I didn’t feel well on Saturday morning. I just wanted to lie in bed, cozy warm under the striped duvet, my hand pressed into the pain that had started in my lower abdomen the night before. I could see the gray sky peeking through the curtains as the Roc padded into our room, his steps muffled by the carpet. It felt like a good morning to stay in bed, and I rarely do. I am usually up on the weekends. Dog out, cats fed, water obsessed boy in the bathtub. Not on Saturday.
The Roc climbed into our bed. A wiggly, giggly mess of arms and legs, wild hair and stale morning breath. I tickled him and he rolled around, rocking our old mattress and causing GC to wake up, and then leave the room for the office and his computer. The Roc eventually asked to take a bath, and I told him to ask his Daddy to set him up with a breathing treatment first, and then when that was through I convinced him to go ask his father for some medicine for his stuffy nose. I had decided that I wasn’t moving from that bed. How very lazy of me.
Seeing the pattern forming GC told the Roc he would start his bath for him and followed him as he reentered the master bedroom. But the Roc did not like that. The nebulizer, the cold medicine, the bath–those are all things that Mommy usually does, automatically.
“Noooooo!!!!!” the Roc shrieked. “I want Mommy to do IT!”
“Roc, I’m turning on the water. If you want a bath, here’s your chance,” GC told him.
The Roc began to unravel. I stayed in the same position, watching the Roc’s reflection hop up and down with frustration in the closet door mirror, hands balled up into fists, arms straight and stiff. GC tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t have it.
“It makes no difference who turns on the water Roc. This is ridiculous,” GC told him as he got up from his knees.
“No! Mommy does it better! Leave the bathroom Daddy! LEAVE!!”
“Let me know when you are ready to take a bath Roc,” GC told him as he left the room, heading back to the office.
“MOMMY!! Get UP! Get out of your bed right now!” the Roc wailed as he rushed to the bed.
I laid perfectly still. Not feeling well gave me pause and a good reason to wait him out.
The Roc was mad. I swear steam could have seeped from his nostrils and I would not have been surprised. He yanked the pillow out from under my head, ripped off the comforter, then sheet underneath, pulled on my arm telling me,
“I’m going to pull you off the bed so you have to get up and turn the water on!”
I stayed still and quiet. The Roc ran from the room and came back with a big cardboard block.
“I’m going to push you off the bed now!” he growled at me, poking my arm lightly with the block.
I remained on my side, quiet and calm, my bare feet cold and exposed.
Eventually after much exclamation, the Roc got the sheet, climbed back up on the bed and attempted to cover me up. He put a pillow behind me and commanded me to put my head on it. I thanked him for giving me a pillow for my head. He struggled to get the heavy comforter back on the bed. He screamed at me to help him. I quietly told him to ask his father.
“Okay,” he said and ran from the room to interrupt his father, again. I giggled to myself as I heard GC’s heavy footsteps betraying his annoyance as he entered the room. He threw the comforter on the bed and left.
The Roc struggled to right the heavy duvet and I helped him before telling him,
“Come up and cuddle with me Roc. Let’s talk about our feelings.”
“I wanted YOU to turn on the water,” he started to loudly whine as he slid under the cover and laid his head on the pillow next to mine, “You are the one who always does it.”
“I know, I usually do. But it’s okay for things to change. It’s okay for Daddy to turn on the water too. Things can be different. Things change. It’s a part of life.”
“But Daddy has never turned on the water in that bathtub before.”
Ahhhh, I think to myself. The heart of so many of our issues, I already knew this. His need for routine, his need for things to be the same. How hard even the smallest changes in our routine are for him. I need to remember to talk about this more, to validate how he is feeling, to help him grow in this way.
“I know. It’s hard when things change. But it happens. You cannot keep everything the same. You can only control how you react to the changes. I know it’s hard and it’s unexpected.”
“I was trying to get you to turn on the water.”
“Is that why you took my pillow and blankets away?”
“Yes,” he sniffled.
“Did it work?”
“No,” he said as his eyes filled up with tears. “I feel bad that I tried to push you off the bed.”
“I understand that you were angry and frustrated. Let’s think of a different way to react when something changes unexpectedly. What could you do instead of screaming and pushing?”
He stared at me for a beat before I said, “How about next time you tell me how you are feeling just like you are right now? Isn’t this so much better?”
“Yes, I feel better now that I talked to you Mommy.”
“Good, I do too. This is much better than screaming. I’m so glad you told me how you felt.”
“I’m going to ask Daddy to turn on the water now,” the Roc said hoping off the bed.
“Isn’t there anything you want to say to me Roc?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sorry Mommy. I”m sorry I was mean to you.”
“Thank you Roc. That makes me feel good. You did the right thing apologizing to me.”
“Dude you ready for a bath?” GC asked him as he entered the room.
As I listen to the Roc chattering on about waterfalls and commanding his father to watch him make waterfalls I exhale and look up at the ceiling.
Lately I feel myself slipping into frustration so quickly, not the most effective way to deal with the Roc when he’s having a hard time. I need to remember that all behavior is a form of communication. What is he trying to tell me? What am I missing in each situation?
I know I need to be quiet and calm more often. I need to wait and be patient. Not feeling well forced me to wait him out on Saturday. I didn’t have the energy to get up and just go run the damn water, like I would have any other day. Dealing with my own pain, I waited.
And while waiting I saw and focused on the progress.
He is learning to correctly identify and express his emotions. His outburst wasn’t as long as it had been in the past. He expressed remorse for being unkind. He was able to see and articulate that the choice he made did not work for him. He told me what he felt. He apologized. He was able to get over it and let go.
I need to focus on the progress.