Friday, December 12, 2008

On The Edge & A Camp-Out In December

This week, my normally sweet 5-year-old morphed into a crazed, demonic creature and I don't know what to do about it.

It all started last weekend, at his dad's, when B had a little fever and a cough. The fever continued and the cough worsened. B stayed home from school on Monday. I picked him up on Tuesday morning and he looked like death warmed over. His voice was squeaky and his cough was barky.

I kept him home on Tuesday and made an appointment with the doctor. B's behavior was fairly normal for a sick child...a bit whiny but nothing too out of the ordinary. The pediatrician diagnosed croup and said that B could go back to school the following day if the fever was gone and if the night was restful.

Wednesday: fever gone - check. Restful night - check. Off to school. I picked him up at school that afternoon and that's when things started to go seriously downhill. We went to PetsMart to look at animals, then to the health food store to "sample" all the chocolate covered goodies. While we were at the health food store, I bought B his own stash of cheddar sesame sticks. Then, as we pulled into the driveway, he started to kick the back of the seat.

I intentionally planned a fun outing after school as an incentive to get B to cooperate for a family Christmas picture. He was well aware of the plan.

When we came in the house, my mom was here. B immediately started whining to her about being bored and not knowing what to do. This is a common statement in our home and it drives me nuts. I told B to go to the bathroom and change into a sweater for the picture. He told me no. Rather, he shouted no and ran away.

I grabbed him by the back of the neck and marched him into the bathroom and into the bedroom to change, while he screamed and pushed me.

We got it together long enough to pose for a picture which was a miserable failure - one croupy toddler, one lazy Labrador, and one over-zealous mom...recipe for multiple photo attempts.

I gave up on the picture. I had to get ready to go into work for the evening and my mom was going to watch B. I told B that we'd have to take a bath before I left. That really set him off; he hates bath time, always has.

Nevertheless, I dragged him back to the bathroom and threw him in the tub. Then he threw the dreaded statement at me: "I don't like you. I don't want to be with you at all."

I am such a sensitive sucker that I couldn't help but tear up. I looked away, pulled it together, got him out of the tub, kissed him goodbye and headed to work with a very heavy heart.

The next morning, I awoke to "THUMP-THUMP-THUMP" at 6am. B was in his bed, kicking the wall. I went in to his room and he began what would be a two hour rage session. Nothing could calm him down. I really didn't know how I was going to get myself ready for work and get him to school. I felt like I had a madman on my hands. In desperation, I threw him onto his bed and called my mom. I made multiple attempts to get B to do the normal stuff for school: go potty, wash hands, change out of PJs into school clothes. Nothing worked. I yelled. I used (a little) physical force. He had multiple time-outs. When we finally did make it into the car, he wouldn't look at me or talk to me. I walked him into class and told the teacher that we'd had a rough morning. He wouldn't interact with the other kids and wouldn't give me a hug good-bye. I felt like my heart was breaking.

It was hard for me to keep it together during my work hours. B doesn't understand that he and I, due to the nature of divorce, only get to spend 50% of our time together. Deduct school hours and work hours from that and you're looking at about 20% of the time. It truly kills me to be a part-time mom to B but I know I can't project my expectations onto him. Maybe in time he will understand.

I will spare you the rest of the details of Thursday and Friday, suffice to say that it was more of the same. "Incorrigible," I told my mom after a long, long day on Thursday. The next morning, we had the same struggles, only this time, there were several comments from B about his dislike of school.

On Fridays, I teach yoga at B's school. When I came into the classroom, B wouldn't look at me or participate in the poses.

B's dad, K, picked B up from school and they will be together for the weekend. I talked to K about B's behavior tonight. "Well, he's been fine for me," K replied. Right. Of course he has.

I am really stumped. Granted, things are a bit stressful at my home as my mom awaits her diagnosis. And, my house isn't the play zone that B has at his dad's. But, generally speaking, B is much more comfortable here with me and is always excited about returning for his stints with Mommy.

And here's the kicker. K informed me that they are having a camp-out in the backyard tonight. OK, it's as cold as it gets here in Sacramento right now and B has had croup all week. I had to seriously bite my tongue on that one. So B is going from sleeping in the tropics (humidifier and space heater, as directed by the doctor) to his dad's backyard and to the biting, dry cold of Sacramento fog. A camp-out in December? Only my ex would do this.
I am not pitching a tent in my backyard to compete with B's dad. However, as I reflect back on the last three days, I'm astonished by how much time I spent with B - one-to-one, doing activities that he truly enjoys and ignoring household chores to go to the pet store, the toy store, the ice cream shop. I think he's a pretty darn lucky kid.

On Monday, we'll start another three days together. I've never dreaded my time with B and I'm not about to start now. It's a new week and croup will (hopefully) be behind us. That is, if he doesn't have pneumonia from sleeping outside in freezing conditions. In the meantime, I've got a lot in the way of Christmas tasks to distract me from last week's events.

I know that single parenting is a long journey and a difficult road. We'll have a whole new set of issues to deal with at age 10, and even more at 15. Things are actually probably the easiest that they will ever be now, at age 5. If only my sweet boy would just return...

Christmas photo attempt #1:
"Molly, I know you just retrieved the ball 22 times but for the love of God, SIT UP!"

Christmas photo attempt #2:
"B, open your eyes! Down, Molly!"

Christmas photo attempt #3 (aka: the final straw):
"Molly, get up. GET UP! B, try not to look so sick. One more time, just one more. Don't cry. Oh, just forget it!!!"

Now, how the heck do I get rid of this duplicate? Where's the delete function???


bernthis said...

I've been there. My daughter was going through a HORRIBLE tantrum period but for me, I found that it was due to her new school situation (just started Kindergarten) and being in the after school program when most of her classmates got picked up by nannies and moms. It broke my heart and so I finally hired my own sitter to come and get her every day and she has been amazing ever since. I'm a single mom and I want you to know that I take strength from you when I hear you bit your tongue with your ex. Smart and I do it to but sometimes I feel like I have to be Job. Oh and BTW- I think the first picture came out great. You'd never know he wasn't a happy camper (handsome, too)

heartatpreschool said...

I bet that B acts up with you sometimes, while he's "fine" at his dad's, because he feels that he can be more vulnerable with you. I think it says a lot about you as his Mom, that he can let his emotions out, even if he doesn't understand them. He knows that you love and accept him.

I'm still praying for you and your Mom. Hang in there!

Also, I really like that first picture too. You all look really great!!! Even yellow dog. Did you ever see the movie "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase? If you haven't, you should rent it. There's a yellow lab in the movie, they call him "yellow dog", and his personality is exactly like Molly. Exactly. You'll love it, and I think you could use a good laugh right now.