DAY from HELLSo I've had a really awful day, and I hope you guys don't mind if I vent. Sorry--this is going to be a book. Put on your reading glasses!
I thought it might be good for my son to try gymnastics, as he's very athletic and always trying to do flips, cartwheels, handstands, and other gymnastic-type moves, and he's also been wanting to be around more kids his age, so I found a highly recommended gymnastics studio and signed him up. We went to the first class a few weeks ago, and he was really excited, but then completely scared when we got there. I kept encouraging him, and he would go join his class, but then he'd start crying and come running over to me. I was sitting right there where he could see me. The teacher was very nice and kept asking him if he wanted to try the next thing they were doing, but he was too scared. I pushed him a little (in a gentle way) because he's had lots of problems with this kind of thing before (being fearful of new experiences), but has always felt very proud of himself when he was able to go through with something, but he still was really scared, so after encouraging him a few times to re-join the class, I just let him sit with me and watch.
After that, we talked about how scared he was, and we agreed that he could go back and sit and watch the class until he felt comfortable joining the class. He thought this was a good idea, and I wanted him to be able to master this task of taking a class like this. I also know that he'd LOVE the class if he could let go of the fear, since they get to do things like jump on the trampoline, which is something he's asked to do a million times.
So tonight we were supposed to go back to the class. I had assured him that he didn't have to do anything but sit there and watch with me until he felt ready to try the class. We were supposed to go eat first (I had just picked him up from daycare and it was close to dinner time), then go to the class. When we arrived at the restaurant, he said he didn't want to go to the class, but wanted to eat, then play in the kids' play area at the mall instead. I said that we could come back to the play area after his gymnastics class, but that right now we needed to eat, then go to gymnastics. He threw a HUGE tantrum, screaming at the top of his lungs about not wanting to go to gymnastics and wanting to play at the mall instead.
I was torn. Do I make him go to gymnastics so he learns to follow through and not just have a tantrum and get his way all the time and to help him work through that fear in a gentle manner? Or do I say, well, this is supposed to be enjoyable, and if he's screaming and crying, it's not enjoyable, so let's just bag it? After much internal debate, I decided on the latter, though I have to admit I was quietly angry. We had already made the 30 minute drive to the location, and I had already registered for the class. He was screaming and crying and insisting that he wanted to go out to eat and to play at the mall. I said that going out to eat was part of going to gymnastics (which it was), and since we weren't going to gymnastics, we would just go home and eat. I figured that he also didn't deserve the treat of going out to dinner with the huge tantrum he was throwing. And, I had given him snacks in the car (an orange, a granola bar, and a string cheese), so it wasn't like he was dying of hunger.
So I proceeded to head home, and he proceeded to scream, yell, and throw things from the back seat. He was completely out of control, saying "I hate you" and that sort of thing---something I thought I wouldn't hear until he was a teenager---he also often tells me that when he's a grown-up, he will never see me again. It's hard to take.
Through all this, I kept my cool, and just ignored the screaming and concentrated on driving. Once we were off the highway, the screaming really intensified to an ear-shattering level. I told him that if he didn't stop, I would pull over and we'd have a time out in the car. He chucked something at my head, so I pulled over and stepped outside of the car to get a break from the screaming and give him a time out. I called my mom because I was on the verge of a meltdown myself at this point. I know calling my mom is a bad idea, but I really have very few options, and I don't often feel strong enough to deal with this all alone. (It would be great if I had a parent friend who has gone through this with their child that I could talk to and get some support from. All my friends have those calm "angel" children, and when I talk about my son's behavior, they are completely baffled, and I feel a little bit of judgment at times, like I am not disciplining him properly.)
A side note on time outs: I know many of you don't agree with time outs, and neither did I originally. I am still conflicted, but I do know that just talking to my son about things didn't work and doesn't work. Before I tried time outs, his behavior was continuing to escalate and get more and more violent. Since using time outs, life is still very difficult, but the aggression has decreased about 80%, I'd say. The other major problems are there, and I hate when time outs become a battle of wills (sometimes I have to gently restrain him in a chair if he refuses to stay or is hitting me), but I'd say that overall it's better than any alternative I've tried.
