"Our pursuit is joy, not trite, silly, fleeting happiness. Now if happiness comes along with the package, yes and amen. We don’t hate happiness. If that gift has been granted to us, then that is grace upon grace." -Matt Chandler
We Brownies truly have a joy-filled life, but that certainly does not mean our days are filled with skippy-smiley happiness, throwing baskets of daisies along our path as we float through life. My goal with this blog has been to be honest, whether in regards to waiting for what seemed like forever to get prayers answered, tough times in marriage, or dealing with depression.
That being said, along with the fun updates about how well the boys are progressing, I will update any struggles as well.
Travis has made amazing strides in the past 19 months. I've kept it updated here and on YouTube, but his latest skill is writing his name, Tian's name, and "mom" and "dad." He also is putting together longer sentences and thoughts, often mixing real signs with made-up "babble" so that he will look like he's signing as fluently as an adult. It's precious!
Along with these unbelievable improvements, we are still dealing with major gaps. He's a four and a half year-old with only 19 months of language learning, so the gap is totally understood. As "right" as this gap is, it can still be a source of serious stress at times.
Regarding language development, Travis is still unable to tell us certain things in complete detail. He can describe things he wants (the red Cars cup, to sit next to Dad, to watch Power Rangers Samurai, etc). He can tell us if he’s hurting or sad, where it hurts, and even a very general description of what happened, such as, "Tian pushed me” or "I fell." Beyond that, we have trouble getting detailed information. The lack of ability to communicate what happened leads either to indifference or, more often, a huge fit. (More on fits later.)
This is a short example from the other night. When he has a fit, I sit him on the floor so he won't hurt himself by falling off our bistro chairs or knocking into something that could harm him. It also serves as a time out and gives me a chance to step back and take a breath.
What causes these outbursts? He wants his milk poured 1/4-inch higher in his cup. His sock isn't exactly straight. His pants aren't falling to the exact spot on his ankles that he expects. A particular item he wants right then isn't available. He will go instantly from a happy kid eating breakfast or getting dressed to this.
Travis will sit in time out for other typical toddler behaviors: not sharing, shoving a sibling, not obeying Mom or Dad. In those instances, he will sit in time out without much of a fuss, if any at all. One thing about Travis is he is a rule-follower. We still can’t convince him he is allowed to get out of bed and go to the restroom by himself after we’ve put him to bed. He will sit screaming on the edge of his bed, wiggling and holding himself because he has to potty so urgently. But he will not get up because that is a rule so engrained in him, he just can’t bring himself to break that rule.
But I digress...his fits don't come so much when he is being corrected, but when something isn't just the way he wants it. I believe it's about control and lack of ability to fully express himself yet. But I'm just guessing.
After this particular fit, I swept him up and took him to his bed. I laid down with him, letting him cry for a few moments. I began caressing his hair, showing him I was concerned and telling him I loved him. He wasted no time before snuggling up with me, hugging my neck and kissing me. This is common. He never stays mad after his fits and the fits rarely last much longer than a few minutes. Those minutes can feel very intense, though. The situations escalate depending on the time of day, where we are, and if we are trying to get somewhere.
While Travis will be quick to soften, to give and accept physical affection, there is no real resolution in my mind. At this point, I don't know how much he understands about “next time.” There is no back-and-forth discussion of what just happened and why it was not good. I can only briefly show him what he did, tell him it was wrong, then show him how to respond in the future. Travis will appear to pay attention. He will parrot back an apology. Progress is slow, but at least present.
What I've learned:
- My hearing kids probably never understood nor cared about my lectures about "next time" either. Since they can hear, I could fool myself into believing they were listening. Travis does show improvement in the area of his reactions, so he is understanding something. Because his eyes have to be on me or else I'm talking to a brick wall, I keep my correction very short and to-the-point. I probably should have done this with all of kids.
- The fit will end more quickly if I stay calm. It reminds me of Cesar Milan's phrase "Calm, assertive leadership." If I freak out, Travis reads that and will react accordingly.
- I must keep in mind Travis' first three years. 98% of those years are a complete mystery to me. When he goes berserk because I've brought him his tennis shoes when he wants his boots (and all he has to do is ask for his "boots, please") I have to consider what's been engrained in the formative years of his life. "You have to make lots of lots of noise to get what you want." If I show a positive reaction, shaking my head yes and signing back to him what I know he wants, I'll most often snap him out of the path to a fit. At that moment, I can remind him, "What do you say?" and he will put on the biggest fake smile (still whining under his breath....haven't figured out how to teach him to not do that.) and say, "Boots, please."
- I'm just like him. How often do I not get my way and throw a little fit. My fits may not involve kicking and spitting. My fits may come out as an outburst toward my kids, but most often, my fits stay in my head. It's easy to be quick to complain to myself when things don't go my way. God is always patient with my unending petitions and, yes, whines. Yet, God has told me I just need to ask. The answer isn't always what I want, but it's always good.
Ken and I keep our eyes on the fact that there is amazing progress. We just can't become lazy or forgetful about the work we have to do or the pasts these boys have. Travis brings us abundant joy every single day. He's making me a better person and a more patient, understanding parent. I know he's going to do amazing things in his lifetime. I imagine he will look back at this blog with me one day and laugh at his fits. It's all a part of the story of who he is. He's exactly who God intended him to be.