This will not be that post.
I am really struggling with our 11 year old D. Outside of our house, he is the perfect child. At school, all we hear about from his teachers and peers is how kind he is, what a good student he is, how responsible and well-behaved he is. On the sports field, we get constant feedback on what a great player he is, not because of his natural athletic ability, but his work ethic and what a great teammate he is. He's got wonderful friends. He loves his little cousins and goes out of his way to teach all of them his "fist bump" or high fives. He's funny and interesting and silly.
Within the four walls of our house (or in the car on the way home), however, it is a different story. In short, he is driving me crazy. He doesn't listen...EVER. I have to repeat myself twelve times to get him to do what I ask. Most of these things are simple tasks. Go to bed. Eat your breakfast, lunch, dinner. Stop leaving your baseball, soccer, (name another sport) stuff by the front door, family room floor, or kitchen floor instead of on your designated shelf. Get out of the shower (after 30 minutes). Go to bed. Stop reading the paper, playing your itouch, checking scores on the computer and get in the car, got to bed, eat your dinner, or do your homework. You see the pattern.
All of these seem like typical parental complaints. Kids aren't little robots and expected to follow directions to 100% perfection. I get that. But if he would just do it 50% of the time our lives would be so much easier. What is more difficult to handle is how he treats everyone in the family. He simply CANNOT stop bugging everyone, especially in the car. Touching them, teasing them, getting in everyone's personal space. Last week, I had to tell him to sit in the car with his feet on the floor, hands folded in his lap and eyes closed so he wouldn't be tempted to tease his little brother sitting next to him or his cousins behind him. He is exhausting.
At times he just seems so angry. He is the middle child on steroids given our new family situation. He just wants to be noticed and it doesn't matter if it's negative or positive.
My guilt is on serious overdrive on this one. He was 7 when Jeanne and Mike died. He knew exactly what was happening and saw all of us fall apart. He had diarrhea, wet the bed and clung to me whenever I was around. I don't think I really addressed this at the time since I was trying to keep our household running while helping with the girls. I wasn't the best mom in the first 9 months after the accident, and then his cousins moved in causing all kinds of turmoil. He was just a little boy. He still is a little boy. Despite knowing all these things, my typical reaction to him is frustration, anger, and yelling. He knows exactly how to push all of my buttons and I let them all be pushed. Ugh.
At back-to-school night last week, his religion teacher pointed out a project their class had on the wall. Each student was asked to cut out three leaves from construction paper, writing an adjective to describe themselves on each of them. A fourth leaf was created to write down a time when they knew God is with them. I scanned the wall as the other parents filed out to the next class, trying to find D's leaves. I noticed other students' work. "God is with me when I take tests." "God is with me when I play baseball." "God is with me when I try something new." All typical, mundane 11 year old items.
I found D's first three leaves. Adventurous. Kind. Hardworking. Definitely three words I'd used to describe D. Tears welled in my eyes as I read the fourth leaf.
"God was with me when my aunt and uncle died and when my great-grandfather died."
My sensitive boy. When I still want to scream "Fuck you God!! Where were you??!!" my wise pain in the ass points out that he knows God was with him at those times. And, once again, I get the reminder of how the accident profoundly affected my kids.
I'm not sure what to do about D. In my head, I know why he might be acting the way he is. For some reason, though, I'm having a hard time breaking the cycle and usually my frustration wins out over reason or at least a cooler head. Our crazy schedule and the sheer number of kids definitely doesn't help the situation. I sometimes wonder if the boys are still having delayed reactions to the trauma. Their needs have certainly always seemed to be pushed aside to the more acute and, frankly, louder needs of the girls. There are moments when D is especially being difficult that I can still see that little seven year old through his deep blue eyes. Scared. Angry. Sad.
I am probably the millionth blogger to write this statement: PARENTING IS HARD! There is no customized manual for each kid. While I'm still questioning my faith in all of this, maybe I need to follow in D's steps a bit and try to feel God's presence in the times of struggle. Maybe this recognition will give me the calm and understanding I need to tackle my difficult boy. At this point, anything is worth a shot.