I’ve been finding O particularly difficult over the past couple of days. Notice how I say I’ve been finding him difficult, not that he has been particularly difficult – there is a huge difference of course. I partly blame that ridiculous TV programme called “8 Boys and wanting a girl” which I knew I should never have watched.
I have never really seen my boys as “boys”, in that I just see them as people and haven’t spent any time dwelling on gender issues (which is a good job as I am about to have my fourth boy.) Since seeing that programme two days ago (why didn’t it also focus on women who wanted had girls and wanted boys?), which featured lots of footage of boys doing stereotypically boyish things like shooting each other and being generally boisterous while their mothers wander through the pink aisles in Toys-R-Us, I have been seeing them more as “boys” and wondering if some of my frustrations in the house are to do with being the only female. I also feel I have been worn down by peoples reactions when I say I’m having another boy. Don’t get me wrong, no one has said anything wrong (well, friends certainly haven’t anyway) but the general reaction is “Gosh – 4 boys!” in an incredulous tone, as if that can’t possibly be what anyone wants, or as if I’m doing well to still be smiling. My general excitement has been a bit dented by this and I’m starting to dread the moment when people ask if I know what I’m having.
Someone even reacted by telling me how she cried when she found out she was having a boy (she had a girl already). The thing was, she was saying it in front of my boys. Here I was going on about disrepect towards children in society generally and now I find myself wanting to go on about how there is such a common negative reaction towards boys.
The upshot was that yesterday I found myself wondering what “being female” means and whether I feel lacking in anything in our house. I know it’s not about pretty and pink stuff as I’ve never been that way inclined myself but there is a nourishment that I get from my female friends. I don’t think anyone would look to find that in their children though would they, male or female? Children give so much to us in so many ways, but we don’t expect to be understood by them, at least not when they are young, surely. Anyway, there is no mileage to be gained in going down this route and I’ve never really been one to dwell on things that can’t be fixed but then there is a line of course between supressing feelings and wallowing in it and I suppose I gave this thought some room to see if there was any supressing going on.
Even today though, I find I have got my sense of proportion back. I think being tired and achy (as you are at 8 months pregnant) doesn’t help, and neither does staying up until 2am getting all nostalgic while looking through old photos.
As far as the problems between Oscar and I go (stick with me when I say this next bit as I will be as hard on myself as I am on O) I was finding the same old things difficult: him not listening (I think that he simply “filters” out my voice – a trick I think Joth wishes he could do) and not responding. I think he is often very unaware, for an 11 yr old, of the need to help out or think ahead, or just be in the moment (rather than day dreaming). For instance, when we go out, he will stand by the car instead of getting in and I find myself saying “Get in the car!”, he will let gates slam shut after him even if someone is behind him, he’ll leave his bags in the car, and he’ll drop his clothes on the floor. He doesn’t mean to do it, he just doesn’t think. He also spins out the simplest of tasks, literally – If I ask him to help clear up he will take one item of cutlery at a time from the table, spin around on route to the sink, and then forget what he was doing anyway. With home ed, he often wanders off a task halfway, and often doesn’t get nearly as much done as he could in the time without me standing over him for every part.
We did find out over the summer that he has slight dyslexia (although she didn’t use that label in the report but just said Oscar is struggling with some literacy difficulties as although he is achieving age appropriately, it doesn’t tie up with his abilities) but anyway, I have always felt that I might be more of an aural processing issue which may have something to do with this situation.
