Last night I think I reached my tipping point. The children recently spent a couple of nights with their dad and then he collected them from school and brought them home to me two nights ago. That night my seven year old started off fine (although he seemed to have lost his appetite completely and seemed somewhat subdued). He went off to the evening club he attends and I had no fuss putting his brother to bed. He returned home at 7.40pm and very soon after that something minor happened which triggered off a bout of bad behaviour, defiance and general unwillingness to comply with anything I said.
I felt like this situation was relatively short lived and I managed to remain calm and used one of the strategies that I’ve been reading about during all of my recent free time. In the end he suddenly burst into tears and couldn’t explain why he was feeling so upset but he then became very loving and wanted hugs and reassurance and was willing to have some quiet time in bed.
Last night it was parents ‘evening’ at school (at infants level take that to mean a ten minute chat with the teacher at 4.30pm). I had failed to mention this to the husband and he later found out when my son mentioned it during a phone conversation. He asked to speak to me and shrieked at me, calling me a complete cow before continuing his conversation with our son.
Early in the evening it was the same kind of thing as the night before – my son started off very calm and cooperative – he even asked me to tell him specifically if there was anything I wanted which he could get me as a present for mother’s day. I couldn’t think of anything so I looked around and spotted a framed piece of art that I’d made for him a couple of year’s ago and suggested that he produce a piece of art which he could get framed for me as a gift as that would be home-made and personal and something that I could always keep and treasure.
It was 7.50pm and he was due to go to bed for his ‘quiet time’ at 8. Earlier in the evening I’d specifically spoken to him and offered him time on my computer playing games if he was willing to follow the routine nicely later. He had agreed and we’d shaken hands on it.
He looked over at the picture I’d made him and said “I want to do one like that…now”. I kind of laughed, told him we didn’t have the materials or the time and that he could do his picture at the weekend when my parents would be able to help him. That was the start of about 45 minutes of hell being unleashed. During that time he pushed me closer and closer to snapping, threatening to wake his little brother (with whom he shares a room), taking my drink to chuck away down the kitchen sink and spilling it, trying to pull my trousers down, becoming more and more gleeful the more wound up and upset I got, pretty much laughing at all of my threats and suggested consequences.
I found myself standing like a statue, feeling that I was facing a crisis and I couldn’t cope – I just literally had no idea how to turn things around despite having felt so strong and determined just two days before with the help of a manual full of advice and suggestions, none of which I had at my fingertips and some of which would only work as a long term strategy anyway.
In the end I just burst into tears and berated him for throwing all of my good nature and everything nice I ever did for him back in my face. I then set about a couple of household tasks – put a load of washing on and washed up some dishes while he stood by watching as tears still streamed down my face. Then I went upstairs and lay down on my bed but he followed me in and got up in my face so I changed tack and got onto his bed (the top bunk) and lay down there knowing that he would follow me. He came up and as he lay down next to me I asked him if he would like to read his chapter book with me which he responded to very well, running downstairs to get it and bring it straight back. We read the last chapter and he was then back to his normal self and I was able to leave him to his last 15 minutes of quiet time in bed before lights out.
After that I sat downstairs feeling completely wretched and hopeless and cried a bit more. Matters were only made worse by the fact that my boyfriend only very recently broke up with me specifically because this situation with my son was just too stressful for him to contemplate any longer. He left me to it and walked away taking any support I had imagined with him.
I spoke to my sister who works in schools and she told me to get the school involved, ask to speak to his teacher or the Head or anybody specific who deals with emotional problems and issues and potentially look to be referred to more specialist services.
All of that kind of freaked me out because I was having (still am) confused thoughts regarding the demarcation between ‘normal’ behaviour for a boy his age and behaviour that is affected and altered by the emotive nature of our family break up which is clearly exacerbated by his father’s inability to treat me with any kind of friendly respect (if he was capable of that I probably would have told him about the parents evenings).
We all want to make excuses, tell ourselves that we can cope alone and fear that asking outside agencies for help is a sign of weakness and failure and shame but maybe it’s true that it does take a village to raise a child, and whilst I do try my hardest and sometimes feel like I’m winning, it doesn’t hurt to ask for the opinion of someone in their professional capacity outside of the emotional circle of family alone. If nothing else, maybe my son would benefit from sharing his feelings about the break up with someone who isn’t me.
This morning after dropping the children off I went into the office and made an appointment to speak to the Head of their school. She has been kind to me in the past and I think it would be a start to at least get her opinion as an outsider but also as someone who has my child’s pastoral care in her hands.
For the time being I am just bracing myself for another bedtime battle and wishing and praying for calm to once again descend.