Warning: contains parenting and a degree of positivity or even optimism.
One of my more commented on posts (not that that this is saying much) is Eight is a difficult age, an agonised cri de couer about the whining (him) and yelling (us) that dudelet, then eight, was putting us through. He’s now nine. Time to check in.
Back in last February, we were experiencing meltdowns and tantrums that could go on for an hour then flare up again if you looked at him funny. Literally anything could be a trigger. We ultimately put it down to a long list of age related circumstances with ‘tiredness’ at the top of the list. A year later, Dudelet still gets up at 5:30 most days and reads then stomps downstairs to (clunk) unlock the downstairs rooms (and wake us all up) and get himself breakfast, watch television or otherwise amuse himself. By 7:30pm in the evening, only the matchsticks are keeping his eyes open.
His sleeping schedule dominates the whole household in that the rest of us stagger through the morning feeling grumpy, hard-done-by and liable to snap.
Not surprisingly, he sees this as grotesquely unfair – he can’t help waking up early, he says, and once he’s awake, he can’t get back to sleep.
“But you don’t even try? Look at you, you’ve got huge bags under your eyes!”
“STOP HAVING A GO AT ME!”
(Slams upstairs. Sound of sobs.)
And so on and on.
He’s also hyper-aware of any distinction in the treatment that his little sister gets. She’s five so, as you can imagine, that happens a lot. It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t have a mother who, pre-children, regarded getting up before 8:30am on a workday as an act of barbarism and getting up before noon at the weekends as something you after a really exceptionally long lie-in. Supermum isn’t just grumpy in the mornings – she’s the original Mamma Grizzly.
So mornings are all too often a perfect storm of bad temper. If we could only get him to sleep in even half an hour…
On the other hand, a screaming fit is ten times more likely to be followed by a teary apology and cuddle than a year ago and it’s even possible to send him up to his room to calm down (“This isn’t a punishment – you just need to take some quiet time then you can come down when you’re ready”). He’ll generally be up there for five minutes then will rejoin the rest of us in a reasonably civilized state of mind.
My own shouting is more under control. I think this relates to dudelet and I at least trying to discuss issues reasonably, even when he’s utterly furious with me over some inadvertent slight. At nine, he’s much more capable of – eventually – taking on board the other person’s point of view.
And last week he made us all tea. By himself. He even let me help with the kettle without an outburst of “I can do it myself” moodiness. I suspect the last is a key milestone – he’s starting to learn to accept help and risk failure (that’s another post, I suspect – dealing with children who are afraid of failing).
Meanwhile, I’ve kept up Three Things (three things he’s done that day that I’ve appreciated, regardless of how small or trivial night after night – no matter how difficult it is to remember at times. It still seems to matter to him. And it certainly matters to me.