We also fell out over his practise yesterday. I once said to a friend (in his hearing) that I don’t treat him like I do my pupils. Now, I really should learn to watch what I say. I had a friend once who said to her daughter that she knew it was difficult for her to share her mum once her brother arrived on the scene and she said ever since then the daughter kept telling her how hard she was finding it with her brother around. In our case, every time I ask Oscar to do something he says “You wouldn’t ask your pupils like that,” or “You’re nicer to your pupils than me,” or words to that effect. Yesterday we spent most of the practise discussing why me asking him to watch where his bow was (instead of the floor as he was doing) was a reasonable request, and how I would/and do ask the same of my pupils. Now the thing that gets me most annoyed generally (and this goes for everything I can think of in the house) is time wasting. I always feel, like every mother of more than one child must do, that there is always someone else that needs them. I find it very difficult to have protracted arguments that are getting us nowhere fast when I can hear Anton switching on the TV (which I try to distract him from) or when I’d like to give Lucas more of a hand with whatever he’s doing.
Now, is Oscar right? Yes, in lots of ways I am not nearly as respectful as I could/should be when I am working with him particularly in violin and I do get impatient as I expect him to get things right quickly and correct things himself (now he is older). I know what he is capable of and don’t let him get away with second best when I wouldn’t push my pupils as far. I also don’t dress things up so much or try to find amusing ways to put things. It doesn’t help though when he does his “filtering- out” trick regarding my voice, and claims he “didn’t hear me.” If I sense that he is approaching practise with any sort of “attitude” (of the “I’m hard done by because I’m not a pupil” sort) I instantly spring in to impatient mode straight away. So, it’s a tricky one sometimes. We get to breaking point and he says he’s giving up and I say that’s fine if he really wants to but he should think about how much he enjoys it and how much good progress he’s made (which he is) and he comes round and we have a really good practise again (as we did today) where he works hard and I stay even tempered and we get lots done.
As far as time management goes, I said this morning “Would you like me to tell you what we have to do and when to get us out of the house (nag in other words) or shall I simply say that you have to be in the car by 8.35 or I will take 50p a minute off your pocket money as that is how much each minute of piano lesson costs me?” They both chose the not-nagging route and were in the car by 8.30 waiting for me. I would like to leave the money threats out of it of course but unfortunately sometimes the shock tactic works when it seems nothing else does. I’m sure I’ve just gone horribly wrong somewhere to let it come to this.
Anyway, after getting out on time to piano and doing a good practise on violin when we got back Oscar was suddenly inspired to do some “secret cooking” and made a cake all by himself which included finding a new recipe on the internet. It worked so much better with me not being involved at all and he was really proud of it. I would happily step out of everything if he would show that much initiative. He is such a beautiful, loving, funny, gentle soul that it makes me feel I shouldn’t be writing this post but I want to be honest, even about the thoughts (and deeds) that I wish I didn’t have.
Writing this blog is always useful. I can hear another voice in my head as I write that is saying “Step out of as much as you can and give him the space to find his own way,” but then the other voice says that he always responds to the discussions we have and I just have to learn to voice things more carefully and calmly. I think he needs direction and pointers in things like how he comes across and how the results of his actions affect others (as he doesn’t always see the connection).
I also think that writing the “bad stuff” is as important as writing the good stuff as I don’t want O to remember the times when we fell out and see no mention of it here, as if I brushed it off or didn’t spend the time agonising over it that I do. I also think that when he becomes a parent I don’t want either of us to imagine for one second that I didn’t struggle (as I think memories can play funny tricks).
Perhaps it is also worth noting, which I seldom do, the ways in which I think I am a good parent. I happen to think I put them first, question everything to do with my parenting (which has it’s flip side but which is my saving grace none the less), love deeply and show it often, talk honestly and openly with them, give them lots of my time and energy, and make them laugh.
And so after all that, I need a plan for moving forward:
i) don’t watch any more unhelpful TV programmes.
ii) be more clear about the times we are leaving the house, what needs to be done by when so that we can do x/y/z etc so that O can plan better.
iii) have a clearer line between practise and lessons with Oscar so that he does every other practise by himself.
iv) try and back off more, take an irritation management course or try a personality transplant.
I do think life is tougher in many ways for an older child. I expect more from him and I make more mistakes with him. I won’t tell him that though or I’ll never hear the end of it.