Ezra is going through something right now.
Yesterday his dad called me and told me that he had a hard drop off at daycare (we have been told to call it “school” not “daycare”) and that he was worried about Ezra. He also said Ezra has been waking up in the night crying saying he is scared and having nightmares. Ezra’s dad prickled a bit when I suggested that was probably part and parcel to his recent move and it would just take a bit of time for Ezra to get used to the new digs. [I mean, it’s probably the truth and I wasn’t holding it against you, but a kid may take a month or so to settle in. Feel guilty if you must, but I was only stating the obvious. He will be fine eventually.]
This morning I was the one who had the rough drop off. It was awful and sad. I walked out of the school to Ezra’s screams of, “Mooooommmmmyyyyy!! I don’t want to go to school! I want to go home with you! Mommy! Mommy!! Moooooommmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!” at an ever increasing pitch.
Talk about a guilt trip! Even knowing it was coming and knowing it would surely be over within 5 minutes of me getting to my car did not make it easy. He has been going to this school for over a year. And while he is rarely chomping at the bit to get in the door, it is even more rare that he throws a wall-eyed fit at drop off. But lately it’s become more common. Yay, me.
So I am left to wonder what is going on in that little head of his. What can I help him understand or how can I change my approach to get a better outcome? Or is this just a stage that nothing I can do can mitigate and we just have to live through it?
He has become much more inclined to be defiant lately (which I think is an age-related stage).
He has become more rowdy, rambunctious and attention-seeking (which I think is a direct result of recently becoming a big brother).
He has started acting like I am trying to give him over to people who are going to boil him alive at school (and I have no idea what that is about – although my best guess is a combination of the above).
I have talked to his teachers and they say that, even though he is generally good, he has had some rough days where he was not listening and being rough with his classmates (aka ‘friends’), to include hitting. I have even heard the phrase “worst day we’ve ever had with him” mentioned at least twice in as many weeks. So I am not sure what is up with my older son.
Ezra is not a patient child, even less so than most children, maybe. He is also fiercely independent and quite a bit defiant. So I am struggling to find my own patience and figure out exactly how to parent him through this apparent rough patch. He has had a full year with trips to El Paso to visit his dad’s family, the birth of a new brother, turning 4, his dad’s move and his schedule has been up in the air with the holidays throwing a loop into what is normally a pretty consistent back and forth between his dad’s house and ours.
But I suppose what I have got to figure out how to start teaching him is that you have to “roll with it, baby.” Life is not consistent. Just when you think you have it all figured out and you have things just the way you want them is just about the time life hits you with a loop and takes all that consistency, throws it out the window and laughs in your face.
So the consistency has to come from inside, not outside. That is one thing I never was able to learn or even give voice to until now. Consistent is not something that is given to you, it is something you are.
We raise kids with routine and expectations. And I am not saying that is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, at our house bath time is 8:30 and bedtime is 9:00, forever and ever, AMEN. Ezra may not know how to read the numbers on the clock, but he knows those two things are pretty immutable at our house (he also knows there is no TV or lights on or sleeping in Mommy’s bed –well, until cuddle time when the sun comes up anyway – but then that is just how our house runs).
At the same time, the only thing I have found to be consistent about life in my short 40 years has been the inconsistency of it. I have struggled to roll with the punches. I have had a hard time being a consistent person in an ever-changing world. I think that is one thing I am better at recognizing being an older parent.
The question then becomes how do I teach it to my children?
I suppose the first thing to do is master that consistency myself. I say ‘master’ with a rueful laugh. Ask my daughter about how consistent I have been. I suppose she could say I’ve been consistently inconsistent. Not about certain things with her, mind you. I don’t think Greta could say that she has not known what I expected of her or in most cases what to expect of me (whether good or bad). But there are a lot of ways I have led an inconsistent life. I have not always handled difficulties with grace and aplomb (to say the least, which is why I admire that so much in Jay, I suppose). As a matter of fact, if I were to look back on my life, it would be easy to just throw my hands up in frustration at my lack of consistency. In fact, the only things I have been really consistent about are things I shouldn’t have been. Imagine that.
So I made a decision a couple of weeks ago. I am going to mentally box up my 20s and 30s and, except for the very least amount possible, I am not going to think about them for the next decade.
I have spent too much time reliving the difficulties and inconsistencies of the past and I no longer need that millstone around my neck. I have learned a lot during those 2 decades and the time has come to put that knowledge into practice and not beat myself up about how I came by it. Sure, it was not pretty. It was nasty and ugly and unpleasant. But it was gotten nonetheless. And not applying it now would be to make all that hassle and heartache worthless. And something good has to come of it.
So as I look ahead to the challenges and try to do my best to face them with the grace and aplomb I so admire, I have to figure out the small things.
And today’s small thing is what to say to a 4 year old boy who doesn’t want to go to school and who is acting out. Wow. Why couldn’t it be something simpler like the figuring the square root of 8,136?