When he was 2 years old he knew all his letters and by 2.5 all their sounds. By 3.5 he was trying to read. By 4 he was asking me to teach him. And so I did. By 5 we had to stop spelling things to keep them secret. By 6 he was flawlessly reading his own birthday cards. And at 8, he reads at a 12th grade level. The world has opened up for him because of this skill. But as big as that is, something even bigger has changed.
When he was two we enjoyed time together, playing catch, building with blocks and knocking them down…and reading. He was full of life and I loved to be around him. I actually said outloud, “Why do people get down on ‘2’ so much?” We had a fabulous time. When he was two and nine months, a switch went off in him and he became a very, very difficult child. He opposed everything, fought with everyone, wallowed in his own inability to handle frustration, made poor choices because it was so, so hard to think clearly enough to pursue the right ones. He struggled with friendships, with childhood, with food, with textures, with telling the truth, with surprises, with schedules, with holidays and anything else that was out of his control. He melted down constantly and spiraled into a dark and gloomy, negative, argumentative little boy. My darkest day was the day I heard my own softspoken-kindhearted-love-enough-for-the-whole-world father say to his first and dearly anticipated grandchild, “Why do you have to be so hard to get along with?” Words he had said to me when I myself was in my sullen teenage years. What had happened to my son? And how do we help him out of it? I asked those questions often. I asked over and over. And I did it for the next FIVE years.
Something big, indeed had changed in him. But something even bigger has happened now.
Eight. My son is 8…actually 8 and a half. And we’ve been reeling from the explosions for so long now, that it’s hard to reconfigure our response to him. But we need to change our response, because he has changed his. For the past six months, he’s been trying… hard. And succeeding. I’m starting to see that this is more than just an upswing in our roller-coaster ride with him. And, dare I say it, I think we have encountered real change.
Here’s the scene at our house as it stands now.
- Today I did math with my son who on so many occasions would simply refuse and even sit for as many as two hours continuing to refuse to even try it. Today, he multiplied sixty four times three thousand and something.Came up with the right answer and pressed on to the next problem.We got through a page of math, (10 little problems) in 15 minutes and we were still friends.In fact, we were closer.
- Today I trusted him enough to let him ride down the street to a friend's house to play… trusted him enough to be safe…trusted him enough to take his little brother with him… trusted him enough to come home when the street lights came on… trusted him enough to not spend media time there because he’d just spent an hour on the computer. A year ago, I’d have never done that. Trusted him, that is. And when he came home, he said, “Mom, I’m sorry I have bad news to report to you.” And he calmly and truthfully, told me that he had watched his friend play a computer game because that is all the friend wanted to do. After a “What should you have done instead?” discussion, I simply told him that he made a choice and there would be a consequence for that choice. He calmly said, “O.K. Mom.” I calmly said, “Good job.” And there was peace in our house because we were calm. Because we trusted one another…even though he had failed in one thing, he had succeeded so well in all the other things. And he (and I) recognizes his success.
- Today I handed him his devotional to think through, taught him a new skill in cursive writing, asked him to read aloud to me, listened to him work with his brother, told him to wait, saw that he ate his whole lunch, reminded him that he needed to finish schoolwork before he played on the computer, turned on a timer, asked him to wear a coat, denied him a couple things, made a couple suggestions, saw him share, asked him to put his bike away, gave him glue to work with, heard him say, “I’m sorry, Mom” when unprovoked to do so, told him to wash his hair and get out of the tub, saw him relent to his brother’s wishes when we played a game together, saw him lose with grace, and put him to bed contented and calm. Every single one of these things just six months ago would have triggered an explosion of mammoth proportions. Every single one.
Today we did school, yes. But we did so much more. I can’t tell you how tremendous this change is for him…for us. But I just had to tell someone. Something has changed in my son.
He is full of life and I love to be around him.