once trusted, after hearing something devastating about their past, and see them as exactly the same person that they were a moment ago? How do you move on from that?

One of my daughters, now an adult of 19, broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years about a year ago. He had trouble with the truth. Overall he was a nice guy, he cared about her, but the relationship reached its end, as they tend to do with young love and they both moved on. However, she carried the hurt with her. It took her a year to decide to date someone new.

She seemed to become almost obsessed with her new beau, constantly telling me all of the good things about him and spending as much time with him as she possibly could, even going so far as to break ‘curfew’ (very unlike her) a few times before she came to her senses and realized that the time she tells me she will be home is a courtesy, not a rule. She lives under my roof. The rule is that she gives me a time and she adheres to it. I recognize that she is now considered an adult. But I am still a parent that will wake up and search for her child with fear in her heart if she isn’t where she said she would be. I don’t know how else to be.

Back to the boyfriend. I had heard whispers of him from others, that he was a “player” and that he was “controlling.” My daughter is strong and independent when it comes to getting bossed around so I am sure the controlling part of it didn’t last long. In fact, she pointed out that she could quite possibly be the first woman in his life to tell him where to go when he tried to dictate her choices. He seems to be a perfectionist, getting excellent grades, carrying one certificate from college and going on to a long term goal in the legal world. He is involved in school programs, president of the council. On paper he seems perfect.

Her tears this morning tore at me. He confessed to having cheated on not one, but two of his last two girlfriends. The player theory confirmed. But it isn’t even that. Of course, he told her that this is different, that he would never to that to her, that she is special. She told him that the beginning of each new relationship is always different and special and filled with romance and good intentions, and that eventually the newness wears off and then relationships require work and maintenance. She is scared. She is worried. What will happen if they are together in two years and she goes off to the bigger university to finish her last four years of college and she is away from him? What happens if he grows bored with her? She doesn’t want to be that clingy girl that practically stalks her boyfriend, yet she doesn’t want to be the clueless girl at home thinking her boyfriend is fast asleep only to find out later that he had wandered to another’s bed.

She made him promise that if he ever even thought of cheating on her that he would break up with her first. Like her mother, she would rather get dumped than find out that she wasn’t enough, wasn’t actually that special or that loved. Of course, if he is going to cheat and that is his character, then it is doubtful that he will take her feelings into consideration before he does it. She is torn. She does not want to break up with him for things that he didn’t do to her. Had she known, she never would have gotten involved in the first place. She is not one to trust blindly. Trust is earned. Trust is built. How can she get that back? The doubt remains. How does she get past it? How does she forget that he has done this, more than once, and not worry that she will be the next clueless woman on the list?

I feel for her. No, she can’t punish him for something he hasn’t done to her. However, you wouldn’t hire a jewel thief to work in your jewelry store either, not without serious trepidation. Her heart is a precious jewel, carefully guarded and filled with hopes and dreams. Maybe this is different for him. Maybe this time he won’t go down that road. I told her to slow down, to get to know him better, to let him earn her trust.

Maybe this relationship is irreparable, maybe not. Nobody is perfect, people make mistakes. How many times are we allowed to make the same mistake and still think we have a valid excuse? Maybe she can get past it. What I do know for sure is that she shouldn’t have to struggle. She is young, just starting her life, and the fidelity of her partner isn’t something that should be piled on top of her list of invisible medical issues. I hope he treats her heart carefully, because if one more man lets her down it will surely deepen a scar that she shouldn’t have in the first place.

Really? Strep? Again?

Almost two weeks ago my five year old little man came down with scarlet fever… basically strep with a rash. He was given medication and was soon feeling better. His rash finally went away a few days ago. Yesterday he spiked a 101 fever and it continued throughout today. I didn’t mess around and took my sad little boy to work with me and then to the doctor only to find out he has strep again. Poor buddy! I was concerned that he never got rid of it and she said it was possible but that it is more likely that he got it again, since he was feeling better. She decided to put him on penicillin. It took forever at the doctor’s office. During all of this my son got the wiggles and because we were at the clinic it took a bit to get him to the bathroom and, of course, he didn’t get his little jeans undone in time and ended up with a mess. He was embarrassed. He didn’t feel good. I was flustered, but remained calm for his sake.

