Have I told you how much I love my middle son? He is smart--from his first smile at just two weeks old to his ability to handily beat me at memory to his memorization of something paragraphs long after just a few practices--this is one bright child. He is adorable and adoring when he takes a mind to be. He likes to tease and play in typical five year-old fashion. His four cowlicks, two of which swirl in opposite directions in his crown, guarantee that his hair always sticks up except for the two weeks after dad gives one of his great haircuts. He can charm anyone, and has a way of wrapping teachers and grown-ups around his finger after about four minutes in their class.
So why do I need help? If he is really so wonderful, then what, exactly is the problem?
Padawan went through some difficult kid-stuff between age two and three. I chalked it up to a new baby brother and a major move. Everything considered, in fact, he did remarkably well. He started coming into his own and the Jedi Knight always wanted him to tag along.
Then Jedi Knight went to school.
And Mommy had a baby and an early morning paper route.
And Padawan wasn't quite a big boy, but he wasn't quite a baby.
Ever since then, he has been stuck between big and little. He plays it to his advantage. "I don't want to do that, I'm not a baby like Youngling!" "I can't do that, I'm not a big boy like Jedi Knight."
So far, this is all typical middle child/5 year-old stuff. In fact, when I found out that number three was going to be a boy, I held Padawan close and kissed him, and though I never said it out loud I told him in my head a hundred times that I was sorry that he would never be my "baby" boy again. There was never a sweeter baby.
Then, about 18 months ago, when Plantboy and I took our tenth anniversary trip, he was left with my mom for a few days, and then a loving aunt the boys are crazy about. When I picked him up, he was full of stories of all that they had done, and seemed reluctant to leave Aunt Sugar. On our way home we noticed that he was doing this weird snorting, clearing his throat thing. I thought he'd picked up a cold at first.
He had not.
It didn't seem to be.
The thing is when he would sniff and clear his throat, he didn't seem to have any mucus. The odd habit, which got worse when he was nervous or when it was pointed out, became a tic which he would do several times an hour unless he became extremely busy and distracted. Having taught and/or tutored several students with Tourette's Syndrome before, it seemed like some things fell into place. People with TS tend to be rather OCD. Even as a young child, Youngling was fastidious about making sure that doors and drawers were shut and hated even having a drop of water or spot of mud or dirt on his clothes. In fact, my brother and I had sometimes joked about Padawan being OCD when we would watch him toddle over to any open doors and slam them shut. Now it was coupled with a tic--a tic that was exacerbated by nervousness.
I did some homework and shared what I learned with Plantboy, who had been trying various ways to make Padawan drop the habit, some of which were slightly punishing. I convinced Plantboy to just pretend it wasn't happening and to wait an see. I prayed a lot during that time, having seen brief glimpses into the lives of families who deal with TS.
But after that we noticed some things. Any time he was in front of people--a talk a church, introduced to new people, even reciting Articles of Faith in family home evening--the tic would come back. Or another one would arise. Itching was really common.
Starting earlier his year he began a new default mode--we call it drama-boy mode. When something doesn't work out for him, he immediately begins pouting or crying or yelling or throwing things, including himself, to the ground. He has an initial outburst and then folds his arms and stomps away. Sometimes I don't even know what has made him angry. I've reassured him a hundred times that if he asks for help then I can give it to him and remind him that very few of his problems are unsolvable. I've also repeatedly focused on not doing things for him until he drops the drama and uses his words.
The irony is, that of all my kids, his basic personality is the most mellow. He isn't too upset about changes in schedule or spontaneous things. He used to remind me so much of my sweet, laid-back husband, but it is hard to really say that any more. These outbursts have started to overshadow every other part of him, and his lack of self-control is wreaking havoc on our family. He butts heads terribly with Plantboy; on especially bad days, peace between the two of them balances on a knife-point. He pushes me to the point where I yell, then I feel terrible and try to start over with him. His innermost nature is so sweet and forgiving that he is quick to hug and cuddle after we have trouble. He fights with his brothers, more than the other two fight with him. He bosses and loses his temper with them. He is stubborn when he plays and quick to explode when things don't go his way.
His latest OCD behavior is that he is very picky about the way his clothes fit. I have a huge container of clothes left over from Jedi Knight, and he will hardly wear any of them. He is perpetually out of clothes to wear because I can't wash fast enough to keep up with the only two pairs of pants he will actually wear to school--and one of the pairs he will only wear sometimes.
I have a plan for working through the clothing problem, and it will give him a chance to get lots of one-on-one time with mother. But I have a terrible feeling that solving the problem will only buy us a little bit of breathing room until the next "catastrophe."
This is the kind of post "they" say you should never write, because your children will hate you for it one day. But I didn't know who else to turn to than the folks, who oddly enough, know me the best because they visit here regularly*. I want to hear about your parenting experiences with middle children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. I want to hear about your childhood (and adult!) experiences if you are in the middle yourself. Please don't assume that if your situation isn't identical that you can't offer something useful; I'm open to anything right now. Once I get some feedback, I will do a favor to Padawan's future self and move the post off the Internet.
*Blogger's stat counter is much better than the one I was using previously. I noticed that during the summer, according to my last stat counter, that I had a huge spike in the number of daily visitors after I went to Utah. Intrigued and pleased, I was feeling very self-assured. Enter Blogger's stats in September, with very specific information on which pages are getting the hits. My number one post every day for months has been that silly piece I wrote just before going on vacation about how I should have my hair cut. Apparently, running a Google search for certain types of haircuts brings back a hit for my blog that must be in the first page or two. I've had traffic from all over the world looking for the same kind of hair style I was hoping to achieve. Needless to say, Blogger's stat counter has greatly deflated my ego. It's a good thing.