Tuesday, May 01, 2007

dancing on the edge: conflict and (some) resolution

I write a lot about the Eldest, usually under the mental heading of maternal pride and advocacy (by him or by me). But, I have to admit, right now the kid is driving me nuts.

Stark raving nutters. Up a frigging wall. Round the bend? Ha. The bend was a few kilometers and grey hairs back, my friends - it be getting ugly around here. But, being the intelligent, thoughtful person that I am (when I'm not shrieking at the child), I have analyzed the situation and come up with a few thoughts.

In retrospect, it all began to surface here:

One night, at about 5 pm, I was making dinner while the boys amused themselves. Inevitably, such amusements are supervised mostly by me peeking through the pass-through and saying things like, 'okay, boys, let's calm our bodies down! It's getting a little wild in there,' and going back to whatever steaming pot/beeping timer demands my attention. Eventually, I'm hollering 'okay, guys, let's not play rough! Get off your brother's neck, please, he can't breathe!' and ultimately, stomping in to a room and calling a child by every single one of his names.

Ah, good times.

That day was typical, and the boys were scaling up the activity, frenicity (is that a word? it should be) levels. I said, calmly (okay, mostly calmly), 'Okay, kiddos, please remember that you guys tend to play pretty rough at this time of the day, and this is also exactly the time of day when you are most likely to have one of you get hurt, or end up wailing. So please be mindful of that, and play quiet games.'

We ended up in the ER, the Eldest having whacked his head on the hardwood frame of the futon while playing some game. Naturally, he was at the end of the lifespan of his dose of clotting factor, and the combination of low clotting levels plus whacking his skull that hard meant that he needed a neurological exam and probably a head CT scan.

Every single doctor who walked into our room had to stop, gulp slightly with laughter, and then sternly told the Eldest, 'no more monkeys jumping on the futon!' No, really, every single one - and some who know us, came to visit. Or maybe to deliver what they thought was an original and funny line. Couldn't say which.

Certainly, the Eldest thought this a funny line, because he laughed and wiggled and squiggled so hard that he fell off an examining table, hurting his foot and needing an icepack. Being a resilient fellow, he bounced back from this and soon invented Whizz, a game played by lying on one's stomach on the low, rolling examining stool and pushing off into open space at high speeds.

This game must, of course, be played where there are swathes of open space - the corridors of the ER? At first pass, he nearly hit a patient towing an IV pole. His second pass, he nearly knocked over his nurse. His third pass, he fell off and landed hard on his bum...and got another ice pack. I laughed with him - and then off we went to the CT scan.

The Eldest took absolute charge of the scan, and I was immensely, explosively proud. He hopped right up on the gurney, explained to the tech that he'd done this before, and picked out my lead apron. He told the tech to start the machine, me to be quiet, and lay still the entire time. In retrospect, this was a major clue.

Afterwards, he was a hero. But he was also a hero who couldn't sit still, jumping up and prowling, climbing cabinets, getting underfoot and into trouble. I watched him be unable to sit still and started to worry. Just then, the ER doc walked by. The Eldest darted out into the hall. Do you have the pictures, he asked? Yup, said the doctor, and we followed him to the staff station. There, we looked at pictures of the Eldest's brain, courtesy of the scan. The radiologist says it looks fine, the doctor told me. I'd expected as much, he continued, given how good this kid looks. Well, we're a borderline case, I said absently, absorbed in the computer screen. And those scans only catch about 5% of microbleeds, anyway. We'll give factor for the next few days, regardless. The doc paused. Oh, he said. Well, why don't I write up some discharge forms, and I'll be by to talk to you about them.

Half an hour later, the Eldest was dancing in place (having been forbidden to climb the cabinetry), and I was worried. Something was setting the kid off, and he was going to do himself some real damage. So, I wrote a note: Dear Dr. X and Dr. Attending Y. Thank you for your care. We will follow up with our hematologists tomorrow. We have no questions or concerns. Sincerely, the Imperfects.

And we left. The Eldest bounced all the way home, drumming on the balloon he'd been given, chattering a mile a minute while, exhausted, I tried not to shriek at him about shutting up.

So, what's wrong with the story? It's a good one, no? Kid has incident, parent advocates, medical system flawed, parent knows her stuff, gets them out. Okay, not before the kid gets a nice dollop of radiation, but still, not a bad story. Okay, so try this photo on the right:

Awesome, no? It was the Great Tower, which reached far, far into the heavens about the heads of its builders. Now, try this next one:

Naturally, the tower came down. Natch, it was fun. But I ask you: where do you see the Toddles in these photos?

In the photo, as in real life, the Toddles faded into the background. He became a mere peon, fetching and carrying the exact block desired by the architect/general contractor in charge of the job. Subordination was not appreciated, and a lot of shrieking at the help ensued. The help, being small and frustrated, shrieked right back and clouted the self-appointed boss on the ear. Not surprisingly, I was not terribly sympathetic. I tried, though. A little.

Two days later, I gave the kid his factor at school. The other children, familiar with the routine, gathered around us, fascinated. The Eldest took them on a tour (this is the syringe, these are the gauze - don't touch them, they're sterile! - those are the alcohol wipes, and this is the needle. It's sharp, but it doesn't hurt much). He was effusive, generous, carefully making sure everyone got a turn, and completely in possession of the moment.

It got a little wierd when I asked him to take off his sweatshirt. He did, and passed it to a nearby classmate. This is my sweatshirt, he told them. You can hold it. The kid did. It's soft, the kid said, awed.

Oh, jeez. It was the Eldest Show, comments appreciated, participation required. Argh.


This all comes together in a massive control freak-out. The Eldest started showing defiance (No, you shush now, Mum!), lousy listening (this is the third time I'm asking you to - fill in the blank-), a quick anger and a general inability to pull himself out of a downwards spiral.

Putting it together, I could see the nervous energy that was driving a series of attempts to understand and manage his world. And make him look like he had to pee a lot, and make him collapse when it failed. Something - probably several somethings - was stressing him out, and he was (is!) trying to respond. His dirving need or concern was making him absolutely self-centered, unable to focus properly on other people, barring when he's shutting us out in self-defense.

Here'e my short list of suspects:

  • kindergarten is coming
  • the Toddles can now reach the top of the dining room table, and even do a cutely terrifying dance on it. The Eldest has lost this place of non-sibling refuge.
  • the MIL has been in the hospital (she is now, thankfully, improving - but more on that later). The Eldest is worried, and is responding by not wanting to talk to her, or even write/draw her a card. He doesn't like this situation, at all.
  • we are preparing to go to Australia, and the Eldest does not like big changes, even potentially fun ones
  • all of the above.

According to the handout given to me by the director of the preschool, a lady who mercifully did not laugh at my collapsed and relieved face when she said that this was normal (oh, thank heavens), six year olds typically have a power struggle phase, much as they did when half the age. The Eldest may have been catalyzed into starting his early, is all.

Poor kid. Watching him struggle, I can see that this is no fun at all. From my perspective, though, it's like early training for teenager parenting. Did you hear what I said? Oh, good. What did I say? Are the ears turned on? Are you sure? What did I say? You don't know? This is the last time that I'm telling you....


Anonymous said...

Sounds like martini time! OY VEY! They grow up fast!!!!

joy said...

You forgot the 5th item on your list:
It is finally SPRING and thus all young Tiggers must BOUNCE!
I myself am suffering from that particular one.

Poor you, poor him, poor Toddles! I agree with Lois that some sort of lubrication is required.