Remember those heady days when you were just a young wee thing and it was coming up to your birthday? I do. I remember the building anticipation and excitement. Wondering what I might be getting as a present, be it small and inexpensive but long wanted and awaited, or sometimes large and expensive and perhaps unlooked for.
Well my little boy is turning six tomorrow. He’s been in a fair spin about it for two days at least. Today I baked cupcakes with blue icing for him to take to school tomorrow and share with his class. Luckily for me there are only four children in his class at his special school so I made 12 cupcakes because that’s how many holes there are in the tin. I am sending eight to school and four were left for us to eat tonight. Perfect.
He received a birthday card from his Great Grandparents in England, containing a $20 note, which is of course a fortune when you are five turning six. He immediately wanted to head up to the shops and purchase whatever toy he could get his hands on, as long as he got to choose. I convinced him to put it somewhere safe for now as his Nanna was coming over soon to give him a present from her. She has to work tomorrow, and so won’t be able to attend his birthday family dinner.
He made a bargain with me…
Son: “OK, how about this Mummy. If Nanna brings me a toy, I won’t go and buy something today. If she brings me clothes, I’ll go and buy something today. Because clothes are boring. But I will still say thank you to her, even if it’s clothes!” I think he added that one for me as he knew exactly what lecture I was about to give him!
I agreed to this plan as I knew exactly what she was bringing.
Nanna arrived, and brought with her a tub full of Zoobs. They are cool building type connector thingies and you… well… build stuff with them. At first he was very excited. He immediately got into them and started trying to build things, well not things. A plane specifically…without looking at the instructions. When he realised he would have to spend more than 30 seconds trying to design and figure out how to build a plane, he lost his temper and started on one of his rants. Nanna is still struggling with understanding what is really going on with him when he does this, but then, she didn’t spend a week at a mental hospital learning everything we have!
Son: “Cursed things! (yes he really did actually say that!) It is impossible to build with these things!”
Nanna: – Said stuff, but I won’t put it in here as it was coming from a place of misunderstanding and therefore not relevant to what was actually going on.
Son: “Grrr! That Nanna! She always buys disappointing toys! I don’t want those Zoobs, throw them in the bin! I am going to the shops to buy a new toy that I want! Where is my $20?” All this was just about shouted. In Nanna’s defence, she most often buys him great toys that he just loves!
Me: “Whoa! I can see that you are really frustrated right now! I think maybe you are angry that the building with the Zoobs didn’t work out how you expected? That must have been quite frustrating not to be able to build a plane like you wanted to. How about giving it a rest for a while and then taking a look at it later?”
Son: “It’s all Nanna’s fault for buying stupid presents that are disappointing! I am getting on my bike right now and going to the shops!”
Me: “You can’t go up to the shops now. You are not allowed to go and buy something new at the moment. The money is yours, and we will go to the shops maybe tomorrow, but right now you are really angry and frustrated with something new you just got. When that happens, you can’t fix it by going out and buying something new and different.”
Son: “You are so MEAN! You never let me have any choices! You never let me get the toys that I want! It’s my OWN money! I’m throwing it in the bin then because what’s the point of having money if you can’t spend it when you want to on that day!” He proceeded to cry rather hard, and screw the money up and throw it into the bin. Then he stamped off to his bedroom and slammed the door.
I retrieved the money from the bin and put it in my bag for future, more appropriate purchasing experiences, and went to his room. He was still really angry. Throwing things around and then when I came in, he hid under his pillow and in his best Demon voice told me to “GET OUT!”.
Me: “I’m sorry that you are feeling so very angry sweetheart. I do understand how frustrating it can be when Mummy keeps saying no to something you really want. That money is yours, and I’ll keep it safe for another day when you can buy a toy with it. Today however, you are not really behaving in a way that shows me you are able to make clear decisions. You need to calm down, and then come back out when you are ready and we can talk. If you continue to throw things in your room, you will have to be in time out.”
About five minutes later, a calm child came back into the lounge room, but refused to go near Nanna or the Zoobs. Nanna was still muttering things under her breath about instant gratification and spoiled children who can just get a job and buy something else etc. I put a stop to that and now that my son was calm I started in on the lesson for him.
Me: “Sweetheart. You weren’t really mad at the Zoobs, or with Nanna. I could see that actually you were frustrated with yourself because you couldn’t build what you wanted straight away. Remember how when you first got Lego, you had to follow the instructions on the easier ones?” He nodded. “Then you got better and better quickly and could do all the hard ones that said 12+ years on the box?” He stood up a little straighter, and I could tell he was listening. “Right, so, you don’t have to play with the Zoobs if it’s not fun for you right now, that’s fine. It’s not fine to be rude to Nanna though and blame her for buying it, because she did think it would be fun for you.”
Son: “Nanna bought them for herself! She knew I wouldn’t be able to do it and then she would laugh at me when I couldn’t!”
Now, this is one of his ‘things’. He thinks people deliberately set him up to fail. Nanna was of course doing nothing of the sort. She never once laughed or suggested that he was anything but capable of doing the Zoobs. She was on the floor, helping him out, joining in and generally doing what any good Nanna should have been doing before he went bonkers.
He did a few more rounds of the kitchen bench whilst sending sidelong glances over to Nanna, who was still building with the Zoobs. He shot a few nasty comments to see what reaction he would get. I merely told him it wasn’t OK to be rude to Nanna, and he might want to have a little think about how the things he had said might have made her feel.
Within 10 minutes, he was on the floor and building with her; following the instruction manual and there they stayed for about two and half hours! They built some amazing things together and had a really great time. Phew! Crisis not averted, but actually dealt with!
I really do love seeing the results of all the training and practice I’ve been given. I love seeing the difference it makes in how much quicker he can calm down and come back to doing the right thing. It’s hard sometimes. Especially when the things he is saying or doing look very much like a spoiled, ungrateful little brat just complaining about gifts when he should be appreciative. It’s so much help to know that what he’s saying has very little to do with what he’s feeling. He felt ashamed and annoyed that he couldn’t build and enjoy that present straight away. Because that was too much for a six year old to handle, he pointed the finger at the Zoobs and at Nanna. Anything to take the focus of his own perceived ‘failure’.
Tomorrow, should be interesting. We made a last minute decision to buy him an electronic drum kit for his birthday so he can actually practice his drums and hopefully not feel so lost each week at his lesson. He usually takes at least 10 minutes of the 30 minute lesson just mucking about, and I think it’s because he feels uncomfortable that he hasn’t been able to practice and show the teacher that he can do the new rhythm from last week even better this week. That’s tough on someone like him.
I am realistic however, and if he doesn’t get overly excited about the drum kit? Well, it came in a huge box… and I know he’ll love that!