Aug 06 2008

Perhaps the worst week of my life?

Published by at 2:43 pm under kids

Well. Hi There. How’ve you been?

Me? Oh, I’ve been really shitty, thanks for asking! Brace yourself, this is a long one. I don’t blame you if you don’t read it all.

Ethan is having a tough time at summer camp. I’ve already mentioned his change in attitude and behavior. He’s been sent to the office a few times, usually near the end of the day, and we’ve done something like taken his DS away for a day and he’s shaped up.

Monday and Tuesday, James had some stuff going on, so I was on my own for both nights.

Monday, I got to the kids’ school at about 5pm, thinking about what I could do with them. It was pretty hot, so I was thinking maybe we could head to the pool, or maybe stop somewhere fun for dinner, like California Tortilla. I had just bought a couple of board games and maybe the three of us could play some. I was in a great mood, looking forward to spending some fun time with my kids, just me and them.

I walked in the school and saw Ethan sitting in the office. He saw me and gave me his grumpiest face.

“Oh God no.” I thought to myself. I read the “incident” report. He had punched a classmate on the playground. When he was told to sit on the sidewalk for time out, he pushed preschoolers who came near him. When teachers intervened with THAT, he tried to hit them as well. Finally, they had to drag him to the office, where he still sat when I came.

I was pretty frustrated. I was really at my wit’s end. I was pretty sick of the cocky, rude, snide comments that were constantly streaming from him. He was still in a mood after I got his sister and we all got into the car, and the ride home and the rest of the evening did NOT go well.

I am not proud. I did not handle it well at all. I suck. I chronicle it here, mostly so I can see my mistakes in hopes that I won’t do them again. Also, incase there’s a parent out there at their wit’s end as well, they can learn from my mistakes and know they don’t have the only frustrating child!

Frustration is definitely not a good thing when you’re dealing with a troublesome child.

Here was my biggest problem: I was not seeing the reaction I wanted to see from him. I would try to talk to him about what happened, and he wouldn’t answer my questions or give me a flippant remark. “I don’t know,” or “I’m not even talking.” were his go-to comments.

So then I moved on to punishment. In the car on the way home, I told him the new DS we had just gotten him to replace his stolen/lost one, was in time out for a week. “I don’t care.” he said cheekily.

This was where I really messed up. Of course he cared. But he wasn’t giving me the response I wanted (hello! some remorse would be nice!), so I kept trying to do things to elicit that response. I wanted to see some remorse. I threatened him with other punishments (like no TV for a week) only to get the same response.

I kept letting it go but then bringing it back up all evening. The evening I wanted to spend having fun with my kids, I kept picking at this incident. I wanted to know how/why it happened, and to whom. He couldn’t say the how/why – and I really do mean he couldn’t. I got him to talk about it calmly, and he honestly couldn’t even remember much. “I was REALLY ANGRY,” he said, but when I asked why, or what was happening before hand, he could only give me vague details. “we were swinging,” and “I was chasing her, just for fun!” was the extent my third degree was getting me. When he told me who it was, a little girl whom he was BEST friends with, all through kindergarten, I think my heart just broke a little.

After way too much picking at it all, I was trying to move on and told him we were going to do one of his summer reading assignments. (BAD IDEA AMY!) He is supposed to read a book (or be read a book), pick his favorite part, and draw it with a very short written narration. For some reason, he NEVER wants to do this. He fights it tooth and claw. So PERHAPS I shouldn’t have pushed something that we have trouble with even on GOOD days. I don’t know how, but I finally got us both settled in to read some Biscuit, and didn’t even mind that he wasn’t reading along, when he wouldn’t read the “Woof! Woof’s!” this is our little thing that we do every night at bedtime – I read the story and let him and Jocelyn say the “Woof! Woof!” Well, he stubbornly would not utter a word, and my frustration reached it’s peak.

What I should have done: Closed the book and left it alone.

What I did do: Send him to his room with some pretty harsh words.

He wouldn’t go, of course, so I picked him up and took him. He started throwing stuff around in his room, so I started to take everything he threw out, warning him that anything he threw, was going out of his room. I realize now, that I think he thought I meant they were going out forever.

It continued on like that, and I was so frustrated I just didn’t know what to do. I know now that I did everything all wrong.

I did finally come to the realization that I had to help him come out of his snit, and I tried a few times. Finally, he did, and we both apologized to each other. It was bathtime then, and I got everyone bathed and dressed and tucked in with no more (than the usual) fuss.

I wish that had been the end of it, but unfortunately, it was only Day 1. (The good news is, I was only Bad Mommy on Day 1. I think I’ve been doing ok the rest of the time.)

James and I discussed what could be the issue, and a few things that his kindergarten teacher has pointed out before:

a) by the end of the day, he’s exhausted and more prone for incidents like this to snowball
b) he’s in a non-structured environment which leaves him with no “break” time. He’s too little to do any sort of self imposed break from whatever he’s doing, and it shows.
c) he’s got bigger kids around him all the time, who aren’t as closely watched/admonished for their behavior and speech, which he then hears, which isn’t helping.

I worked at home Tuesday, with the intent that I would pick the kids up early, so as to lessen the effects of all of the above, but around 2pm, I got a phone call from the school. I talked to his kindergarten teacher, who told me of yet another incident, and they wanted me to come pick him up from school.

When I got there, I left Ethan in the office while i went down the hall to talk to his teacher. This is a veteran kindergarten teacher of 20+ years, and let me tell you she has seen it all. I desperately needed some guidance. In the year of kindergarten, Ethan never had any issues when he was with her. He did have some issues, but they were always in the afternoon, after his KG teacher had left for the day. When she told us at the beginning of the year that she rarely has problems, because she can avert them before they happen, I’m not sure I beleived her, but I believed her by the end of the year!

