If you have been following the news in the USA, you probably heard we had a blizzard here in New England. It was the worst winter storm we have weathered in 35 years.
We lost power in our neighborhood before the real blizzard conditions even started, and were left without electricity, TV, or internet for just over 40 hours.
It is a trifle ridiculous what a hardship this was for us, when there are people on the planet without essentials like food, medicine, or clean water. However, I am not the “camping” type, and about 12 hours into our life off the grid, I was wandering around my house feeling much like Jack Nickleson in “The Shining.”
And speaking of Jack. . . we have been having our share of technical difficulties with our five-year-old, in a manner that is equally as concerning and scary as the haunted topiary and hallucinated hotel staff in Stephen King’s novel.
I jokingly compare my son to something out of a horror novel, because I don’t know what else to do. Because I am scared. Because if I weren’t making a joke about it, I would be crying, or screaming, or pulling out every last hair on my head in rage and frustration.
Jack is a soul who came back to this world with a vengeance. He is freakishly smart, verbal, and creative. He started musing about “the old days in Japan” when he was three, describing scenes and stories about Japan in what we thought could only be a sort of past life regression. Jack has always had a plan, and god-damn anyone who gets in his way. He has an angry streak since birth.
Jack is a love who captivates all around him with his deep thoughts, sense of humor, and enchanting eyelashes.
I don’t remember when his tantrums started, but I can tell you when they got worse– oh so much worse!– when we brought his sister Emily home. At three, he was still small enough to manage during a tantrum, but then he turned four and I had Emily, and his tantrums became more difficult to manage. Now he is five and a half, and his tantrums are downright frightening.
He usually starts by getting overexcited by something. His body gets busy. He starts to hit, punch, kick, or throw things. He calls us “stupid idiots,” and screams and cries.
From the earliest signs of escalation, my husband and I are trying to get him to breathe, squeeze a stress ball, go on his bed, hug a teddy, take a bath, draw an angry picture, yadda yadda yadda. We try to remain calm and supportive, and to be aware of our own affect in the situation. We have tried positive reinforcement and incentive programs. We have also tried ignoring his undesired behavior, which is really hard when he follows us around whamming things into our shins until we are forced to scoop him up and put him in his room, where he will rail against his door and trash his room.
We went through a really pleasant phase, and in the past month things got awful again.
He is great at school. His social skills are amazing. He is a popular boy who makes friends out of strangers in any crowd. He never targeted or hurt his little sister, although verbally he has expressed on many occasions that he does not like her. His behavior seems limited to home with me and my husband.
Why, you ask, does our son behave this way? He has no trauma history, other than what may have taken place in Japan. My husband and I have a stable and sane marriage and attempt to foster peace and love in our home. If I put my clinical cap on, I guess I would have to say that Jack is anxious and control-seeking. He started going to full day kindergarten five days a week this year, just after he turned five, and I think the stress of this is akin to having a full time job.
Also, I think I ruined his happy-only-child-life by having a baby.
We are worn out. Discouraged. Disgruntled. So, a four day snow-stormy weekend was not our dream.
I am so jealous of friends on Facebook who posted photos of their families playing games, building snow-folk, and drinking cocoa. Because that is really how I fantasized our weekend would go. But tantrum number one started on Saturday morning before it was even 7 a.m.
My unconditional love is being sorely challenged.
What kind of a mom says that about her first born?
It hurts and frightens me to write these things. I do not like feeling frightened, and this is why I go to anger– to feel bigger and badder, because fear makes me feel so small. I wonder if this is how Jack feels.
Being mindful in the face of Jack’s tantrums is like being mindful of an oncoming train. Sure, it is possible to stop and be wholly aware, but if you don’t move fast, you are going to get squashed. Or in my case, kicked in the shin. It is next to impossible not to panic, and to remember that if I step out of the way, then like the train, this tantrum too shall pass.
Blizzard Nemo of 2013 left me with stabbing pains in my stomach, heart palpitations, a twitch in my right eye, questions about my fitness as a mother, and prayers to a god in which I don’t even believe.
It was like being snowed in with my worst nightmare. My son is not the “Satan” in the title of this post, although somedays he comes pretty close to it. No, it is the feelings of helplessness and despair that are my devil. And being trapped in the house for four days gave me ample time to look those feelings in the face.