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I will say it's gotten better. Oh, Charlie's still not sleeping, but it's not weighing on me so heavily these days; once we've sent him along to his room in the evening over his passionate protests, he occupies himself with quiet, constructive pursuits like this:


I'm sure he would use his power responsibly if only we whiny oligarchs were to give him some.

And he's still doing wildly inappropriate anti-social shit like this:


…enshrining a precious memory the other class parents will surely treasure.

And we're still getting notes home from school like this:

According to a 4th grader our friend on the way to school today turned around and slapped him across the face. When I asked him about this today, he said that he never turned around and therefore didn't hit anyone.

I stated that when I get two such different accounts of a situation, I ask the nearest adult to give a little more attention in the future. He didn't like this and stated "why do adult stick their noses where they don't belong." I reiterated that it's only because we care.

And it's hard. (Notice I didn't add a joke to that last?) I can't even describe it. I can't really think of it for too long without feeling frightened and discouraged, which is part of why I'm so quiet here lately. It's hard enough to put into words in the privacy of my own mind; to see it written out somehow makes it scarier. It looks so damning in black and white, even to me, without the moderating presence of the real live technicolor boy — and if it's hard for the one who loves him the most, how can anyone else understand? Finally, it's difficult to expose myself knowingly to judgment, when one likely verdict is certainly fair: I have no idea what I'm doing.

I'm probably screwing this up; I'm surely not making it better.

Yet it is better. Or at least it feels better. I feel better. Part of it — the part where I've thrown up my hands, poured myself a drink, and given the sleepless nights up to Jesus — is because I shared it all here. Sometimes I forget how the process of writing allows me arrive at my own real feelings.  And I forget, because I'm new to this webernet communijournal AOLosphlog Geocitisphere 2.0.com thing, what a relief it is to talk to all of you, and to hear you talk back.

But the larger part of it is just...loving my kid. I know, I know: You're going to say I'm crazy because you hate and fear change. But about a century or so after you've sacrificed me to your angry gods for the sake of my radical ideas, I will be revered as a visionary genius.

I love my kid. That doesn't change. I act, I think, most of the time in his best interest. I act, I believe, with concern for him as my prime motivation. I'm teaching him, urging him, disciplining and rewarding him all out of plain old love. But I've realized that in the frustration and worry of the moment, I don't always behave in a way that makes Charlie feel it.

I'm working on that. I am trying to be kinder. To help him feel understood, to offer compromises when I can, to listen; to ask him gently, "What happened on the bus?" instead of "Why did you hit that kid?" Those are the obvious things, but there are the little things, too: letting him have a soda now and then, just because it gives him pleasure, just because why the hell not? Letting him stay up late in the den with me, both of us reading companionably, instead of marching him off to his room at the stroke of oh-my-God-you're-still-up? Offering him an expensive bath bomb to soak with, saying nothing about the glitter — oh, my hell, glitter — it leaves all over the tub, running his towel through the dryer so it'll be nice and warm to fold around him. (Oh, my bathtub-scrubbing hell, glitter mixed with bath oil. I mean really.)

Maybe you do these things as a matter of course — automatic, no big deal. I sure wish I did. But when I'm anxious and irritated, it takes mindfulness, intention, and effort. I work at it, at reaching out to stroke his head with one hand while I'm typing a mortified note to the behavior coach with the other. ("C sez didnt hit & u cant prove it & anyway kid desrvd it. LOL j/k BRB weeping.") I'm making a conscious choice to be nicer to my kid, even when I feel mad and helpless. I'm trying to show him love in ways that let him recognize it.

And it doesn't solve any of the major problems, but I think it's helping some. I'm still exasperated much of the time — if you think I didn't consider Photoshopping that class picture to replace him with a well-behaved ficus, you haven't been reading here long — but I'm finding that when I can nudge my worry aside long enough to ask him to help me with the crossword puzzle, my guilt at failing him eases somewhat. It turns out making my son feel good makes me feel slightly better, too.