Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My child would never do that ...

Ten years back as I sat on my bed, among a pile of books and notes, concentrating hard for my exam the next day, a loud scream disturbed my chain of thoughts and literally gave me a jolt. I wondered what it was when another one followed and then the next till the ear deafening shouts became constant accompanied by loud guffaws. That was the child of my next door neighbor standing in the balcony, screaming on top of his voice for no apparent reason other than the supposed pleasure listening to his own loud voice and looking at others' extreme reactions brought him. I shut the door of my room, cursing under my breath and said to myself "My child will never do that."

NOW HE DOES. As I visited my parents this Saturday, Vansh did exactly that. He stood in the balcony and shouted at the top of his lungs without any reason whatsoever.

Flashback, once again. I and my parents were visiting some distant relatives after a long time. As is customary, they set some plates with biscuits, chips, savories, etc on the table for us to have. The 4 something year old boy entered the scene. My mom tried to strike a conversation by saying "Hello, what's your name?" only to be given a royal ignore. He proceeded to the plates on the table and started devouring the chips with his not so clean fingers and the natural lack of finger dexterity spilling as much as he was eating. His mom tried in vain to take him away by offering the same chips in a separate bowl. He insisted that he wanted to eat from that very plate at that very spot. As the mother raised her voice, the child declared loudly, "You are bad. I'll hit you!" Once again I found saying to myself, "Oh my gosh! My child would never do that."

Today I am the harried mom and that child is my own son.

I find myself worrying sick these days as to how to handle the misbehavior, the back talk, the constant pushing of buttons. Its as if I have to be with him every single waking minute to keep him occupied, which is a major task in itself, to keep him from indulging in behavior he knows he isn't supposed to be doing. Loud no's, whines, screams, I'll hit you seem to be the order of the day.

Everything is an issue these days from getting up in the morning, drinking his milk, taking a bath, you name it and we are struggling with it. And here I am not talking of some days when he is more tired than usual because of a hectic or sleep deprived weekend. Lets just decide not to talk about them at all for now. Till some time back, counting till 10 worked very well for us. So it was his choice whether he wanted to come to brush his teeth himself till I counted till 10 or else I would carry him. I was fine both ways as long as the teeth got brushed. Now many a times, he doesn't budge till 10 and then I have to carry a 4 year old with an uptight body and flailing arms and legs who runs back to the position I picked him up from and insists on coming himself, all the while screaming "You are bad, I am going to hit you." The scene repeats on being asked to take a bath, to come to the table for his meals, to go the restroom before he sleeps and innumerable other times during the day.

Now I have always tried to feed both the kids at the same time so that I can be done with the feeding in one go. The entire family eating together just doesn't work out for us because the kids decide to act super animated. Even me eating with them hasn't been working out for the past few weeks because I have to work really hard acting out rhymes with exaggerated expressions or playing silly games to keep them from running away from the table, the basic minimum requirement to feed them. Letting them be if they don't want to eat doesn't work for me at all because I have come to the conclusion, after much experience, that I am just not wired to handle a hungry cranky kid. So I am prepared to work very hard to feed them at the right time rather than having hungry unmanageable kids at my hands. In spite of that, there are times, he just refuses to come to the table. May be he is not hungry, you say. That's ruled out because he has not had anything unusually filling today. I can read the signs that he is hungry. May be the food is not to his liking - well, he hasn't even looked at it. I try to entice him by singing his favorite rhymes with Jiya, reading his favorite books with her and telling him he can join in when he is ready to eat. He whines and cries because he wants to join in without having to eat the food accompanied by the chanting of his favorite words "You are bad, I am going to hit you."

I have been trying very hard - reading books (Raising a spirited child) with just the right explanation for his behavior, finding ways to say yes minimising the no's myself, trying to make him feel in control of certain things, spending time with him on activities he likes which earlier worked like a charm. I scour the Internet for worksheets he loves doing - connecting dots, anything with cars, trucks, airplanes in it, matching objects. I sit down with him to make airports and parking lots out of Lego blocks. We paint using water colors together. We go the park every single day where he does physically tiring activities like cycling or running. I let him watch pictures and videos, which he so loves, almost everyday for half an hour. And yet the minute I have to attend to something else, he snatches something from Jiya to make her scream and cry; he fills water in whatever he can lay his hands on and spills it every damn where; he moves around furniture making that irritating squeaking sound. And boy at the risk of sounding mighty proud, I can say so myself the amount of patience I have been displaying is not funny. All in an attempt to tell him the right way of dealing with things when he is angry himself. The consequences at times don't bother him at all. For instance, he would be very happy to spill water and equally happy to then mop it up. If only he could do a good job of it. In the last two days, he has himself slipped once and Jiya twice in the mess that he has created. And this after I let them play in the bathroom for at least 15-20 minutes everyday.