When we finished up at the doctor we went and got him a pair of sweats and some new underwear so that he could go to the pharmacy without smelling like urine or having wet pants for the next hour. He never has accidents. My poor little man. Of course, there was some problem at the registers and we ended up waiting in line for nearly 20 minutes to make our purchase and then were pushed out of the way by some big scary looking man who obviously didn’t give a crap who was in his way when they opened up a new lane. My son was sick, wet, and had a fever. I couldn’t and wouldn’t leave him in the car, and there was no place else to take him while I got his medication. Single parenting at its finest. I just did my best not to let him touch ANYTHING. I got him changed in the car, and then headed off to the pharmacy where we learned that the doctor had accidentally submitted the wrong dose and had submitted the prescription again and that the pharmacy doesn’t carry liquid penicillin on hand for children. At this point we were both getting quite frustrated. I just sat down and snuggled with him while we waited for them to sort it all out and he ended up on Amoxicillin. As I was paying the pharmacist noticed that I had burst a blood vessel in my eye. Super cute. Now I look like something from a vampire movie and not the pretty ones.

We are finally home. I got some Motrin and his antibiotics in him and he is starting to feel better as his fever drops again. I am trying to relax and take a deep breath before I finish the first half of my final for one of my Advanced Coding classes. I got up at 3 this morning and finished it because I couldn’t sleep, so I really just need to review it and make sure I was somewhat coherent this morning.

Tomorrow…. well, tomorrow we are staying home. I am calling in sick and so is he. Perhaps things will be brighter after we both feel better. Here is to a better day!

Insomnia

I am tired. I need sleep. I want to close my eyes and detach the wiring that makes my brain start to spin on nights like this. I lay here and think….. Then I think some more. I think about my girls and how wonderful they are doing.

I think of my Taylor and how she has changed, how she got almost all A’s on her report card for the first time in years and how I didn’t have to bother her at all about homework or studying all trimester. Not once. I think about her future, how her Computer Science teacher told her she was the at top of the class and he really wants her to take the Advanced class…. She laughed and told him “Maybe next year, but I really don’t think a cosmetologist needs the advanced class.” I can hear him thinking that she is wasting a talent…but he doesn’t know that Taylor has many talents and intelligence is only one of them.

I think of Madison and her return to high school two years after her injury. I look at her attendance and see that she has missed at least 15 days in the last month due to bad headaches. The school has accepted this and is being very accomodating. Yet, she also has almost all A’s. She works so hard. Once again I don’t have to pester her. Sometimes when she is hurting I have to remind her, but she is self sufficient. I worry that she is depressed. She says she isn’t. I had her in a “group” class at school but the childish para chased her away by being less mature than her students. I worry that the injections she is getting now will not work, I worry that there are fewer and fewer roads to take to help with her pain.

I look at Jacob, sleeping so quietly. He was recently very ill with scarlet fever (which I learned was basically strep with a rash) and is finally feeling better. He has been crabby lately, emotional. He had a couple of seizures (something more complex than an absence seizure but not much more) where he spaces out for 20-30 seconds. The EEG showed normal and if he continues to do this he will need to have a 3-4 day EEG to see if they can catch an actual seizure. He is emotional. He is tired too. I drive him to school and pick him up in order to allow him some extra time to sleep each day. I put him to bed early. I guess being five is hard. He needs a nap but refuses anything of the sort, even if I make him lay quietly. I guess the age of “resting” is gone. I would like a nap, haha.

I worry about money. I worry about Christmas gifts. I worry about the mortgage and how I only have a couple days left in this month to get it paid. I wonder how I am going to get caught up. I worry about student loans, property taxes and getting new tires for my vehicle and the for the girls. I worry about how I am going to send them to college. I worry about things that it does me no good to worry about all night long. I know it will work out. Somehow. I will make it work because I always have.

I start final exams tomorrow and am not looking forward to them. I have one semester left and I will have both of my degrees (three if you count the one I got when I actually went to college the first time) and will be job hunting nonstop until I can make use of what I have learned. My grades are holding well and my professors are pleased with my work. Let us hope future employers will find my resume impressive as well.

Back to the pillow for me. The house will be awake soon. Puppies will want to go outside, little boys will want bacon and eggs, teenage girls will need to go to work and computers will stare back at me while I trip though several over-coded diagnoses.

Sleep well world, those of you that can.

No Dates Mom!

