“Go upstairs, son. You may come down when you’re calmer.”
I was gritting my teeth, trying to stand up straight. He raged towards me, throwing random things as he came across them. No one else was in his path but me. I stood at the bottom of the stairs, holding the out-dated baby gate open for him in silent expectation. He didn’t go upstairs. Not yet. No, first he came to me and swiftly kicked me in the leg. Then he darted up the stairs, daring me to follow.
I yelled instead. Because the stairs are just too much right now, and he knows it. He exploits my weakness in ways that you wouldn’t expect from a seven-year-old.
My kids are being jerks, and I know why.
My kids are sensitive. They have anxieties that pop up in weird and unexpected places. They respond to stress in ways you might not expect. I know this. I’m still not happy about it.
I single-handedly turned their worlds upside down in the last month. Our schedule is off. We’re stuck at home instead of roaming the area and going where we want. We have countless doctors’ appointments and lab work to deal with. Nothing is right. Nothing is normal.
Worse, they’re worried about me. My daughter asked “mommy, are you going to die? I don’t want you to die!” The natural instinct of any parent is to swear that you’ll always be there – you’re not going anywhere. I couldn’t do that, and she noticed. My stammering reply wasn’t reassuring enough because of my own realization that I could have actually died this time.
For my youngest, his anxiety takes the form of defiance. If he just says “no!” enough he thinks he’ll gain control over the situation. “No!” to putting on shoes. “No!” to eating dinner. “No!” to bedtime. We’ve reverted to the toddler stage, complete with physical aggression and running away from authority figures.
The thing is – I know what’s going on. I’m doing my best to counteract it with lots of hugs, physical contact, and keeping things as normal as possible. It’s still not enough, because this is our new normal. Things have changed and I can’t promise that they’ll go back. It’s rough for a kid who relies on routine, schedules, and their lives revolving around a central figure: me.
I’m struggling right now because they’re struggling. I can’t pick up the Destroyer and carry his butt to the kitchen table. I can’t force him to put on his shoes when he’s trying to drop-kick me in the face. I can’t even go up the stairs to deal with the Engineer’s tantrum. I physically can’t deal with this stuff, and the kids know it. They take advantage of it.
The only saving grace in this whole situation is compassion. I know that they’re struggling and I know they don’t actually hate me. I could get mad and frustrated – and I do, a lot – but I also know I need a lot of patience and love to help them get through this. My focus is helping them to cope. I hope that’s enough.