I’m in something of a holding pattern with my children, at the moment. One of the supreme joys of the complicated child (because there are just so many) is figuring out how to balance patience and appropriate consequences.
In other words: Misdeeds require correction, yes, but you don’t want to be punishing behavior a child cannot help. On the other hand, you don’t want to be issuing a free pass to be irresponsible and bratty to a kid just because they have some issues, either.
It’s such a delightful conundrum, constantly trying to discern when an infraction requires creative problem-solving and when it requires a sound beating.
(Oh, I don’t really beat the children. I prefer to holler at them until that little vein in my temple throbs.)
Chickadee is having a pretty impressive resurgence of depression, and one of the things that happens when she’s depressed is that, well—brace yourselves, this is shocking—SHE’S DEPRESSED. Depression in kids looks a little different than depression in adults, but it has many of the same features. So anyone who’s ever been through depression, themselves, won’t be surprised to hear that she has trouble getting up in the morning, is lower-energy than usual, takes longer to complete her work (and doesn’t do as good of a job), and becomes rather scattered in general.
Monkey has always been one to misplace his head if you haven’t bolted it firmly onto his neck, and I chided him regularly until we started with this whole investigation this year where it was suggested to me that, hey, maybe he can’t help it. This may be a “piece of the puzzle” as the team at school likes to call it, and while his, ah, lack of attention to detail can be frustrating, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Well, Monkey needs to be learning how to take greater responsibility, while we acknowledge his limitations; and Chickadee perhaps needs to have a break extended to her during this time of difficulty, yet she still needs to be meeting various requirements and not excused from them. In other words, the world has gone topsy-turvy and I don’t know how to parent through the hundreds of problems we’re facing. Be stricter! Be more lenient! Hide in the corner! (I prefer that last one, but the kids, they ALWAYS FIND ME. Sheesh.)
Today both children came home dejected. Chickadee had homework to do, but had forgotten her folder at school. We had just last week gone over the rules and consequences, and she knew what she was facing and was distraught. Monkey had forgotten his lunchbag at school last Friday, and I’d packed his lunch today in the spare lunchbag. Did he remember to bring home the forgotten bag? Nope, even better! He forgot BOTH bags!
I pushed back from my desk and surveyed the pitiful specimens of regret standing in front of me. Two different problems, two different children, a million different ways to screw it up. It was almost imperceptible, but they each cringed a little, which was more than enough evidence that I’m not exactly known for handling these situations with grace and gentleness.
“Chickadee,” she continued to study her feet. “I will call Daddy in a minute and we’ll discuss finding a solution for this, okay?” She nodded, and slid out of the room.
“Monkey,” he immediately began to whine and protest (“I didn’t mean to! Don’t be mad!”) and I grabbed his hands between mine, “Buddy. Stop. I know. But I have to tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow. You will bring home BOTH bags, okay?” He nodded earnestly. “Also, I’m sorry, but tomorrow morning after I make your lunch, I’m going to have to tape your sandwich to your shirt, since we don’t have a bag to put it in.”
Yeah. I’ve still got it.