We had a long holiday weekend. Not long as in extra days off; long in the I can't take anymore of this whining and fighting kind of way. All three of us were still sick and cranky. Some of our plans fell through as well, so we didn't have the distractions that we thought we would.
The whole weekend wasn't a wash, we spent time in the park, we played in the sand and water table (best investment ever), and we played with Michael's new volcano and Triceratops. But, in between those time there were a number of serious tantrums over...well, mostly nothing. We did a lot of counting, and in most cases it worked. However, on Monday Michael really came unhinged.
Things started off well. I normally take Michael grocery shopping with me, and he indicated that he wanted to go when I asked him. I explained that he needed to get dressed and he started up the stairs to do so. But, at some point between getting to the top of the stairs and me going to help him take him shirt off, he just lost it. He wanted to go with me. Then he didn't. He would agree to get changed, then as I'd get close to him he would change his mind. He was caught up in not wanting what he wanted, and there is no defense against that. When I told him that I was going to leave without him he got so angry that he threw one of his toys at me and then tried to hit me. I took his toy away and then held him from behind trying to get him to calm down. He pulled away from me and crawled behind the end table. There was no way I was taking him to the store in that kind of mood.
Several hours later, he came up to me and apologized for throwing his toy at me. This is the first time he's done something like that. He's done that immediate apology thing kids do to appease people, but this was a real apology. It was unprompted and it showed true remorse. I was really impressed by the emotional maturity behind it.
Last night we sat down to watch Curious George before bed. George was disappointed because they came back to the city to discover that there was a heatwave, but because of energy demands, they couldn't turn on the air conditioner. Michael was really engaged in the show until George decided that he was just going to turn the air on for a little while to cool things off, then he asked me to turn it off.
My mom had told me that he often turns of Curious George when George is about to do something he shouldn't, but I had never actually seen him do it. When he asked me to turn the TV off, I felt bad because obviously the thought of doing something bad makes Michael so uncomfortable that he doesn't even want to watch it on TV. He clearly understands that if you do something you aren't supposed to, people will get upset with you. To some extent, it's very sweet of him, and shows a sensitivity on his part that he's never shown before. On the other hand, I hate to think that just watching a TV show could cause that much anxiety.
It made me realize that as a parent, there are a number of ways I can protect him. So far, it's mostly just been protection against physical dangers. It's easy enough to child proof the house and be cautious with choking hazards. But, the emotional things are so much harder than that. I wish I could protect him from everything, but I guess the best I can do nurture his self confidence and teach him ways to deal with anxiety when it does creep in.
I have a feeling this isn't always going to be easy.