A Confession

About a year ago, my oldest, Timothy, became 'a difficult child'. He was still doing very good at school and for the most part, church and around others, but at home, he was flat out difficult. If I had to be entirely honest, it got to where I just didn't want to be around him much. He has always been loud, but it was getting unreasonably so; he was aggressive, hurtful to his brothers, defiant, disrespectful....just not a joy to be around at all. So, I tried to fuss it out of him, discipline him, implement one consequence after another, sent him to his room, spanked, took toys away from him.... It was constant from the moment he woke up until I dropped him off at school, and started up again as soon as the van door was shut upon picking him up from school. I was frazzled, angry, hurt and completely over it. And I began taking it out on him, compounding the problem, which was obviously bad parenting on my part, but I felt helpless and incompetent and it showed. At the first sign of misbehavior I began sending him to his room as a means of avoiding it. I would listen to his angry stomping and shouting while my own insides boiled with irritation. Don't misunderstand. I have loved him every minute since I've known him, and I continued to tell him so, I just didn't want to be around him.

I got help from a teacher friend who gave me behavior charts and a few tips, I talked with other moms who gave me encouragement or a different view point, and Scott and I talked it to death every. single. night. It was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing on my mind as I fell asleep at night. I was completely consumed and fatigued by it all, searching for solutions, praying for answers, then repeating, day in and day out, his same behaviors followed by my same anger. 

So, where are we now? Why have I chosen to write about this? Because he is such a joy. Because talking and searching and praying for so long finally uncovered some answers. 

After talking to my teacher friend about a couple of the behaviors in particular, she suggested we have him tested for pica. Basically, if I understand it correctly, it stems from an iron deficiency. So, we did.....he was very anemic. Very. We started him on vitamins with iron and no joke, within a week we saw improvements. The lows had gotten so low that any improvement was welcomed with enthusiasm. From there I tried hard to reset my responses to his behaviors. To realize he was not acting out that way to hurt me or because of me, but because he's five and doesn't know what to do with his emotions, and my sad misdirection had only confused the solution for him. "This is how mom acts when she gets mad, so why not." And, on top of that, he was suffering under the physical symptoms of being so low in iron. 

It's been a year since this all got really bad, so it would be impossible to explain every change we, or more specifically I, made, but along with getting his iron built up and changing our responses to his behavior, I added some bedtime snuggles a couple months ago and if you ask me, I'd say that has been the best change for he and I. He is still a little boy, now six, trying to cope with the world around him, wanting his way and having a fit when it doesn't play out like he wants, but my responses are more consistent and less angry, most of the time. And he has made improvements, matured and seen the benefit of being a helpful big brother, instead of a hurtful one. 

He is smart, loving, kind and he loves to snuggle his momma, something we had almost completely lost. Partly because, in general, he's not as snuggly as the younger ones, he's always on the go, loud and with the compounded irritations of his behavior for so long, snuggling was rarely on my mind. When I implemented this 'nuggle time", as we call it, I said, "I'm going to lay here. Either we cuddle and talk, or we don't, but I'll be here." Like a little inch worm, he found his way up against me from his head to his toes and for the most part, this is how we snuggle almost every night now, for about ten minutes before he goes to sleep. Longer when he says, "Can you stay just a minute longer mommy." I do this with all the boys, but it has made the biggest impact on Timothy and our relationship. I had quit seeing him as my little guy, and only saw him as his behaviors which I didn't like. I had nearly blinded myself to the little boy that I loved up the biggest hippo ever. (How he chose to express his love when he was a toddler. A hippo was one of the biggest things he could think of, so that was a lot of love.)



We made several other changes such as moving him back to his own room, instead of with his brothers. Ironically, we did that for Mason and Elijah, because Timothy had a way of keeping them up and not letting them sleep, but once he was moved he said, "Thank you mom and dad, now my brothers won't wake me up." We had to laugh at that one! Point being, it wasn't one magic change we made and I can't promise any of it had anything to do with any of the changes we made. We have prayed heavily for his heart over the past year, and for our hearts to love him as God does. The God who made him in His image, and in my opinion, to do great things. Either way, it's been an answer to prayer, and while we know it will never be perfect, nor will our journey as parents be without conflict and frustration, but I realize now, when I kiss his sleeping head, not only that I love him, but just how much I like him. That I enjoy his sense of humor, his dancing, his imagination, his love of running, jumping, swinging, climbing. He is a joy. He is not a difficult child, he is my son. My one of a kind Timothy, and I wouldn't change a thing about him. Not a thing.