Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Stink of Spoiled Mete

Two. And. A. Half. HOURS.

CG has been crying for two and a half hours. Sometime this evening he didn't get his way, for one reason or another. He wanted to watch a movie. Or throw his toys. Or some other ridiculous thing. I said no. He threw a tantrum. As I carried him to the time out chair - AGAIN - he got really mad. He kicked and writhed in his usual way.

And then, he bit me. Into his crib he went.

I used to be greatly opposed to putting him in his crib for time-outs, or punishment, or whatever you want to call it. I didn't want him to equate bedtime with being punished. And for a long time, we were very, very lucky in that sense. Bedtime was a happy routine. Books, quiet time with us, then a voluntary walk to his room.

There was a time where just the warning of a time-out would convince him to stop his bad behavior. A count to 3 - always sloooow at 2 - and he'd hurry up to pick up the toys he'd thrown or pick up the tissue he had shredded all over the rug and put it in the trash.

On the rare occasions we had to resort to time-out, he sat willingly in a kitchen chair and stayed put with no further warnings. After doing his two minutes, he would get down and say "sa-ay" (sorry) while doing his version of the sign, a sideways swipe across his chest. And he would behave afterwards.

Lately, things are unravelling.

Time-out has not been working the past few weeks. His tantrums are getting bigger and bigger. I try positive reinforcements. I try to reward good behavior when I see it. I try to spend quality time whenever I can. But it's getting harder and harder. And his behavior is getting worse every day.

It started a little over a week ago. He got sick. He had a slight fever that led into a cold. He was whiny. Fussy. But he was sick. So I probably indulged him a little too much. When he wanted to watch another movie after he had already watched two, I let him. When he threw his toys all over, I warned him, but then helped him pick them up. After all, he was sick.

I can pinpoint the night the tides turned. Last Tuesday. Fourth of July. A rough, whiny day of family picnics and neighbors' illegal fireworks. He had fallen asleep at his usual time, but woke up at 10:00, upset. I couldn't console him in his room, so I brought him into the living room to rock in the recliner. He wasn't in pain from what we could see. Just cranky, overtired. And PISSED OFF. We put a movie on. He was fine for a while, until one of us had the nerve to ask him if he wanted a drink of water. Then the crying started. We settled him down only to shift in our seats or brush his leg and he'd become hysterical again.

Finally, at 11:30, exhausted, I suggested taking him for a ride around the neighborhood. Ride the roads, my cousin used to say when she had to put her grandchildren to sleep. Ride the roads. She'd take them out a half hour ride and they'd pass out. I couldn't imagine having to rely on such a crutch on a regular basis. But here I was, close to midnight on a Tuesday with no other options. Ride the roads. What the hell.

As soon as he was strapped into the carseat, the crying stopped. He looked out the window, clutched his stuffed dog and waved goodbye to Jete. We were going for a RIDE. All was right with the world.

I drove for fifteen minutes before he finally passed out. I drove another fifteen just to make sure it was for real. He stayed asleep as Jete lifted him out of the car and into bed. We fell into bed, emotionally spent. It was a one-time thing, I thought. Sometimes you have to do those kind of things as a parent.

The next day, I called out of work. If his mood was anything like the day before, I didn't want to leave him with anyone else. He was whiny again, but pretty much okay. Until he brought his shoes out. "Shoes-ee? CAH?" I explained that no, we couldn't go in the car. Because it was daytime, and I was in my pajamas and -

"CAH! SHOES-EE!"

The first meltdown of many began.

(Two hours and forty-five minutes. Although he's definitely weakening.)

He has been having these fits multiple times a day since. When I get home from work, when my mother comes over, when I take a shower - he automatically thinks he's entitled to a ride in the car. We must go somewhere. In the car. NOW.

Unless you indulge him, the day is shot. He begins a series of endless tantrums over nothing. His fudgsicle dripped on his hand. His puzzle piece didn't go in the first time. His turn with the garden hose didn't go as he planned and he sprayed the wrong plant. His request for a fourth piece of chocolate is denied. Each tantrum bigger, longer than the last.

I wonder often, am I spoiling him? Is that why he is doing this? Am I raising a future serial killer? Someone who thinks they are entitled to everything they want at the moment they want it? Somewhere along the line, did I teach him that throwing a temper tantrum is the way to get things you want? Is it truly All My Fault?

