Last weekend, I had my first big 'phew' moment. I took a big inhale, exhaled slowly, and felt the delicious bliss of relief.
My oldest, Alistair, has been testing limits his entire life - weight limits at birth, sleep deprivation limits as a baby, and now appropriate school behavior limits as a 7, almost 8 year old. It got a little bad a few weeks ago. Keep in mind, I am a former teacher and I am very senstive to how my children behave and conduct themselves in the classroom. He had rough day after rough day, ending with insulting the school librarian (he told her loudly that she should not file her nails in public) and telling the girls in his class that he was going to eridicate Justine Beiber. I mean I get the Justin Beiber thing, but who insults a school librarian? (ummm, maybe his mother, Claiborne M. if you are reading this, remember how we got busted for drawing pictures of Mrs. Johnson's perm?)
My boy was in a rut, and I was beginning to wonder if he would ever get out of it. I also started to get nervous about the bigger picture. Maybe he isn't a nice child, maybe something is wrong with him, can he demonstrate empathy without me prompting him to do so? Ugh. My thoughts, like his behavior, were in a tail spin.
In my work as a sleep coach, as well as in my personal life, I meet a lot of parents who are in the same downward trajectory, worrying that maybe their little non-sleeper has bigger problems, problems that are too overwhelming to even begin to explore. As many of you know, when we are tired, we become irrational. Our children too become irrational, and we begin to have irrational thoughts about our irrational children. I speak with experience, when Clara was born, at her two week check up, I spent most of her appointment diagnosing her big brother's early on-set mental illness. It was not a happy or rational time.
Needless to say, worried or not, the days move forward, and slowly but surely I thought maybe just maybe my sweet boy might still be sweet, somewhere inside. This brings me to my big exhale.
Last weekend, we journeyed 4 hours up and 4 hours back to attend my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday. It was a hard but joyful trip and worth the car sickness and hotel breakfest bar. My worries about Alistair's behavior had quieted, but I was still sifting through them from time to time while driving kids to activites or as I fell asleep at night. On Sunday, after a lovely family lunch filled with lots of treats, fun with the cousins, we started to say our goodbyes. I was busy putting on Loewy's shoes when I looked up and saw Alistair kindly helping his great grandmother's feet back on to the wheel chair. He then stood up, leaned in close, gave her a hug and a kiss, and told her that he loves her. And here's the best part, and why I am breathing again. He did it without one of us making him do it. He did it because he loves her and knows how to show his love, respectfully. I am grateful that I turned my head at that moment to catch the interchange, because I could have so easily missed it. I didn't though, and that is a big relief.