We've been having some issues with my youngest, my 5th grader, both at home and at school.
Ultimatum after ultimatum, privilege after privilege was take away...there was nothing left. Slowly, over months with multiple chances, he lost everything. No iPhone, no laptop, no TV, no Xbox, no books in his room, no fun during holiday break, no play dates, no DS... Incrementally we used up all our currency.
At school, he lost recess after recess. He lost his right to use playground equipment for the rest of the year and was forced to sign a contract. Nothing mean spirited--just an inability to control his impulses and follow rules.
When caught, he'd argue the merits of the rules or their uneven, sketchy enforcement. The last straw for him at school was going down the slide headfirst with three kindergartners on his back. He was written up three times and we got a call from the vice-principal that day.
In the classroom? This kid in the gifted program, the one with test scores through the roof?
At conference time, he had a report card full of uncompleted assignments we didn't even know about--two missing book reports and seven missing writing assignments.
That list has increased, not decreased, in the last two months since. Even in his gifted program, the fun project became a task procrastinated. Yelling and tears ensued.
At home? Attention span is five minutes max unless it's something he loves.
He absolutely admits doing what he wants to do now is worth any consequences we dole out. He admits that while he loves us, he does not respect our rules and does not wish to obey. He lacks the control to obey.
Sometimes I wonder if he can really help himself.
So what to do? All our leverage was gone. We were at our wits' end.
Nothing left, but to threaten to take away his birthday.
Nope, nothing to celebrate if he couldn't get in line, do his school work, clean his tornado of a room clean, and obey right??
And did it work? Nope!
He continued to not do his work, not follow directions, and not obey.
So there I was with a husband who insisted we follow through--that we hang tough with our threats.
We did leave it open for him to earn his birthday back next month...but it wasn't looking good.
Finally, he did finish all the assignments, so I pleaded with CG that we celebrate after all--on time. My husband, probably rightly so, insisted perhaps a partial part of the problem was my inconsistency and Li'l Man's realization that often I do not follow through with my threats stated in anger and exasperation.
He insisted we stay the course.
So today was his birthday. I was so sad this morning as I wished him a happy birthday at breakfast--knowing there would be no recognition of his 11th year on this Earth.
I hugged him. I told him I loved him. I just do not not how to handle this kid. He is so different from his older siblings in most aspects, but then his school assignment issues and distracted lack of focus is an exaggerated mirror of his brother's. His brother with ADD which makes me wonder if ADD has struck twice? Or is this just 11 year old pretty bad behavior?
Back to his day, I wished him happy birthday...and I knew there was a sadness and aching feeling in those big blue eyes of his. There was no anticipation of fun to come. He knew it and I knew it.
I felt like the WORST mom in the world.
Then outta nowhere, on her magical unicorn, came my friend and Li'l Man's newly minted Aunt Julie to the rescue. As we chatted on the phone, I mentioned my dilemma. She begged me to reconsider. She had some sad memories of her own to share of the repercussion of missed birthdays. Of hurt feelings decades later and emotion scars due to a missed birthday as punishment. I held tight.
So guess what arrived during dinner time tonight?
Aunt Julie had a massive balloon and cupcakes delivered. Li'l Man had his birthday. No presents or party...but a small celebration that recognized that no matter his behavior, he was and is loved and he deserved being celebrated for being in our lives.
Was there still a legitimate consequence with no party or presents? I would argue yes. However do I think having a single candle on a cupcake sent a mixed single? No. Was singing happy birthday sending a mixed signal? No. And watching him drag his massive balloon around for over and hour and then carefully take it up stairs to bed as the only gift he received? I realized he was just so grateful for feeling special on this special day.
Good friends are hard to come by, but Julie? You rock for seeing past my stubbornness and fear of causing marital discord and seeing this small, forming little man needed some attention.
Thank you Julie for braving my husband's annoyance and recognizing, as a fellow mother of a spirited child, no matter his transgressions, my Li'l Man needed to feel that love. His smile and lifted spirit was incredible.
Trying to stuff this square peg child into a round hole had me so caught up in the behavior and stubbornness we failed to see the boy who still needed and deserved a birthday.
This has spurred me once more to seek out new techniques because Julie is right, it's impossible to build a positive on a negative foundation. We need to figure this out. Clearly threats and removing privileges is not working. Any thoughts or advice you have will be much appreciated.
On a personal note: Those cupcakes from Confetti's on Front street?? Too die for!! Nom! Yep, so much for my thirty day challenge.
I used a spoon and took a small bite of each flavor. Caramel corn? Nom? Carrot cake? Nom. Red velvet? Come here lovah. Good thing I did my crazy crossfit workout and then an extra 2500m row and 100 sit ups. I also had chugged antacids so a little wheat? On this special day? Nope, not going to worry about it one bit. So worth the cheat.
PPS Here is one project that our guy finally did finish and it turned out awesome. I am so proud of him. He came up with a great idea and I was happy he was able to share his humor with his class:
Happy Birthday, Li'l Man!!