This is a post about our trip to Chicago yesterday. But it’s also a post about parenting a challenging child and all the yucky feelings that come with it. Words that will surely backfire on me and make me even more unpopular with my extended family, but I’m going to say them anyway.
So. We went to Chicago yesterday to visit my sister-in-law Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew. They’re unable to come to Shepard’s birthday party next weekend and we haven’t seen them in awhile – or visited Chicago in a couple of years. Shockingly, the boys were great on the drive there. I expected nonstop whining and complaining the way they could barely handle the hour long drive to the Dells last weekend. But Shepard mostly just looked out the window and relaxed and Caden spent most of the drive reading the entirety of a book. A book we bought at a book fair earlier this week because I thought he’d like it. Even though at the time he was having a meltdown because “books are stupid! books are dumb! I hate reading!”
Shepard got to open an early birthday present.
A marble run – something he’s been saying he really wanted for the last few months because it’s his favorite thing to play with at school.
Melissa and Andrew were dog sitting, so we had some fun doggy entertainment. 🙂
Dogs always know I want them to try and convince Greg to be a dog lover! I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. But I’m still hoping to sway him. Dogs are the best and I fully intend on owning one some day.
After the apartment tour (which was adorable) and hanging out for a few minutes, we went to a restaurant down the street for lunch. Which is when Caden turned the switch from being eight year old well behaved child to monstrous whiny brat for most of the rest of the day. It always just takes one tiny thing to set him off and ruin a day. Yesterday it started because he wanted to sit in a big upholstered booth and there wasn’t enough room for all of us. So we compromised to a half booth, half table and he sat in the booth. But then he realized he wasn’t sitting by Daddy, which is basically the end of the world. Sometimes I worry about how unhealthy his obsession is with being by Daddy ALL THE TIME. So he switched chairs, but then threw a fit because he was in a chair instead of the booth side. I eventually switched with him. I didn’t give in right away because at some point in life he needs to learn he can’t always have everything exactly the way he wants it. But shame on me, because I held out too long and ruined him for the rest of the day. He pouted through lunch and didn’t eat anything. Then he said he felt sick from the car ride, which ended an hour earlier.
The only planned activity for our day was to ride the train to the Wrigley Field stop. Shepard’s never been on a train before and was really excited about it. So excited that he ran full speed into a crosswalk and came extremely close to being hit by a speeding car making a turn in front of us. Sometimes it blows my mind how completely unprepared my kids are for being in a big city, even for a day. I thought once we lived in town they’d at least know how to stop at intersections and look both ways before crossing the street. But they don’t have a clue. They run everywhere, they are constantly pushing and shoving each other, they never pay ANY attention to the potential dangers around them. It’s so stressful. And when we try to remind them to be more careful, or hold their hands, or grab them before they’re about to be hit by a car, they retaliate with anger and even more carelessness.
We were only on the train for three stops, but Shepard was having the greatest time. 🙂 He talked nonstop about what he saw out the window. Then he decided to stand up and “surf.” I grabbed him multiple times right before he slammed into the man standing behind him, which I’m pretty sure he was completely unaware of. It was nice to see him having so much fun, though. He was pretty delightful the entire day.
The weather was amazing yesterday. I think it was around 50 degrees and Chicago didn’t have any snow or giant puddles, like we have here. It was the perfect day for a leisurely walk around Wrigley Field. Except for Caden, who whined and moaned the entire time. He’s just not happy doing anything out and about. Ever. And he can never just quietly go along with things. He has to make sure everybody knows he’s miserable and he’s not going to be happy until we’re miserable too. This was almost our entire trip to San Francisco in October. He was pretty well behaved at the few big family events (wedding, rehearsal, dinners). So nobody could understand why we were having a pretty crappy trip overall. The reason? Caden. Always Caden, always making everything SO difficult. He never wants to do anything, he never wants to experience what the world has to offer, he never wants to enjoy himself. It makes vacations absolutely suck.
The worst part about him acting like that, especially when we’re on trips with other people, is that it automatically turns me into the mean mom. I have to be in mom mode all the time. I try really hard to do whatever my kids need to keep them happy in the moment. Like battles over food at restaurants? It’s not going to happen because it’s not worth the outcome after a fight like that. But when my kids start being absolute brats and treating everybody like crap? I can’t just let it slide. When Caden was younger it was a lot easier to excuse behavior like this and still have fun. But he knows better now. And that makes everything worse.
We were walking around Wrigley Field and there was a fan shop with a man embroidering a jersey in the window. So we eventually went in and Shepard stood and watched.
Grandpa and the boys had to get Cubs pennies. Noe’s are Cubs fans, if you haven’t figured that out yet. I’m not, but I don’t care enough to protest them, especially after everyone’s excitement over the World Series last fall.
Shepard really wanted a Cubs shirt. He doesn’t have any, so I helped him look through the kids section. It was so cute how carefully he was picking through every shirt to try and find one in his size with a nice enough picture. He was so proud of his (Grandpa’s!) purchase that he had to put the shirt on immediately after we left the store.
Train ride back, Shepard is still enthralled.
More doggy love. I never really understood the corgi obsession, but Perni was pretty cute!
We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out while the boys and Andrew worked on building the marble run.
And finally, an early birthday treat. I think Shepard had a fantastic day. 🙂
Fortunately, we were all so tired on the way back that the boys slept most of the way. I’ve never seen them so well behaved for six hours in the car – almost none of that actually playing tablet.
Anyway. Back at home now and having mixed feelings about another day that could have been really awesome, but was ruined – at least to me – by Caden’s attitude. He’s always been a challenging child and we’ve gone through many, many phases of him being violent and angry. But for awhile things seemed to be going pretty well. I thought he was finally growing up. And then days like this happen. And last weekend at the Dells in the game room. And almost every night when he has panic attacks over not having enough time to do whatever it is he wanted to do that night. His anxiety levels over everything are so high. It reminds me a lot of myself when I can’t get to the things I really want to do in a day. But I’m an adult and can usually contain my stress a whole lot better.
Caden’s been miserable with school the last few months. He actually got in trouble at school a couple days ago, for the first time ever. I don’t know what to do with him. And maybe this sounds terrible, but I hate how much I feel like his attitude and the way he’s been treating people, reflect directly on how clearly I must be failing as a parent. It can’t be true, at least not entirely, because Shepard doesn’t have these problems. He does have stubborn fits usually over food he doesn’t want to eat, but for the most part he’s a sunny and funny and delightful and caring person to be around. So two years later we’re doing things right with him? That doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like such a failure. And from feeling like other people must surely blame me for the way Caden acts. He’s my son, he has my genes, and sometimes he has a lot of my personality. Shepard has all the best of Greg’s personality and then some. Caden has all the worst of my personality and more. Therefore this continues to feel like it’s all my fault.
I could ramble on about this for a long time, but I’ll stop now. I just wish we could have more good days. Especially when we’re out with extended family. He feels comfortable enough to act the way he does at home with us. At least with friends or at school he’s a lot better at containing himself. I just wish people could understand how hard this sometimes feels. I feel very alone in these challenges and some days are just plain tough.