Tonight I was getting dinner on the table and Max and Tommy were sitting in their chairs making silly faces. Max had his tongue out and was making Tommy laugh. His eyes sparkled with genuine delight. He was happy and full of light and spreading it to those around him. And I had to pause for a moment and relish in my realization.
We were making it.
Maybe that seems like a silly thing to realize, but things with Max haven't always been easy.
You see, Max is extremely passionate. When he feels things he feels them deeply. It's great when he's happy and playful, but when he would get angry, or sad (which turned quickly into anger), he was a force to be reckoned with. For two years now we've dealt with, fought, talked through, cried about, and hugged out, the hitting, punching, pushing, pinching, screaming, absolute meltdowns.
Last year he sent a cousin to the Emergency Room for stitches. He was tired, he got angry, there was no adult supervision, and he just happened to be carrying a golf club.
It could have been a lot worse.
After that came the guilt and the worry. We were told there was something wrong with him. We were asked not to leave him. I watched people online say they would never let their kids play with a child like mine. Some insinuated behavior like this was indicative of domestic violence.
It was isolating. I couldn't take him to the park and talk with the moms. I had to monitor every move, every possible trigger.
It was exhausting. Day after day I would draw suns and butterflies and flowers on his hands and remind him to have gentle hands.
It was humbling. I crashed to my lowest when it would drive me to yell and scream or to smack his hand back. In one episode he began kicking the door at our in-laws so hard I thought he would break it. I was so embarrassed I threw the door open to tell him to stop, and in my anger not realizing exactly where he was standing, the doorknob hit him right in the eye.
I was a terrible, terrible mother. I felt hopeless and helpless.
But I could also see this amazingly giving, thoughtful, kind and loving little boy. He has this goodness within him that is unparalleled by his other siblings. His lows are so low but his highs are so incredibly high.
But I felt nobody would be able to see that beyond the violence and the anger.
I tried everything. Gentle parenting, time outs, consequences, positive attention, empathy. They all worked and didn't work, or required me to always be on my game and sometimes I just wasn't. In the last year we've moved twice, been denied a home loan two days before closing, dealt with the grief of losing Steve. I wasn't always on my game. I didn't always give him the best of me.
But somehow...he's getting better. I'm not saying we're out of the woods yet. We still have an occasional problem. But they are fewer and farther between and usually brought on by extreme situations where everything is thrown off, hunger, exhaustion, etc. I've found if I can guard against those things, we do much better.
In the last two years I've found a recipe for mostly success.
1. Rhythm and routine.
2. Plenty of sleep.
3. Whole foods.
4. Very limited screen time.
5. Hours of outside play every day.
But I don't feel like I can credit all those things with the change. I think a lot of it is just growing up and maturing. And so today, when I had that realization that we were on the downhill slope. That things were getting better, easier, that he wasn't this angry little boy anymore, it felt like breathing fresh, mountain air after a long time in the city.
I know I'm not the only Mama who has a passionate, energetic, and sometimes aggressive little boy. I know the pain and the worry. And all I can say is Mama, don't give up. It will get better. He will grow up. Keep setting him up for success. It will not always be like this. That child has the qualities of a great leader. And right now you may be the only person who sees the goodness deep within him. Hold the image of him in your heart. It. Will. Save. Him.
He will be okay. You will be okay.