Parenting is hard. Parenting an extremely emotional and behaviorally challenged child is sometimes debilitating.
These hard days aren’t new. They’re not a surprise. I’ve been having days like this multiple times a week for almost ten years now. And yet they still have the power to knock me down and question my ability to be a mom, every single time.
Let’s start with this morning. We were at the vet, for the cats’ annual checkup. Both cats are pretty subdued and cooperative, but Jack was vibrating with a low growl the entire time. Caden assumed the growl meant he was in pain and was getting really worried about him. He reached over to pet him about the same time they were going to give him his vaccinations and the nurse gently said, “Oh no, don’t touch his face right now, we don’t want him to bite you.” Caden immediately burst into tears. He went to the corner of the room, curled into a ball, and cried the remaining 15 minutes we were in the room.
I understand why the nurse asked him not to touch Jack, and she honestly was not in any way harsh about what she said. But it almost killed me to have him reprimanded for doing something kind and loving, when that’s a side I see so little of. He was heartbroken, thinking Jack was being hurt, and upset that he got scolded for genuinely trying to give him love. I tried to comfort him and help him understand, but he’s not the kind of kid who wants comfort.
Jump to this afternoon. The third day in a row with no neighborhood friends available to play. This summer has gone pretty great when friends are around. No friends, though, means they turn on each other. Caden does everything in his power to push Shepard’s buttons. In his personal space, making disgusting noises with his mouth, sitting on top of his head, touching his back and arms. It is completely predictable how he will behave the minute he gets bored. In turn, Shepard eventually responds with violence, screaming, or crying. And it goes on, and on, and on.
My children are the best of friends. They also have NO IDEA how to spend time apart from each other. They truly believe they have to spend every waking minute within two feet of each other, even if they’re fighting. After a break in fighting they come and ask me what to do because they’re bored. I list a bunch of jobs. They tell me no. I list ideas of things to play with. They tell me no. They go back to fighting with each other and then come back to beg for screen time, which they’ve already had too much of, because it’s the only time I can ever get any of my work done. They thrive on taking advantage of me and wearing me down to the point of exasperation. They take all of my “I don’t know’s” as yeses and go ahead with whatever they wanted to do. I lose battle after battle because I don’t have any energy left to fight.
When it seems they’re incapable of doing anything except wrestling and getting on each other’s nerves, I tell them to go take breaks in their rooms for awhile. After telling me no over and over and over again, they eventually go, but I can hear that they’re still in the same room. I decided to let it go today because I wanted to take a quick nap. I’ve had a terrible time sleeping these last two weeks and my regular school year afternoon naps are few and far between in summertime. I thought I could have twenty minutes of rest until they charged back down. I swear the second I closed my eyes they were in the same room as me again. Wrestling on the dog bed across the room. Whispering, loudly, fully intending to keep me awake, but under the guise of “trying to be quiet.” I gave up on sleep, again. I yelled at them to find something to do. Caden responded by getting in my face and trying to push MY buttons, bored with pushing Shepard’s.
And then an entire afternoon of him being so dang proud of himself for getting under my skin. Me knowing full well he was pushing and still responding anyway. I tried to keep my cool. I always try. I’m onto him, always. But I can’t always be the bigger man. He wouldn’t go to his room for time outs. He kept babytalk begging me to play games, even though he knew I already took everything away. He kept pushing the doorbell over and over again because he knew I was trying to watch a show while I worked. When I yelled at him and couldn’t think of the word for doorbell he laughed and made fun of me. I chased him to the stairs. He went halfway up and refused to move. I gave up and went back to my computer, deciding ignoring him was the better option. While he was messing around he somehow tripped and fell down half the staircase, hurting his knee. I walked over to make sure nothing looked broken and then I walked away. I am a terrible mom because all I can think about is how if he would JUST LISTEN we would never be in these situations.
The afternoon continued with more of the same. I kept up my new ignoring tactic and he got even more in my face. I went upstairs to empty garbages and he got out a toy gun he got at the fair last week. He held it to my head and pulled the trigger. I ripped it out of his hands and threw it in the garbage bag I was holding. That is apparently what “broke him.” He ran to his room, slammed the door a few times, and cried.
I don’t want to have to get to the point of breaking him. Yet somehow, after literally hours of this behavior, I have to be a tiny bit relieved that it’s finally over. I broke him so he would stop breaking me. Because he did and he does. Today I was defeated. But believe me, I felt no triumph over my eventual win. These power struggles are so old. And so soul wrenching.
These are my days. Parenting is hard. Summer is SO hard. I’ve given it my absolute best effort, but I’m done. Just two more weeks. I hope we can all survive it.