One of the many awesome things about having more than one child is seeing how different and unique they all are. Despite the fact that they come from the same oven, I have produced (okay with a little help from my man) three very different buns.
But what I’ve also begun to notice is that while they all may be completely different kids with different temperaments, likes and dislikes, they have all followed a very similar pattern in terms of their emotional development. I know this shouldn’t be some huge lightbulb moment because well, psychologists since the beginning of time were able to characterise these stages of childhood and give us insight into how the average child develops, based on many contributing factors. But I guess it’s been interesting for me to see first-hand just how similar my kids have been in their emotional development, almost to the day!
I can remember my boys at the age Hunters is now and although she may be a little (Read: A LOT!) feistier than they were at her age, their strong will and need to assert their independence was also so clearly evident from the age of 18 months. And just like every other 18 month old, something in their developing and strong- minded little minds just clicked one day, and they thought “I don’t want to listen to mommy and daddy anymore, I want to do things my way”. These milestones and transition periods are no doubt all part of them coming into their own and as parents all we can really do it steer them in the right direction and keep showing them right from wrong.
But I learned very early on into our parenting journey, that juuuuuust as you think you have your kids figured out, they go through another phase, another transition period or adjustment leaving you feeling somewhat clueless (And a little helpless if I were being completely honest). And this is exactly what we were feeling a few weeks ago with our middle child. Clueless. Well, that was before my BIG revelation earlier this week!
Brody (6) has always been a bit of a “water off a ducks back” kind of kid. He hasn’t been too easily phased by things and for the most part just goes with the flow with most things in life. He can at times have a bit of a sensitive side, but anyone who knows him will tell you he’s an easy kid with a gentle and easy-going nature.
But about 2 months ago we started seeing his behaviour change, and pretty drastically I might add! He would become easily upset over minor things, get overwhelmed easily, and overact about the smallest of things, to the point that we wondered if there might be something more sinister going on. Of course we asked all the questions and spent more time trying to understand his needs and frustrations, but he assured us everything was fine. I felt like we were failing him and that I as a mother wasn’t giving enough of my time. So often as parents we would face the question: “Is middle child syndrome a real thing? Could Brody be experiencing feelings associated with it?” So I started going on one-on-one dates with him and plugging into him more intentionally. But his behaviour (at home) just got worse. Tantrums, aggressive outbursts, crying fits and the all too common “Nobody understands me, why don’t you care about me when I’m sad?”
I was stumped. I was tired. I was sad. I was confused. I was DONE!!!
And then I started reflecting back to when Noah was this age, hoping to find some answers. At two years ahead of the game, Noah was coming to the end of his Grade R year and about to start Grade 1. A big transition! I quickly remembered how Noah at around the same time started lashing out for no reason too and taking his frustration out on us everyday after school. He went through this “dark” phase where we were constantly butting heads and where his behaviour threw us in a complete spin, leaving us questioning what we were doing wrong.
I have always taken wisdom from the understanding and very real reality that our children carry around so much stress and pressure at school all day. They are made to follow orders and keep in line and act a certain way, so as not to rock the boat. So it’s no wonder that when they arrive home they may feel the need to off-load, lash out or even be a little defiant! I know how much easier it is to say things we don’t mean to the ones we love the most, to show our true colours to those closest to us. I know this, because I do it too. I can curse and swear and overreact and get emotional with Brendon because he is my safe place and I need him to just be there for me. I can act out because I know he will always be there and that despite showing the worst side of myself, he will always offer me comfort and safety.
And so as I began to remember our history with Noah and how he went through the exact same thing (almost to the day) I have taken a strange sense of comfort knowing that Brody’s behaviour is not only completely normal, but that he will come out of this phase perfectly fine! Because Noah did. Because Noah is living, breathing proof that you come through the tough and challenging times, not only thriving, but stronger for it!
Since the beginning if this year we began to notice BIG changes in Noah (now 8!). He became calmer, more reasonable and rational. We could talk though frustrations more easily and he was able to express his feeling better. We got through it in the end and he has matured so much over the last 2 years. He’s honestly like a different kid who enjoys deep conversation, shows responsibility and is so much more aware of the consequences of his actions.
So parents out there who are going through similar struggles with your child, take courage and keep the faith knowing that these transition periods are all normal and to be expected at some point along the way. I think the key is to remember that we are their safe place and to remind them that nothing they do will make us love them any less, to press into them instead of pulling away and to above all NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY! I know that the danger for me is self-doubt and questioning what I have done wrong or what I could have done better as a mom. I feel personally attacked because I make it about me. And it’s not about me, it’s about my child. I need to remember that, as hard and as frustrating as it may be.
My little Brody Bear is going through a considerable amount of change. Starting Grade 1 is a big event, a monuments transition that no doubt brings with it a sense of uncertainty. But it’s been so helpful to be able to look back and compare and find comfort in the knowing that we will get through this, just as we got through it with his older brother. We can rest assured knowing this is a perfectly normal part of growing up as he makes sense of the world around him. I can only plug into him more and help him find the tools to deal with these frustrations, so he gains confidence in himself and comes into all that he is meant to be.