Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Emotional Phases

I've had this on my mind for a while.  Kids go through phases.  Some of the phases are really pleasant.  I try to notice them and enjoy them.  The child is happy, friendly, in a good mood, gets along with you the parent and siblings, asks for what s/he needs or wants, is understanding and tolerant.  I try to take note when a child is going through a phase like that.  Human nature is to assume that is how things are supposed to be, and to only notice when things are not smooth.  When I was a teenager, I went through a phase being fascinated with Murphy's Law ("Anything that can go wrong, will, and at the worst possible moment"), until I realized that the times things go right are actually more frequent than the times things go wrong, except that we are not programmed to notice them.  So I try to notice them.

Obviously, the times when things are not smooth are naturally more noticeable.  The child is grouchy, moody, prone to anger and fury and fighting and unhappiness.  It's not me, but I do things that exacerbate it.  I often spend a lot of time during a difficult phase looking at my parenting and trying to troubleshoot.  Although this might improve my parenting (it probably does) and it might or might not help the child cope better with the phase (it probably makes no difference, but at least does not make it worse), I've come to the conclusion that it's not me, it's them.  I tend to perhaps overthink my parenting, and this was brought home to me very clearly when Sarah was a teenager and I was rethinking all of my parental decisions and considering sending her to therapy, when she got her period and morphed out of a banshee and back to a normal human being.  Since then, I try to keep myself as even-keeled as possible (difficult when they are shrieking at you) and to try to just accept that some phases are fraught with emotion and anger and anxiety, and the best I can do is be loving and stable and look forward to the phase ending.

During a difficult phase, I try to look on the bright side and remember how many great months the last phase was.  And I notice all the children who aren't having a difficult phase at the moment, and experience gratitude that they aren't tag-teaming.  At the moment.  One day I was getting out of the house and my six-year-old, my four-year-old, and my two-year-old were all hollering, sobbing, and shrieking.  And my twelve-year-old, who was often the moodiest of all, was walking along pleasantly, smiling, in a sunny mood.  And I was grateful.  I still remember that walk with fondness.  It ended up being kind of funny, and I'm glad I got to notice my preteen in such a good mood.

All this is an introduction to my six-year-old, Elazar.  He is in a fantastic phase now.  He was a difficult infant, an extremely difficult toddler, and his twos and threes were extremely challenging.  He started calming down at ages 3 through 4 (as my mother-in-law promised me), and by six, he's just in a really good phase.  Independent, amiable, mostly stable moods, infrequent temper tantrums, mostly feeds himself, gets along with others, doesn't run away when we are out.  A dream come true.  One of my easiest kids at the moment.

I just keep thinking about how if he were in school, I'd be getting calls from the teachers and the administration.  He isn't sitting in class.  He can't focus.  He can't pay attention.  He talks.  He wiggles.  He won't do his work.  He is disruptive.  Then he'd come home and he'd chew his shirt.  He would have eczema that he scratches from stress.  We'd argue about his homework.  I would yell.  I would speak harshly.  He would feel bad about himself.  He would act out.  I would worry about him.  I would spend a great deal of my day trying to figure out how to deal with him, how to get him to behave, how to handle him.

But because we've chosen to unschool him, he is a delight.

Unschooling does not make every phase a delight.  I don't think it's possible to avoid the growing pains of growing up, not from the child's end and not from the parents' end.  But this particular phase would look very different if he was in a different situation.  And this is not something that his bechira (free will) has control over.  I see that a lot.  The child is "good" or "bad" but it's not actually the child--it's the situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment