Bean has always been a fairly easy child to raise. He has a gentle, quiet, laid-back nature that keeps from from getting too wired or upset about much, and he’s a rule follower to no end. If you draw a line in the sand, not only will that boy not cross the line himself, but he’ll monitor to make sure no one else does either (especially his sister…). He’s got the sweetest little heart and loves nothing more than hanging out with our family. He’s just a happy guy and he makes people around him happy.
But y’all, I am riding the Struggle Bus with him these days.
I don’t know if it’s his age or a stage he’s going through or what, but my sweet, laid-back Bean has become this grumpy, snippy, pouting second grader and I’m just at a total loss for what is going on and how to handle it.
This weekend was a perfect example. He and Gracie each had a friend over to play on Sunday afternoon, and they were all out swimming in the pool together after lunch. Chris got them a bunch of water balloons and they were gearing up for an epic water balloon battle. Sometime small (I don’t even know what) triggered Bean and he suddenly came stomping inside, and refused to go back out. AND HE HAD A FRIEND OVER!
Chris, bless his heart, was the one who went inside to get Bean. Which probably saved Bean’s life because my knee-jerk reaction is to make heads roll, but Chris is much more patient and he can be direct and firm, while still giving Bean a safe space to talk. That’s probably why Bean actually confides in Chris a lot more than he does in me.
I listened from upstairs to their conversation.
“What are you doing, Michael?” Chris snapped. “Are you really going to hide away and pout in here because of Gracie? That one little thing is going to make you miss out on all the fun with your friends, man.”
“Well, she shouldn’t have…” and then Bean went off on this tirade about his sister, which Chris patiently listened to before responding, “Michael, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. You need to learn how to control your own actions. You left your friend out in the backyard all by himself. That’s not being a very good host or friend, and that’s not how we act towards others.”
Their conversation went on for a few more minutes before Bean finally went back outside to play again. But within minutes of going back outside, he was back at it again, this time, snipping and yelling at Gracie for no reason.
And I know it sounds like it is all connected to Gracie, but there are a hundred other examples of situations just like this where Gracie hasn’t been involved. Sunday morning was another example. We got to church and Bean climbed out of the van, where I noticed for the first time that morning that he was wearing a collared “church shirt,” as he calls them. But he was wearing basketball shorts with them and tennis shoes. Which in the grand scheme isn’t that big of a deal, but is just such a summary of how he’s been acting lately – nothing TERRIBLE, but he knows better. So, I said, “Bean, you have to change those shorts,” and I pulled out a pair of new shorts that I had conveniently not yet taken out of my car from the day before.
He huffed around in the back of the van, slamming things around while he changed clothes, which Chris and I ignored. And when he got out, I thanked him for changing.
AND THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE END, DAMMIT!
But instead, he starts scuffing his feet through the dirt, kicking dirt all over the place.
“Michael,” I said, in my best warning voice. So he stopped. But then he started sliding his feet, so that his shoes were still getting filthy. “MICHAEL!” I said, firmer. Finally, he started stomping his feet across the parking lot.
And it is about this point in every interaction with him these days that I think of those animals who sometimes eat their young and I begin to have visions of me opening my mouth incredibly wide like some freaky cartoon and just swallowing him up in one gulp.
These are the frustrations we are having right now. Individually, they aren’t that big, but it’s more the fact that he knows better and that he is intentionally doing these things that INFURIATES me.
AND THEN! He brought home his progress report on Friday and he had a C in Math! C! As in “COULD YOU MAKE YOUR MOM ANY MADDER?” That kid has never struggled in math! He makes A’s and has only made one or two B’s even this year.
I talked to my mom about it this past weekend and, as usual, she gave Chris and I really solid advice. She said for us to continue on with our regular, normal discipline routine – what was wrong yesterday is still wrong today. And that when Bean steps out of line, he gets the same consequence every time. She cautioned us to maintain our stability as Bean starts to push the boundaries a bit.
And that makes total sense, but IT’S SO HARD because a) I feel like I need to be doing something different because he is doing things differently and b) he makes me so ANGRY!
So, help me out, imaginary friends. Did your kids (especially sons) go through this? How did you handle it? And, more importantly, did you both survive this phase because I don’t know if both of us are going to make it through!