Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Free To A Good Home

Here is a brief snippet from an email I got from Cade's teacher.  It was a lengthy email that fully chronicled a day in the life of a carefree little boy.  He is so carefree that he cannot be bothered with silly things like limits and rules.  Keep in mind, this snippet was about paragraph five of an essay ticking off his bad behavior.
During instruction time he interrupted nearly every three minutes by talking, shaking his art box, throwing something, crawling under the tables, standing on his head with his feet on the desk, or flipping his chair over and pretending the legs were a steering wheel. I tried moving him, isolating him, talking both firm and gentle, making him move his bus...but nothing seemed to work today. I spent a majority of the seven hour school day saying the name "Cade" over and over again. 
Standing on his head?  Really? Yes, Cade is hyperactive.  He is also very intelligent and tends to get bored towards the end of a school year (preschool in years past), but he knows better than to behave like this.  And at home, his behavior is simply defiant.  He could care less that his father or I am talking to him.  He will not do anything that he doesn't want to without a huge fit.  With both Patrick and I being non confrontational in nature, this means that Cade runs the house.  We spend most of our time asking, then begging him to do things.  He is naturally manipulative, a trait that I never managed and will knowingly cave to when it is used on me.  He has our numbers and he is cashing in.

I entered this parenting thing with a lot of idealism, as I guess we all do.  I would never spank.  I would address him as a competent human being from day one.  I wouldn't raise my voice or lose control of a situation, allowing him to gain what I had lost.  I would be understanding and, above all, I would listen.  Everyone knows that the key to good communication is listening.

Yeah, that's a bunch of crap when the person you are dealing with doesn't care one whit about you.  Sure, I am a soft place to hide when things aren't going his way.  Sure, he loves me because I am always there for him.  But I see something new in my little boy with whom, for all these years, I have had an alliance.  He sees his control slipping.  Mommy and Daddy are becoming a united front.  Mommy no longer second guesses Daddy to make sure that Cade is happy.  And quite frankly, I don't like what I see from this child.  He is wily, but more ominously, he is a master manipulator.  All kids have that tendency to step their toes over the line to see just with what they can get away.  But Cade, at the ripe old age of six, doesn't care if the answer is no.  He will look you boldly in the eye and continue with the actions and behavior that are outraging those around him.

I think that I have created a monster and I have no idea how to wrest control away from him.  I will tell you right now, his will is stronger than mine.  He feels more passion in a fight than I can muster.  His father is just the same as me. Patrick and I don't argue because neither of us like unpleasantries.  In the past (say...last night), we have punished Austin with tickles.  Rather than a timeout, which honestly has NO AFFECT whatsoever on Cade, we tickle him to distract him from the negative behavior.  Better laughs than screams, right?  But now we have this handsome, smart little boy that knows exactly what buttons to push with everyone in his world to get what he wants.

I know I have to get it under control now before he becomes a sociopath in his teens (okay, maybe I'm overreacting).  However, in a battle of the wills, he will win every time.  Maybe it's time to call in Supernanny.  I am at my wit's end with this child.  

I find myself asking over and over again, why in the hell do people have kids?  I understand the biological need to continue our race, but other than that, I simply do not see the lure.  At least 80% of the time I have spent with Cade in the last week, neigh, the last six years, have been a struggle.  And these are the good times?  And then he marries and leaves me for his wife and the time when I would enjoy him, I become the outsider who is intruding on his new family unit.  So I spend my time doing everything for this child, worrying day and night about every last decision that I make in my life and how it pertains to him.  And if my parents are any indication, I will continue into old age worrying day and night about him.  Sure, I love his tiny hand holding mine.  I love the smell of his head when he nestles in my lap.  I love his sighs, his remarks, his wit.  And oh, do I love to watch him sleep.  But really, the weight of this responsibility is tearing me up.  I can account for myself.  I do great work.  I excel.  But Cade, the most important and momentous extension of myself, I cannot vouch for him.  I cannot impress my moral characteristics onto him.  How do parents carry that weight?


  1. Oh, Erin, I feel your pain! My daughter Belle sounds very much like your Cade (around the same age, too--we'd better make sure they never meet lol). The main difference is that she is super-well-behaved at daycare, preschool, her grandmother's house, social events, and so on. It's just at home that the claws come out. The problem with this, of course, is that I'll call my mom in hysterics saying, "Belle just threw a pillow at Addie's face. She just pulled the dog's tail. She pulled the chair out from under me when I went to sit down," and my mother will say in this cold voice, "I know Belle, K., and I know you. My Belle would never act that way." And no, she's right, HER Belle wouldn't...but she doesn't see what Belle is like at home.

    Because I feel a need to help, though, I'm going to give you any advice I can:
    * Create a bedtime routine (bath/shower, snack, tooth brushing, story, song) and do it at the same time ever night. It's a pain in the ass, but it works.
    * Ask Cade to help you when you're doing things like baking, unloading the dishwasher (just keep him away from the knives), sweeping, cleaning toilets (Belle LOVES to clean toilets, for some reason I don't understand)
    * Take him to the playground or the backyard or something, and actually PLAY. I'll get Belle so tired from running around with a soccer ball that her lips won't open to mouth off.
    * Make your consequences fit the crime. If Belle misbehaves at the park, she doesn't go back for a week,and then she knows full well it's a trial run. If she hits her sister, she is not allowed to play with her sister until Addie makes the decision to allow her back.
    * Find some sort of quiet, brain-provoking activity that Cade can do on his own (puzzles, marble races, model cars) because then he has a quiet alternative to making you miserable.
    * Be consistent in your expectations. Talk to him about these expectations, too. I'm sure he's more than smart enough to understand, and Belle usually does better when we talk to her in an adult fashion (or at least that's her perception :-)).
    * Make sure you are willing to play that 38th game of Guess Who on a given day, that you'll throw balls for him to hit, and so on. If he knows you'll go out of the way for him, he'll more than likely go out of his way for you.

    I'm sure you probably do most if not all of this stuff, but I figured it couldn't hurt to pass it along. It's been a lot of trial and error with Belle--fortunately, Addie has always been this dream child, or I don't know what I'd do!

    Good luck, and thanks so much for the comments on my blog : ) <3

  2. Our biggest challenge is consistency and structure. Neither of us have that in us and creating a structured environment for Cade has been a constant struggle. I had Patrick read your post and we are going to implement your suggestions. Thank you so much for your help!

  3. So it's like, not totally stupid then, to say I don't want kids?

  4. I would think it odd if you did. Seriously, don't have them because it is expected. Not everyone is meant to have children (and I found out too late that I am one of those people). Honestly, I don't get the compulsion.

  5. Stop doing absolutely everything for him. if he doesn't help even set the table he doesnt eat that meal. If he doesn't have control at school he doesn't get to do one or more of the fun things he loves at home that day. Simple and related punishment usually works pretty well as I was one of those kids and set the punishments beforehand so he knows them. Example- I once started a huge fight with giant jugs of glitter in first grade and was forced to clean it all up with a paper plate, never did that again!