It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything. [Insert standard excuse about BUSYNESS, or the bit about how after a long day of working / parenting /etc., I don’t seem to have two thoughts to rub together.]
But today I have to share. Mostly for my own selfish needs. And because it helps me remember.
Today was a hard day.
Or rather, it was a perfectly lovely day punctuated by a very, very difficult few minutes that made me doubt everything.
Our oldest turned 5 on Wednesday and since his birthday fell in the middle of the week we’ve sort of been celebrating for the past few days.
Yesterday I took the day off work so we could have some special, quiet time together. We hung out and organized his K’nex and bead collections (Gavin has many collections), picked up special birthday cupcakes, he got some new action figures and some new books.
Today was supposed to be his special day with the whole family.
Daddy and I took him for breakfast at our favorite little diner in town, picked up more new books, and then headed to the bowling alley to have a fun afternoon with his sister and his Nanas.
I should have known it was too much. Gavin sometimes has trouble processing too much sensory input. He’s a sensitive kid who craves calm and quiet for the most part.
He also struggles when he’s tired. Today he woke at 5 am because he was so excited about his new action figures so he was really tired by the time we reached the bowling alley.
We bowled and had a blast, then the kids played in the arcade for a bit. They won tickets that could be exchanged for little prizes. I didn’t realize it, but trouble was brewing.
His sister won a ton of tickets that she exchanged for a cool mermaid doll.
Gavin only had a few tickets and received some admittedly lame plastic bugs (the guy felt bad and gave him more plastic bugs than he really had tickets for but that didn’t really help. A plastic bug is a plastic bug.)
At some point Emory Scout also got a prize of a pink slinky, which Gavin really wanted. Bad.
By the time I entered the scene, which daddy was trying unsuccessfully to manage, Gavin had crawled underneath the bowling alley table shouting about wanting a “spring toy” just like his sister. No amount of logic, consoling, or encouragement helped – he just got more aggravated.
Finally, he lost his shit. When he finally came out from underneath the table, he proceeded to hit me – hard. And kick me – hard. (With bowling shoes, which have surprisingly hard soles.) Gavin is a big strong kid and it honestly hurt like hell. I told him firmly, “I will not let you hit me. And if you cannot calm down we will have to leave.” Cue screaming bloody murder.
After several minutes of trying to pick him up and take him outside so that at least we weren’t bothering anyone else – and an unsuccessful intervention from Nana who can usually calm him – we decided that bowling was officially over and we packed it up.
In the parking lot, Gavin was a screaming, hysterical mess. He was kicking the car seat, ripping random bits of paper, trying to bite my coat. It was terrifying. We couldn’t even get him buckled into his seat.
Finally I leaned in and said, “That’s enough, Gavin. We’re all done now. Breathe.” (We’ve been working on calming breaths when we are frustrated.) I repeated it over and over.
It worked. He stopped kicking. Stopped screaming. And started crying.
I was such a wreck the whole way home. I couldn’t stop crying either. (Bradley drove, thank god.)
In hindsight it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
But at the time, the whole world came crashing down. I had tried so hard to make a nice day for my kid. And it was ruined. And it’s embarrassing, being the mom with “that kid.” The one acting like an asshole. (Yep, I totally caught stink-eye from the bowling attendant at the counter as I dragged my shrieking son out the door. Good times.)
We made it home safely and all went for a nice long walk in the brisk winter air. He was fine. Actually, he was fine the second his fit was over. He was contrite and adorable and loving.
I’ve had some time to think about it all. At first, I was convinced that I should immediately make an appointment with a child psychologist – because he’s 5 now. And this is not normal.
I’m not ruling out the psychologist (I fully believe in seeking professional help when needed) – but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I failed him. I should have seen it coming. I should have helped him.
I know this kid. He’s intelligent and thoughtful – and acts out when he’s overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior. I’m not saying it is. But I know how to help him. I know how to prevent these episodes from happening. I just wasn’t paying attention.
Parenting is really fucking hard. It is relentless. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m doing a good job But on days like today, I can clearly look at myself and see an opportunity to do something different next time. For my son’s sake – and for my own sanity – I truly hope I can do just that.
I share this, not because I am looking for support, or encouragement, or advice. But because I’m grateful.
I’m grateful that I have this chance to be a better person. There is definitely a part of me that thinks “I did not sign up for this, I deserve better” when my kids seem to push every single button I have.
But honestly, I’m so thankful that I get to look at myself and try to find a better version of me – one that is capable of digging deep, of being selfless and loving, while at the same time taking care of my own needs. I am capable of doing that, even when I don’t really want to. That is indeed a privilege.
I don’t believe in god, but that phrase, “There but for the grace of god go I” resonates with me.
I’ve often thought about some of the stupid things I’ve done in my life (in college – not now. I’m a total grown up now . . . sort of) . But hey! I’m not dead, or in jail. That’s pretty great. And I have two kids that are beautiful and wonderful – and are hell bent on driving me crazy. But you haven’t seen me on an episode of “Snapped!” have you?! Pretty damn fortunate.
With that, and because both of my beautiful children are sleeping peacefully, I’m going to call it a day and get some sleep, too. And try it all over again tomorrow.