There’s been a lot going on lately. Time seems to be winging its way away ever more quickly and before I know it, things that need my attention are suddenly standing in front of me. One day you think you have plenty of time then the next you realise that big changes are almost upon you.
Wade will be going to school next year. Five minutes ago it was Christmas and all worries of schooling were shoved to the side while I stared at his play area wondering when I will muster the courage to clear it out. Now it’s nearly the end of term one and shit’s starting to get real. Wade has been doing so well over the last 12 months. His confidence has increased and his language is amazing. Nothing makes me happier than hearing the fully formed ideas he has in his head come out in ever more random ways.
When your kid struggles to reach new milestones, you can easily fall into the trap of gleefully encouraging any and all new changes in development. I’ve always wanted Wade to be confident and independent and I have encouraged him to have his own opinion on things. However, I also want him to be well behaved, follow instructions, and develop good manners. So, when Wade throws his shoes across the room and announces, ‘Wade does Not. Like. Putting. On. Shoes. ANY. MORE!’ part of me is truly thrilled at the excellent sentence structure and improving articulation. I high-five him mentally over his expression of choice and fearless nature in the way he speaks his mind. I admire the award-winning performance whereby he pretends to have a tantrum by melodramatically crossing his arms and pretending to pout. But another part of me knows that he needs to learn to do what he is told. If he is going to go to school next year, he needs to be able to follow instructions and understand the times when he can decide what he wants to do and when he needs to listen and follow the rules.
Perfect articulation isn’t going win any prizes if he uses those wonderful skills to announce ‘Later peeps, I’m going for a walk down the street!’ He needs to understand that he can’t just run out of the front gate and go home if he wants to. He needs to learn that there are times for an all-singing-all-dancing extravaganza but the middle of maths class is not one of those times.
This kid is stubborn, unbelievably so, and I really struggle with it. 24 hours in the day is not enough time to get all the things done that we need to and ride out any sit-down protest he might decide to have over getting dressed or getting into the car. I really don’t like backing down or doing things for him. I think it’s really important to take the time to get him to do it himself and understand why he needs to complete this step before he can move on to the next. He has recently started to understand consequences that go against him. In the past, if I tried something like, ‘Eat your breakfast or we can’t go to the park later‘ the consequence was too far away and unrelated to the thing I am trying to get him to do. Now he is starting to get it and understand that mum means business. I have to be careful to pick only things that I am absolutely happy to forego…and I must follow through.
If I show one shred of weakness…I’m toast.
A sit-down protest is new to his arsenal repertoire of ways to get what he wants…because it is highly effective! One day, many years ago, I was walking along the footpath and a woman passed me walking her Great Dane. All of a sudden the dog stopped in the middle of the path, sat down…and went to sleep. She looked at me…shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Now I just have to wait here till he wakes up‘ It was funny at the time but basically, her dog had made up his mind to do something and she wasn’t strong enough to physically stop him.
Now, Wade is not a dog and I have the option of reasoning and negotiating with him. But if I don’t get this under control, Wade is going to get bigger and stronger. It won’t be too long until I am physically unable to lift him so I have to start now and encourage him to get up on his own. This basically means not giving in and trying to make it seem like it was his terribly good idea to do what I want him to do he chose to do.
Regular readers will know that I much prefer to make my life therapy rather than running to and from endless appointments. I have been accessing some frequent OT and speech sessions lately to make sure I have lots of new ideas and knowledge but I find that the best lessons for Wade happen when we are out in the real world. So the other day I decided to take him to the National Gallery of Victoria. I know they always have these great exhibits and interactive areas for kids. When we got there however, Wade decided that if it was my idea, it was a terrible idea. So I chose to wing it and see what we could find. There are usually exhibits that you can wander up to and interact with but they almost always come with some kind of rule or restriction. And rightly so but they may as well say…‘Wade, we have worked out all the things you will want to do here but have decided to make those things against the rules.’
If he can’t touch he will want to…if he can climb on some things but not others…guess which ones he will want to climb on? And that gets a bit frustrating for him. In the end we had a great time looking at the famous glass ceiling and running around outside but it got to a stage when it was time to move on to something else. However, he only wanted to explore corridors and rooms that were not for public access and would not come with me to see other things. After a bit of terse negotiation, Wade decided to sit down in the middle of the corridor and get the huff on. I figured it was probably time to go home and it seemed like he was wanting to go too. When I suggested it though, he didn’t want to leave. I asked him repeatedly to tell me what it was he wanted to do but he refused to answer and stayed slumped on the floor. He didn’t seem to want to do anything in particular yet didn’t want to go home.
Time was up…he had to tell me what he wanted or come with me and do what I wanted. I gave him a couple of chances then went and stood a short distance away to wait for him to decide to get up and come to me.
Yeah…that didn’t happen.
So, I wandered back over to him and gave him an ultimatum, ‘Tell me what you want to do or we will be going straight home’.
I went back to my position a little distance away and waited.
Next I wandered back over to him, squatted down in front, and looked him in the eye. ‘I’m going back over there and I’m going to count to five. You need to come over to me and tell me what you want before I get to five or we are going home. Do you understand?’
I said, ‘If you come over to me before I get to five, you can do whatever you want, ok? But you have to get up and come and tell me what that is.’
I said it again….’When I get to five, I am going to come over here and pick you up. If that happens then I carry you straight to the car, ok?’
I wandered back to my spot a little distance away and held up my hand. The countdown started and the fingers began to drop until I got to three…then he got up and ran over to me with the biggest smile on his face. We had a big celebration in the middle of the corridor outside the toilets where our Mexican standoff had played out. I gave him a big hug and told him how clever he was for coming over to me. Lots of cuddles, lots of excitement and then I asked…
‘So, what do you want to do?’
‘Upside down, mummy’
He loves being carried upside down. Throw him over my shoulder, grab him by the ankles, pretend to drop him…any of that. The irony of going through that stand off in an attempt to get a few more years out of my spine–only to reward him with carrying him anyway was not lost on me but it was important that he immediately got his reward.
So upside down it was.
I flipped him upside down and carried him around the waist. He held on to my right calf muscle and I grabbed hold of his jumper just to make sure I didn’t drop him onto the concrete floor and that’s how we waddled throughout the gallery for a while. Before too long a security guard made a bee-line for us. In his defence it probably looked more like an attempted abduction than a slightly odd mother/son therapy session so I figured I had it coming.
‘As much fun as that looks, you can’t be upside down in the gallery’, he says.
‘You can’t be upside down in the gallery?’
‘No. We don’t allow it’
‘Did you hear that Wade? You can’t be upside down in the gallery.’
So, I put him down on the ground and three guesses for what happened next…
Bingo! Yahtzee! Another sit-down protest.
Oh well, looks like I’ll have to save my therapy sessions for places that celebrate subversive attitudes and unconventional methods…instead of the Art Gallery.
**This is not meant to be a dig at the gallery. I get it …I really do. I just loved the way this day played out…