So back to where we were: My son is in the car, having a time out in his car seat, and I am standing outside, talking to my mom on the phone, trying to calm down. My mom is being decently supportive, or as good as she gets, I guess. My son is screaming his head off and hitting the windows. When I open the door a few minutes later to tell him that he needs to calm down before we will continue home, he tells me that he has peed his pants. This is something he has started INTENTIONALLY doing on a regular basis during time outs, even though I will let him go to the bathroom, if needed. It's sort of a "Well, you can put me in time out, but I am going to pee my pants" sort of thing, him trying to have some control or get me upset.
So, he peed his pants, completely soaked the car seat, and it also went through to the vehicle seat below and soaked it. My car and carseat were soaked in urine. Great. After 40+ minutes of screaming and throwing things, I had had it.
And I was PISSED. As a single mom, I don't have lots of money, and I try to take care of the possessions I do have. My car is a 1998 Honda, so nothing fancy, but it's in good condition without any damage or rust, and looks and smells nice (or DID). Since I can't just go out and buy something new, I want to take care of what I do have. I know possessions aren't the most important thing, but I do value cleanliness, and I don't want to drive around in a car that smells like a Port-A-Potty.
I needed to clean this up, and I immediately realized that this posed a huge problem. I have a Britax Frontier carseat, one I chose because it's supposed to be one of the safest on the market, one that allows a child to wear a harness until 80 lbs, which is supposed to be safer than a booster seat. Unfortunately, I didn't realize when I bought it that I'd be unable to install it myself. It really requires two people to install.
So, I have a car and carseat soaked with urine. To clean both adequately, I need to remove the carseat from the car. I have no one to help me. If I remove the carseat and can't get it back in, I can't go to work tomorrow or the counseling appointment with my son's therapist, which I desperately need!!!!
We went home and I told my son that we had to clean the carseat. I was completely angry the entire time, even though my son was trying to be "good"--helping me, trying to give me hugs and kisses. I was so angry, and I feel bad about being so insensitive to him, even mean. I am just at my wit's end with him. I always feel like I don't know how to react. If I act "normal" and not upset, does that mean that the peeing all over the car doesn't matter? I don't know. I am constantly confused and second-guessing myself when parenting this child.
I tried and tried to get that carseat back in after cleaning everything, but I just couldn't. I was literally drenched in sweat trying to pull the seatbelt with all my might to get it connected, but I couldn't do it. I JUST LOST IT. I was sobbing and crying, so angry that I am so dependent and incapable of doing things myself. I was so angry that my only alternative was to call my parents for help. I was so pissed off at my son for doing this. Of course this was not how I wanted to spend my evening. I had worked all day, I was exhausted, I had been in the car for almost an hour with a screaming child, and now I had pee all over everything, and I was incapable of putting the carseat back in. I just HAD IT.
My mom said she and my dad would come down to get the carseat back in. Keep in mind this is a three-hour round trip drive, so I knew they would be resentful about it. This is how they work: they do things for me, but they resent it and make me pay through being cold or critical towards me or complaining about things.
When we went back to our apartment after cleaning the car to the best of my ability, my son just had one tantrum after another. He threw things at me several times. He had a huge sliver in his finger, and when I tried to look at it and take it out with tweezers, he hit me in the face. We had time out after time out, as things spun out of control.
When my parents arrived, my mom immediately doted on my son like he was a poor victim and basically ignored me like I was some cruel, terrible person. There was no warmth or concern from her at all. I asked her if she could get him in bed and read him some stories, since it was 9pm, but she said, "No, we're not doing it that way. Give me your keys. I am going downstairs, and your dad and I will do it." I said I wanted to help my dad since it was my carseat and I wanted to see if there was any way I could've installed it myself, like something I missed that would've made it possible to do alone. (Nope. It definitely needed two people.) My mom said no. I said, in a calm voice, "I am an adult, and I'd like to be able to make my own decisions about this." She said, in a disgusted tone, "Well, you weren't acting like an adult a while ago. You were completely out of control." Thanks for the support, mom. They always act like my reactions to my son are so wrong and that he is just a poor little thing that has an awful mom. (Of course they beat me, or "spanked," as they like to call it, but I was an awful child, so that was ok, according to them. Ironically, they will say that beating me was wrong, but then suggest that if I just spanked my son I wouldn't have these problems. They are a big mass of contradictions.)
