Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Hard One to Write

Today was one of those hard parenting moments, but I want to take the time to capture it before the day is gone (and it's close because I've been up 16.5 hours now and I'm fading fast) and to make sure that one day when Josh is grown and (maybe) has kids of his own, he'll understand where I was coming from today.

We've been struggling with Josh's behavior lately. He's got a bit of a smart mouth on him to his dad and I. It's more than just an age thing too, I've been thinking. Something has been bothering him. I look back at the events of today and I see what was the trigger now. It's clear in retrospect, but it hasn't been for a while.

We stopped at the drugstore to pick up Josh's medicine and Mr. Ronnie (our pharmacist, Sunday School teacher and friend), took Ellie around (as he regularly does) to see everyone in the shop. He fussed over her for a while and then said Hi to Josh. Now, Mr. Ronnie would never never slight anyone and would be mortified if he knew he had. But, Josh got quiet and then got mouthy with me in the car while I was on the phone with his dad telling him about his doctor's appointment. It hit me the wrong way and I snapped at him. We got into a big argument in the car and (because we were really close to the house), when we got home, I told him we weren't leaving the car until we worked this out.

We spent a long time, digging deep about his feelings about us and why he was feeling the need to be so angry with us. It took a long time and persistence, but it finally paid off, I think, with him telling me it was the fact that, yes, he is still quite a bit jealous of Ellie. Well, not really Ellie, I don't think, but the attention that Ellie commands. He said everywhere we go people make over Ellie and no one gives him attention. He misses having all the attention that was lavished on him before she came. He was quick to point out that he is not unhappy that she is here because, in his words, "She makes things more exciting around here," but he is feeling a bit left out of the spotlight.

I asked him what it would look like in his perfect world if he could create a happy place. He told me that he wanted more time with his dad, playing in the yard. That was a big one for him. I asked what I could do differently, and apparently, he's getting plenty (haha) of my attention, because he couldn't think of much there. He did say he was a bit upset that I was taking Ellie with me on Friday's girl's night out, but when I explained that the only reason I was doing that was because I wanted him and Kevin to have some "just guys" time and not have to take care of Ellie, he was ok with it.

If he only knew how very, very hard I have tried to be sensitive to this issue for him. If he could just understand that my heart aches when people go on and on about Ellie but saying nothing about or to him. I work very hard to make sure I point out good things he does and what a great big brother he is when there are people who, unthinkingly, don't even speak to him when Ellie is around. I explained to him that things are different now that Ellie is here and that they will never be exactly the same again -- we will find a new normal. I told him it was ok to feel the way he does and that there are days I long for the times when I could sleep when and as much as I needed and that was something I really missed so I understood where he was coming from. I think at the end, he did feel better. He has been quite a bit more pleasant this afternoon and evening.

I hope one day, when he is older and reading this, he can fathom just how very, very, very much I love him and how I would do anything to make his life perfect, but that I know that it is a lesson that is hard to learn but has to be -- no one has a perfect life. Things change. Lives change. Sometimes change is good; sometimes bad and sometimes it's a little of both. But, regardless of what change does to your life, you have to adapt and find a way to be happy in that new circumstance. I know it's hard for him, but he has to adapt to it. I suppose it will continue to take all of us just a bit more time to seek out that "new normal" and continue trying it on for size until it fits like a glove. I suspect one day, after a lot of sleep and after Josh has enough attention to fill his "love tank", we will look back on all this and find it a bit humorous. I certainly hope so.

I want both my children to know, above everything, they are loved, appreciated, valued and that I had time for them.


Mom to 2 Angels said...

We know exactly what you are talking about!! I think people are just naturally drawn to our cute little girls and they do look different which gets them more attention as well. Poor C has been overlooked, not intentionally, more times than I can even count. And he's not old enough to put those feelings into words, you are so very wise to help Josh articulate that. I just try to make sure in my home that the attention is equally poured out. C even gets overlooked when we go to adoption gatherings because he "matches" us. HE has said before "but I'm adopted, too" when people ask where AP is from. It's tough!

Anonymous said...

What a wise and very keen mom you are! I've found that, in general, boys are hard-wired very differently than girls and at times it's almost impossible to get to the root of what's really bothering them (or even on their mind) without having the ability and instinct to recognize that there's even a problem to begin with.

Hats off to you!

Hilary Marquis said...

I think you handled it perfectly! Thanks for braving those waters before I have to cross them someday...

Kimberly said...

Maria - I love that you looked past the behavior (mouthiness) to the stress that was causing the behavior. If you hadn't you would have missed out on such a wonderully honest and vulnerable conversation that will likely lead to less stress for everyone, more respect on all sides and of course more love! And thanks so much for sharing this - you rock!