“Nope, no more media time for the day, you’ve had enough and it’s bedtime.”
“Just let me watch one show on Netflix.” My seven year old begged.
“No, school starts tomorrow and it is 8:30, it’s time for bed.”
“Just a little…”
“Nope, downstairs to your room and pick out a book.”
He swiped at me, clawing me with a soft hand across my belly.
“You do not hit mom, that is not okay. Apologize.”
He sank to the floor at the top of the steps.
“It is not okay to treat mommy that way. Apologize.”
At a loss of what to do, and only knowing that if I continue to let my son win these battles, it will teach him he does not have to listen to and respect authority, knowing that no matter how much I just want to send him to his room without the apology and wash my hands if this entire situation, if I do so it will do him no favors, and it was doing exactly that kind of thing that got us into the situation we are in now, I straddled him with my feet.
“Apologize.” I demanded.
“Only if you let me go.” Again, I knew that by giving into his little demands, it was teaching him he could control and manipulate others, having left his controlling and manipulative father six years ago, I remember lamenting that his mother never did anything while he was growing up to teach her son how to respect others, I was not going to make that same mistake.
He struggled. “No. Only if you let go first.” I sat on him, being careful not to put my full weight on him, but keeping him still. I held his hands back from hitting me.
“You’re hurting me. Let go and I’ll apologize.” I knew my hands were loose on his wrists and my full weight was not on his hips. I knew I wasn’t physically hurting him and I knew his exclamation was again a tact or ploy to get me to let go.
“Apologize and I’ll let go.”
When he realized I wasn’t letting up, he yelled out “I’m sorry!” I instantly stood up. He ran downstairs to his room and I walked somberly to the kitchen, holding back tears.
My phone rang. It was my boyfriend. I picked it up an explained what had just happened. He showed his surprise and disproval at my tactics. “I just didn’t know what to do.” I lamented. “I want him to learn who’s in charge.”
“Well, you certainly taught him who’s bigger.” That hit me like a ton of bricks, not exactly what I was going for, but true, I thought.
“I just don’t know how to do this. Sometimes I think he would be better off with his dad, his dad seems to handle his disobedience well. I want to give my son the best possible life I can and I want him to understand how to treat people.”
“You know sending him to his dad wouldn’t help. You can do all that. You need to make sure you follow through. You need a little help and some coaching.”
“I know. I have that appointment with that new counselor in a couple of weeks…”
“Baby, you’re fine. Everything with be okay. He’s a good boy and you’re a good mom.”
“Thanks.” I manage, though I don’t fully believe it, and he knows I don’t.
My son is not officially diagnosed as of now, however, I do feel he falls within the large umbrella of behavioral disorders. Perhaps a touch of ADHD and a bit more Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
For those who don’t know what ODD is, I’ve done some research and really like the information the Mayo Clinic has on their website. Here’s a brief overview:
“Even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times. But if your child or teen has a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).”
I am also concerned with his future, Mayo Clinic lists complications of ODD: “If these conditions are left untreated, managing ODD can be very difficult for the parents, and frustrating for the affected child. Children with oppositional defiant disorder may have trouble in school with teachers and other authority figures and may struggle to make and keep friends.”
What parent wants their child to struggle with those difficulties? And I can easily see how if left untreated, that’s how my sons life will turn out.
So I find myself in nearly every challenging and frustrating experience with my son with all those things running through my mind simultaneously while staying calm, using energy healing, calling on all the information and advice in every parenting book I’ve read (I’ve read several) and from the counseling appointments we’ve been to, and holding a prayer in my heart asking God and angels to help teach, be patient with, and understand my son.
I have mixed feelings about putting a label on my son. On one hand, I don’t want him to be prejudged as that ADHD/ODD kid and I don’t want him to use those labels as a reason or excuse to either do or not do things. On the other, hand, when I talk to other people about why my son acts the way he does, I can put a label to it and people instantly understand rather than me having to explain in detail which helps others treat my son with the extra patience and attention he needs as he grows from this experience.
In my dark moments i allow the thoughts: my son is struggling, daily life is a constant battle, school is a challenge, church is a challenge, home life is a challenge. I sometimes feel like I’m the worst parent on the face of this planet, and if only I had been better at being consistent when setting boundaries in his earlier years, then maybe my son would be better behaved now, maybe all of this would be easier.
When I let those thoughts take root, more follow, like ‘I don’t even have my son full time (he is with his dad Tuesdays and every other weekend), how could I handle him full time?’ Or ‘I have been raised with my mom doing in home child care, parenting should come naturally to me.’ Or ‘I should just let his dad have him full time, my son doesn’t need or want me in his life anyway.’ And it all boils down to ‘I’m not a real mom.’
And then I remind myself what I have come to see, beleive, know and understand in recent years, what we say and what we think becomes our reality, if I allow those thoughts to continue to run through my mind and come out in my words, then I am creating that life daily.
It has been six months since that day at the top of my stairs. I learned a lot from that counselor, he is amazing and exactly what I was looking for (I went through half a dozen other counselors before I found this one be patient if you too are on that path, the right counselor for you will show up) I have begun to change the way I speak to and parent my son, I have changed those thoughts of struggle to thoughts of love and peace and hope, even if current reality shows me something different, I know as I continue to speak positive words and phrases about my son, about my parenting, and about all other pieces of my life, that eventually it will reflect in my reality, after all, I have spent many years thinking and speaking in the reverse, I can’t expect instant change and I will be tried and tested to see if I really will and do hold to the opposite of pain and struggle and lack. I do so more and more each day.
I’m here today to say ‘I am a real mom.’ I love my son fiercely and want nothing but the best for him everyday. I do the best I can do with the best I know how and I continue to learn better parenting techniques though counseling, reading, and classes. So I may not get it perfect every moment of every day, but who does? No matter how it may look, no one always is a perfect parent. And I know that I am a real mom.
In all of this at one point in the middle of my work day in the middle of a prayer I was reminded of Helen Keller. I remembered as a little girl watching the movie about her life and how much her teacher and parents struggled with her and how challenging it was to teach her how to be civil and how to speak sign language and how to get along in this world with her disabilities. And then, years later, she became a strong and influential woman, an inspiration to many others. The thought that things could be similar with my son came to mind, that even though there may be struggles and times may be hard, as I do my best, and continue to rely on the help of others, as I change my words and thoughts to the positive and as I keep God at the center of it all, everything will be okay, my son has all the potential any other child has. And I am a real mom.