Friday, June 5, 2009

First Born

I had this vision of what my life as a first time mom would be. I would spend time snuggling my baby, singing little lullabies and generally loving being a mom. What I got was a baby who HATED to be held, who pushed her little hand into my face and shoved me away when I tried to kiss her, and wanted nothing more than to lay on the floor. Little Miss Independent from day one.

Meg is my tough child. Not tough on the exterior, but tough in terms of parenting. She was an only child for 4 years and was, quite frankly, spoiled. It wasn't deliberate, but when you're the first grandchild on one side of the family and the first grandchild in 9 years on the other side, you get a lot of doting. She had our undivided attention at home. But she also had a temper. When Drew was born, the ugly side of her temper became clear. She was prone to tantrums, throwing things at me and Drew. She didn't want to share us with anyone. She still doesn't, even after almost 4 1/2 years of being a big sister. From a parenting perspective, the attitude has gotten old.

In my last post I mentioned that Meg had a meltdown over the vacation we're taking and some of you asked for me to explain. Meg has meltdowns quite frequently. She used to have them daily and they would take hours to end. She would scream, hit, tear her room apart, thrash about on the floor. Of course it was all for attention, and typically done because we asked her to do something like pick up her room. Now her tantrums are shorter, but they still include the thrashing about on the floor, hitting (she is 4 ft 6in, 100 lbs and I am her favorite target) and the screaming, and usually because we asked her to do something and she doesn't want to do it (mind you, unless it involves eating or watching tv, she doesn't want to do anything we ask her to do. Charming? No.) I digress. Sunday night we told the kids about our vacation so that we could do a countdown. We thought a vacation would be fun, especially since it's coinciding with the end of the school year and Meg HATES summer vacation. Instead, all we got was lip about how going away is scary, she doesn't want to go, blah, blah, blah.

It's so hard to explain how tiring it is to parent a child that hates everything. We spend so much of our energies trying to anticipate her reaction to things. We never know when something will set her off and she'll start screaming at us. For the record, she does not act like this at school and people are surprised to hear how she behaves at home. Unfortunately, her attitude has carried over to the other children and we are seeing the exact same behavior in Isabelle. It's not just the tantrums. It's the attitude. She talks with complete disrespect most of the time. She refuses to do anything that she doesn't want to do. There are no ways to "punish" her; I can't put her in her room if she's misbehaving because I can't just pick her up and move her. There aren't things we can take away from her, as she almost never watches tv because of her horrible behavior when something is over, and she acts the same way after computer time. We've been to therapy, and it did nothing to help.

I wish I could say that I've figured out how to avoid this with the other children, but that is not the case. I work daily on manners for the kids, but in the end, my house is a total free-for-all. The kids talk through me when I'm speaking, they flat out tell me "no" when they don't want to do something, and they learned it all from their big sister. We've tried to explain to her that she needs to set a good example for the younger children, and her responses is always a vacant "ok", which is her way of saying "yup, shut up, I don't care". I hear from her daily that I don't love her, that I should just get rid of her. Trying to talk to her about anything is an exercise in total frustration.

In the end, it's very sad. I love Meg so much, but I'm so tired of trying to make her happy when she cleary doesn't want to be happy. I hope that some day she'll find a way to be happy. I'll keep working on finding a way to get through to her. And maybe we will have a nice vacation after all. I just wish there were more definites instead of maybes.


LoriD said...

The fact that she doesn't behave this way at school is a good thing. It means she knows how to control herself, but she just chooses not to when she's at home.

I have had waves of this kind of behaviour with my oldest, but thankfully it passes (after much yelling, punishment and many, many tears). I have no real advice, just empathy. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

You are describing Kaitlin. Sorry it's so tough, we are/have been in the midst of counceling for years. It didn't work the first time, but now that it is carrying over to the other two we are trying again. We have also started medecine. Been a long tough road getting to this point. Chris is serverly depressed, mostly because of his sister. Kaitlin was diagnosed with OCD. Meds have helped Chris, but not Kaitlin yet. Wish I could help you more, I know how much you love her, and I understand

LoriD said...

I just thought of something that did work for us. We were on a weekend vacation and she was acting horribly, making everyone else miserable. Once she was in a calmer place, I took her aside for a talk. I told her that she was part of our family and that the kind of behaviour she was exhibiting was not allowed. Just.not.allowed. I reminded her that she was able to control her mood at school and she needed to think about what the difference was between home and school. There was more to it than that, but I pulled out the "not allowed" line whenever I noticed her starting to get into one of her moods and she seemed to be able to calm herself down.

AndreAnna said...

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I can't imagine how tough it must be.

Jill said...

Oh Kristin. That must be so hard. I don't remember who told me this, but someone was having issues with their kids like this and they made them watch that Nanny 911 show whenever it was on, so they could see kids acting the way they do from a different perspective. I know there are issues with her and TV, but maybe if she saw her behavior reflected in someone else and how it makes the parents feel it might have an impact. Just a thought...

Saly said...

Bud is like this to an extent. When he doesn’t get his way, he broods, and lashes out and is miserable. Our tactic is to remove him from the situation. If we are in a restaurant or at a party, we will take him to sit in the car for a while. Quiet time seems to work for him.

It must be hard on you Kristin. ((HUGS))

CassJustCurious said...

Send you a hug. I have nothing of real value to add but I am thinking about you.

Maybe you could even video tape her....just thinking of the other comments. I bet if she saw her behavior she'd be pretty embarrassed - maybe enough to re-assess.

Robyn said...

I have no advice -- I wish I was there to give you a great big hug (and babysit so you could get some time alone)!

Does she treat Doug the same way or is it just you?

Astarte said...

I think you should call her doctor and talk to her/him about what's going on. It sounds to me like she's got something going on. Maybe school is helpful for her because it's quiet and very structured, and also because she's not relaxed enough there to feel safe in acting out her feelings. Just because she's not acting like that doesn't mean she's not feeling it on the inside. I once heard that the reason kids act out only/mostly at home is because they feel safe enough to do so.

I feel so sad for you and your entire family. I think that you need to get help from someone before it's too late and your whole family is irreversably affected. You don't want to look back in twenty years and wish you'd reached out more or done something differently.

goldilocks said...

This might sound crazy and extreme, but my mom used to pull us out of public school for the year when/if she felt that things were getting out of hand at home.

Mom felt that outside schooling could create a conflict with a child's home life and spiritual development, and her philosophy meant that homeschooling was her default; we had to *earn* the privilege of going to the comparatively glamorous local school district by showing her we could handle it gracefully.

I tell people this now; they think it sounds crazy, but it worked. A child has a right to an education, but that's not the same as having a right to attend an outside school.

To me, it sounds like your daughter thinks school is where "real life happens," whereas family life is merely a highly annoying distraction to be suffered through with as little effort as possible.

Maybe it would be good to oblige her to learn to see her family members as Real People, too.

Jill said...

This is tough. I have a 10 year old and an almost 8 year old. Before my children could even read we wrote down and posted house rules. It was easy to just point to the rule if it was being followed. In the beginning there were only one or two, no yelling, say please and thank you. Every year or so we tweak them a little bit, they are still simple but there are more of them (no yelling from another room, use your manners and my personal favorite everyone must follow the rules). We do them together so they are part of the process. Their friends know are house rules and if things get out of hand w/either my children or friends, we give reminders. My children usually show the friend the rule if it is their visit to our home. Things aren't perfect, but this system seems to help.

(walk into any classroom pre-school through high school and you will see the rules of the class)

hope this might help just a little bit.