She confirmed everything that we had thought earlier. She also pointed out that hunger, thirsty, too hot can also all play into it. She said that it’s impossible for a kid this age to say, “I’m too hot and tired, I should go take a break and get a drink.” She did say that she noticed Ethan didn’t eat lunch the day before, which probably contributed to the Day 1’s problem.

She reassured me in so many ways, I felt so much better after having talked to her. (Jocelyn is SO GOING to her kindergarten class when that time comes!)

He seems stressed out. Stressed out kids can’t take themselves out of a situation or calm down right in the middle of it. This is from the unstructured way summer camp is.
By the end of the day, he’s TIRED.
He could be hungry and thirsty and not saying anything – they have a lot of kids and they try but they can’t keep track of how he’s eating.

I also asked if I should be doing any additional consequences, after I have him at home. She said no — that him leaving school IS the punishment in this instance. There’s no need to get him ice cream on the way home, but usual activities are fine. She said she would be a bit more understanding if this behavior was just at other kids, that’s what kids do, but when he starts hitting and being aggressive with teachers and counselors, he needs to know that this is serious and important. She said that for this age, the consequence should be instant. They’re not going to remember, unless it’s right when it happens. I don’t agree 100% with this, I know that he KNOWS that no TV in the evening is because of what he did earlier, but I understand and agree with what she’s saying. Don’t prolong the punishment. It should happen, and then move on. She gave an example: If we’re all sitting down to play a game and he starts talking rudely, then move him on to something else, he can play in his room for 10 minutes – and soon he wants to play the game, he’ll have to behave.

I really took that to heart after we left school. I didn’t say no TV (which is his favorite thing in the world), and even let him play battleship on my iphone while we shlepped around. I took him to the doctor, because he had just finished up a round of antibiotics for strep throat, and I wanted to rule out any sickness being a factor in this bad behavior. His 5 mnute strep test was negative, and she sent out the 3 day test as well, but I am betting it’ll be negative as well. By then it was time to head back to school to get Jocelyn, and we headed home. I let them watch a little TV while I did some work and then made dinner, and it was a pleasant enough evening.

James and I discussed again, everything Ethan’s KG teacher had said and we made some more decisions.

We’d pack a lunch for Ethan to take to school to insure he was getting a good lunch (he’s picky)
We’d move bedtime from 8:30pm to 8pm (which I did Tuesday night)
We’d let the kids sleep in the morning until they woke up on their own. (We usually wake them up at about 7am)
We would try to pick them up from school earlier (the parent NOT taking them in to school would get up, get ready, and skedaddle in the mornings so they could leave work earlier)
and finally, we were going to try to make breakfast a better meal.

So you can imagine how shocked, saddened and perturbed I was when AN HOUR after I had dropped the kids off at school, I got a call saying Ethan needed to be picked up. The incident was, Ethan refused to clean up, and then head-butted the stomach of the teacher who was trying to get him to clean up. Ethan’s KG teacher does not come in on pool days, so she was not involved.

First of all, he was in bed by 8pm, asleep by 8:30.
He slept until 7:30.
I made him scrambled eggs, toast and milk.
IT”S morning — there’s no way he could be exhausted at 9:30 in the morning.

James and I were both pretty frustrated. ARGH!!

So here I am, Ethan is home with me, and I’m trying to make this a boring day. There was no battleship on my iphone today! I didn’t change the radio from what I was listening to (Mamma Mia!) I didn’t want to say no tv at all, but I said he could only watch 2 shows. On the way home, I shlepped him around on errands with me. Stopped at 2 hardware stores looking for a cherry pitter, got gas, and then went to Costco before going home. Made him help carry in all the groceries. Made him empty the dishwasher. He’s done everything with a pretty good grace – I can tell that he really is trying hard not to complain, or be rude. He even said a few times, “I can do that mommy, I can do some work.” Everytime he has used a tone that is rude, I’ve given him a simple warning, and he’s responded with a simple, “OK,” whereas before, it would have been defiance.

A little gentle prodding has brought to light what happened at school. The words “clean up” made me pause, because I have not seen the boy playing with a SINGLE TOY all summer. He’s always glued to the computer. What could he have possibly needed to clean up? Well, apparently it was time for the computer to be “closed” (shut down) and Ethan had just started a game of battleship.

Ugh. I KNOW he’s trying hard. I know it. I am not ticked at the teacher involved, obviously, but it really sucks that he got nicked on the one thing that is his hardest thing to let go – computer games, and on the one day that might be his favorite – the day he spends all day at the pool.

James and I are going to be praising him to high heaven for every good thing he does. I know he can’t be feeling very good about everything. I just hope that tomorrow goes better. I know it will, because his KG teacher will be at school, and I bet she’ll be keeping an eye on him. (cross fingers knock on wood please oh please let it be so!)

I shall hope so, even as I continue to make today as boring for him as hell. After quiet time, I’m thinking of having him help me clean the basement, and then maybe we’ll go out to get a cherry pitter at Linen N Things. Then I can have him pit all my cherries for me. Except I bet he’ll enjoy it too much :)

Wish us luck. My sweet boy.

One response so far

One Response to “Perhaps the worst week of my life?”

  1. Talking Budgieon 06 Aug 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Wow. I really feel for you. Even though I don’t have my own children, I know that being a parent is the hardest job in the world (I’m the eldest of five and saw how hard my Mum worked!). And I don’t think you should beat yourself up over your reactions. It must be so frustrating. But you’re working on fixing things – both your son’s behaviour and your own reactions to it. You’re doing everything you can to make things better.

    Good luck. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you and Ethan. Everyone, kids and adults, go through rough times. This is probably just that – growing up is tough!