I am tired. So very tired. So is Michael. He has needed tighter boundaries from us for a very long time which we thought we were providing as parents. Apparently, we were not doing that and he was falling through space feeling helpless as much as we were. The wonderful professionals we are working with also reminded me of something Michael’s first speech language pathologist had told us. She had said that when Michael would start catching up on developmental milestones, he would move at warp speed. Consequently as his parents, we would need to learn to do that too. We would need to learn to adjust to the fact that at any given day we are raising a child who ranges at any given minute or hour from 2-10 years old respectively. A good friend of mine joked about this. She had said today my son is 3. Yesterday he was 8 (which was his chronological age at the time). The frightening aggression we have been seeing in Michael steadily going up in the last 2 years is only sometimes preteen hormones. The rest of the time it is, gasp, the terible two’s and three’s, as shocking as that is.
When we spoke to our new team recently, they reminded us that besides extremely tight boundaries, Michael would also need timeouts. Excuse me? Have you recently tried putting your 10 year old in a timeout in his room and having him stay there? Didn’t think so! The thing is, with a 2 year old you carry him there, put him/her in their crib, and leave. Child calms down. You go in an get them. It’s over. With a 10 year old there is no picking up. A few times we’ve managed after yelling and tears to get him to go on his own. Twice we’vve had to physically drag him which is not pleasant for any of us. Fortunately, after a bad afternoon over the weekend, Michael did eventually go and stay in his room, but an intended 10 min timeout became a 25 minute one due to screaming, swearing and banging things. Afterwards, when he was calm he realized had he gone immediately to his room to use his calm down strategies he would have been there much less time. Sigh. That’s when we realized like a small child, there would need to be LOTS of practice of this calm/down strategy for him not to see his room as punishment.
It is becoming a little easier for us as parents now that we are seeing Michael’s behavior and testing for what it is, a mixture of fear, boundary testing and growth across the ages that is normal for him to exhibit. We, as his parents, are also reclaiming our authority slowly and our confidence as parents through working with an amazing coach and remembering as hard as it is, NOT TO TAKE OUR CHILD PERSONALLY. This is the tricky one. However, I see now that he does not understand some of the things that he says to us. Many of these things are said in anger without thinking. That is another thing we are slolwy teaching him, think before you speak. It is not just to earn a reward or get praise, but also because words hurt people and actions can damage more than just property. I see Michael’s anxiety level going down too, as his father an I give him clear, concise boundaries and rules. He knows where he is and is going even if it is sometimes boring. Before, he was rebelling for the sake of rebelling. At first I jokingly nicknamed him James Dean, that famous actor from “A Rebel Without A Cause.” Then it was not so funny when every little daily event became a battle. I’m glad that slowly we are getting back on an even keel as parents and child.
Exceptional Parents, how old is your Exceptional Child developmentally and chronologically? Remember, there is their real age at any given time and their number age so as a parent you are juggling many than one child at a time, and if you have two or more Exceptional Children, it can be real challenge. Take a deep breath, find your center, get a new team if you need one to help guide you and your family, and never up on yourself or your child. Let out anger, frustration, and have a small pity party if you need to. But then, get back in the driver’s seat. You can do this. Things will get better. Until next time.