Missing from my life: operating manual

Today I had another one of those ‘oh…?’ moments in parenting where you wonder to yourself why something hasn’t occurred to you yet.

Here I was struggling with some really challenging behaviour with Benjamin for several weeks. From aggression on the school soccer field to aggression toward his sister and other kids, to rude and obnoxious behaviour toward us and others, to a lack of respect and compassion in general…and all the while I blame myself.

I ponder and plan and consider parenting dilemmas to help me understand him better, to help me understand myself, and my methods, better, and all I end up with is confusion and frustration.

Then I got sick. REALLY sick. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow, and just as I was feeling a tad better, he gets sick. Not really sick, but enough to not get any complaints about staying home from school, nor skipping hockey practice. I mean, if this kid doesn’t mind skipping hockey, then something must be wrong with him.

He fought it off. Two pleasant days at home with me, partly alone with me while Sonja was at school, and things have improved. Plus I am no longer coughing up lungs and other organs.

We are having a somewhat pleasant, albeit busy and hectic, week, but things are definitely improved.

I look back and think…what did we do wrong? Was it me? Was something bugging him? Did we make a mistake allowing him to play soccer too long after school with kids who are dominant and much older or bigger, or let him attend a certain birthday party involving aggression with toy guns, or not lay firm enough rules, or did we use too much negative instead of positive reinforcement…what?

We asked him:

What’s bugging you?
Nothing.

Did something happen in school that is bugging you?
Yes, but I don’t want to say.

Is there something going on at school you’re unhappy with?
No, not really. Maybe…no, everything is fine. STOP asking me!

I don’t know what to think….

Then, today, a parent of one of Ben’s classmates asks me straight out, how Ben’s been acting lately.

I am startled by this question. How does she know I have been struggling with this kid of mine?

Well it turns out her own kid, a year older than Ben, has not been himself, and she’s at her wits’ end. Plus, another mother told her that another boy in their class has not been acting like himself and she’s at her wits’ end too.

Hm…both people she spoke with are mothers of 6 and 7 year old boys, so I would imagine their perspectives of their boys’ behaviour is similar to mine (as in, I am not a boy so I do not know what 6 year old boys are all about, other than from the perspective of a mother).

As we were leaving, I saw her speak to a boy’s father…would have been interesting to get some insights to what he had to say about his kid, a friend Ben plays with regularly, and also a classmate.

The mom who approached me thinks it’s the teacher, or the school, and its routines (or lack of). I’m not convinced…could it be the age, a phase of sorts?

I pepper my kid with questions occasionally, but in a conversational way, and he does not feel like I am overwhelming him (most of the time).

He comes to me after Sonja is in bed, snuggles up to me, and we have a chat. Sometimes about things unrelated to school, sometimes about school. I find out more about what goes on in his life during those few minutes, or half an hour, prior to bedtime, than any other time of the day…and based on how this week is going, I believe we are back on track.

But it still startled me when that mom asked me about my kid’s behaviour. It would have never in a million years occurred to me to find out from other parents how their kids are doing, in a targeted kind of way, in order to try and make sense of my own kid’s behaviour.

Perhaps there is something there. If there is a problem in the classroom, and since it’s a split class with older kids who have been through a grade already, perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to stay in contact with other parents and how their kids are acting while at home.

Then again, I am unsure if I want to cloud my perspectives with what is happening in everyone else’s lives…

Challenging, this parenting thing. I wish there was a clear-cut answer to all of my questions.

Alas, even if I wrote an operating manual, it would not apply to anyone other than my own kid.

The quirky ticks of a 5 year old boy

Mostly it involves mess.

BIG FAT MESS.

Sometimes they’re just little behaviour things…like when he touches something with one hand, he has to touch it with the other. If his left elbow accidentally brushes a post in a mall, he has to go back and touch the right elbow to the post. If he’s eating a messy slice of pizza and uses his left hand to scratch the right side of his nose, he puts the pizza down, and uses his right hand to scratch the left side of his nose.

But mostly he makes a mess.

Is he just a clumsy kid? Is he growing so fast that he can’t help himself? Is this a kid thing? A boy thing?? Is he just accident prone?

WHAT?

Someone please tell me what to do. Because I do not want to add insult to injury and start hounding him with words that will emphasize this behaviour. I have to catch myself all the time to not say ‘watch what you are doing, or you’ll drop it‘ or ‘pay attention to how you’re holding that or it’ll break‘.

Even if I say nothing ‘it‘ will mostly likely happen to him anyway.

I don’t know what to do. Mostly I just give up. So what if he has toothpaste stains on the front of his shirt before he even leaves the house. So what if he has a rip in his pants. So what if he drops a baggie of gummy bears on the floor inside a store, picks them all up, and eats them anyway (let’s hope DH isn’t reading this)…

We talk about it. We talk about prevention, and how he can be accountable for these things. But maybe a kid just doesn’t care. I mean, if I show him or watch him or assist him during his toothbrushing, and he ends up with toothpaste spit on his shirt, it’s not like he goes off to change his shirt. It doesn’t bother HIM.

Should it bother ME?

Sometimes it does. Mostly it does, particularly first thing in the morning (or if the same thing happens at night and he’s worn that particular pj top for 36 seconds).

I try to have my kid look at least somewhat presentable. Presentable meaning wearing clean and non-ripped clothes. But frankly…

I do not know.

Irresistible attraction

Kids are attracted to other kids.

And if the other kid lives across the neighbour’s fence, the attraction to get the other kid’s attention by yelling across the neighbourhood, is irresistible.

What’s even more irresistible is to make contact with the other kid. Preferably on top of a tree or fence.

A tree, or fence, which belongs neither to you nor to the other kid’s parents.

Toy dumping

Question (to no one in general but all parents of boys in particular):

Is dumping toys on a big pile in the middle of a heavily foot-trafficked area in the house a boy thing?

And when I say toys I actually mean toys first, then baskets, small furniture such as chairs, bedding and pillows, and any other conceivable thing they find that they can pick up and carry?

And by baskets, I actually mean the contents of the basket which are dumped on top of the existing pile of stuff.

And by contents I actually mean tiny parts that are hard to re-collect and put back into the basket, such as toy cars, baby toys, tiny books, hair clips and other odds and ends that collect over the years in baskets.

And when I say other conceivable things I mean articles of clothing, shoes, sun hats, umbrellas, even diapers.

And when I say pick up and carry I actually mean dump. And throw.

So. What is that?

I thought it was only my kid that did that.

It appears that other boys similar in age as mine (5) are doing it. Witnessed by me personally at a neighbour’s house just the other day.

Weird.