It seems strange to say that I take some comfort in knowing that other parents with four year old children experience the same frustrations and setbacks as me. When a crisis happens and I want to run out the front door, I know that other parents have the same thought. It doesn't make me feel better per se, but a heck of a lot less alone.
Today was a school-wide picnic for my son's preschool. Most of the children were running around enjoying all of the toys happy with their parents. My son saw this situation and immediately clammed up. He hid behind me and then ran to his favorite jungle gym. My efforts to move us back with the rest of his classmates failed. Eventually he latched on to one friend and played with her very intently.
My son is quickly over stimulated by environments like this. I know this. When I heard about this event, I told myself that we were not going to go, but our other events conveniently ended before the picnic started. So, I decided we should go. I know better. I know situations like this mean over stimulation, acting out, shutting down and a dramatic ending of some kind. I just hate for my son to miss big events like this hoping that maybe now he is over it.
So, during this event, I got to have half of a conversation with another single parent who was sharing her recent woes with her child and the high levels of frustration is causes. I suggested a juice box party - fruit for the kids and wine for the mommies. As a single parent with a high energy preschooler, I need my fellow parents around me to keep me sane and remember that all of us are going through the same thing.
When I don't get enough sleep, people ask me if I feel OK. My eyes hang in their sockets. My posture seems challenged. When my son does not get enough sleep, he believes he can fight it. He runs, jumps, flips, screams, you name it until he hits the wall. Then he cries, "I am tired". Then you move fast to get him ready for bed.
My son has allergies and I don't. I have no clue how awful this season is. Once my son lays flat in the bed, his nose and sinuses fill with stuff and he sneezes all night long. Misery desires company so sometimes he will call me into his bedroom just to let me know that his allergies are happening.
So I am trying all of the tricks - saline up the nose, diffuser with essential oils in his room, early bed time, etc. Some tricks work, others don't, but the reality is that my son is still sleep deprived. Cue behavior issues and hitting his Mom (me).
Tonight, he took something from a little girl in his class shortly after he saw me. He was made to apologize which took some doing. So once in the car, I told him that he was not getting any TV. He picked up a toy, threw it at my head that was attached to my body driving the car. The toy smashed against the windshield into pieces and my heart stopped beating for a second. Fury. Anger. Fury. Anger. My son could have killed me and wrecked the car. More fury. I sat there speechless scared about what would come out of my mouth. I drove home in silence. We talked about it at dinner, but it has taken me the entire night to recover from the shock of the event.
I am delighted that we are finally getting sleep now. I am ready for his body to calm down and to find peace. Our battles need to end. Overtired four year old boys who act out are wearing me down.
I haven't been away from my son in over two years. I am the main person who picks him up, feeds him, bathes him and puts him to bed at night. His rituals deeply influence my rituals. If I have trouble sleeping, it typically because he had trouble sleeping.
I mention this since this week, I am actually going away for several days and not doing these things for the first time in two years. People without children don't realize how engrossing being a parent of a young child is. It's a level of exhaustion that is hard to understand without living this life day to day. I need this time to reset myself both physically and emotionally.
I am both excited yet nervous. Yes, I will get to sleep without interruption. I may even get to eat a meal from beginning to end without stopping to do something for someone. Yet, I will worry since that is my go-to response. But he is four now and can articulate clearly what he wants.
This will be good for us.
If this weekend earns me a grade of any kind, I would say I earned a solid C-. My son was safe, well fed, clean in both body and clothes for the most part and arrived at two scheduled events on time. Logistically, I am pretty decent at motherhood.
My grade takes a hit once the t-ball game starts. My lecture from home to field was about listening to his coach and keeping his hands off the other players. We were planning to go out for hot dogs and ice cream after the game. Twenty minutes into the game, another kid approached him taking off my son's hat. My son returned the favor with a body slam to the ground. One of the assistants breaks them apart and carries my son off the field.
My son saw my angry eyes through the fence in the dugout. The sweet assistant sits with my son and asks him questions about what happened. I decided to walk away. My words aren't working, but maybe this guy has the right touch. Next inning, my son does it again to another child. Here comes another one-on-one conversation with the same sweet assistant in the dugout. My son knows now that all promises of hot dogs and ice cream are long gone.
