Lines written as I wait for my three-year-old to come running out of his room at bedtime

I worry about Zachary, who is so up in his own head sometimes that he makes his life more complicated than it needs to be.  I have a vague suspicion of where that trait may have come from, and I feel sorry for a child who over-thinks everything from the play dates that he builds up in his little head to the reward he wants for his sticker chart.

I worry about Lilah physically.  I was never one to run to the doctor, but with this little girl I am there every other week.  Perhaps it is because she got Benjamin’s pathetic immune system (thanks to Daddy) combined with Zachary’s diminutive stature (thanks to Mommy).  Or perhaps it was the pneumonia last year that landed her in the hospital for a week as a newborn.  Or maybe she really does get sick a lot.

But the one I worry the most about is Benjamin.  Because I just don’t get him.

He seems so heedless of rules and other people’s opinions that it’s easy to believe he is actually heedless of rules and other people’s opinions.  He runs off laughing maniacally when asked to brush his teeth, he makes his body go limp when we try to get him into the house, and he screams loudly just to hear the sound of his own voice.  On Sunday, I caught him sitting on top of his baby sister.  I think he was trying to ride her.

I suspect, however, that he actually does care.  I think there is a bravado there, covering a sensitive kid with a desire for constant stimulation.  He wants to rocket around the house, but he wants us to find a way to stop him before he hurts himself.  He wants us to be engaged in his game, even though his game is getting us to stop him from scraping his fork over the table.  And we cannot find an effective way to stop him.

Stop right there, because I know you are going to offer advice.  If you are going to suggest any of the following, don’t bother, because we’re already doing it:

  • sticker chart
  • yelling
  • not yelling and talking firmly
  • taking away television privileges one minute at a time
  • removing the fork from his hand
  • time outs
  • praise for good behavior

I’m also not interested in hearing any suggestions that we give him some special time each day just with a grown-up unless the suggestion comes with an offer to babysit the other two kids while I am patiently playing knights with Benjamin.  We do the best we can to give him individual attention, but it seems the suggestion that we spend time alone with each kid each day never comes from people with three kids five and under.  (What I am looking for in posting this, in case you are wondering, is commiseration.)

Benjamin is the kind of kid who, if he lived in a house of spanking, would try to get himself spanked, just to push the envelope a little further.  He loves rules, because without them there would be nothing to break.  He is charming, he is smart, and he is loving.  He will make a mighty fine adult some day, if we can keep him alive that long.

But there are going to be some mighty tough teen years in the middle.  Perhaps I had better alert the police department now.

22 responses to “Lines written as I wait for my three-year-old to come running out of his room at bedtime

  1. I always said after my first child I felt like a fairly competent Mom, things went fairly closely to way I thought they would, when I had my second, I realized that it had absolutely NOTHING what-so-ever to do with my parenting skills and had everything to do with the make-up of that child. In the beginning I thought Allie was difficult just because she had reflux, however at 17 months old, I am learning that her temperament is completely different than my sons. Everyone looks at her these days and says “boy I think you are going to have your hands full with that one”…… and yeah I think they are probably right!

  2. My daughter is a “negative attention is better than no attention at all” kind of kid, and she’s 19. She still hasn’t grown out of it. It was always infuriating, it was a game that she pulled us into and we didn’t know how to stop it. She’d act out, and we’d react, which was exactly what she wanted.

    I wish I knew what to tell you. But then you only wanted commiseration right? LOL. Sorry! That’s all I got. I know just how frustrating it is. People always told me to just ignore it because the negative attention was just fueling the process, but it’s impossible to let someone hurt themselves or someone else.

  3. My ten-year-old is so much like your Benjamin. Rules? Made to be broken. Frequently. Regardless of consequences.

    Hang in there . . .

  4. Advice is so often useless – particularly as with some children what works beautifully one day is utterly pointless the next. Parenting involves so very much worry, and generally means a lot of shifting from one type to an entirely new (and thus more disturbing) one!

  5. My girls were/are model citizens in school/public, but crazy maniacs at home, in various age-appropriate ways. My boys don’t temper themselves in public. I could not believe it when Simon was 3 and his teacher sent home a note about his defiance. And, really, it was from the time they could walk, if not before. They fall asleep eventually, and then they stay out of the house for longer periods of time.

