Lately, I can’t quite find the sweet little boy that I know. The little boy with so much heart and joy that finds anyway to show his love for others. Those cards I was given when picking him up from daycare, those flowers he picked for me to put over my ear and those random messages on his chalk easel. The little boy who loved who he was and was excited about life. The little boy that led his friends into adventures and mediated for them to get along was missing.
That little boy is now angry. All of his thoughts are negative. His drawings turned carelessly into quick glimpses of something bad happening, his messages were about his bad day and how he’s incompetent. He wants to argue about everything and even about things that didn’t need an argument. Playing with his friends didn’t help either.
The little boy next door began accusing my son of lying about something to the point where my son – who I’ve never seen him take a single ounce of violence prior – got up to chase this boy. He grabbed his shirt collar and took a few swings. He halted as I yelled for him to stop. He looked towards me, and I saw anger in his eyes. I’ve never seen this in him before. Then once he came in the house, he began to sob. We talked about the situation. He honestly felt that was the right thing to do, but we discussed how it was wrong. He said that he wanted to go back out and play with his friends. I told him to clean up his face and apologize first. That didn’t work. After, I thought he got himself straight, he got into another argument and yelled at all of his friends to get off of his property.
Normally, I would just write something like that off as boys will be boys or the thought of him being tired would cross, but I saw that that wasn’t the case anymore. This was a completely different side of him that wasn’t fazing out much. Once I thought I had gotten this situation under control – because it seemed to go away after a while – the symptoms had came back again.
Everything was hard with him, there was no reasoning anymore. His emotions changed so much. He cried all of the time it seemed. He was upset about school, his peers and developed a low self esteem. One thing that was stemming his emotions was that he’s always had a speech and/or language problem. Last year, the school went away with his IEP, because it wasn’t hurting him academically, but evidently, this year it was. Unfortunately, the problem was assessed late in the year,so he struggled through most of his school year. He would cry so hard at night about how he couldn’t do anything right and how he couldn’t make the teacher happy. He would explain that he would have to re-do his work and the other children would stare as they knew he had to do so. This was giving him anxiety about his peers in the classroom; he feared the judgment and of being behind. Whenever he was supposed to be working on classwork, he would look around to see how far the other kids were in their work and compared it to himself. He would state, “I try, but I just can’t do it”. This was true, he did try his best and he truly wanted to do good, but he was unable to complete his work most of the time. I would talk to the teacher and she assured me that she was doing everything that she could, but I never felt like it was enough. It ached me seeing my son like this, and I could do…nothing. It was in the hands of the educational system and it scared me. Why is he still feeling helpless and incapable? The thoughts of wanting to home school constantly fell in the pit of my gut…I wish I could, but I was incapable of providing him that life. It broke my heart that he would cry to me and look for me to fix it, since I’m supposed to fix everything and I didn’t know how…I didn’t know how…
He was diagnosed as having a language receptive disorder. Which basically means he has difficulties understanding what is said to him and generally having issues with comprehension and how to express it. He has always had some kind of speech problem. In fact, he started school at 3 to start a speech therapy class to help with it and I noticed a difference immediately. Unfortunately, it’s still an issue. It’s ashame that he’s still dealing with it.
Homework has been the worst. One night, it got so bad of arguing that I just wrote a note to the teacher stating that we tried, but it was a bad night. He was distraught towards his homework, me and himself that night. He didn’t know how to control his emotions.So, I walked away for a moment to try to give him some space. I returned to the kitchen to see him doing something to his fingers. I asked him what he was doing. He showed me his hand. He drew faces on each of his fingers.Each finger was an emotion. Most of them were negative feelings. He gave me a thumbs up of his angry face while he tried to impersonate it. I asked him, “Is this how you feel towards me right now?”. He nodded and turned to his homework. I told him that I understood, and that I wasn’t trying to make him angry, but only trying to help him….I was saddened, yet amazed by this approach of his. Amazed that he thought to do this on his own, but saddened that he had no other way to show or organize his emotions.
I feel these emotions stemmed from multiple things.Other than struggling at school with his peers and having a learning disability, he struggles with other areas in his life. He has such a huge heart full of love, so he actually cares about what people think of him – which he gets from me. Now, his once innocent playtime with his neighborhood friends turned to confusion. They all love to come to my house, which never really bothered me, until now. Their innocences drastically changed to cussing, flipping each other off with their new learnings of the middle finger and obviously getting exposed to more “mature” things. They were causing drama and issues among each other. My son, who has never been exposed to such things minus the profanity was in the middle of this chaos. He especially doesn’t understand the mature stuff. The little boy next door is exceptionally bad and causes most of the issues. He tried to get my son to look up porn on Youtube behind my back. These are against everything my son has ever been taught – being exposed to these things and to ever hide anything from me. He was embarrassed and ashamed. It was causing him stress as he felt he would get in trouble or lose playtime if he told me. He struggled with these laying on his heart and on his mind. He would gradually tell me what was going on. It was sad for me to witness these acts, not only for the impact, but it was taking away his innocence. From that point on, I often refused them to play with my son, which in return created arguments and a night of sadness with an eight year old who didn’t understand.