I KNOW that not breaking down and sobbing and losing it would be preferable. I know that keeping my cool would be better. I know it's not good for my son to see me practically hysterical. It's just that this is a CONSTANT thing, a daily battle, except for a few days here and there that are good, or even wonderful at times.
I know that many of you reading this might just think "Why don't you medicate him then? He's obviously driving you crazy." I don't think medication is some magical pill that will solve everything. The medication they recommended is Risperdal, and the doctor said it would reduce his aggression, but it wouldn't help with the defiance or other behavioral issues. Though he still does act out aggressively at times, it's on the decline. At this point, it's more the screaming, refusal to listen, tantrums, and disobeying direct requests and rules that is the main problem. I am not sure medication would help with that. I also fear what kind of side effects medication could have, and, to be honest, I feel like him being on medication is a failure on my part. I know that when I am the "perfect parent"--patient, calm, loving, strong, creative in my approach, unable to be swayed when disciplining, energetic, interactive--that he does pretty well. This doesn't work 100% of the time, but maybe 50-60% of the time. But I just get so worn down by his behavior and my work schedule and lack of sleep that I just can't keep it up.
We also continue to have problems with him being unkind to the cat. Sometimes it's just him picking her up constantly and not letting her go when she wants down. Sometimes it's flat out meanness to the cat, intentionally hurting her or being mean to her (chasing her, screaming at her). Of course this is NOT ok with me.
This is what happened yesterday. My son asked to go swimming. It was my day off, so this is something we often do--go swimming, then go out for pizza. I was in the shower getting ready for us to go, and when I came out, he was really angry and not acting right with the cat. He doesn't like her to go into the bedroom because she hides under the bed, which she does because she's trying to get away from him. I want him to allow her to go into the bedroom if she wants because I think she needs that chance to escape, so we had a battle about that that ended with him having time outs. Finally I saw that he had a cat scratch on his face, and it eventually came out that he was angry at her because she scratched him, and that she had scratched him because he was holding her and wouldn't let her go. He said he doesn't want her anymore. He also shoved her roughly into the bathtub on Monday. There was no water in it, but he did that to be mean to her because he didn't want her in the bathroom when he was going potty.
It's just always one thing after another with him. I don't want to get rid of our cat, but neither do I want her to get hurt. Everything is so overwhelming my head just spins.
I have been reading the book Transforming the Difficult Child that was recommended to me, and I am trying to implement the suggestions there. I also checked into the Sensory Processing Disorder that someone else mentioned, and he definitely has some of those symptoms (more wanting to be over-stimulated than under-stimulated), but I don't know how many he'd need to be considered significant.
I go to see his therapist tomorrow. I am just completely burned out.
Oh, he's also been having nightmares almost every night, screaming and completely terrified. Last night he didn't want to go to sleep because he was so afraid of the nightmares he might have. They mainly have to do with "bad guys" getting us, which is no surprise after we went through the attempted break-in in May.
Well, I should end here. Not sure if anyone has any suggestions, but I do appreciate the support. Things are so up and down with him. It scares me because I've been wanting to date (after being single for five years), and I just think who would want to put up with this? I don't even want to put up with this behavior, and I am his mom and love him. I feel like I can't take it anymore, but what are my options? There is no option other than to just keep going and trying to survive.
I am thinking about looking into a naturopath or acupuncture/acupressure and Chinese medicine. I really want to feel like I've explored ALL avenues.
Thanks for reading. I don't really believe in this (not much of a religious sort), but pray for me, or whatever your equivalent of that is!!!! I need all the help I can get. I feel like I am drowning here. I am just so burned out that I can't even be the kind of parent I want to be anymore. I am running on empty.