Honestly, I don't know why we don't see more stories in the newspaper about parents with oppositional children driving their cars straight into brick walls or off of the sides of overpasses. And I confess to having a burning curiosity as to how so many oppositional children manage to survive to adulthood. And even as I write this I have to kind of laugh, because after this long, my coping skills have developed to levels I never imagined were possible.
My son, God bless him, is simultaneously one of the most charming and one of the most maddening people I know. He has been at his new school for just over a month now. He knows the name of everyone in the school. I pick him up and no matter which crossing guard is waving us across the pavement to safety, he knows her name. He smiles at her, waves at her, enthusiastically shouting, "Hi Mrs. So-and-So!" And they all smile right back at him. "Hi Mr. Race Car Man!" They love him. And he IS lovable. So charming. About two days after his birthday party he came up to me in the kitchen and wrapped his arms around me.
"Mommy, when is your birthday?"
"Just after Christmas. Why?"
"Because you made such a special birthday for me. I want to make you the bestest car in the world for your birthday."
Melting. I'm melting. He is so adorable when he does this.
He remembers people's names, he remembers the smallest details about everything. His brain is fascinating to me, and I know I've only scratched the surface of what he's capable of understanding and doing. As a kindergartner, he rarely participated in learning activities in his classroom. He was mostly curled up in a ball on the floor, not coping. Yet he passed the end of year testing with perfect scores. Of course, they only test them to their grade level, so that's not so amazing. What was amazing was that his aftercare provider, on days when he'd been naughty, made him sit in her office and do math and reading books during recess. "Just for fun" (or so she says), she gave him the first and second grade math tests. He scored perfectly on first grade math and about 80% on second grade math. As a kindergartner with little to no math instruction whatsoever. I tell people that this is the child who will eventually be building nuclear bombs in the basement if his abilities are not channeled very carefully. SG wanted to get him a chemistry set for his birthday. My response was "Please, no, I like my house without the burn marks on the walls and carpet."
And then there are the days (or the segments of a day) when things just get borked.
Now that my daughter is doing "real" homework, I've become weary of being her walking thesaurus. We went to the bookstore yesterday afternoon and she is now the proud owner of a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a children's encyclopedia. I showed her how to look up words in the index of the thesaurus to find what pages to look on, and she was off and running. But bookstores - places I used to love, places I used to be able to hang out in for hours - are my nemesis anymore. If only they would just carry BOOKS. But no, they've got toys now, almost as many toys as they have books, it seems. Brilliant marketing tool, people. Oh, and BITE ME. While I searched for materials for his sister, the little man played at the train table in the kids section and then with the muppet puppets in the puppet theatre (it sells for just $89.99, folks, and if you buy it they throw in a free puppet. Neato Frito. ) But when it was time to check out, he was standing there holding a box of train pieces.
"Mommy, can I have this?"
"Not today buddy. We're not here to pick out toys."
And let the screaming begin.
Would it hurt to buy my kids a toy sometimes? Maybe not. But unfortunately we did that a few years ago and somehow it took hold in their minds that they should get a new toy everytime they go to the store.
"But I was GOOD!" he shouts at me.
"Yes, you were good. That doesn't mean I'm buying you a toy."
I finish paying, I ask the kids to get in the car.
"NO!!!! I want this train!!!"
I'm not going to let him stand there disrupting anyone else's day one second longer than I have to.
"OK, here's the deal. You have to three to put the box down and walk to the car. If you don't, if I have to take the box from you and carry you to the car, you will lose the chance to watch television after homework. No Mighty Machines."
"NO!!!!!" he screams.
I count. He does not comply.
I very calmly take the box from him, calmly pick up his taut, struggling body, and carry him to the car, put him in his booster, buckle him in. He is screaming at the top of his lungs.
I get in the car, put on my seatbelt, turn on the CD player. "Daydreamer" by Adele. Though I can barely hear the song through his shrieking, I focus very intently on the words so that I will think about something other than his piercing yells.
He kicks my seat and screams almost all the way home. I manage not to drive off the overpass, slam into a concrete divider or drive us off a cliff. I manage not to scream back at him. But finally I cannot take anymore of the screaming. I don't want to engage and I don't want to be upset, I am working so very hard at maintaining my composure.
"Buddy, you need to stop the screaming. If you can't stop screaming you're going to have to stay in your room when we get home."
He yells at me for a few minutes more, but then finally his shrieks turn to quiet sobs. Eventually he stops. He picks up the encyclopedia I bought for his sister and starts to read it.
Some might classify this as a colossal failure. I think it was a screaming success.
Sorry for the pun. I couldn't help myself.
My son lost his cool, but I didn't lose mine. Where in the past he might have screamed for an hour or longer, he screamed for about twenty minutes. See, in special-needs-land, we measure success incrementally.
Even so, there are still times when driving off the overpass seems like a reasonable alternative.