On the way to church last Sunday I couldn't help but anticipate the anxiety that would soon be brewing once we parked the car and went into the theatre (where the church meets). A lot of my anxiety was based on expectations. Expectations that I knew weren't going to be met. It had nothing to do with the church. It simply had to do with knowing my two boys were about to be unleashed.
Having a son with ADHD and then having a younger son that does everything his big brother does well, you see where this is going. Impulsiveness begets impulsiveness. It makes life interesting. And it really puts a wrench when we go to places and do things that are unstructured and can be overstimulating, like church. Now imagine church in a movie theatre. Yeah. So every week it feels like I am fighting a battle. Every week we have to go over the same rules. I have to be "on top" of the impulsivity. It can really be exhausting.
My expectations have to do with control. I want to control my children. I want them to listen. I want them to keep their hands to themselves. My brain knows why Carter has the need to touch everything, but the mom in me just wants him to stop. I want them to do what I say. I want them to act a certain way in public. I want people to think that I am a great mom. This is a common issue that I have to deal with quite frequently. And it's mine. I own it. Basically, I am giving myself anxiety. Over things I can't control.
I long for my oldest to be still. For him to walk with us and not run impulsively away from us. To ask before he does something, to sit at the dinner table and stay there. To understand consequences and to understand that just saying your sorry doesn't instantly make everything right, it's not a pat answer that fixes all the messes. I want him to walk in a straight line without hopping, skipping or jumping all the time. I mean, he's 8. Why can't he do that? Why can't I make him do that? How do I help him learn to control himself. I mean, it's a life skill, right? I am a therapist. I teach kids and families about feelings, behaviors, impulse control yet I am challenged by these behaviors every day. Does anything I try and teach him stick?
God pretty much teaches me every week that I just need to let go. And last Sunday he was teaching me to let go of straight lines, perfect walks, the messes, the broken toys, mannerly communication with others in public, and the hope of asking before doing (ha). To just let go of my expectations.
And with that, the anxiety left. It wasn't long, though, before I picked it back up again when Carter wouldn't listen to my request to stay by my side and when I pulled him away from the water fountain to "consequence" him. To prove my point. To show the others around me that, I am trying. I am trying to control the behavior. I could see the anger in his eyes. He just wants to do what he wants to do. I have to teach him that there are limits. There's nothing wrong with that....it's just that my expectations are usually centered around what other people think, and that is not Carter's responsibility. So why am I punishing him for something that I created? I just wanted him to be still and stay by my side. But, we are in a movie theatre. Big open spaces, lots of hallways to run through. buttons to push on doors to make them open. I mean, for an 8 year old, ADHD boy this place is heaven. Add a four year old into that mix and I. get. overwhelmed.
He's not going to stand still. He can learn the rules....no running, but right now, he's going to dart ahead. Jump to the water fountains and well, that's ok. Because sometimes I just need to pick our relationship over my expectations that he's never, ever going to meet. And how frustrating for an 8 year old little boy to have to suffer through, whether he has ADHD or not.
The more I try to make Carter conform at age 8 the more he resents me. I'm not talking about discipline matters. We discipline, we have structure, rules and rewards. But staying on him for things that are just expectations of good behavior, those are the things that rob the joy out of our relationship. Do I really need to stay on top of him for every little thing? No. Just let it go.
It's a fine balance. And I have sucked at it lately and I can tell from our relationship it is affecting him. It's time to pick battles. Let things go. We both need our emotional love tank re-filled and I see glimpses of that happening. We had a great weekend in Chattanooga over spring break and I really tried to just enjoy my boy. Tell him how much I love him. Praise him. Point out what he is doing good. Tickle him. Ruffle his hair. Stroke his cheek and tell him that I am so glad that he is mine.
Enjoy the good times. Stay in the moment. Take is one day at a time. Breathe. That's all I can do and am trying to do.