    But, oh yeah, take that fork away, because that sounds really annoying.

  6. Supernanny to the rescue!!! Just kidding. Though she does have some ideas on managing kids. I’d just chime in and say direction and distraction. He’s likely to be one of the really smart, bored ones, who then act up because he’s got nothing to challenge him. I find that my daughter tends to respond well to that.
    Oh, you wanted commiseration. Sorry. It must be so rough. Hang in there. It will get better, and you’re a great mom.

  7. Obviously you know your children better than anyone else does, but (I work in a school) and one thing we do is write a story about the behavior with the kids. That way the consequences are all mapped out and possibly he can learn to take other people’s perspectives that way…

  8. She Started It

    He sounds similar to my now 5-year old. After we tried discipline and positive reinforcement, we did absolutely nothing. We just rolled with it.

    It lasted about 1.5 years, this behavior. And then she changed, and it was done.

  9. I’m commiserating. And figuring that as he gets older, he’ll have more outlets for his energy. It’s hard to be a 3 or 4 year old with that much energy. I know someone who put her daughter into 2 preschool programs because a 1/2 day just wouldn’t do it.

  10. That sucks. Kids are weird. Hopefully he’ll grow out of it.

  11. I can’t believe I wrote people’s when I meant to write peoples’ – I hate it when people do that.

    Good luck; I feel for you.

  12. My kids both have their moments, but on the whole they’re too afraid of us being angry at them to break rules with gay abandon. My body, on the other hand? Totally thinks rules are made to be broken and that negative attention is better than none. So I sort of understand your pain, in my own slightly skewed not entirely sane manner.

  13. I’ve never offered anyone advice about their kids because it’s not my thing. I am sorry it’s hard.

  14. As you said, he will make a mighty fine adult one day. I think that the ones who drive us around the bend always do.

    I’ve also heard that sometimes kids who are like this in their early years are easier as adolescents. They’ve done their rebelling already, as it were. Some days, believing that might be true is all that sees me through.

  15. You know I am the last person on earth who will ever say to another weary, bewildered parent “Have you tried time outs?”

    So I’ll just say I’m here, and I hear you, and I SO get what you’re feeling.

  16. Have you read The Magic Years? It’s an oldie but goody book about child development from the 50s. I was hesitant to read it because I assumed it would be dated. Guess what? Kids haven’t changed much. And the author’s wonderful explanations for why kids push your limits are just SO reassuring. I really recommend it.

  17. Hey Emily! Our E was(is-who am I kidding) exactly, exactly, exactly like Benjamin! Our A is exactly, exactly, exactly like Zack. It does get easier, Kindergarten at E’s new school has made loads of difference (for now). No advice to offer, but to say, been there Sister, and I am at the end of the line anytime you need to vent. Hugs! C

  18. Parenting is ever humbling– moments of joy with lots of a** kicking things too. Hang in, hang in, hang in.

  19. I know it seems a long way away… but my older son was just like that. He never walked, he ran, he acted first, thought later, was constantly getting into trouble.. you name it. Then he turned 8…. and now…9… and Wow. Kind, considerate, thoughtful… It’s tough to get through, but I think the rewards of getting through it are better!
    And oh – I never found any of those “suggestions” to work.. what did work was, like you said, one on one attention. (Which was equally difficult for a single mom w/two kids under the age of 5) But – you do what you can.

  20. Benjamin=Oliver, my third child. Total and complete commiseration. My first is severely disabled and the second is an angel. I thought it was me, then, because the second was so easy. I thought that I was an exceptional mother with a unique perspective (how easy to have a typical kid! Etc.). Then came Oliver, and I can honestly say that in nine years not a day has gone by that I haven’t wondered what the hell is wrong with my parenting, with him, etc. But not a day has gone by, either, that I haven’t laughed my ass off at his shenanigans. One suggestion: I did find a book called “Transforming Your Difficult Child” really helpful, if only because it described Oliver to a tee.

  21. I have one of those. He is now 10 and life is still like that. Some things (like reward charts) work for a short time, but his lone goal in life seems to be getting all of the attention in the entire world, by whatever means necessary. Really. And no amount of positive attention will suddenly turn him into mr compliant. He just wants more attention. Good luck. And if you find what works, please please share.

  22. Negative attention….double edged sword.