On top of the rejection of school, peers and friends, he felt like he was being rejected by his own father. I know his father doesn’t realize the heartache he may have been causing, but his visitations were getting worse and worse.Visitations were getting inconsistent and shorter in time. The full story in my other blog, “What are your priorities?”
So, what does he want to do during this time of feeling rejected? Video games. Preferably, Mine craft where he can create a world that he can escape from the realities of the real world. Where no one judges him. Where no one tells him that he’s doing a bad job or to re-do his work. No one rejects him or causes him stress. He can completely control it himself. Then, that leaves me in between the thin line of needing him to do other things to make him happy, not rotting his brain and causing more emotional stress by taking it away. It’s hard to take it away, we’ve tried a few times. Another reference blog, “Ugh Technology“.
I know it’s not easy being home also, because I know he senses the stress that I have, no matter how much I fake a smile or create fun things to do. I struggle with my own depressions, anxieties and the stress of finances. I don’t cry in front of him, I try to not effect him with my own stresses, but no matter how great you fake it, children know your true feelings. Children can act out in positive or negative ways in order to divert your mind off of the stress. They don’t know the proper ways of showing parents that they love them and truly want them okay. They think anything can help, other than being where the parents were mentally prior to their diversion.
Then, he started sending me alarming signals. For a couple weeks, all of the kids in the neighborhood were keeping tabs on this robin who constructed a nest on my front porch light. We were all waiting for that moment when those 5 eggs started to hatch. After school one night, we left for dinner at our favorite spot. When, we returned, we found that the wind had destroyed the nest and eggs. It was so sad. We exchanged our feelings towards this tragedy. I had expressed, “It makes me want to cry”. My son? “It makes me want to kill myself”…I couldn’t believe those words just came out of my little boy…
That night, I had prepared him for bedtime. Once I finally got him snuggled in bed. He started to gripe. He explained to my concern that he didn’t like daycare. I asked him why? He replied, “(four boys from daycare) keep making fun of me and being mean to me. They say that I’m stupid, dumb and that I have a dumb sound.”. “dumb sound?” I asked. “Yeah, like my voice?..and they say other things”. I tried to pull it out of him, “Like what else?”. He slowly replies, “(one boy) said that when he grows up he’s going to kill me.” My eyes widened with horror. How could a child ever say such a thing?! Then he continued, “They say stuff like that all of the time, saying that they wish I was dead”. With a quiver I asked, “Well, did you ever tell anyone?”. He grew loud with defense, “No, because they said if I tell on them, then they’ll say that I said the F word”. I just laid beside him with my hand to my forehead hoping that rubbing it would help my brain figure out what to do. So, then I ran to my bedroom, grabbed my notebook and took it back to his room. I wrote down the information and verified it with him. I was determined that I would report these boys to the daycare providers. They needed to be stopped! So, I went over the consequences that these boys may face a couple of times with my son. However, once I told him that if he was caught lying that there would also be very serious consequences for himself. That’s when he spoke up, “OKAY! I made it up…”…my jaw dropped…how could my son say such terrible things? So much relating to death? Why would he want to punish these children so badly?!..so I asked him with caution, “Why would you lie about that?”..He said, “I’m sorry, but it’s because they really are mean to me. I didn’t make up the parts where they say I’m dumb, stupid and have a dumb sound. Plus, they make up lies about me so I can’t participate in things at daycare.”…I was silent. I knew that there truly was an issue between these boys and my son, but I was still in shock. This was not okay at all. Then, he proceeded to ask me about still helping me tell on these boys, which I explained that I didn’t know what to do as I can’t tell what the truth is or not. So, I gave him a kiss and hug for him to sleep. I went into my room and just wept…
It was obvious..my son is depressed. Why is my son depressed at such an early age? I knew I would deal with the troubles of bullying and low self esteem, but why at age 8? Is he possibly suicidal? My thoughts were spinning. My depression began before my 12th birthday. My suicidal attempts started at 14, when my mom left. I fear that he’s like me. My son looks just like his father and early in his life, I thought for sure he was just like him mentally and emotionally. However, I now know, he definitely has my personality. Hilariously, I could blame it on my son’s father, but now I have to blame it on myself. There are great things about having my personality, but in this incident, I fear for his future. This was hard to stomach.
So , I rambled through Google trying to find answers for depression in children. He only had about half the symptoms. After about an hour or two into it, I gave up. I didn’t need to figure out what’s wrong with him, I needed to figure out how to help him. I needed something immediately. Ditch the google, I needed to figure this out on my own. So, I did. The first thing that I felt he needed was to change his negative thinking. So, I created these 3 comics for him to dissect. The next day, I tried it.
