OP i hear you. i really get how much under stress you are. i get how hard it is being a single mother and just trying to keep your head above water. let alone deal with a mean x.
i have all those factors in common with you. i have had to keep my bfeeding a secret - rather my dd had to coz her dad wanted her to stop when she didnt want to.
so the thing here is what do you want for your child. do you want him to cooperate? with whom? where?
at around 5 and a half my dd was a real pill. we were under a LOT of stress. i had a LOT of help having people listen to me vent so that i got some relief from the stress i was under. i got my needs met.
so that when it came to my dd i could truly be there for her as a mom.
that is when i realised belonging to multiple homes, having to learn all the different rules of the different houses dd was in - she needed a place to vent. she needed a place to be herself. she had to be on her best behaviour every where else - and she was.
but where was she to scream. to hit out. to fight every single step. she needed a place to let her hair hang down and just let it out.
i learnt this from her. one day i told her to behave because i was way too angry and frustrated and i could hit out. she looked me straight in the eye and asked me 'but ma what did i do? why are getting angry with me? i am just being myself. why is it bothering you today when it didnt yesterday? i didnt do anything wrong.' oh man!!! i felt all the anger leave my body. i actually felt every single muscle in my body relax and realise omg this little 5 year old is right.
learnt a huge big lesson.
discovered that all of dd's 'bad' behaviour was a badge of honor for me. that she was soo confident that i loved her, that i truly accepted who she was - that she knew that no matter what she did - i may not like the action, but i truly loved her. and so she would let her hair down. and i let her. i sat with her and took her beating. i took her 'ma i am speaking english to you. why dont you understand me. everyone else does but you.' well child you were so emotional in your account that you missed out key parts. but did i say that. no i just sat and listened.
you know something though. i did hit her. once. in frustration. when she was 4 i think. i didnt mean to hit, i just did it. and regretted it just at that very time. i was mortified. but nothing like how mortified my dd was. she was just amazed. flabbergasted. but worst she felt betrayed. how could her 'only thing' react that way to her. it took out a piece of me but i made a big realisation.
i had to take care of myself. my dd was just being herself. in cases when i came close to spanking - i was reacting. i wasnt disciplining at all.
yes dd is a spirited child. and spirited children are special imho. they are children who are sensitive and see right through you.
6 is also when the first signs of puberty begin. at least it did for dd. that made her behave like a PMSing lady. in the middle of her tantrum i stayed quiet. i knew she was out of it. she could not see reason. but afterwards she was mortified at what she did. she told me 'mom i know it was wrong, but i just couldnt help it. i felt like someone else within me was making me do this.' and it was. it was raging hormones.
well she got out of that phase and omg BOOOM. she became this child i did not know. so mature, so level headed. and also with body odor.
today she is the sweetest child ever.
one more thing i discovered about me. if dd went against societal norms in my embarrassement i saw red. till i realised heck those societal norms are bullshit. its not realistic to expect that behaviour out of the child.
also as pp pointed out - it is the panic in your voice that is key - not your action. dd was 18 months old when she ran out into the street. oh boy. did i have a fit. later i remember as i was hysterical dd had the deer in the headlight look. she never NEVER NEVER EVER ran out on the street again. she brought up later what was bad about it to understand, but oh by she never ran out on the street.
so hang in there mama. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. this is not about your son. this is about YOU!!!! you have A LOT on your plate. give yourself permission to take a break in whatever form you'd like. i had no one to relieve me, so while dd was involved in something i'd take a couple of minutes to sit down with a glass of icy water and just savor it. those little mini breaks made me such a better mom.
sometimes our children being 'bad' is a good thing. it reveals to us what's up with them. they dont do that to be mean to you. they do it because they know no other way to cope with the situation at that moment.
give yourself a break. and give your son a break too. poor baby. he always has to live upto someones expectations. that's a lot to carry for a little one.