“I don’t think I’m cut out for the bomb squad.”
This is what I told my husband the other day in the car, as we were ferrying our three boys home from the zoo.
“I just don’t have the constitution for it. It’s feels like we’re the SWAT team for someplace like Disneyland. Most of the time, it’s not a bad job. Sometimes, it’s downright entertaining. Frequently, there are false alarms. But sometimes it’s the real thing. We have to try and deactivate it, but in doing so, there’s the strong possibility that somebody’s gonna lose an arm.”
I have an ticking time bomb child, and raising him is a roller coaster I never wanted to ride.
When this child explodes, it’s ugly. He has been known to run away down a busy highway, punch his father in the family jewels, and tear his room to shreds. Drapes have been pulled down, window screens have been broken, chairs have been thrown. It’s that fight or flight impulse, demonstrated in a way that pierces right to a mother’s heart.
We’ve come a long way in the last eighteen months, with the help of professionals, an understanding of anxiety, changes in the way we parent and lots and lots of hard work. It’s been a long time since he was seriously destructive.
We’ve tried to keep track of his triggers, but he’s still pretty unpredictable. For example:
Us: “Good news! Since it’s lunch time and we won’t be home for another hour, we are going out to lunch at your favorite restaurant!”
Him: “WAAAAAHHHH!!! No! You can’t make me! I’m not going in! I want to go home!” Punches brother in chest.
This happened last week.
He could have just as easily been thrilled to go out to eat. He could have been helpful, kind, and polite, and we would be patting ourselves on the back for being just so good at this parenting thing. Fifty percent of the time, that’s how things go. The other fifty percent…mushroom cloud time.
I feel a lot of shame about this aspect of our family. I am afraid to take all three kids anywhere by myself, because he needs one on one attention if he loses it (which he did in my dentist’s office recently, throwing water in my face, to the horror of the dental hygienist). I worry excessively about this happening while he is at a friend’s house. I don’t want to invite other families over for playdates, because it’s embarrassing to have a child behave so inappropriately for his age.
I’ve avoided talking about this for a long time because I’m so embarrassed for both of us. But I’ve started to realize that I can’t be the only parent struggling with a kiddo like this. A son that is beautiful, smart, kind, and thoughtful. A son that can also be aggressive, mean, and destructive when he loses his temper, doesn’t get his way, or feels out of control. A child that I secretly want to withdraw from all sports, because if he gets any faster, I won’t be able to catch him anymore.
So I say we all start to talk about it. Let’s agree to admit more openly our failures at parenting, as well as our successes; let’s pat each other on the back, and then try again. If you have a problem child, that’s ok! I feel like the great secret of parenting is that some kids are just easier to raise than others. If your children are challenging, join the club. It’s not a lost cause. It’s just going to take a ton of work, reevaluating techniques, never giving up…and maybe a glass of wine at night.
Suzi Iverson practices parenting full-time, practices medicine part-time, and travels whenever possible. She writes about her adventures with her little monsters at Travel With Monsters (www.travelwithmonsters.com); follow her on Instagram at travelingmonstermoms.