I promise I didn't start this blog to bitch and complain, but this was a shitty day.
Let's get into it:
I made a lot of mistakes today. I don't think I was a very good dad. I also don't do well at giving myself slack, so that's why I'm writing tonight: hopefully this will be a bit of a purge.
Day was fine. Ben went to school...wait. I need to back up a bit. For the first time in a very long time (maybe even the first this school year), we got word that Ben was very disrespectful to one of his teachers at school. Sure he has outbursts and gets spoken to or needs "a reset," but it's never been relayed to us with this kind of seriousness. We also got his report card.
Sidebar: one nice thing about having a kid with special needs is report cards mean something completely different than they did when I was a kid. They truly are a report of how he's doing in certain areas with the foreknowledge that expectations for him are not the same as a typical kid. I can look at it for what it is and track improvement instead of seeing something more akin to an "end result."
And we saw improvement. Lots of it. It was really great to see his card and the accompanying IEP update state what we suspected: he's been working his butt off and making big improvements. There was only one area where his grade worsened: respect toward others.
He's an only kid with developmental delays and a helicopter dad.
What did I do?
Or more accurately: what didn't I do?
I've been really struggling with his tantrums. He's firmly in the "center of the universe" phase and if he's told "no," the result is screaming and crying. So what does any self-respecting person do to a screaming 6 year old? Why rationalize and use sarcasm, of course.
"Do you really think screaming at me is going to get me to change my mind?"
"I know your life is so hard what with your iPad and someone taking you someplace cool literally everyday-even-though-we're-tired-and-just-want-to-play-at-home."
As John Oliver would say, "Cool."
Mistake 1 came at Toys R Us. After touring an auto dealership (he's currently into cars), I explained that I needed to swing by Toys R Us to check on the price and availability of a new booster seat for him - and, yes, we would be able to look at some toys. I was hoping that the impending closure of all the Toys R Us' would mean that they'd already have clearance prices (nope, not yet). So as we proceed to look at the toys, we come across a particular toy that Ben has coveted for long time. To be honest, we both have been wanting it: a talking D-Structs.
Oh? Don't know that one, you say? Look up Dinotrux on Netflix and behold the awesomeness of different kinds of part-trucks/part-dinosaurs learning to live and work together despite the nefarious machinations of the grouchy, scheming D-Structs. Yeah. I know. It kicks ass.
Toys for this show are becoming rare. You've never heard of the show unless you're related to my son, so you can imagine there's not a lot of demand for die casts and talking action figures.
But there it was.
To this point, Ben had had the incident at school, one meltdown at me when it was time to leave the auto dealership, and the mark on his report card. Teachable moment: don't get him the toy. Actions have consequences.
Nope. Bought that sucker. Ben was over the moon! I was too. I wanted it too. I tried to assuage my guilt by telling him that if we hear of any more incidents at school, this is the first toy taken away.
So at home, I started dinner and was trying to get the dishes put away and fill the dishwasher with the next load (it was just him and me tonight. My wife was working). Ben comes into the kitchen demanding to watch videos. Demanding. This was new. Usually he asks, and politely too. This was a full on "I want this now!" event.
Take D-Structs away right? That would've been good, but alas, that was not what happened. Sure he calmed down. He went back to playing nicely with only the occasional question, "Why did you tell me I couldn't watch videos?" Clearly another moment for logic and reasoning: "I'm working in the kitchen and I can't be out there to monitor the videos with you (as you probably know, the algorhythms sometimes pull stuff that isn't appropriate). This was met by what I assume is a 6 year olds acknowledgement of error and understanding of expectations of future behavior: huuuuuuuhhhhhhhh.
After dinner is homework. Homework is tough and not mandatory for him. His teachers and helpers at school are fantastic and, like I mentioned, the improvement he's shown is fully credit to their hard work and kindness. We try to do the homework so that he feels a routine and realizes the demands that his peers undergo. But it is hard for him. It is almost always math and concepts like symmetry and "how many coins do you need to make 31¢" are hard for kids with WS. So we work at it and he whines the entire time. Most days I can handle it. Today was not one of those days and I'm not a stoic man. Ben has a dad who freely shows his emotions - I mean, it IS what I do for a living.
"Whining will not get you out of homework." "We will be finishing this." "Do I need to take away D-Structs?" And I believe, I would've done it this time.
"Ben. Your mom and I have seen how hard you've worked and we are very proud of your report card, but that doesn't mean the work is over. School - learning - is always going to hard. It will be harder for you than your friends. You don't learn like they do. But it's important that you work and give the effort to learn because you will have to do things on your own sometimes. We all love you: me, mom, all the grandmas and grandpas, your aunts and uncles, your teachers, your helpers - we all love you and believe in you. If we didn't love you, we would let you give up and not do any of this and not care. But we do care. All of us. But we can't always be there to do things for you. You have to learn so you can do things for yourself...like a first grader."
I'm sure Ben heard the words, but I don't know what got through. You see, people with WS are so empathetic to the emotions of others, all he saw was his dad was sad and in pain. He just wanted to make me happy. Funny face. Silly noise, All the goofy stuff we do when we're enjoying time together.
I can't talk my way into his brain. This is something completely new that I am constantly failing to learn.
Tomorrow I'll attempt to do better.