Isolation and misunderstanding

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    That rather gloomy title about sums up my feelings right now in terms of being J's parent... and I'm sure many of you have felt the same, probably quite often.
    A friend asked if I would look after her 9 year old son this afternoon as she unexpectedly had to work (she too is a single parent). At first, all went well - for the first couple of hours. They played together with a lot of fun and good humour - we were out and about in the sunshine. I felt myself relaxing into a false sense of security, I suppose. Then we went to a playground, where a tiny incident happened that changed the whole tenor of the afternoon - my friend's son's mobile phone fell out of his pocket. J ran over to get it and, instead of handing it to him, J ran off with it, laughing. The other boy chased him, and as he did so, J threw the phone away onto the ground. Thankfully it wasn't damaged but the other boy, A, was understandably upset. From then on he kind of withdrew from J and as he did so, J became upset, emotionally affected and, as he usually does when he feels rejected, he became angry and aggressive in his speech, calling the other boy names... By the end of the afternoon the other child was angry and hostile towards J. - and also towards me, interestingly. So sad... poor J, who really wants to connect and make friends, and does but then he just can't handle it when there is some frustration or difficult and he drives the other child away with his offensive and insulting language...
    And then, this evening, there is an email from my friend saying her son had been very angry and upset and also that I am too lacking in authority and too gentle in nature and that I am going to have a lot of difficulties with J in future because of this!! Again the implication that I have heard SO often, that J is the way he is because I am don't discipline him enough and lack authority.... I am so f***ing sick - excuse MY language - of hearing it. And of the rejection... I am so tired and sad of the social rejection because of the way J is... And it isn't that he lacks the social skills to play with other kids or get on with them, because he doesn't - but he totally lacks the inhibition on his impulses. Which probably isn't even his fault and I think certainly isn't mine but how do you explain that to people??
    All makes me feel like running away to hide somewhere... Not that I/we will, of course. But the lack of understanding is painful.
  2. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    I completely understand only in my case it's FAMILY that is judgemental and unbelieving. Other people around me are pretty understanding when they find out difficult child has Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). I can't even tell my family because they are already so convinced it's all my fault, they won't believe me no matter what PROOF I have. It happened to us just an hour ago. I told my kids this is why I am seriously looking for a job somewhere away from here. I am SO tired of hearing it.
  3. keista

    keista New Member

    So sorry you had to deal with this...........again.

    However, most of this incident seems to stem from a 9 y/o and a 4y/o pushed to play together, and less from any issues J may have (yes, they did seem to escalate it, but there is a 5 year age difference here.) The whole first half of your story sounded perfectly normal to me. While most 4 y/o know what cell phones are, and they know there is something special about them, that's about all they do understand. Your J behaved like any other 4y/o I have known. It was a classic game of "finders keepers" and "Keep away" It was the 9 y/o who should be mature enough to realize that he is dealing with a 4 y/o kid and he should have forgiven J and let the incident go, but noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo that spoiled brat continued in his own upset world, and shut J out, and so J reacted rather intensely to being rejected! Yes, I got kinda childish there, but it sounds about the flavor of your "friend's" email, doesn't it?

    Honestly, if you haven't responded yet, you might consider giving her a piece of YOUR mind. Yes, J has issues, but it is NOT ALWAYS HIS FAULT!!!!!!!!!! And I don't mean that in the way we mean on this board - he has an illness - but in the REAL world, in NORMAL situations just like I viewed it above. Know what I mean??