Or is this a normal part of being two? Is it expected that he will cry and throw himself on the ground and carry on hysterically when he doesn't get his way? Is it part of growing up? Is it, as I secretly hope, a Phase? Will it pass?

People probably think I'm evil for letting him cry this long - 2 hours and 47 minutes - abandoning him, teaching him I won't be there for him when I need him. I'm sure I thought it more than once. But I never dealt with a child with a will this strong face to face.

He is his own worst enemy. He fights everything insanely, even when I explain that if he just STOPS for a minute, he can watch that movie, have that fudgsicle back, go outside and play. But it is too late. Because it doesn't matter why the fit started. That's irrelevant. It just matters that right now, he is MAD.

He's getting physically stronger. The bite today is just a taste of his violence towards us. He kicks - HARD. And throws things. Lately, I've been hit in the head with a puzzle piece, a football and his shoe. And I don't care if he's only two. That stuff hurts.

He throws himself around too. He flails and thrashes, trying to injure himself or someone else. Kicks the glass on the entertainment center. Slams his head back, back on the couch until he strikes wood. Then cries with a new ferociousness.

His crib is the only place I feel he is safe from himself. And frankly, the only place the rest of us are safe from him. It's one thing for him to bite or kick me, but we can't take the chance that he'll injure Ethan, who can't defend himself or see a ball coming at his head. And so, I broke my own rule. Into the crib he went.

I tried taking him out after the first fifteen minutes. He seemed to be quieting, so I brought him to the living room. He sat, cuddling with me for a little while. Then he got up and tried to turn the TV on. "CG, not right now. I don't think we should watch TV just yet - "

SLAM. He threw his fists against the cabinet. Flung himself on the floor and started the tantrum anew.

After a few more minutes, he went back to the crib. After another twenty, I tried again to bring him out to civilization. "Do you want some water?" I worry sometimes. He hardly eats anything at all during the day, and with these tantrums he eats even less. More control games. He agreed, so we went into the kitchen. As I reached for the ice, he saw the fudgsicles and asked for one. "Are you sure you want one? You didn't finish the last one -" More tears. I grabbed one out of the box and quickly unwrapped it.

Giddy, he walked into the living room and sat on the couch. Licked it a few times. Flung himself back against the couch and started to slide. And got mad. I took the fudgsicle as he tried to smash it against the fabric. "You have to be careful -"

More tears.

After that, it was a lost cause. We realized each trip OUT of the room was making things worse. He was beyond exhausted. It was time for him to go to sleep. The only thing stopping him was himself. Trying to force him to calm down was impossible. And so, the countdown.

It's so hard to know what's normal in situations like this. Ethan should have broken us in to what a two-year-old is like. But he couldn't. He has always been an angel in so many ways. Through his surgery and occasional illnesses, he has had his moments, but they always pass quickly. He is essentially a happy boy and has always been that way.

In so many ways, raising CG is a million times more difficult and emotionally taxing than raising Ethan. Strangers may think having a disabled child is so hard, so much harder than a typical child, but on many days, it is not. The stress that comes with parenting Ethan is from the inside. Will he be okay as he grows up? Is this medicine working? How will he ever know we love him? But there is never the wondering if you are making the right move in this delicate game of parenting. Just - Is he okay? Is he happy? And we know without question that he is.

We love CG without question. He is the light in our lives that we needed after the darkness we went through in Ethan's first few years. But it is so difficult to handle his mood swings. I only have a little time with him on weekends and each night, and it's so hard to have him miserable throughout most of that time. It wears me out in ways I never expected. I just keep thinking, "Why does he have to make it so hard?"

Maybe part of the problem is that Ethan set an impossible standard with his almost constant good attitude. Even through his brother's tantrums, he is calm. Listens to him cry and carry on and just smiles a small smile. Maybe he's slightly amused by the situation. We'll never know. And we'll never know whether the brain damage created this happy being or if his natural personality is shining through.

But I do know one thing: thanks to Ethan, Jete and I are really the spoiled ones.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I just found your blog today and am hooked. I hope you find some kind of solution soon with CG. I wish I had some advice to offer, but I don't (and it would probably be assvice anyway). I love your writing...