DS2 turned six today, and his day was pretty much stellar, except for a couple of melt-downs in school when things didn't go exactly, perfectly the way he wanted them to. He recovered, loved his presents and his brownie cake and ice cream, and is looking forward to his friends-party on Friday.
The birthday made today complicated, because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and we just were not ready. For some reason all the teachers waited for the last minute to say what the deal was with V-Day this year, and I was irrationally hoping I wouldn't have to deal with it. It's ridiculous, but I do it because it's expected.
DS1 can't get past the ridiculous aspect, and this is where his differences manifest. He has never been into crafts of any kind -- decorating a V-Day box is sheer torture to him. He hates to write and simply writing his name on twenty-odd Valentine cards amounts to even worse torture. Combine the prospect of having to do both with an incomprehensible (to him) math homework assignment and a very late dinner, and you get a major meltdown, the worst we've had in years. I can't remember the last time he got so upset -- and remained so unconsolable -- and perhaps that's why it didn't occur to me that a big part of the problem is that he was hungry.
So of course now I feel like an idiot for forgetting one of the most basic rules of DS1-management, which is to make sure the kid has eaten if he starts losing it.
In the end, he did stay up late to finish his other homework, but by then it was OK because he ate a good dinner and felt much better. He even enjoyed having some of DS2's brownie cake and ice cream, and watching the peewee open his presents.
Eventually I approached him, and in my best neutral voice, asked him if it would be OK with him, would he like it if I made a Valentine box for him, and if I did up the Valentine cards for his class. I couldn't suggest this earlier because he went on and on about how much he hates V-Day, it's all crap and really stupid, etc etc etc. The kid has a point, I thought, and I told him: I agree with you, and I told him that he didn't have to do Valentines this year. Then I told him that it's rude to refuse gifts, so that when the other kids gave him Valentines, he needed to be gracious about that, anyway.
It was a very difficult conversation. The hardest thing as a parent is seeing your children suffer and not being able to do anything about it. Even though he's huge I had him sitting in my lap. It's good that he's so tall because he couldn't see that few seconds of crying I did, holding him and feeling totally useless because he just doesn't like what most kids like, and there's nothing I can do about it. (Maybe there will be someday, but today, no.)
We did finally recover, with dinner and with time. I found a box I covered with plain white paper, and wrote his name in red on the lid. And I put together his Valentine cards and signed his name for him. In previous years I would never have done such a thing -- he needs to do it himself! I would've said. This year, with the big uproar and everything, it just wasn't going to happen. I really do want him to participate, it's important for him not to isolate himself from the class culture. And so I did it, and his relief at not having to do it himself was palpable.
Trying to do a post-mortem on this day I can see so many mistakes I made. I'm trying not to be negative so I'm balancing those with the good things I did, but I think overall it was horrid. Maybe that's just my own exhaustion talking, and my feeling of being pulled in sixteen different directions for all my waking hours today.
One thing's for sure: if I'm going to sub I have to get more sleep. The lack of sleep lately is killing me... or maybe it's my having gone off my night-time pain meds, and what sleep I'm getting isn't very good. I can't even justify going off them, I just decided to stop, and I don't think that was a good decision. Everything's killing me and my hands are non-functional, so it's back on them tonight, with the hope that tomorrow will be better.