Yesterday my 4 year-old son became THAT child and Jeff and I became THOSE parents.
We had a big day of service projects at my church instead of having church service. My job required me to stay behind at the church building to lend a hand in the techy aspects of things. Jeff was out helping a family move. We left Evan with my parents since we were going to be there for about 6 hours. We thought Carter should surely come so he could have fun playing with the other children.
About 15 minutes into the day, I get “delivered” my child. If you are a parent, you know this term and the feeling of dread that ensues. It’s the we-can’t-handle-your-child-do-something-about-it-before-you-bring-him back delivery. Well, I’m trying to work so I’m really not feeling it. The word is that he hit another child, got put in time out and then did it again. So, I tell Carter to sit while I finish what I’m working on. Because I want him to sit and because he will do A.NY.THING to get our attention right now, positive or negative, he did not sit. In fact, he gets up and starts to walk away. I’m in the production booth and there’s a room full of people loading Oper.ation Christ.mas Child boxes. I stop what I’m working on and talk to him about hitting being unacceptable behavior and how we treat our friends and listening to the teacher. You know, all the things you’re supposed to say when your child hits another child. Per the teachers request, he’s going to have to apologize before going back in. I ask him if he would like to apologize and return to class. He says NO. His face is full of anger and defiance. The only other choice is to sit with me. Of course, he’s 4 so he adds in an extra choice of running away from me. I get him, take hi in the bathroom and give him the spank. I hate the spank and it never does an ounce of good, but I continue to go there in those dire cases of “must snap him out of this immediately”. Stupid, really. The anger level goes up and the likelihood of apologizing and going back to class falls significantly. We leave the bathroom and he walks right back into his class. I pull him out and tell him that his teacher would like an apology for his behavior. Refusal. Screaming. Tantrum. At this point, we’re drawing a lot of attention to ourselves. I need to get him out of there. So, I go get the car so he can sit in there and cool off. I bring the car right in front of the front door so I can see him and take him out there. He doesn’t like this choice, either. Tantrum ramps up. The arms and legs join the game and now I’m getting hit. And the screaming is really loud and he’s planking in his car seat to make it impossible for me to put him in there. I have to kind of lay over him to get him in. I’ve never seen my child act like this and now I’m crying. Thankfully, after about 30 minute of going back to talk to him and check on him every few minutes, he does calm down and want to come back inside. I bring him in, we have a little snack together in the production booth. All is well and he’s ready to go back to class.
I take him back and there’s a shift change in teachers. I hear “if he does it again just take him back to Mandi”. I used to be a teacher and that’s code for: you don’t have to deal with this child if you don’t want to. Nice. He stays in there for about 20 minutes then they take the children outside to run around on this huge hill beside the church. I watch them go outside and I’m thinking that unorganized craziness is probably not going to be a good thing for my child. He was brought back to me a few minutes later for playing too rough. The girl who brought him to me said “Tell your mommy you were a Bad Boy.” Let me tell you, I do not EVER believe in calling a child bad. Children are not bad. Children are gifts. Behavior is bad. Choices are bad. In the nicest way possible in front of this young girl, I asked him not to tell me that he was bad, but that he was behaving badly.
So, again I’ve got my none-too-happy son with me while I’m trying to set up the auditorium and lobby for lunch and talk with the caterer. He’s trying to run out the front door, across the parking lot and back to the fun on the hill. People are staring at me because I’ve been unable to do anything with my ill-behaved child. And can you believe that some people will actually laugh at you while watching you struggling? That didn’t set well with me at all. I assure you, from my perspective it was quite the opposite of funny.
By the time Jeff returns, we have had countless issues and I’m sure the expression on my face said it all. He takes Carter and gets him to eat something, but ends up taking him out into the lobby. I hear tears from Carter and he ultimately ends up in the car again until time to go. I didn’t need to ask what happened.
I think probably the saddest part to me happened via the Facebook later in the afternoon. The girl who said my child was bad posted on the wall of the other children’s parents about how sweet/precious/fun/well-behaved their children were. Of course, I got no such comment. As a parent, we want our children to be liked and accepted. To me, this felt like a big label being put on my child’s head.
I’m realistic, though. I know my child was misbehaving. I can’t know from his perspective why he acted the way he did or what could have been done for him to make it better. But I’ve taught long enough to know how children who are labeled as troublesome get treated. And I know that’s not going to do anything for my son. As his parent, I have to take the full responsibility. What have I done wrong? Where have I failed in teaching him how to treat others? Have I kept him in too long? One way or another, changes have to happen.