In 2016, BoiBoy starts his formal primary education journey. I had put in a lot of effort to adjust the daily routine for GerGer and BoiBoy last December, so that they will sleep and wake earlier. Both of them are in morning sessions this year and the morning routines will be here to stay because Ministry of Education had rolled out a plan for single session primary schools country-wide.
While the children only took a few weeks to adjust to the change in hours last December, things began to change when school officially started in January. BoiBoy’s daily tantrums got worse. His anger fits got more intense. He is unhappy over the slightest issues, and has continuously made unreasonable demands (for example, he wanted to have a pair of new boots immediately after school one day).
Way back in 2013, I have used interesting ways to coach BoiBoy on Anger Management. I conscientiously chose to use time on coaching his emotional management, over coaching on academic aspects. All along I had thought that I was doing pretty well. From early 2013 to late 2015, I got busy with the retail business I had embarked on, and I guess the emotional coaching took a back seat, though we still talked about it when BoiBoy gets angry in my presence. While I was soaked up by the retail business, BoiBoy had his angry fits at home and AhMa would usually give him snack treats to distract him.
This year, the challenge of facing BoiBoy’s daily angry fits midst the morning rush, the daily after-school homework, and weekly enrichment classes almost made me bonkers. My emotions went downhill with each anger fit I had to face. I started to blame myself. Perhaps my parenting style is not good for him? Perhaps I should be working again so he would not have to face me so much? But who will coach him on school work? Who will help him transit into Primary School Life? I have lost all every bit of confidence in me by the end of January.
Thankfully, I have mommy friends who share similar issues and we would confide in one another to feel better. After chatting with a few parents, DeeDee suggested that we introduce a Nap Time for the children. Although GerGer does not really need to nap, but we thought it would be easier to have them nap at the same time so I could take a shower or quickly fit in a task before they wake up. Changes are always challenging. I had the honor (as usual) for implementing the change on 18 February 2016. For the first week, BoiBoy and GerGer were angry when I tried to wake them up after an hour. In the second week, I tried to wake them up after 30 minutes (according to the Power Nap Theory). They were also angry. We are still adapting as I write this post.
Although they were angry when I woke them up, I noticed a tremendous change in BoiBoy’s learning attitude during his piano lessons on Tuesdays. For the whole of January and part of February before we implemented Nap Time, he was not paying attention, and he did not pass any practice pieces. On 23 February, he passed a piano piece which he was tasked to practice since December 2015. This encouraged me to continue the Nap Time routine. The other challenge I had was that we started to be late for the Thursdays English Enrichment Classes after the Nap Time was introduced.
My mind had been busy all these while, thinking and thinking about BoiBoy and me; our interaction. The thinking created a link in my head between my negative reaction to BoiBoy’s emotional outburst. For example, when he gives out a whimper or whine when I asked him to do his homework, I would react negatively and my negative reaction ignited his anger outbursts. So I started to change my response to his whines and frowns. The change in his response was only slightly delayed; he still got angry. Maybe because my changes were also minor. I tried to persist.
DeeDee asked BoiBoy one day on what we can do to help him when he was having his anger fits. BoiBoy said a hug would be good. And so we tried. Each time, I tone down my responses to his whines, and when he gets into the anger fits, I hugged him. It failed. I told myself I had to be patient. Changes need time. I was impatient inside.
One Saturday, we were out shopping for BoiBoy’s boots on his request. That day, he was holding DeeDee’s hands more than mine because I was mostly with GerGer shopping for her girly stuff while the boys were looking for boots. From a back view, I noticed how BoiBoy would hug DeeDee’s arm and rubb his ears against his arm while we walked. It hit me that he had always did that to me too, and I wondered if that is a signal I could pick up to understand BoiBoy better? I decided that he need to be touched. I had my doubts but there was no harm believing that his language of love is touch right?
From that day, I hugged him more. I stroked his head more. I held his hand and counted to 50 in a calm voice when he was angry. I carried him when he was angry, though he tried to gently push me away to show his anger. I used every bit of my sanity left to absorb all his anger and not retaliate in any negative way. (I wonder why I didn’t doze off…. *hee*). He indeed calmed down faster than before, after weeks of such rituals. My reward (finally) was that after he calms down nowadays, he springs back into a super good mood and he does his homework and other stuff with a smile. Do I have any sanity left? Not really.
I didn’t give up. I kept reading more to see if I can find anything. This week, I started to associate some of his behaviour to that of a “Sensitive Child”. Well, he is not Highly Sensitive, but he does display some of the traits. At the age of two until now, standing on sand barefooted is unbearable for him. He still wears socks at home because he feels more secured to do so. He hated the touch of cotton wool and furry stuff at two years old (he is now able to withstand this). He screams hard and has bad dreams when he has a cut near his fingers or toes – it was just too much for him. And we thought that he was just being unreasonable. I think ………. we have misunderstood him.
Since young, he was always reacted negatively to our Time-Outs, Standing Corners punishments, raised voice, etc. He always learned better with us just talking to him in a serious tone. Now I associate this with the traits of a “Sensitive Child”. He scares easily. He is scared when he sees a page of words and would conclude that he knows no words at all. He is a reluctant reader because the sight of many words puts him off. All along, we thought he is a lazy boy. Now I’m starting to see this in a different light.
I continue reading about child development and on reading. It is perfectly alright that he reads the same book every night. We should not label him lazy. We started to observe that his comprehension of the story levels up each time he read the same book. He has the desire to understand deeper; instead of reading widely. He still wants me to read to him because he is scared of the number of words on the pages. I should not label him lazy. I should continue to read to him even until he is 12 years old, maybe vary the involvement each time. I should not expect him to read on his own since he is 6 years old.
Where have I been in the past 6 years? I feel like I’m only getting to know this adorable boy now. Or was I expecting him to grow up too fast? I never expected my parenting journey to be so mind-boggling, hair-pulling, and puzzling. I guess there will be more to come. It is really challenging to parent children but I guess the reward is in the process of getting to know one another better. Will I be able to cope with the endless challenges of parenting?