June is the rainy season here in Japan. Someone remind me never to live in a place with a summer rainy season. What a tease we had. Spring lasted all of about 10 seconds. The cherry blossoms were stunning and we had a few truly gorgeous warm blue sky days where we lived outside. And then the rain hit, and the winter blues have seeped in. I feel it. That inner restlessness where my skin crawls begging for sunshine and human interaction.
Deployment started off on a good note. The boys settled in fine, and then a switch flipped. My almost 4 year old started having night terrors or nightmares, I’m still not sure which. The battles to get him to preschool in the morning started from the instant he woke up. Sometimes it took us an hour of negotiations to walk the 5 minutes to school and then I’d have to settle into the hard battle of actually getting my spider monkey child off of my leg to leave the room. He was up all hours of the night, was fighting me at nap time and bedtime and then the anger started. To the point where he would throw these violent tantrums. I would sit with him on the floor, my arms wrapped around him until he was calm enough to let go and I would be left crying, exhausted and dazed, wondering where on earth my sweet boy went and praying for guidance on how to bring him back.
After weeks of feeling like we couldn’t possibly go any lower, I feel like we are finally making some progress. I reached out to my husband and our spouse aviation community and the flood of suggestions came in. One of the ideas I was praying and debating on was taking him out of preschool and most everyone that I asked including the school counselor suggested to keep his routine as normal as possible during deployment and that meant keeping him in school. I also NEEDED that break, if only for a few hours. But every ounce of me was suggesting the opposite and I finally made my decision one morning as I left the room to go to the bathroom and my son followed me screaming. I locked the door and he sat there in tears banging and screaming “DON’T LEAVE!” Nothing should give a 4 year old that much anxiety in this world. It absolutely broke my heart and he’s been home with me ever since. Once I pulled him from school the nightmares stopped. And once the nightmares stopped I could reason with him during his late night wakings. I also took the suggestion to put him in his daddy’s t-shirt at night and he had his first full night’s sleep in weeks. I have a feeling he’s going to be going to college in that shirt because I don’t see him ever giving it up.
We still have our challenges on a daily basis. But everyday those challenges seem to end on a positive note instead of burying me deeper into grief. His 4th of July tantrum was one of the worst ones that he’s had so far. It was a very public one on the side of the road but I surprised myself and handled it pretty calmly and stood my ground until he settled his body down and was able to safely move on and cross the street. After he was finished and back to his normal sweet self he had a bit of a breakthrough and as we walked towards home he started tearing up and saying how much he missed his daddy and how strong his daddy was. He’s always verbalized his feelings 2nd hand. Meaning his brother might mentioned he misses daddy and B would join in with “me too”. This was the first time he put meaning behind a tantrum and expressed his emotions.
So my advice for those mom’s going through this very thing or a similar behavioral situation is to give yourself emotional space. Commit yourself to guide them and teach them on how to make the specific behavior better knowing it’s first going to get worse. When I put my head in the game and really listened to where the tantrums were coming from I started getting less frustrated at the situation. I gave myself the entire evening to get him to bed, knowing it would take several hours of calmly putting him back in his room. And I’m not going to lie, it sucked. But every day its getting better. I still prep myself for a battle every evening. The first night I made the commitment it went on for 2.5 hours. The 2nd night, 30 minutes. 3rd night 10 minutes, and the next night there was no battle at all. I am making progress. Out of the blue he wrapped his arms around me and said “You’re the best mommy in the world.” Today he is begging to sit down with me and do his homeschool work, whereas before it was pulling teeth to go over his ABC’s. Every child is different. Only you can know what is truly the right answer for your child. Pray for guidance, listen to your intuition and most importantly your child, and don’t be afraid to go against the grain.