I was telling Paul yesterday evening that I seriously don't know how to handle him. Henry seems like he is relentlessly disobedient and unpleasant, ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Well, I mean with cute/pleasant times too, and with an OVERLAY of cuteness/cheeriness to the unceasing naughtiness. But even when he's on my lap and being all cute while I read him a story, he will then giddily whip me in the face with his blankie and then put the blankie over my head and drag it off so a bunch of strands come out of my hairclip; and then as he's climbing off my lap he won't be careful, and he'll end up (1) whacking his skull into my glasses and then (2) kneeling right on a very painful muscle in my leg and then (3) elbowing me hard in the chest. Then he'll say several things in a loud unpleasant crazy-voice he's not allowed to use, and then he'll hit his sister with the blankie and she'll scream and he'll laugh, and then he'll say taunting things to Edward, and Edward will yell and Henry will laugh, and then he'll climb onto the coffee table he's not allowed to climb on, and then he'll stand up on it and fall off and cry. A few minutes later I'll offer everyone the pretzel bag, and everyone will take a few, and then Henry will plunge his hand into the bag so hard it knocks it out of my hand, and then come out with an enormous, pretzel-shedding handful he drops all over the floor. Then he will laugh, and as he laughs he will careen around stepping on the pretzels.
It's super super frustrating to have it be 6:24 in the morning and have him already in time-out after breaking four well-known and well-reminded rules. And I'm just so INCREDULOUS that he could STILL BE DOING IT. HOW CAN HE STILL BE DOING IT? We've had so many TALKS about it, with me patiently explaining to him (1) what he can't do and (2) why he can't do it and (3) what the consequences will be if he does it anyway, and then asking if he understands, and then later administering the consequences, and then after administering them MANY TIMES, asking if he knows WHY he can't seem to control himself, and him answering in the crazy unpleasant voice he's not allowed to use. I have actually put my hands into my hair and squeezed.
I was thinking things through for the millionth time yesterday. Could I try yet another different consequence? a different explanation? a new parenting concept? a boarding school? duct tape? I was also thinking about how I could do a post asking what other people would do, but I found I didn't really want to ask for or receive advice on this ("Have you tried giving 5 yesses for every no? catching him being good? meditating? changing his diet? being more understanding? having him tested for celiac? having him tested for a behavioral problem? reading this parenting book? giving him time-outs but calling them 'breaks' because 'time-outs' sound too much like punishment? being more consistent? making a sticker chart? offering rewards for good behavior?").
And so then I thought, "Well, what would I advise someone else, if they were having this issue?" And I think what I would say is to hang on until he grows out of it. Stop trying one thing after another. Stop spending so much time being agitated and hand-wringy about it. Hang on until he grows out of it.
There are so so so many issues with children. But with most of them, Paul and I will suddenly say to each other "...Hey! Whatever happened to such-and-such an issue?" and we realize it just petered out and stopped being an issue. It's easy for me to get super-focused on SOLVING A PROBLEM---when the problem is part of a developmental stage (either for kids in general or for this kid in particular), and there's no solving it except by waiting for it to not be an issue anymore. "Kids waking up wanting to nurse in the night" is not an issue anymore. "Kids resisting the potty" is not an issue anymore. Elizabeth no longer requires us to sit in her room while she falls asleep. Rob no longer shrieks in the bathtub as if he's being killed. Henry no longer cries all the way through swimming lessons. Rob no longer repeats everything a million times. William no longer makes that horrible sound. I haven't fretted about a certain child's certain issue in YEARS, and it used to occupy a good part of every single day.
Considering nothing is working anyway, I am going to try waiting for this, too, to be over. It's not very practical in the "How do I handle it the next time he does X?" sense, but it's helpful for reducing my hair-tearing reactions to it. Instead of feeling like it's something I'm going to have to BEAT out of him by ANY MEANS NECESSARY, I'm feeling more like it's an irritating stage and I don't necessarily have to fix it. I can say "Henry, the voice" in a weary voice, and not have to turn every single incident into a long and hard-fought battle to victory/defeat.
It occurs to me that if this is such an amazing idea, I should apply it to the teenager who watches my every child-disciplining move and then explains to me how unfair it was to him. Certainly that too is a developmental stage that will one day pass. But I don't think I can manage applying a wait-it-out attitude to something that's so much closer to behaviors I can easily imagine on a highly unpleasant adult. I am thinking more along the lines of the scolding I just read in Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye:
"I just want you to know," she was saying, "that I'm going to have to apologize to your wife every single day of your marriage, for raising such a selfish and inconsiderate person."