We’ve had a few rough days recently. Eldest has discovered that he is pretty strong and I can’t actually stop him breaking things. I imagine this is a pretty scary realisation for him. I think we’d all hoped that he would be a bit stronger emotionally before he became so strong physically.
I am hoping that our regular routines and patterns will help him see that, though I can’t physically contain him anymore, I can still be trusted to keep him safe. I’m hoping that if I keep creating positive moments together, he will know that I still feel good about him, even if I get upset when he hurts me and breaks my things. He helped me hang our the washing, and I think he enjoyed being useful rather than destructive.
To be honest, I am only guessing at how this feels for Eldest. He hasn’t been able to talk to us at all.
I know how it feels for me, though, and that matters too.
I feel like I’ve failed. Since the boys came home, I have said that ‘we must help them control these tantrums before they get too big for me to cope with’. I haven’t managed it. We’ve reached the point where the boys are too big for me to control, and we haven’t managed to equip them with the skills to control themselves.
I look back on all the bad days when I lost my temper and wonder how many of those I needed to get right to avoid reaching this point. If I had been a bit better at taking care of my own needs in the early days, could I have given more to the boys? Or would I have needed to be completely different?
When I can’t give Eldest what he needs, I feel useless. What’s the point of having him here with me, if I can’t head off these tantrums? My husband has much more presence and is able to calm Eldest down much quicker than I can. That makes me feel useless, the lesser parent.
During the actual rows, I find that I fill with adrenaline. I want to fight sometimes; I feel so angry. Sometimes I am scared, not the good-mummy-scared that he might hurt himself, just scared that he might really hurt me. Sometimes I feel jealous. There are moments when I think it might be nice to stop being responsible and start smashing a few things myself. When Eldest taps into his darker side, he wakes mine up too. I have to work on controlling myself.
But, that isn’t going to help us now. I am certainly not the perfect parent, but I am the one that my boys have got. I may have failed to meet one goal, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still succeed in the long term goal of helping the boys to grow into independent adults.
We have a new goal now and we have new strategies. There isn’t a lot that I can do when Eldest loses control. But, I can do a lot in the aftermath. I can get alongside him and show him how to repair things and relationships.
I can love him through the tantrums. I can remember his positive qualities for him when he forgets them. I can hold on to the boy who is gentle with his baby brother, the boy who helps me cook, the boy who saved his pocket money to buy his Nana a present. Eldest needs me to remember that side of him, because he sometimes forgets it himself.
Most importantly, I can keep working on managing my own temper. I can try to show him how it’s done. I can show him how to handle anger and fear and how to walk away from a fight. I still have plenty to offer my biggest boy, and he still has a lot of growing to do.
Change can be rough for my boys. Suddenly realising that they have grown bigger than they feel inside is a lot to deal with. It’s as though they’ve been put behind the wheel of a land rover when they only just worked out how to control a bike. I anticipate a lot of crashes in the near future.
But, I also anticipate progress. So far, Eldest has astonished us with his persistence and his hard work. That probably isn’t going to stop now. He is a remarkable boy and I truly believe that he is going to achieve his own aims.
I guess that’s the answer to my hopelessness at the moment: I can’t fail completely, because I am not alone. I have my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends; I have a whole team working on this. And the boys are not sacks of potatoes waiting to be shifted nor wild creatures needing to be tamed. They are active participants and they are also trying to get better at being the lovely young men they want to be. Together, we stand a chance.
Just to finish on a positive note, the big boys made each other a mug, here they are:
We will have plenty of good moments even in the worst of days.