Later that evening, we go to a dance concert to watch his godmother dance. He was great though I was on him several times to stop talking during the dance numbers. He leave at the same time as another little girl. My son is showing off around her. Moments later, he takes off up several flights of stairs running away from us. He is laughing. I am shouting his name. A security guard walks over to see what is happening. The situation ends when I pick up my screaming, wiggling 40-pound son and carry him down several flights of stairs in 4-inch heels. By the time I make it to the car, he is hysterical and I am exhausted. All I can think is get him home. I will save you the details of what transpired at home, but it was not pretty.
Here is what I know. I love this creature more than life itself. He is four and very strong both in body and will. Four year old humans are searching for their independence. Testing boundaries is par for the course. What is happening is normal, but that does not make any of this crazy behavior easier. I went to bed Saturday night feeling like a failure. I didn't cry because frankly I was too damn tired to do so.
I kept him alive. He hurt a few people. He startled the security guard. We almost lost our lives while he was trying to knock me me down the stairs while fighting my grasp. He also got to see a variety of dancers perform and enjoy some sunshine on his face. My son may never watch TV again if this trend continues. So you see my grade is a solid C-.
My son loves to ask questions. Our drive home from preschool is peppered with continuous questions. One day, he talked about God. "God made all of the birds and trees, Mommy." For a second, I froze. Then "Yes", that is true. Then we moved to snakes and how they will bite you if you get too close. The four-year-old does not linger long on tough questions.
I know my stance about religion is not shared by others. It's OK. What I am about to say may not settle well with you. Again, it's OK.
My son gets to decide his future. In some ways, he may have already decided before his life even started. His career, love, hobbies, political party affiliation, home purchase, etc, is all his decision. He may come to me for advice, but at the end of the day, he will have to decide. This is true for someone's faith or religion. Many people in my family are Christians, I am definitely more Buddhist than anything, My inner circle of friends consist of Christians, Agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, and Atheists, I love them all.
Right now, I am not teaching my son to follow a specific faith. Instead, our religion is kindness. He must learn to show respect to every person on this planet. Violence is never tolerated. Every person deserves your kindness. If you can help someone else, do it. These principles are our "bible".
When we talk about God, it's about a higher power, creator of all things. God is love. We all have God inside us. When my son asks me about Jesus, we talk about him as a historical figure but not in savior context. That's his choice to make.
He is four. As he grows, he will ask more questions. We will talk about the beliefs of all world religions. I will encourage him to visit places of worship and ask questions. He will read the text of many faiths. He will hear the words of all faiths. He can venture from faith to faith to find his home, but he will always be guided to follow his heart.
My task now as his parent is to make sure that others do not prey on him using scare tactics to alter his thinking. For example, trying to convince my young son that if he does not believe in Jesus, he will burn in flames is unkind. My son gets to choose his path based on his own exploration.
I know what some of you are thinking. Amy, you are crazy. You have to give this boy a strong base. (I am, it's called kindness.) You have to tell him what to think. (No.) Children need a foundation in something. (His foundation is respect for all people regardless of their faith, orientation, income, gender, IQ or background.)
So as we go forward together, I wanted you to know this about us. I don't blog about faith since I consider that private, but my journey is not unique. There are more people out there like me than most realize. I am not the only one who winces when I hear my son singing a religious song that he was taught by others. Of course, I will stumble at times on this path. And it's OK. What is important though is that I remember that this path is HIS, not mine to dictate.
Like most four-year-old kids, my son is challenged by transitions. He is great most of the time, but the sudden change from one activity or environment to another causes him anxiety. I have to send warning messages to help him prepare. "Once this TV program goes off, no more TV." "10 more seconds in the shower and I am turning off the water." This strategy is working, more and more everyday.
Now, I am facing concern about my own transition. You see, I started this blog per the request of my adoption agency to support other single parents like myself who were diving into trans-racial adoption alone. My adoption agency abruptly closed earlier this year and I was heartbroken. So, I stopped posting. Why am I doing this? Do single parents even have other avenues to adopt? (They do.)
Cue mental crisis. Add in everyday stress. Then, add in some sleep and a few runs.
I am now on the other side of this. Crisis is over. I want to continue this blog. I want to continue sharing our story. So many people have reached out to me after reading a post giving me great ideas on how to overcome tough situations. I always say that it takes a village to raise an Amy, and that is more true today than ever before.
So, I will continue to share our journey. It's scary and exciting at the same time and I am happy to take you along for the ride.