The times they are a changin’. Whether we want them to or not. A lot of people tend to pigeon hole themselves with the overly simplistic notion that they don’t like change, or even more grand, that human beings as a whole don’t like change. That’s not true at all. I am perfectly fine with change that I like. It’s the change that I don’t like that I seem to have a difficult time accepting. Me, Jack, Allison: we are all steeped in change right now. A lot of it I really like. The most apparent change is the addition of Charlie to our family. I don’t believe I have the space in this post or the eloquence of voice to express how much I enjoy this change. It’s like the cosmic version of wanting to hear a certain song and then it suddenly coming on the radio. It just feels right. My four year old, Jack might disagree with this. For Jack, the addition of Charlie is more akin to some one switching the station in the middle of your favorite song. Jack has enjoyed a long period of All Hail The King. While we have done our best to make the transition as smooth as possible, this is like trying to park a Sherman Tank in a spot meant for a smart car. Even the smallest things, things that you just sort of cannot plan for can snowball into avalanches. Jack doesn’t use his stroller much. Perhaps for the occasional jaunt to Disneyland or the zoo. After such a trip to Disneyland, an idealic family trip, a very tired Jack broke down over the sudden realization that this was now Charlie’s stroller. He’d been seeing him in it for weeks, but that went by unnoticed. The moment that push came to shove and both of them where getting out of the car, Jack saw through the sleepy and the truth hit him in the face: this is not mine anymore. It’s Charlie’s and I am not okay with that. Cue the tears.
Now this is a small example to get my point across, and really it’s a pretty surface one. Jack’s reaction to Charlie goes much deeper, as I’m sure anyone with half a brain can tell you that even the most well-adjusted child will act out upon the arrival of a new brother or sister. Jack is bearing witness to our reaction to Charlie. I wonder what his reaction to OUR reactions is. Does he wonder why he could not bring this level of happiness to his mother and father? Does he see Charlie as a threat? One to be tolerated surely, especially in front of the parents. However, once the sun goes down does Jack get out his detailed schematics and devise overly complicated ways in which Charlie could be left at the market?
This also brings into focus another big change that is going on with Jack right now. Quite simply: he’s turning four. He is at the end of one journey and the beginning of another. The world, probably, seems equally as joyous to his as it does scary. As colorful as it does loud. As fun as it is hard. One moment he is celebrating his successful mastery of a new skill or discovery and the next he is discovering that which he once thought was safe or benign is actually dark and spooky. I cannot imagine the neural pathways that are firing in his skull at any given moment. The memories being forged and the lessons being learned would probably make the head of any adult spontaneously explode. Anyone so steeped in self could surely not experience the world at that level of innocence and bliss. Thankfully I don’t have to add the ego of a grown up and the maturity of a four year old to the list of things I have to deal with.
I know. I know. So what? Jack is four. Charlie is new. Jack reacts to the presence of Charlie. All of that and the weather. I know that all of this makes it sounds like “Oh, God, I’m the first person in the world to have children!” More often what I’m trying to discern in all of this is what the action is that I’m supposed to take. It’s a bit more serious than I’m proud to admit. Some of Jack’s behavior has taken the form of more than just tears and wistful looks. He’s started hitting me and his mother again. Things he hasn’t done for over a year. His tantrums take the form of destruction and it’s forced me and his mother to go back to the drawing board on our approach to how we discipline him, or actually how we don’t. Neither of us are big on the punitive side of things and, for a while, we have been adopting kind of a “whatever works” modality with Jack. I think the end result left us with a confused child and double confused parents. So, in the last few weeks, almost anytime Jack is given a direction that is contrary to what he wants to do he declares “NEVER!” and begins a spree of violence and toy spilling. To be fair, I’m being dramatic (NO?!). I’ve seen kids that take no direction whatsoever. Jack is not there. Not yet, but I do fear what may happen if this is left unchecked. Probably 90% of the time he is either happy to “put your plate in the sink” or “time to take a bath”. Either he is fully up for it or his escapades can be nipped in the bud upon the realization that he’s getting angry. I’ll usually address it and either redirect him or just talk about it. A friend of mine very recently told me how powerful just acknowledging that “it’s hard to be a big brother” can be. She was right. Jack’s pediatrician suggested just being honest. When Charlie is crying his head off and it’s Jack’s bedtime story, I just turn to him and go “Wow. It really stinks that Charlie’s crying right now, huh?” So, the idea that I’d been fighting for some long: essentially that Jack is NOT a tiny human being and that really all I’m shooting for is getting to a point where I can (discipline wise) say “because I’m your father and I said so” is COMPLETELY WRONG. For me, anyway.
This has all, once again, brought me to a continuing realization in my life: that what I consider to be my BEST instincts tend to work against me. Once again, the less I am trying to control the outcome of things the better they tend to go. The more that I am relying on the experience of others, rather than what I am assuming that experience adds up to be, the more I tend to actually know. It’s almost as though every conflict in life can be handled with a very simple set of directions: Start where I am. Use what I’ve got. Do what I can.
Anything else is a waste of energy. And with two kids, I need all the energy I can get. Good night. Thanks for listening. Be well.