So this is Mister Man on a good day. He’s happy sitting with Little Miss after having completed a group activity. He’s looking at the camera and smiling, not being overly goofy but still having fun. His hands are not all over his sister, and he’s able to sit still in an upright position. This is him on a good day.
Unfortunately, I realized Saturday afternoon that I haven’t been putting him in a position to have good days recently, and I need to step up and take some of the blame for it.
On Saturday morning, the owner of his tae kwon do studio pulled me aside to ask what has been up with him the past couple weeks. She’d noticed that he’d been more chatty (talking is sort of frowned upon when practicing TKD) the last two weeks and hadn’t been as focused. I nodded, understanding that he’d probably not had the greatest classes because I hadn’t been with him. My parents had been bringing him because he’d spent Thursday through Monday nights with them while I was out of town, and my dad had taken him again on Friday night because it’s his “thing” to go there together.
I explained the probably lack of sleep while at my parents, coupled with no structure and a surfeit of junk food that he was likely eating. While my mom loves to pile on the strawberries and blueberries and raspberries, there is also dessert at almost every meal, cookies they make, and “secret” trips to McDonalds that my dad takes them on. I’ve also discovered that in addition to taking Mister Man to Subway for dinner most Friday nights before TKD, my dad also makes a stop at Sonic or Dairy Queen (and sometimes both!) before and/or after his class. Now that I’m back in charge, things should be easier, right?
I wasn’t thinking much about that later that day when my dad and I took the kids to go see a movie. When my dad ordered a large popcorn (that Little Miss can’t eat thanks to her dairy allergy) and large Icee (which I refused to allow, though I was only able to talk him into buying a medium that was still gargantuan), I shrugged to some degree. There is no good way to control my dad, and he expresses his love through food and treats that he feels I deprive them of.
After the movie, we headed back to my parents’ house where I helped my mom with some things and played with the wee ones before we had dinner with them. I noticed that Mister Man was having a hard time letting Little Miss have a turn with my dad’s iPad, but my parents have established a fairly strong routine with them that they get to play with the iPad and on their computer with no real time limits like the ones we have at home. My trying to enforce order in their home is an uphill battle and I chose not to fight it.
At dinner, we tried to have a conversation, but Mister Man kept derailing it doing things that he thought were funny, with Little Miss doing her part to join in and to stir the pot. Mister Man could not keep his hands to himself and kept putting his arms in the air, getting his elbows in my mom’s face. When she suggested he go to the bathroom to stretch if he really needed to, I tried to stop this suggestion – knowing it was a bad idea – but it was too late. Up and down he jumped every few minutes, getting more wound up each time.
When he finished, while we waited for everyone else, I tried discussing the Disneyland rides that we’ll be seeing in less than two weeks. Mister Man was absolutely unable to stay seated at the table or keep his hands to himself. His inappropriate comments and impulsive behavior continued to the point where he was laying on my parents’ dinner table with his feet on it.
Corrections did nothing. Redirection did nothing. Engaging him did nothing. Physical reminders tapping his shoulder did nothing. I’ve been here before, and I know where this is going. It’s going to simply get worse and worse until he or someone else gets hurt or starts crying.
My child needs structure. More than structure, he needs to not be given treats that contain dyes and other artificial ingredients. It is amazing to me to watch the transformation over the course of two or so hours. He isn’t a bad kid, nor does he want to annoy people; he simply cannot control himself when he’s ingested this. Since I very rarely give him foods that contain them, I tend to forget the significance of their impact until I’m smacked across the face with it.
I know that every time the wee ones come back from my parents, they’re a mess. Their behavior is off, they’re whiny, and they aren’t pleasant to be around. I tend to chalk it up to a lack of sleep, but Saturday reminded me how much what they eat is a factor in it, too.
I’m pretty proud of myself, however. When I saw how bad it was getting, I announced we had to go. Then. And we went home without me having blown my top or anyone getting hurt. When we got home, I sent Mister Man up for a shower to give him some time to decompress before talking to him. When he came back downstairs dressed in pjs, I discussed his behavior and how I understood that he had a hard time controlling himself and why that was. Pointing out that he needs to take some control over and responsibility for what he eats and its impact on his behavior seemed to sink in just a little bit. I know he isn’t happy when he’s acting like this. He’s as frustrated as I am.
And so I learned my lesson again: junk food like this and my kids just don’t mix. This is why I cook and bake from scratch the majority of the time. I have to hope that Mister Man figures it out just a little bit soon, but the real trick will be in reining in my dad. He never had much growing up, and he hates to see the wee ones “deprived” of anything. The demonstration of his behavior change with me pointing out its cause I have to hope will be a catalyst, but I’m not optimistic.
This post is inspired by the book “The Idea of Him” by Holly Peterson in which Allie Crawford deals with her life falling apart. She has the same issue with her sister “spoiling” her children when they are with her. As part of the From Left to Write book club, we don’t write traditional book reviews (though you can see my review of “The Idea of Him” on 5 Minutes for Books) but instead find something within the book that inspires us.