I do quite a lot of posting and/or complaining about the negative things my son does and how I handle them. Although I post the negatives in a positive way, I sometimes wonder whether my readers think we never really have many of those proud moments with our son. Well, we do. They may not be the typical ‘proud’ moments that other parents might have with their kids, but we have them.
Last week, my son attended his first occupational therapy play session with more than one or two kids. There were three boys and two girls in the room. He had a really really tough time. The OT was glad that she finally got to see where he struggles most though. She has had him for individual play sessions and sessions with one or two other kids, and although he has some issues, he has managed quite well. With more than two kids in the room, he completely lost it. Imagine how bad it must have been with a whole classroom full of kids!
Anyway, that whole afternoon, I could tell that he wasn’t happy. I thought maybe he was just really tired because he had had a hard time at the session and used up a lot of emotional and physical energy. When we put him to bed, he called out and asked me to come in so he could have a little talk to me and a hug.
He told me that he was feeling really bad because he had been mean to the kids at OT. He also told me that he was really upset with himself because he can’t play with more than one or two kids at once. Wow. Proud.
Yes, it might sound strange for me to be proud of those things, but what I was proud of was that he was finally getting enough self awareness to have realised that he struggles to play with more than one or two kids. I was also quite proud that he actually felt bed about being mean to the other kids and had spent some time actually thinking about it and realising that he didn’t like that behaviour in himself. These are important and big steps for him.
Even more important was the fact that he actually verbalised those thoughts to one of his parents! Will it help him at this week’s OT session? I don’t know, but self awareness is the first step and so is acknowledging your weaknesses. Fingers crossed for this Friday.
The next proud moment happened just yesterday. We went with some friends and their kids, and our dogs to a lovely beach on Sydney’s North Shore where you are allowed to let your dog off the leash and dogs and humans can swim happily in the calm clear waters of the harbour. It was a beautiful day and everyone had lots of splashy, swimmy fun. As we had parked a little way away, we had to walk past a big playground to get back to the car and so we let the kids have a little play there while the Dad’s went and got the cars.
Playgrounds are tricky areas for my son. Especially ones which are full of noisy kids all getting in each other’s faces. I kept my distance, but also kept an eye out for anything untoward.
I noticed that as my son and his little friend were on the climbing bridge, two other slightly bigger boys seemed to be blocking my son’s friend from moving freely on to and off the bridge. I also noticed my son’s body language and could tell that he was giving them a verbal serving. I guessed that whatever he was saying was probably quite antagonistic, but I could also tell it was probably in defence of his friend so I stayed where I was and didn’t interfere.
Next thing I knew, my son came running at full speed out of the playground and towards me, with one of the bigger boys hot on his heels. The boy pulled up when he realised that my son had run to an adult, and went back into the playground.
My son told me that the boys were being bullies, and he had told them off and then challenged them to come and catch him. I said that he was nice to protect his friend, but that now he needed to stay well away from those boys and play nicely with his friend instead. He agreed and went back towards the playground. As he approached the perimeter, the two big boys and a much younger boy spotted him and one called out,
“There he is! Let’s get him!” I thought…. Uh oh, here we go….
I decided to stay well back though for two reasons. One was that I wanted to see how he would handle himself. Two was that I wanted to see whether a lesson could be learnt from this whole situation. Here’s how it unfolded….
Bullies: “There he is! Let’s get him!”
Son: Stands up straight on the edge of the play area with his hands on his hips and his feet shoulder width apart, one slightly backwards in good balanced fighting stance.
Big bully 1 to small bully (who was maybe 3 or 4 and only came up to my son’s hip) – “punch him!”
Little bully proceeds to kind of wrap his arms around my son’s hips and throw some punches, mostly getting air. My son looked down at him as if a bothersome fly were buzzing around his hips.
Big bully 2 notices that there is no effect and takes a step closer to intimidate. My son stands his ground. Big bully one, throws a punch at my son’s face. My son pulls his head back slightly, dodging the punch. Big Bully 1 throws a punch at my son’s head. In an expert manoeuvre my son takes the proffered punch, steps back and in no time has the bully with his arm bent behind him and his face approaching the ground!
At this point I thought I better go in and break it up just in case the bigger boys managed to get an upper hand. After all, I didn’t want any of them to get hurt, but it was obvious that the bigger boys really had nothing, and this was my son’s element. I walked over and calmly told them all that was quite enough and off you go. They did, with a last insolent look back at my son.
He very calmly followed me back to our area and I noticed how in control of his body he was. He was still, calm and collected. I had the thought that perhaps since his body is always in fight or flight mode, that when he has a legitimate focus for that adrenalin, perhaps he finally felt in control of it all!
I asked him what had happened (even though I saw it all, it’s fun to re-tell exciting stories like that!). He said,
“They said they were going to beat me up. The little one said he was going to kick me in the nuts! I said to them, “First I have to warn you that I have been to Kung Fu classes.” I didn’t tell them that I was only a yellow belt or that I didn’t do it any more because they didn’t need to know that! They tried to beat me up, but I was stronger and faster and better than them!”
I informed him that I was impressed that he had stood his ground. I was more impressed that he hadn’t thrown any punches, but had just defended himself. I was also impressed that he hadn’t started the fight. I then told him that he was to stay away from them completely now, and only play with his friend.
He smiled, and skipped off to join his friend and he did stay away from the other boys!
Now, yes, the fight went his way this time, and next time perhaps it won’t. Lessons can be learnt from both outcomes though I think. The main reason I didn’t interfere earlier was because I kind of had a hunch that my son wouldn’t allow himself to be physically bullied, but I wanted to see whether he handled it maturely or not. I had actually expected some flailing punches and hair pulling and scrappiness to be honest.
I was willing to let him have a go at that since there were three of them and one of him, so I knew he wouldn’t really hurt anyone. I was also close enough to stop them before they could hurt him. In the end, he was very controlled and mature about it. He defended but didn’t attack. He stood his ground and the bullies were obviously put off by that happening. He even pre-warned them of their impending beat down if they continued trying to beat him up! Perhaps I’m wrong, but that made me proud. 🙂
I really have high hopes for the future and all the improvements to my son’s behaviours. He still really needs to control his ‘mouth’, but that will take longer as he has quite extensive examples of ‘smart mouths’ and ‘bad attitudes’ around him more often than we would probably like. That is the world he lives in though, so we just have to make sure that we teach him how to respond to that in a more positive way, and also how not to copy it!
Another week of school work has rolled around and I’m looking forward to getting him into it. He’s been arguing quiet a lot about it every time we start the next exercise or subject, but the improvements in his actual work are amazing. I am all around proud of him at the moment and am looking forward to even more proud moments in the future.