Bedtime is Better

So, I’ve hinted at it a little, but … here goes. Cameron has been a little challenging lately. It’s easy to write about the fun times, the exciting times. But sometimes the adventures are in the less than awesome moments.

Cameron’s normal challenges are rather magnified right now. There’s more whining, for starters. He’s lost some of the emotional control that I’d thought he was gaining. There’s a resurgence of baby talk, repeating words and sounds, rhyming the ends of whatever anyone says then fake-drama-laughing hysterically. His teacher has sent home a few notes concerning his behaviour at school – he’s trying to get negative attention, can’t stay still or focus, he’s being argumentative. And that wonderful imagination of his is going bonkers, to the point where at first I thought he was telling me that he was hallucinating (yes, I’ve talked with people who know about these things and I’m no longer as concerned as I was). He has regressed bigtime at kickboxing. And his ability to have patience, to enjoy anticipation, to delay gratification … all very sketchy skills with him to begin with …  all have vanished into thin air.

P6200010It’s nothing really major, just a lot of small things that are adding up.

But also not something that I can just ignore.  A lot of it I’m sure will be solved with some review of parenting skills. I’ve been in contact with, and he has visited with, his school counselor. He’s seen her quite a few times in the past.  She agrees with me, something is up but it’s not a Big Problem. Unfortunately the school year is ending, and she’s in wrap-up mode. She’s given me some suggestions, through, building on things I’ve already started.

There’s the meditation breathing exercise, and that does seem to help. He seems almost relieved when he’s done a few breaths. I imagine it’s exhausting being him sometimes. His brain doesn’t seem to shut up – I have this trouble too, but I learned tools to cope. There are no quick fixes. Most of the tools are things that take some maturity to do. This breathing thing is going to take time to become a habit, a tool he can use.

I’m also using a verbal signal to him when he goes over-the-top, into behaviours that others find annoying. Repeating words or sounds, rhyming everything that anyone says, that sort of thing. Red light is his indication to stop. With time, the idea is that he’ll learn to recognize these behaviours for himself.

P6200005Then, as I was talking with other parents, another idea hit me. Cameron’s always talked best at bedtime. If we ask him what his day was like on the drive home or at dinner, we’re lucky if we get a few sketchy details. Like, he had math class. Some days he doesn’t even seem to recall if he went to school or not. But in bed? That’s when he often settles down, and focuses, and opens up. He’ll talk. Safe in my arms, with my full attention, he’ll trust me with what he’s thinking. He’ll burrow in close under my chin, or curl up in my arms, or earnestly gaze at me with his big blue ever-changing eyes. Finally, at that time, he’s relaxed enough to make eye contact. This is when we’ve always had our best conversations. So … when he’s having troubles, what better time to help him?

P6200008I decided a couple of nights ago to get him to bed a little earlier, so that this time isn’t an inconvenience, with me listening for a few hurried moments before saying, Cameron, hush, it’s time to sleep. I love hearing what you’re thinking, but it’s sleepy time now. Now, instead, I can listen. And he’s loving it. We talk about the kids at school, why they don’t seem to want to be friends with him. We talk about what he wants to be when he grows up (lately, a police officer). We talk about what went wrong in his day, and how to handle the problems next time. I tell him what he did well that day, as so much of our time together is me telling him to stop doing something, or hurry up to do something else. We talk about the tiny life that can be found in ponds, how jet engines work, and what neat things he’d build if he worked on the International Space Station. And last night? We took pictures. He never lets me take pictures of him.

He fell asleep smiling, soon after our mini photo shoot and some reading, my arm his pillow, holding my hand to his face.

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2 responses to “Bedtime is Better

  1. Melanie, I’ve had some not-so-awesome moments too. You’re a wonderful parent to see through the annoying behavior to try to understand and connect with the wonderful kid underneath those.
    My oldest also has trouble communicating when she’s not “ready”, goes “over the top” when her emotions spiral out of of control, and has spent more than her share of time with the vice-principal and counselor at school. She is very bright, and has a lot rolling around in her head, and has a hard time focusing on the mundane (eg. dinner, school, multiplication tables). She has learned coping mechanisms – like “invisible fidgets” (ie breathing or flicking toes to the tune of a song in your head rather than swiveling in her chair or tossing paper). I empathize with your plight. They’re not all push button kids, and as wonderful as they are, it kind of sucks sometimes it seems like everything is more complicated than for other families.
    It’s all gotten better for us. She’s learning how to cope. And she seems happier, more relaxed, and more easy-going. That said, we’ve had 2 meltdowns this week that my 10 yr old should be way to old for.
    Cameron will get there. You’ll see.
    A book I found really really helpful, if anything to understand and empathize better with my more difficult kid: “Raising your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It’s for kids who are not diagnosed with any “Big Problems” but who are just MORE sensitive, energetic, persistent, etc than most kids. If you parent one, you know what she’s talking about. A great book that helps you recognize patterns that help you anticipate what will set your kid off, and help you teach your child how to cope with these triggers. I learned TONS from it…. and my child did too. For example, I managed to identify that ANY transition makes her anxious and stressed – which leads to misbehavior. Knowing that is powerful for me and for her – she knows she copes better if everything is planned out, even down to picking out clothes in advance, and making a habit of leaving tags on new clothes for possible return until she gets them home and really considers them (no surprises!).
    chin up – you’re doing amazing, and Cameron’s lucky to have you.

  2. Thank you so much Alison! I’ll see if I can get that book through our library. I love the idea of invisible fidgets – it seems like he needs to be fidgeting, doing something constantly!

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