Thursday, March 3, 2016

Raising My Spirited Child

Today I'm not here to talk about crafty things or home decor. I've hesitated to even talk about this situation beyond my closest friends, but it has been weighing so heavy on my heart. I haven't been blogging or even doing many projects because my mind has been constantly elsewhere. So today I'm going to let it out. 

This is my three year old daughter, Roxie. 

Over the last three months, Roxie has been kicked out of two different daycare programs for her aggressive and violent behavior. I don't share this to cast a negative light on either center. They had to make the difficult decision to expel her, and they both worked as hard as they could with the tools they had to help her. They loved her too. 

But now it has become clear to my husband and me that Roxie has some serious behavioral problems and needs more specialized care. 

It's hard to admit. It's hard to admit that I am embarrassed. I feel this tug between doing what's right for my kid and feeling that I've somehow messed her up, turned her into a brat who hits other kids. I'm ashamed when she pulls other girls' hair and pushes them down. That is never okay. I'm embarrassed when she goes limp in the grocery store, screaming like a wild animal in the throes of another meltdown. It's scary and frustrating when she sprints away from me in a parking lot or crowded mall. 

And also... I'm jealous. I see your well-behaved children trailing after you in Target. I see their neat clothing and perfect hair bows. I'm jealous of the confidence in your shoulders. You know your kid won't try to escape as soon as her feet hit the floor. You can even walk a few paces ahead of her! I'm jealous when I see those same children participating happily at preschool, standing in line, fingers on lips, minding the teacher. I'm jealous that you never get a phone call to pick up your child early because her meltdown has completely disrupted the day and no one can calm her down.

And before you suggest various disciplinary strategies or that she "just needs her butt wore out," hear me out. We do discipline. Till we're blue in the face. We prep and coach her about appropriate behaviors before we leave our house and before we arrive at our destination. Roxie spends a LOT of time in time out until she can calm the raging storm of emotions and input that sent her into the meltdown in the first place. We have been known to give her spankings, though we have learned the hard way that it only whips her further up into a frenzy, prolonging the screaming and the fit. We don't understand how to teach her not to hit others by hitting her (and let's leave it at that).

Roxie at her best is spirited, intense, persistent, sensitive, and so high energy. At her worst, she is anxious, slow to adapt and straight up out of control. In the middle of typing that sentence, she crawled sweetly into my lap, then knocked my very full coffee cup onto the keyboard and floor. 

This is my life every day. I never know if she will wake up happy and compliant or if the day will be one big, long fight. I don't know what she "has" or where she will go for childcare now. 

We have been to a developmental medicine clinic to see a pediatrician who specializes in behavior problems. He diagnosed her with an "unspecified anxiety disorder." We saw a licensed counselor who, after one hour of knowing my daughter, recommended medication for ADHD. I have read a lot, a lot of books.

There is so much I don't know, and I don't have a happy ending to share today. I am posting this mostly as a way to move past my shame and embarrassment. I know my husband and I are doing all the things for our kid. We are working hard and seeking out the best ways to help. Yes, her behavior still sucks a lot of the time, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. I am posting this as an explanation to everyone who sees us, whether you know us or not. I want you to understand that you might see my child watching my iPhone and eating marshmallows in the shopping cart at Wal-Mart, but what you are really seeing is a reward for not hitting anyone that day. We are taking baby steps over here. Last, I am posting this as a form of accountability for myself, as a reminder to keep my head up. I want to re-read this post in six months or a year and think, "Look how far we've come."
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