    As a mom of a difficult child you need to learn to separate what parts of your child are his illness, and what are normal reactions. So tough, I know. With time and practice you'll get better at it. I still have a hard time "in the moment", but have learned to give myself a break, and go speak my mind when it is warranted - even if it's a few days later.
  4. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks TeDo and Keista.
    Well, there's more to this than meets the eye - obviously and as always. First point is that my son's friend has an alcoholic father who is unstable and verbally abusive about his mother. This has made the child, whom I do not know very well, very sensitive to violence and aggression. I just felt at the time, and I tried to say to my friend when I saw her later, that that was partly what was behind his upset. The second is that J was saying things that WERE hurtful - calling him an imbecile and so on, and saying "You're not my friend!", etc. I think the other boy just doesn't yet have the maturity to see him as a much smaller child who cannot control himself well - he took it all personally.
    I did reply to my friend's email - and actually she wasn't blaming and accusatory in tone even if her remarks came across as patronising in their ignorance - stating to her that Jacob has ADHD, that means he lacks impulse control (and not every 4 year old would have responded as he did, it's also to do with him) and that the way he is is not his fault and not mine... I also said, and meant it, that I am a warrior in a way she can't imagine... and she truly can't, parenting a basically quiet and mild-mannered boy. Part of the problem here is the general lack of understanding here about conditions such as ADHD and also, as I have said, the universally tough and authoritarian manner of rearing children... J had a tantrum at the end of the day - he was really exhausted, as well - in which he was very rude to me. I didn't get cross with him and I could see that this really shocked the other boy... People in general just don't "get it" that it just doesn't work to try all the heavy-handed discipline techniques that might work with other kids.
    This friend is not a close friend - I haven't known her long. I like her but I wouldn't say she is brimming over with compassion always.
    Like I say, I just feel sad for J. Some of it is normal 4 year old stuff but it was also the intensity of his emotions that made things difficult - and the overheated language. Afterwards he was crying and saying he wanted to say "sorry" to the boy, but it was too late then. Poor kid. He is his own worst enemy sometimes, as the cliche goes...
  5. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Again, J sounds like a normal 4 year old. They do things like that. Four year olds ARE impulsive, some more than others. That part of their brains simply haven't developed yet, they're busy learning other things.
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    There is FAR more going on here than just a boy upset because a much younger child was mean and rude to him and his mother got upset. I do think that pushing a 4yo and a 9yo together all day to play is a very bad idea. They are just so far apart developmentally that problems were almost destined to happen. For shorter periods like a few hours is one thing, but not for an entire day. 9yo kids are not old enough to be CAPABLE of not taking your 4yo's behavior personally. They are at their own developmental stage and NOT mature enough to see that a younger child is tired and acting/reacting normally.

    A GIANT part of today's issue is the alcoholic disease in the other family. I have no idea how much you know about alcoholism. It is a disease that everyone in a family gets, not just the drinker. I know there are those who believe that people in Europe are genetically unable to be alcoholics because alcohol, and esp wine, have been such a huge part of the culture for so many years that their dna has changed. I do not believe it and I don't think many people do. The complaints about your parenting upsetting the other boy, and that your son is going to be a major problem as an older child or adult stem largely from their own problems. The boy's sensitivity is due to the father and so is the mother's. They do not even know how sick they are with this disease, nor do they know how it is affecting every facet of their lives. the intolerance of the note and the criticism because your parenting is different than hers is probably partly cultural and largely a reaction because they finally have a target they can unload their problems onto. I am not great at dissecting why this letter so very much screams codependent and enabling behavior that comes from being in a family with-an alcoholic, but it does very much. It just reminds me of things I saw/heard/experienced growing up.

    Once again, consider the source and weigh any and all criticism in the light of what is known about alcoholics. The mother probably has a parent or sibling with alcoholism and her actions are ingrained from early childhood most likely. Those with an alcoholic parent or sibling seem drawn to others who are either alcoholics or have an alcoholic int he family. Trust me, I know from personal experience (gfgbro is a recovering alcoholic and husband's dad and mom both are in various stages of it, so neither of us drinks much and we have attended many an al anon meeting to learn to handle this stuff).

    In many ways the mom lashed out at you with-o compassion because she wanted to lash out at her husband but does not feel safe (not sure if it is physically unsafe, but she definitely feels it is emotionally unsafe) to say things like this to her husband. You are a "safe" target because so what if you get mad? And her husband may be angry because the boy was unhappy so the mom had to do something or his anger might turn on her, Know what I mean??

    It was nice of you to watch the boy, and I just realized that she is a single parent. What I said about her husband applies even more as he is now her ex-husband. She would feel even more unsafe telling him off. And he would be mroe likely to go off on her and rant and rave about how awful she is as a mom that she let her son go to your home for the day.

