Life with kids is all sorts of fun. Interesting, different, horizon-expanding fun. Every day kids find a way to make you look at life a little differently, and that' such an awesome thing. As parents, its our job to help our kids grow, but nobody ever said that they grow us, too. I mean, if someone had told me 20 years ago that I'd catch vomit in my hands, I'd have scoffed. Loudly. And then there is Micah. Parenting 3 other kids before him didn't really prepare me much for parenting that boy. It did in the sense that I knew how to change diapers and burp him, but in truth, that's about the only similarities there are. It's so difficult to explain, really. He's exactly like the other kids, and yet not at all like them. If he were a Facebook relationship, he'd be labeled as "it's complicated."
The fact that Micah is still a toddler in many ways is evident when you've spent time with him. While his physical years measure 11, he's not really 11 at all. Socially, he's as close his age as not, but that's dependent on his mood, the day of the week and who he's with. Just like any kid. And yet, there are days when he just is overtired and out of sorts and belligerent. Just like any kid.
Like last evening, we were at a restaurant, and Micah had just had a long day of being overtired from too much summer. He grumped about the sandwich we got him because it wasn't like the other boys' sandwiches. (It was better, actually.) He refused to eat, crossed his arms, and set up a verbal protest that alerted the restaurant that something was definitely amiss in our corner of the establishment. I calmly hunkered down beside him, smiled (for the sake of the restaurant), and said, "Micah, this is what we're eating. You can either eat this or go sit in the van."
It was pretty much screamed. He pointed to Josh's sandwich. I asked Josh if he wanted to trade for the sake of peace and quiet, which we do a lot. Which isn't fair to the other kids at all, nor does it teach Micah that the world doesn't revolve around him. But we're in public, so what is there to be done, really? (Not that we'd beat a kid for not eating his sandwich, but one can't just let him sit there and throw a temper tantrum either. That's what he'd do; we know from experience.) Thankfully Josh was more than glad to trade (a better sandwich? Heck yeah!)
Three bites in and Micah realized that the previous sandwich was the better of the two. He wanted his back. Another verbal fit of pouting and yelling, accompanied by much arm waving and finger pointing. You just can't ignore this kind of behavior in public, whether you're the parent or an innocent bystander. Neither want it to be happening, mind you, and both parties have strong feelings about it. The innocent bystanders that are sympathetic are parents. Those who shoot evil looks are the ones who make you feel all sorts of uncomfortable and apologetic, while also wanting to secretly deliver your kid on his very worst day to their front doorstep so they, too, can learn that sometimes you have zero control over the situation.
I asked Josh if he wanted to trade again. I pointed out that the better sandwich was now half eaten and Micah's only had 2 bites taken out of it. He was getting far more sandwich in the long run. Josh is 17; food speaks to him. Again, he was glad to trade.
I tried teaching Micah that we don't act that way in public. I tried talking to him, and reasoning with him, and threatening to take him to the van to sit. These pathetic attempts on my part only served to enrage him more, because he was very overtired from too much summer and acting like a 2 year old in a temper tantrum. Reasoning just goes right out the window when 2 year olds are tantruming. I felt I had no choice in the parenting realm but to remove Micah from the situation until he could see reason again. I've found that simply sitting in the van until he calms himself and then apologizes for his behavior are phenomenal at correcting public fits of insanity. (And I'm very grateful for Kindle on my phone for entertaining me effectively while I ignore him just as effectively.) But I had a revelation last night that made me wonder how I'm going to parent this kind of behavior in the future.
I couldn't take Micah to the van, because he didn't want to go.
That boy has been freakishly strong since birth, despite his weakened motor skills. It goes with the diagnosis of Down syndrome. It took 4 nurses and myself to hold him down for blood work when he was just 5 years old. Every last one of us was sweating, and every nurse said they were amazed at the strength of our wee ox. We called him BamBam. We laughed. But it's hardly a laughing matter when that same boy is 11 years old and acting like a 2 year old in public. That boy weighs over 100 pounds and is still freakishly strong. There is no picking up that chunk of angry tantrum if he's not compliant. Neither can I just usher him out with a well placed hand on the small of his back. The short of it is that if Micah doesn't want to go somewhere, he's not going.
So the restaurant was privy to that revelation, too.
Luckily for our family and all the patrons of Chick-Fil-A, Micah realized that I meant business when I attempted to escort him from the premises, and he changed his behavior accordingly. But in the future? What will I have to do to curb his outbursts? And at what point will he just learn that you can't act like this in public? My guess is never. Because the Down syndrome just kind of trumps all in areas like this.
Parenting Micah is so much like parenting the other kids. And yet, it's nothing at all like that.