One of my great parenting dilemmas is how much independence to give my children and are the boundaries set for them or to ensure I feel in control? Today I allowed my son a little bit of independence with which he proverbially hung himself and then I shot him, proverbially, through the heart for doing so.
Know that saying “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”, well that’s Stig. This is a child who has constantly kicked at the boundaries with defiance, and in moments of anger he openly flaunts his disregard for the rules. To be fair in recent times and through our firm resolution to the consequences laid out for such rebelliousness, Stig has learnt, often the very hardest way, that by break rules he loses out. So we come to a more mature young man, nine years old, trying his very hardest to walk away from trouble and keep towing the line. In an act of appreciation for these signs of maturity I have entrusted certain jobs to him which involve a level of independence. I allow him to take the post to the post box. It’s just along the road we live on; he crosses a small side road to get there and is there and back in three to four minutes. Again, recently I sent him into the Co-op for some milk whilst I stayed outside in the car with his brother. He’s desperate to be entrusted with these acts of independence and his eye glint with disbelief when you ask him to carry them out. So imagine the sparkle there in his eyes when I informed him he could walk home from a party he was attending today, a bit further than the post box but manageable. I gave the full speech on how important it was he didn’t abuse this privilege and a full low down on what that would mean to him in the future and to the impression it gave of his capability, if he did. I was stern, probably too stern but I was feeling a little uncertain of my, sorry hubby was consulted, our decision.
So how did we reach this momentous decision? Knowing my son I often watch him like a hawk and ensure he is aware that I can read him like a book and know his every move. At times the constant lying, pushing of boundaries and trying to get away with things has left me feeling very little trust in him. I think he is aware of this. But as I said, there has been a change in him and I’ve started seeing a big boy before me. Some of his peers have also been allowed small acts of independence, walking home from school and calling on friends. I must point out that we live in what I would consider a very safe small town community where people know each other and know whose kids are whose. This in mind I started to question the intensity of control I was levelling at him and decided I need to show him that I was learning to trust him. Also I wanted to demonstrate some appreciation for the effort he has put into his behaviour at home and at school.
So off to the party he goes, with a parting “and don’t forget to bring your coat home”. Hubby dropped him off, making sure he was safely there and that the parents were aware he was walking home. Fast forward two hours and my phone rings, a mum I don’t know that well. “Hi, Stig has got himself upset, is hiding in a bush and won’t come out. He says he’s walking home on his own but I’m not sure that’s right”. Instantly I’m annoyed, I know, horrid mother. I march round and order him out of hiding and home with threats of never seeing his DS again. Things only get worse once we are within our own four walls. There is shouting, screaming, physical retaliation, unpleasant language and not all from my son. I end up having to restrain him or he will put his foot through his bedroom door and he’s already slammed it in my husband face, physical contact made. After I’ve held him, he sits on one side of his door and me on the other. We start to make amends. I apologise for not being more understanding and for some of the unpleasantness which has gone on. I eventually ask if he would like a hug and he crawls into my lap, gently rocking him I kiss the back of his neck and nuzzle my face in his hair.
The story goes, another child was showing off to him, provoking him, Stig retaliated verbally, eventually an argument started and a tussled ensued. Once an adult had intervened Stig walked outside and hid in the bush, flight. I could have written the scenario given the starting point and the other child involved. Once outside Stig knew that people were watching him out of the window, mum who called was standing with him, and the more the situation grew the harder it was for him to claw it back. Hence the phone call.
I’m angry with myself on so many plains it’s unbelievable. First the obvious one, I allowed my own feelings of annoyance to be the emotion I led with when dealing with him. Not sympathy and understanding which was required, he was already angry with his actions he didn’t need my criticism as well. Secondly, I didn’t think through all the possibilities of the situation. I didn’t contemplate the complex interactions he would be dealing with at a large party in a different environment. Why didn’t I think about these text book considerations for my adopted child? If I had considered this I would never have thought this was the ideal time to show him my trust. I would have realised that the heightened sense of having this independence would not help him deal with an altercation. Also if I’d been going to collect him I would probably have arrived before the situation inflamed and my expectations on arrival would have been different. Thirdly, this impacts on Tink, he finds it distressing for his brother to be so angry and dealt with unfairly. Seeing his brothers display of emotions met with such negativity, feeds his belief that displays of emotions create hurt and hardship and should therefore not be encouraged.
Someone please tell me they have a time machine which will allow me to go back and rectify this awful day. No, well then I’ll have to do what we always do when things don’t go to plan. Piece the broken bits back together with plenty of love, honesty, patience and understanding, learn from our mistakes and move forward. As far as cutting those apron strings, faith will be restored and I’m sure we’ll soon find an opportunity to try again.