It's a new month today.
I'm sure you already know.
My house is a disaster that would probably only take three hours to really clean - laundry and all - if I stopped everything and hustled.
Which isn't happening right now.
Because I'm sitting here writing. Because I don't want to.
My tone is deflated, can you hear it? New months are mini-new-years to me, bearing excitement and a feeling of clean. I like new months. Everything feels possible again, twelve times each year.
I'm struggling with my son. This morning and the one previous, my husband has woken with him and taken him for early morning walks. They've been out of the house before 6:00. My husband is a miracle in that way, willing to embrace the early morning when he decides he must.
We want our son to thrive. We're both doing the things we think we should. Tim with the walks and the evening baseball in the yard, me with the from-the-gut patience, the keep-it-loose tone.
We've determined that the only way to get our son to behave like a person we want to be around is to show him, relentlessly, that we want to be around him. This has been hard for about two years. There have been spots of reprieve, yes, and when we're in them I can scarcely breathe for fear that my exhales of relief might blow the whole thing over.
I've spoken vaguely about this before, and I'll vaguely say again that our magical, spirited boy is the greatest teacher I've ever had. He is also relentless in his physical and vocal energy. And sometimes, he seems to go away from us in his mind; he seems to become so focused on maintaining the manic energy his body is thrusting out through him that his eyes start to look different and he begins to laugh in a way that makes me want to cry.
He doesn't feel good in those moments. I know that. Some book somewhere said something like, "A child who feels good, behaves well." I want to give that book the finger. Because I can't figure out why he doesn't feel good. Have I failed him? Surely. Have I said no when I should have said yes? Of course. As a relentlessly analytical mother, I hyper-observe myself constantly and while I see missteps and reasons for apology, mostly what I see is good parenting. Our mistakes do not seem to equal the behavior we're seeing in him.
Last night my husband said that we need to find a child behaviorist.
"It would be good to know if this is age appropriate stuff. Even just knowing that it was a phase would be helpful."
We're spinning it already, trying to see the angle from which our son is fine. And while I want him to be fine more than I want anything else, it occurred to me this morning that instead of fine, I almost want an official person with fancy frames hanging on the wall to tell me that, indeed, something is amiss. Because if something is amiss, the totality of my son's behavioral struggles won't be on me. I'm so weary of every perceived behavior issue being caused, in my mind, by something I've failed at as his mother.
I'm going to do the thing you're not supposed to do for a moment - look at the very real fact that I have another child who behaves very differently. When I'm alone with her, I'm consistently reminded of how different parenting her feels. It's easier, yes, but it also feels like I imagine parenting should feel. When I tell her she can't do Hidden Pictures on the iPad, she gets mad and huffs and puffs. She cries and when she screams too loud, I tell her that's too loud and she knows I mean it and she stops pushing. Then she mopes some more and tells me she's bored and that she hates my rules and I matter-of-factly tell her that she needs to find something fun to do. I give suggestions. She takes one. And then our day goes on.
I can do upset children. I can handle them being angry at me when I make decisions they don't like.
But I often feel like I live on the edge. Like glassy eyes and petulant tones and pointed defiance are on one side, and a life in which I've loved my son enough and in just the right ways are on the other. It's clear which side of the edge I want to land on.
The stakes just feel so high.
The only thing I can think to do is keep scooping love from deep inside the well; the pure kind of love that's been sitting in my middle for eons. I'm going to keep pouring it all over my kids. I hope this kind of love can buoy my daughter and I hope this kind of love can heal whatever's been wounded in my son.
And I hope, in the pouring, that I spill a little bit onto my husband, and maybe some drops onto me, too.
For the Love,