Saturday, April 18, 2009

Canary in the coal mine

TM has been doing so well recently that I forget that his trauma/attachment issues are not just a quick fix and we're done, but something that is long term. The past couple of days have been difficult for him...more acting out, more aggression, more inability to deal with frustration, and with very few positive traits showing through. Since I'm sometimes slow to catch on, it took me until today to realize that something was up and TM's behavior wasn't just a single incident here and there. I also realized that he and I had begun a downward spiral in our relationship. He acts out, I get upset, which causes him to act out more, which causes me to get even more upset. I think it had been days since we had enjoyed each other's company. It's bad when you can't remember the last time you laughed with a child.

Now, not to excuse my behavior, because I am the grown-up and should be more able to step outside a situation as opposed to succumbing to it, but I'm sure my sleep deprivation had played into all of this. Up until last night, I was averaging ~4 hours a night. For a woman who needs at least 8 (9 or 10 is even better) hours of sleep to be a functioning human being, this is a big deal. I had no patience with anyone and little interest or ability to do more than sit in a chair like a blob. I'm sure my other children were suffering as well, and wondered who had taken over their mommy, but they were better able to weather the unpleasantness.

I am so glad I asked for some medication to help me sleep. I slept 10 hours last night and it has made a huge difference in my outlook on life and my behavior toward my family. Because I was well-rested I could finally see that TM's fit about having to wash his hands with soap was so not about the soap. I asked him to come to me and I tried to give him a hug but instead we were off. It is difficult to hold a raging child and be so pregnant, but I managed. Plus, TM long ago stopped trying to do me physical harm...I don't think I could have done it had he also been trying to bite and claw me. When he had finally calmed down enough to listen, I started to try to figure out what was up. For a bright boy, TM is particularly unaware of his own feelings and figuring out what is bothering him is a bit like playing 20 question. I mention something that might be bothering him, such as, "Are you worried about the new babies coming?" If a thing is not bothering him, he is able to coherently say, "No" and look at me oddly as if to say, "Why would you think such a thing?" The trick is to probe to find out what is wrong without putting ideas in his head that weren't there before. So, I didn't ask if he was worried about something happening to me at the hospital...I was pretty sure that hadn't occur ed to him. Finally I tried, "Are you upset because Mommy has been so tired and cranky and we haven't done much fun stuff together?" At this question, he just starts sobbing and finally relaxes into my arms; relieved, I think, at having someone name what has been troubling him.

As this pregnancy progresses, I have become increasingly inwardly focused. This was my wake-up call that I need to fight against this tendency. While I may not be able to take them all to the park or do a fun museum trip, I can still work on being kind and giving hugs and try to make life more pleasant for those who live with me.


His Hands His Feet Today said...

Aw :(... don't beat yourself up too badly. Grace... praying for grace among you all in these final weeks!!!!

mrsbroccoliguy said...

I think that is one of the hardest things about being a mom - whenever I have a cranky or depressed day or two, I can totally see it come back at me in my kids. (And usually, like you, it takes me a bit to realize that's why.) I can't imagine having a better reason to be self-focused than growing 2 babies and getting very little sleep so really don't be hard on yourself about that. A big pat on the back for seeing through TM's temper to his true need and being able to help him through it!!!

LawMommy said...

I am glad you got some sleep. I am a complete mess when I don't sleep - honestly, a become a wretched mess.

It is so hard, to be going along, feeling like a child's attachment is almost a "done deal" and then have behavior come and smack you in the face that makes it clear that there is still a LOT of work to do.

Lana has been displaying some pretty bizarre behavior this week, and I don't know what to make of it or do about it. And I'm not growing two people (which would completely freak her out) - but it's nice to know I am not alone in the world of parenting a child who has deep hidden hurts.


Stevens Family said...

Awe, our kiddos sure let us know 10 fold when our moods affect them. I can't imagine how difficult it is to parent and be pregnant with twins. It must take a great deal of strength. Hang in there. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Mairs said...

It's so hard to balance, Elizabeth. For one of my RAD kids she is constantly triggered but it is worse when I'm "off" for the other he seems to sense when I'm the most Off and kick me the hardest when I'm down. Do what you can handle - you're carrying two little lives in there and that sucks the life out of *you*. You're a good mom (and not much longer!!!)

PhoWises said...

Thank you for your insight and willingness to share your experiences that help all of us be better parents.

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