After work, I picked him up from daycare. We got in the car and on the ride home, I inquired about his day like normal. He told me how he had a bad day – like usual. He said, “Three bad things happened to me today”. One of the bad things was that a little girl told him to hush in gym when the teacher was talking. The other was that the one boy from daycare said that my son was stupid- same boy from yesterday. Lastly, he was mostly upset that a spider walked by his desk in class. These things ruined his day completely in his eyes. I asked him to tell me something good that happened. His response, “I can’t. Nothing good ever happens”. I smirked in hopes that my comic testing would make the impact that I hoped for.The second we got home, I sat him down to do it.
The first one:
I told him the story: Puppy found a bone, Puppy lost his bone and Bird found puppy’s bone. Then, I asked him which photo he thought of the most, which he pointed to the last photo with the bird finding the bone. I asked him why, which led to obvious reasons – it made everyone happy. I asked him how many good things there were. My expectation was that there would be 2 out of 3, since there are only three photos. However, he said, “three”. I asked him about his answer. He said, “The bird is happy because he found puppy’s bone, the dog is happy because he got his bone back, and he has his bone.” I was amazed by a great response!
This story was written to relate to his own personal life experiences to having a tablet, breaking it and needing to work (doing chores) to gain a replacement. He realized in the end that it was about him. He assessed this positively as well.
This comic is impersonating some of his personal experiences from school and some struggles he may have. While assessing it, he found more good than bad. When asked to point to his most thought of photo, he first chose stick figure joey spilling his milk, after a pause he started choosing other pictures. I butted in, “only one picture”. He then chose how Jody gave Joey her milk after he spilled his. This time, I made him breakdown the negatives and positives. He told me 5 positives:leaving school, bell ringing, Jody giving her milk to Joey, Lunch time and recess.He picked out 3 negatives: Joey getting 6 out of 9 on his test, spilling milk and how Liz was more ahead in her classwork. I talked to him about how 6 out of 9 isn’t bad, because the difference was only 3. I also explained how Liz maybe ahead in her work because she maybe careless and Joey is actually trying his absolute best by giving well thought up answers – this truly related to him. Then, I tried to show him how Joey spilled his milk, but how it didn’t ruin his day, because he stayed happy afterwards and good things do happen regardless how small they may appear.
After this test, he immediately started to smile again.I think he needed to just observe from an outside perspective of his life and realize that it’s not as bad as he thought. I feel like he noticed actions and reactions to apply them properly.
The rest of the week, he would tell me on the drive home about how he applied what he learned from Joey’s story towards his own. First day, he explained that he got a 9 out of 10 on a class assignment. The next day was to tell me how he didn’t worry about other children were doing with their classwork and how he only focused on his own. After that, I decided to ask my son every morning and every day after school/daycare to tell me two things that he’s grateful for. It reminds him to be stay positive.
These were great improvements! The next was dealing with his peers. I told the daycare providers about the boys that were still giving my son trouble. They said that they were aware that there were issues, but the problem was that they always seem to float back to each other. Just like my son to constantly go back to the people that didn’t appreciate him, because with a heart as big as his, he just wants their approval, for them to finally accept him and like him – he is definitely my son.
The neighborhood kids were my next issue to tackle. Since they felt comfortable with me and loved my home, I felt comfortable to confront and talk with them. So, one day I gathered them all together for a meeting in my kitchen. I explained that my son will not play with them if they can’t act their age and be children. If I hear, see or find out about anything going on above their maturity level, using profanity or causing hate upon each other then they could not return or play with my son, because I was having problems with him and he doesn’t need to be exposed to anymore of it. They all listened respectively, apologized and pinky sweared.
As for me, I planned a whole weekend for my son and I without stress and worries of money. We went to the local beach, got ice cream, spent the weekend sleeping in our tent, had bonfires, roasted marshmallows, rode bikes, played with a slip and slide – which all of the neighborhood kids joined in on, got snow cones and went to the park with my best friend & niece. Being so busy, we barely used our electronics the entire weekend, which felt like freedom. Also, my son and I bonded so well again after that weekend. We obviously needed that break.
To conclude this, he nonetheless struggles. He still has good days and bad days. I don’t have the solutions. I frequently fear of failing him. I’m a struggling parent, looking for answers constantly. Night time, it’s where all of my thoughts of how to improve our lives overflow into my mind. In fact, I have several notebooks with random ideas and blue prints of how to help him and improve my parental skills. Some work, some fail. All I know is, I won’t surrender in my trials. I can’t. He needs me and relies on me. I am determined to never fail him. Although, “never” is slim, I choose to never give up. Some parents don’t even try, and at least he may remember that about me – that his mother always cared tremendously and gave her absolute best. That I can stomach..