Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sometimes I think that loving you is the hardest thing I will ever do

If you're a regular reader you will know that I dote on my son and I mention him frequently. The fun, the japes and the hilarious conversations that we have. So, it's with some trepidation that I'm sharing this with you in the hope that you will not judge or tut at me - or him.

My boy hits. Every day when I go to pick him up from 'big school' I dread what the teacher will tell me. Usually her look is enough to ascertain if it's been a really bad day or just a normal level of naughtiness. I leave feeling embarrassed and upset that my boy is unable to play with other children without being aggressive towards them. I am baffled that this keeps happening and I just can't work out where it's come from.

  • We've never used hitting as a sanction or a form of discipline.
  • We don't hit each other, or anyone else.
  • We don't joke about hitting or make light of anger and violence.

Yet every day our pleas that he use his gentle hands and his big boy words fall on (selectively) deaf ears. I hang my head in shame as he's asked to get out of the pool early during school swimming for not listening and for playing up. "He's disrupting other children's learning," says his teacher. I nod and feel myself well up and my face feels sore from trying not to cry.

We've tried everything we can think of:

  • Reminding him that it feels bad to get hit or to hit seems to have no lasting resonance at all.
  • Positive reinforcement and praise has no long term effects.
  • Punishment and taking away toys or denying treats like swimming achieve nothing. 

We avoid situations where he has been in trouble before because I can't face people who have seen him meltdown or hit me, or hit Hubbie or throw things in a tantrum with seemingly no cause. 

At swimming the other morning more than one parent said, " oh this is the famous ...." I held my breath to find out what they've heard about him. What does that say about me and my expectations of my son ? I am at the end of what was - at one point - a very long tether.

I remember how it felt the first time I saw a child take a swipe at my teeny tiny boy at playgroup. I wanted to thump the child, or their parent, but I didn't of course. Then he went to nursery and he had a few tussles with other children, but he formed friendships and learned the aforementioned 'gentle hands' and 'big boy words.'

I've always taken him out and about. From very early on we did Gymboree, since he could walk he has played sports and we swim a few times a week. I ask myself if I was responding to his boisterousness or if I've caused it. Over the summer I took him to a sports camp most days to run off his boundless energy and some days I'd hear about his off the wall behaviour there too, but mostly it was a break for me and some well-needed running around for him.

Next week my boy will turn 4. Hubbie and I want to do something special for him and to give him gifts and to celebrate his birthday. Yet I feel so sad and upset that I can't bring myself to reward him for being so unkind to his classmates.

I keep reminding myself he's only almost 4. He's learning how to form new relationships. He's in a new nursery environment, having left behind all his friends of 2 years, half his life. He has exclusively adult company at home - well a cat too, but let's include him in the adult category for now - so however hard we try to encourage him to share he's used to everything being just his.

Every day I wait with dread and bated breath to find out what level of aggression he went to this time. I'm exhausted and shamed. I feel as though I can't actually get through to him. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not expecting him to misbehave. I always go with an expectation that today has been a good day - a day without a pitying look from his teacher as I sheepishly make my way to pick him up.

I ponder whether I've been too soft, by looking for reasons for his anger or whether I've been too hard by being strict about behaviour. His manners are impeccable and he says, please, thank you and always says sorry for hitting. I just wish he wouldn't hit. Underlying all this anxiety is a fear that I've made a mini hulk. An angry child who could become a moody and mean teenager and eventually a horrible adult. 

Some days it's all too much. I'm reduced to tears of frustration, anger, upset. Then I remember that's probably how he feels too. So however bad I'm feeling I still go up to see him at bedtime and hold him close. I just need to remind myself how much I love my little boy. I have to show him that I love him no matter what. That I am a safe person to be himself with.

The words that go through my head are from the scene in Love Actually where Andrew Lincoln finally tells Keira Knightley how he feels and as he walks away from her he says, "Enough, Enough."

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