Things become worse when we have guests in the house. He decides to scream, tells them random things (like the other day, on being asked what his name was, he actually said "Raghav?!" and that he studies in some school he doesn't actually study in), if at all he decides to talk to them. Eating from plates on the table, screaming, you name it, he does it. So one of us literally has to be with him inside doing something. Its as if we are constantly looking at ways to please him and I feel like such a helpless parent who is playing a losing battle and failing miserably at it.

After he has cooled down, I try to go through with him with what just happened. Many a times he opens up and tells me what caused the anger or why he behaved in a particular way. I tell him constantly that while its okay to be angry but its not okay to yell and shout at others or hurt others either physically or by saying hurtful things. What worries me further is that when I try to put him in the same position and ask him how would he feel if say his friend Ayush were to speak to him like that, he says "I will hit him so that he doesn't speak to me like that." I tell him stories about the two goats who fought on a narrow bridge and as a result, both of them fell in the water and drowned where as on the other hand the two goats who solved the problem peacefully. Somewhere I feel something registering till the next time he gets angry and says the same hurtful things making me wonder whether i just imagined that. I tell him how he has to be kind to make friends, I read him books about the same and then at times at the end of it, he just starts saying "I am a bad boy. Nobody likes me. I don't want any friends. I'll just play myself." It breaks my heart.

I find it so hard to enjoy the happy moments which follow. As he giggles and shows me something he has seen or made, I find it hard to play along and laugh with him when just moments ago he was a different person altogether. I never seem to be sure of the approach that I am taking - am I being too lenient for him to be behaving like this or too strict to make him think and say things he does. I wonder ... Go on, please please tell me I am not alone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5 months after the move

I like...
... Being just a few miles away from my parents place, being able to meet them more often and just a mental satisfaction that I'll be there to share their ups and downs, help and support them whenever the need be.

... Looking at the children being loved and cared for by grandparents and uncles and aunts and them basking in all the love and attention they get, watching the circle of love grow as I am able to watch from a distance

... being at a place where the temperatures allow us to go to a neighborhood park every single day uptil now unlike Minnesota where we were pndoors for a large part of the year.

... Fancying to eat any Indian delight - aloo chaat, golgappas, tikki, samosas, jalebi and not having to make it myself - ah HEAVEN!!

... The fact that a mop, a bucket of water and a bottle of phenyl is all it takes to take care of that upturned palatte of watercolors or worse still poop on the floor as opposed to fancy carpet cleaners and scrubbing and the innumerable carpet steam cleaning sessions we never seemed to have enough of because of the largely carpetted area we had in our apartment.

I miss ...

... Sorely the public library which was a 3 minute drive from our apartment, allowed us to check out a 100 books at a time out of which we had a changing supply of 50 at any given time and I could search and request books at the click of a button as soon as anything caught the kids fancy from cars and trucks and planes to squirrels and kangaroos to statue of liberty or niagara falls, firefighters to garbage truck drivers, volcanoes, doodlebops, caillou,woody, buzz lightyear, anything under the sun.This was apart from the regular visits where Vansh picked up books he liked there. The standards are so high that its impossible for anything to even come close. I am finding it hard to come to terms with reality. BOOHOO!!

... The independence of driving alone anywhere with the both the kids securely strapped in their car seats at the back. Right now the little one cannot be trusted to stay put even with the seat belt on as intermittently she just refuses to sit herself anywhere else other than my lap. I am taking baby steps of giving her books to read at the back, trying explaining to her, doling out her favorite rhymes one after the other and keeping fingers crossed for the strategies to work.

...The ease of riding a bus with both the kids which they absolutely lurved to do. For that matter the ease of going any damn where alone with both the kids, one in stroller and the other just holding it.

...The variety of activities we could indulge in when the weather was good - carrying cycles to a beautiful trail closeby or at a good distance and enjoying the beauty, spending almost every weekend at the beach which the kids loved, several of which were within a 5 mile radius, the garage sales, storytimes at the library, splash pads and the likes.

... The "me" time for a couple of hours after the kids went to bed by 9:30. Here they refuse to sleep until each and every light is turned off and each and every person is sound asleep or at least pretending to do so.

... Having Ashwini back home by 6:00 and then spending at least 3 hours as a family until the dreaded off shore calls began again. The working hours are just too long. BOOHOO yet again!!