Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No, really, things are good.

I've been complaining at lot about Theo lately. Not here, sure, and not even necessarily on Facebook, but if you see me in person I'm often overwhelmed and exasperated and need to lean on the shoulders of everyone around me.

It's unfair to him, really. He's only four. His brain is still making new connections between primal emotional responses and civilized higher brain responses. Just because he is capable of doing all sorts of things for himself doesn't mean he can control himself all the time.

As a reminder to myself (and a small amount of penance for my whining), here is the amazing progress he's made in recent times.

Theo's pretend play has blossomed. He comes up with funny stories and cute ideas. He plays by himself and makes funny voices. He also sings! This is particularly new. He has become obsessed with the Beatles song "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" and he actually sings nearly all of it. I don't see any demonstrations in public any time soon but at home he's trying it out. I need to try get it on video.

He has made incredible strides socially. When we are approached by strangers asking him questions, he is much more likely to respond and be generally talkative. He speaks clearly enough that everyone understands his words (even if he's off on some tangent others can't understand). Sometimes he says too much, but mostly he just charms everyone. Up until recently he was always hiding behind me, or even getting defiant in his fear, saying mean things. Of course it will be a while until he's consistent and understands true politeness but his recent bravery is very welcome.

I attended a preschool class party last week and his interactions with his classmates is incredibly improved. He ran around with the other kids, calling them by name. Some even called back to him. He shared extremely well, took turns without issue, waited in line even better than I did. I've attended parties there before and the difference is staggering. Before, he had no interest in interacting, especially in the noisy, out-of-the-ordinary party environment. He would cling to me and do nothing else. I figured things were getting better at school as he now comes home and talks about small social interactions, such as who he played with, who was absent. Even when it's something on the negative side (Jake wouldn't play with me today) it's never told in a meltdown way, always just more info for his social report. I'm glad we've had him in school (three days a week) so he can develop his personality and resilience on his own.

Yes, we've had trouble with the usual things at home - getting him to take baths or get dressed or just go potty. And yes, he often throws fits out of nowhere about the smallest things, and is sometimes incredibly rude for no reason at all. I'm reading a new book called "How Toddlers Thrive" and it's very reassuring, letting me know that all of this is entirely normal as he tests the waters of independence and his brain figures out whether he's still loved when he exerts his power. But there's one thing that he does that actually seems very out of the ordinary for his age - he wants resolution to our conflicts. Often, towards the end of some tantrum argument, he'll suddenly shift from being crazy angry at me and come in for a hug, saying "I want us to be happy again, can we be friends and love each other", even as he's still crying and yelling. He'll apologize in the best way he can, saying he is sad we had a bad morning, or that he wants to fix it and doesn't know how. It's incredible. The ability to step away from the corner he backed himself into and try to repair the problem shows a level of awareness that's not only unexpected, but often, more sensible than my own inner turmoil.

There are lots of other things he's doing incrementally better at, but it's hard to gauge, as there are days where he reverts and you're really not sure if there was any progress at all. As all the advice I've ever seen says, it's maddening, and any rational adult can be driven insane by it, but it takes hundreds of teachable moments to really cement in better behavior. The change comes in fits and starts and may seem to vanish, and you just have to keep on, keep on, keep on. I mean, how many times can you say "don't play with your fork"? The answer is, every day for about 5 years. Or more.

In any case he's actually doing very well. When viewed through a lens of trying to nail down his behavior, it seems like he's struggling, or that he's behind on these high expectations. What's really going on is that he's away and running and I'm trying to catch up with him.

(Figured I need to provide something to look at - here are some recent videos.)

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