Monday, May 16, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

Sometimes I just look at Colin and shake my head. I don't really know what to do with this boy. I don't know how to parent to him. From what everyone tells me he is the quintessential middle child. All drama and trouble, all the time. Some days I just don't know how I will get through the day and then others I just feel so badly for him. He really is stuck. He whirls around out of control fighting everyone. Its exhausting.

I've always marveled at just how different from Raph he is. Those boys couldn't be further apart on any spectrum. I don't really compare him in a negative sense, like, "Oh well Raph did this, and you don't." I note their differences and uniqueness. Raph is passive and reserved, Colin is outgoing and daring...both are very stubborn. This, of course, doesn't mean I never wish he had a little more control like Raph does but Raph is no angel either. He's difficult to parent in another sort of way.

For Colin, he's never old enough or young enough. He's just stuck in the middle of two very different children. Raph is older by 3 years so he can do so much more. Colin WANTS to be older and do so much more but he's not. This naturally adds to his frustrations. For his birthday this year we thought long and hard about what he should get as gifts. We wanted to make sure that it was all age appropriate, something that he wouldn't need help to do and could enjoy at his level. As it turns out Raph was only mildly interested in his toys and Colin enjoyed them greatly. Success! Then he was given a gift of a Lego set that was clearly marked "Ages 7-14". Completely out of his range of abilities but he was so happy because it was "just like Raph's". He then couldn't put them together and later smashed it...and the one just like it Raph spent a long time putting together.

Always looking up to Raph

I know he has no fuse at all. He is a bomb ready to go off at any second but you know, I can't really blame him some of the time. He can't do what Raph can do and he can't do what Heidi is allowed to get away with because she's a baby. He's too old and too young all at the same time. He's torn in both directions, vying for our attention and a whirling dervish by nature. This snowballs regularly and leads him to tear up books, draw on someone else's artwork, throw things and scream and throw fits at the drop of a hat. He's always fighting someone. Fighting against Raph because he is lacking and fighting against Heidi because he can and fighting against me because I try to reign him in. A simple, "Not right now" can cause him to completely lose it and be reduced to a screaming bucket of tears. Before he can even utter the words, "I left my blankie in the car." He just starts screaming. His default response to virtually everything is incoherent screaming. All he had to say was, "Mommy I left my blankie in the car" and I would open the door for him. Instead of speaking he screams. How many times do I have to tell him to use words because no one knows why he is screaming?

But what he doesn't know is that Raph looks up to him as well. Raph would never feed a llama

Sometimes I just want a little bit of peace. But I know he must be yearning for that same peace but doesn't have the vocabulary or ability to express his needs. I know, really, that when I want to push him furthest away is when I should be pulling him closer. Its just so hard to do though. Its so hard to embrace someone that is constantly pushing against you and screaming. Someone who has virtually no impulse control yet who is very deliberate in his actions. How do you parent that type of child? How do you make HIM feel special, loved, and cared for when sometimes you just want to walk away? I love him so much but I feel awful as a parent because I can't control him. He is a force to be reckoned with, that is a certainty. I shouldn't try to *control* anything. Any parent will tell you, anyone who thinks they have control over their children is clearly delusional. Much of life has to be done on their terms. Not to be a limp wristed parent but its can't really force them to do anything. I am stubborn and he is just as stubborn. It can take him hours to clean up a destructive mess he's made. Lots of screaming and theatrics for something that would take no more than 3 minutes to complete. An epic battle of wills at all times. Over everything. Choosing battles is difficult when there are so many. Do you ignore disrespect or confront disrespect? How do you foster an acceptable level of *fear* without being a feared parent? How much do you push and how much do you accept?

"I was giving them lips."

I'm up late tonight alone with my thoughts. I googled "how to parent to a middle child" and it turns out that much has been written on the topic. I know birth order is an important factor in your persona. I am the baby and much younger than my siblings. My life growing up was much different from theirs simply because of birth order. All three of us are similar in many ways but wildly different in others. Some of that is just our nature and some of it is how, when and where we were brought up. I was so far removed from my brother (the middle child) that I didn't really *see* the struggle in the middle. I can see it now though. He was trapped between sisters and from what my mom tells me, he was very much like Colin. I think I'm starting to have a better understanding of both of them. With age comes wisdom on many different levels. You see past yourself and into others. I still keep trying to look further into Colin because it just isn't working the way we are doing things now. Tonight I came across this line:

To counteract the attention you lavish upon your overachiever firstborn and spotlight-hogging last born, the middle-born child needs to experience acceptance exactly for who he is -- mistakes included

This nearly brought me to tears. I need to print that out and put it somewhere in the open so I can take a moment to think about HIM not his actions.

Most days I lumber along trying to make things work. Trying to be a better mom for this special little boy searching for his place in this world. Its a struggle for both of us. Mike promises me that one day I will be closest with him. He will turn the corner on this willful preschooler to be a funny, loving teenager who will always make me laugh. I hope this happens. I hope that I can find it in me to be the type of mom he needs. More understanding and less rigid. Help him find his place in the family and embrace his individuality. I know that some day his persistence and stubbornness will serve him well, but for now I would like to make it through just one day without an explosion. Just one day.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

I stumbled upon your blog one day and have been stopping back to check for new posts every so often. This one really hit home with me. My oldest daughter (4 yrs) is exactly how you describe Colin. Not a middle child, but every day is exhausting because she too has to be a drama queen about everything. It's like when she's cute, she's REALLY cute and I feel guilty for being sooo annoyed with her 99.9% of the time, but when she's bad I feel like I'm ready to check into the nut house at any second. I know (hope? :) ) that someday she will grow out of this, but man is it tiring at the moment. Hang in there and remember you're not alone in trying to parent one of these type of kids!