    Sorry it was such a rough day.
  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks Susiestar. There is of course a lot in what you say, based on your experience. I too have a brother who is very much an EX-alcoholic (about 12 years sober) and I have been to a few AA meetings with him so I understand a little of these dynamics.
    I feel that I have misrepresented my friend's letter, not deliberately of course. The trouble with internet as a means of communication - or any communication, come to that... In fact her tone wasn't really blaiming or accusatory - she is fairly blunt and outspoken but that is just her style generally. She left her ex-partner (they weren't married I think) about a year ago because she could not live with or accept the alcoholism. She feels disgusted with and contemptous of his behaviour but the relationship seems somewhat complicated in that he still lives in a house she owns (he pays no rent) and she occasionally says things like she feels compassion for him. Normally the boy goes to stay with him at the weekend but this weekend there had been a scene when she dropped him off at the house with her ex-partner screaming and shouting at her with outrageous insults, the boy crying and refusing to go with him. That is why my friend was stuck for childcare when she had to work on Sunday...
    At first I took the whole thing as being to do with Jacob, which is MY point of vulnerability and paranoia. And there's no doubt J was more impulsive and brutal in his language than most other kids of his age would be. But then I also feel the strength of the other boy's reaction was to do with what had just happened with his father - understandably. I have said all this to my friend. Apparently he has been exposed since babyhood to his father's insults and verbal abuse towards his mother... my friend does seem to dismiss it rather. That said, she is certainly more authoritative than I am and I can see it would be helpful in certain situations.
    The boy's reaction to me when J started behaving rudely towards me was interesting... he had been happy, outgoing and open with me - from then on he was closed and contemptuous. Again, it's all about his dad, really. My friend said afterwards that he had been intensely angry and upset about what Jacob had "done" but really it seems that there's much more going on than just J's behaviour because a stronger kid would have been more impervious to it, I think.
    My friend is not the first to have said to me that I will have problems with J later because I am not "tough" enough with him!!
  8. keista

    keista New Member

    Malika, you have a very kind, understanding and forgiving nature. I also think your assessment of the other boy is correct.

    I think in a perfect world, you and this friend would be able to trade parenting techniques (share them actually) Her becoming more like you - patient, compassionate, and observant of minute details in a child's behavior. You, a bit more 'authoritative'. in my opinion a good parent is a balance between the two. (I'm not god at the authoritative either - I think I just come off nasty, but I'm practicing)
  9. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, thanks Keista for your nice words but I'm afraid I have (in the interests of hard truth!) have to take issue with them... :) I have a kind, understanding and forgiving SIDE... For the rest, well, I am as mean, spiteful, vindictive and just plain horrible as the rest of them!! Actually I feel quite angry with my friend for immediately putting this on me rather than questioning herself for allowing her son to go and stay weekends with a severely ill alcoholic and the effect that must be having on her child... but I also realise this anger is MY projection at my resentment, grief and bafflement at having a difficult child to deal with, with all the constant misunderstanding and disapproval that leads to. In general my British friends are much more tolerant and understanding - the French all think it's my lack of discipline, blah, blah. In fact the ONLY time I have seen positive changes in J is when I have brought positive methods to bear. That said, I think I lack assurance at times when it comes to J... sometimes (like all of us?) I feel out of my depth, uncertain of how best to act with him. Not acting out of this inner confidence and "responsiveness", things do not go well... that is what I aim for more than "authority", I think. If that makes sense.
  10. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


  11. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    and re-ditto.

    Except, this is an ADHD 4yo... which means his maturity level is NOT 4yo but anything from under-2 to over 6! Which just complicates it...

    In other words - what else can you expect from a 4yo... and double that for a 4yo with ADHD.

    But the other parents aren't necessarily going to see it this way... <grin>
  12. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Okay, Insane (and others). Since this happened I have been thinking about medication... not in any concrete, serious way - in Europe, J is just too young to be medicated and his behaviour, while difficult, is not so difficult that it could warrant this - but just in a speculative, questioning way.
    To put my question simply - is there a medication (I feel it would have to be a non-stimulant as coffee and coke just seem to make J MORE hyper) that would make J less aggressive in his words/attitude and help his social relationships? I suspect there is no magic in the thing... no wand that gets waved and hey presto, the child is no longer a difficult child. But I WOULD consider medications for J if it signficantly helped his social relationships. He is so sweet and affectionate and this just does NOT come across in a lot of his relationships with other children... Sometimes it does but the other, quarrelsome side seems to predominate when he is crossed...