I needed to get out one evening last week, just for a little while. I was gone for a grand total of two hours and picked up groceries and critter food. Jacob (my five year old) and I had the following conversation regarding my absence:

Jacob: “So, Mom. Where did you go?”
Me: “To the store.”
Jacob: “I think you went on a date.”
Me: “I didn’t go on a date.”
Jacob: “If you live with a police man I am not going to live with you anymore.”
Me: “I am not dating a police man. I am not dating anyone.”
Jacob: “I know you went on a date.”
Me: “Jacob! I didn’t go on a date. A date is where you go out and have dinner or go to a movie and maybe have a few drinks with someone else. I definitely didn’t go on a date.”
Jacob: (with an exasperated eye roll) “Ughhhh! I am not even going to do this with you right now.”

Day by Day

Things are getting better at home. My troubled daughter has come around and seems to be finding herself, pulling herself out of the mess that she created and standing on her own. She straightened out her grades, cut contact with some very poor influences in her life, and has made a solid effort at home to be part of our family activities and chores. I am very proud of her. I have been trying so hard to be supportive of her, to stand behind her and let her make her choices but to be there when she needs guidance. She is learning to talk to me. I am learning to listen. Even though some of her fears don’t make sense to me I am learning to respect that they are very real to her and they need to be addressed. Our relationship has improved. The relationship between her and her twin has improved, although two sixteen year old girls in the same household are never going to see eye to eye, I think it is better.  I still hear lots of yelling about clothes, shoes, and there are a lot of “MOM!!!!’s” trailing up the stairs, but things are better. I am thankful that she has found her way, and thankful that I have been there for her throughout, letting her know that no matter what happens, no matter what mistakes are made, that I will always love her and be there for her, even when I am angry.

Her twin is fighting her own battles right now. She is torn between being an adolescent and a woman. Her body has developed. She is a beautiful girl and people are starting to notice. She has a boyfriend, but he is insecure with her and tells her little lies to impress her, sometimes big lies. I have explained to her that a person that lies about things that don’t matter will never be truthful when it comes to something important. She knows this. She has lost her trust in him but still cares for him deeply. I feel her pain. There is nothing I can do but let it run it’s course and let her find her own way. She is a smart girl. She will figure it out. I will be here for her when he lets her down, and I will be here when she stands up for herself and tells him goodbye. I will also be here for her when she spends her time crying tears over the loss of a teenage love. I remember those days, I feel her pain and indecision. He wants to step forward in their relationship, she is not ready. She is standing her ground and I am proud of her.

Me…. I am okay. I am feeling blessed. My son has been fairly healthy. We have been working and playing outside, painting, landscaping, playing in the mud and running through the sprinklers..things that the girls and I rarely did together growing up. I now realize that you truly need to “dance in the rain” before the rain stops – before your little one thinks dancing in the rain is silly and would rather hang out with friends. I am determined to let my last child play in the mud, help paint the house, dig holes in the yard, jump in the lake and do all of those messy things that perfect parents just don’t let their kids do. There are rules, of course, but why not? Why not let him get all muddy? Why not let him paint the birdhouse whatever color he wants? Why not?

My girls need guidance, they need their mom right now. My little man needs his Mommy to read him stories and give him love, cuddles and to watch him grow into a fine young man, a young man that doesn’t follow in his father’s addictive footsteps. He needs careful guidance so he can learn to make the right choices.

Love? I think love has passed through my life and gone. I don’t think that I will find it again. I wish I could. I wish it was out there for me. I am not pursuing anything and the odds of meeting someone in my life focused on my children and school are slim. I don’t really mind. I am independent. I rarely ask for help and when I do I don’t ask twice. Usually that means that I end up doing it myself. In the last month I have done a lot of things for the first time, such as change the battery in the lawn mower, learn how to use a voltage meter to find the short in the wiring of my lawn mower, patch holes in the wall, sand down my cupboards to make them look new again before refinishing, rewire the wiring for the air conditioner so that we didn’t melt in our own home, and etc etc. These things may not be a huge accomplishment for some people, but I am not that mechanical and I don’t have money to spend on a repairman… so I learn by myself. I teach my daughters as I learn. These are things that people should know how to do. There is no sense in being completely reliant on someone else to fix things.

Yet, I honestly do sometimes wish there was someone there with us to actually do these things for me. Sometimes I get very tired of being the strong independent single parent, especially when I get frustrated when I am trying to make something work and feel so helpless. Sometimes I wish there was someone else to run get the kids, or maybe make dinner, or even mow the yard. But, there isn’t, and no matter how much I long for those little things that a person takes for granted in a relationship, I am not seeking love. Maybe someday I will get lucky and it will find me. Who knows. Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently.

Peace. I can feel it ahead. I am happy for that. I am blessed with a beautiful family, and for that I am very thankful.