Monday, March 24, 2014

Life with a spirited child...on the other side.

We have walked a long road with our middle child, Dawson. I wrote all about life with our spirited child just a handful of months ago here. He had just turned four when I wrote that. Back then I would say we had an even amount of good days and bad days; maybe slightly more good than bad. Just 6 months later, at 4 1/2, the good days far outweigh the bad. He has maybe one tough day a week, due to lack of sleep and then just brief moments during other days due to hunger or a transition to his day that comes unexpectedly. (Unless our schedule is drastically changed, like for vacation. Then the days can be rough.) This child is blossoming like a rare and beautiful flower, layers upon layers of petals that had remained hidden until now. His sensitivity to sights and smells and sounds and emotions is nothing short of miraculous. But just two years ago, it felt like nothing short of torture, every little thing setting him off like an explosive volcano. He was assaulted by his heightened senses and had no words to explain how he was feeling so everything came out as a massive screaming fit.
A huge turning point was when I got my hands on the book, Raising Your Spirited Child, which everyone who knows me already knows because I talk about it all the time. Before that book, I remember so many days and nights of feeling total and utter defeat. I didn't know how to parent my son and it was a horrible feeling. I remember sitting at my kitchen table, with tears in my eyes, crying out to God, "Is it always going to be this hard? His whole life. Is it just going to be hard with him forever?" At that point, I sort of assumed it was.
Raising a spirited child is now the greatest gift. His awareness of the world around him blows me away. Lately he's been identifying smells constantly. I smell toast! I smell sweet potatoes! I smell hay! And he's always right on. He walked into the garage the other day where the van had been running and said, "Mmmm! It smells good in here!" Ha! A little worried about that one.... ;) One time, several months ago, we were listening to some music and I pointed out the sound of some trumpets. About a month after that, we were in the car with the radio on and out of the blue he says, "I really like the sound of those trumpets, Mom." And sure enough, it was brass instruments.
And just when I thought I couldn't be more proud of him, his teacher pulled me aside after preschool the other day. She said they were talking about a story in the Bible and about Jesus. Some other four year old piped up, "Jesus only loves the good people." And the teacher said Dawson said to that child, "Oh, no. Jesus loves everybody. Even robbers." Tears sprang to my eyes. This boy. I know without a doubt, God is going to use that tender heart in mighty ways. He's going to use his ability to see people who are hurting or being mistreated when others are too inwardly focused to notice.
I know there are mamas out there in that second and third year of life with a spirited child. All I can say is hang on. It gets so much better. You won't die. Really. You will actually be alive in two years, with most of your hair still on your head. (Whether your child will be alive or not is questionable. Thankfully mine still is. It's best just to walk away when you feel smoke coming out of your ears.) Read the book. Pray that God would give you an otherworldly ability to remain calm and patient through those terrible days where everything causes an epic meltdown. Learn to ignore the stares out in public. I got really good at that ;) Get them into preschool as soon as possible! (Totally just my opinion.) The time apart does wonders for both of you and Dawson loves every second of preschool. Find another friend who'd be willing to swap kids a couple hours each week. I'm doing that with a friend right now with our babies and it's fantastic. Most kids do so much better at other people's houses anyway so they're not going to get the difficult version of your child that you have at home all the time. Really, if you're a stay-at-home-mom, a little time away from a difficult child is essential, in my opinion. I just couldn't survive those days without some time to catch my breath. Rebecca, over at Girl's Gone Child wrote a fantastic post about her spirited child.
We also use Melatonin in very small doses at bedtime. There was a long while last year when getting Dawson to bed (and to stay in bed long enough to fall asleep) would take anywhere between one and two hours. I'm not exaggerating at all. Those were some of the most challenging times I've ever gone through as a parent (besides Bennett's first eight weeks of life). We started using about 1.5mg of Melatonin after discussing it with our pediatrician and bedtime instantly became a 15 minute routine. It was a huge game-changer. I'm not suggesting you use it, I'm just sharing what worked for us. You can do your own research and talk to your pediatrician.
With so many things in life, we need to know we're not alone. You need to know (especially if this is your first born) that you will come out on the other side of this and trust me, the view is beautiful. And often quite hilarious.