From the moment Isaac got up this morning I knew I was in for a challenge. He wanted coconut milk, but he didn't. He didn't want it in any of the cups we had. I decided to go ahead and shake up his probiotics in his milk and pour it into a blue cup. He acted as if I threw all of his toy bugs into the trash. Instant tantrum. I carried him up to his room and told him that when he was feeling better he could come back down. A few minutes later he was downstairs and in the kitchen. I had pushed the milk pretty far in on the counter just in case he decided to spill it out of anger. I heard him sliding the cup, but since he seemed to be in a more cheerful mood I thought he had decided to drink it. A minute later he was in the living room without the cup. "I'm hungry, mommy." "Ok, your milk is on the counter if you want it." "No, I just threw it in the trash." "What? I hope not. Your milk and special powder are expensive- that means they cost a lot of money." I looked in the trash and sure enough there was the straw and milk.
A mini lecture ensued, followed by time out, followed by an apology and a request to watch tv. Sneaky. Because I wanted to get to church on time and Andrew wasn't home to aid in this quest, I said yes. I brought his breakfast out and let him eat it in the living room while I bustled around getting ready for church. I brought down his clothes to put on him after his show ended. "No mommy, I can't want the stripey shirt. It's too stripey." Clock check. No time for this argument. I went for distraction. "Let's get dressed quick so that we can go to church and you can play in the nursery with Izzy, Claire, and Iris!" "Oh, yeah!" I manage to button his shirt. He starts complaining again and pulling at the shirt. I really don't have time to play the shirt game. "There is nothing wrong with that shirt. We're going to be late. If you leave it on I will let you eat pretzels in the car." "Yeah, pretzels in the car!" We get the container of pretzels and race around to find his red sunglasses that he will not leave the house without. He starts pulling at the shirt and is going for the buttons, "It's too buttony." I'm losing patience.
I had to make a quick judgment call: Is he having a sensory day or is this about something else? Is he exhibiting any other sensory behaviors other than a bad mood? Nope. Looks like someone is acting out because he misses his daddy. Andrew worked all weekend. I decide not to give in. "Nope, keep that shirt on. It was part of the deal. You wear the shirt and you get pretzels in the car. Do NOT take it off." "No, mommy, I can't want toooo... Where's my red hat?" He starts climbing between the spindles on the banister. "Nope, no red hat. We're going." In one swoop I pick him up, grab the pretzels, and whisk them both out the door. Isaac is really trying for the tears, but I could tell that he knew he wasn't going to win. "There is no reason we should be late for church when we had plenty of time to get ready. You have not had good behavior this morning and that makes me sad. We're going to church." I buckle him in, hand him the pretzels, and jump in the front seat. I was expecting a complete meltdown, or that I might have been wrong about this not being a sensory issue. As we pull out of the driveway his mood instantly changes and he starts talking about church and the things he sees out the window. We made it to church mostly on time, and all because I didn't give in. I compromised- sure, but I didn't give in.
Lately, we've been trying to sift our way through figuring out what is sensory or pdd-nos behavior and what is just plain almost-four behavior. I don't want to assume that a behavior is just Isaac being naughty when it might be rooted in him feeling off. I also don't want to blame any and all misbehavior on him feeling off when we know him to be a pretty typical four year old in the making. So how did I MacGyver my way through this morning's ordeal? With clues, of course. The first thing Isaac said to me this morning when he came in my room was, "Where is daddy? I looked everywhere and I can't find him." I told him that daddy was at work and will be until we got home from church. One of the last things Isaac said to me while trying to put him to bed last night was, "I just want to wait for daddy." Daddy was sleeping as he had to go into work at 11pm. So obviously he had daddy on the brain after three days of barely seeing him. Isaac slept well last night and wasn't using any of his repetitive phrasing or stimming behaviors common to his "sensory days" this morning. He was just angry, sad, and seemingly disoriented. He needed a distraction from daddy not being home. TV was the right thing to give in on in this case. It distracted him and gave me time to get ready. Plus, it could be turned off. The shirt was the right thing to stick to my guns on because had I given in he could have spent the next 30 minutes dragging his feet over which shirt to wear just for the joy of being in control. Trust me, Isaac can be a clothing diva with all of his new, made up adjectives. "Too roughey, too buttony, too softy..." I'm not kidding.
Church turned out to be just what he needed as far as mood enhancers go. It was not because he sang Jesus Loves Me and glued macaroni onto paper plates as you might imagine, but because he and his crush, Izzy, had the whole nursery to themselves to do puzzle after puzzle together. It was bliss. Afterward, he had his traditional two glasses of church lemonade, and when we got home daddy was there. Isaac squeezed Andrew, planted kisses all over his legs, weaseled a quick game of animal memory cards with him, and then tucked him into bed. He even reminded him to brush his teeth. Then he happily played until daddy woke up. Which brings us to Part II of this post.
Part II: Video games and why I'm slowly giving in
I can't believe I just wrote that line. Yes, me, who has had the video game argument with my husband almost from Isaac's conception. I have always thought that people start their children off on video games too young and then wonder why they are addicted. I wanted to avoid video games for as long as possible in the hope of creating a child completely uninterested in them, but let's face it; I married a Loucks. Video games are the glue that hold my husband and my brothers-in-law together. It's how they spend time together while living states apart. It's how they decompress. It gives them something other than politics and religion to talk about, and that's a good thing. A very good thing.
Ok, I'm stalling with getting to the part where IletIsaacstartplayingvideogames. Oh, sorry. Can't read that? I let Isaac start playing video games. *GASP* He's not even four yet! I know. I KNOW. But this is what I've learned about Isaac in our almost four years together; he's a very visual learner. For weeks I've been eying expensive educational toys on Amazon that would help him learn to recognize patterns, do math, spell, etc. In the meantime, my sneaky and ingenious husband introduced Isaac to http://www.nickjr.com/kids-games/. After reading over Isaac's report card and seeing that he still needs work on his computer/mouse skills, I thought it was a harmless way for the two of them to spend time together and work on something he does in school. What did we discover? Isaac is pretty damn good at math. For some reason, seeing it in a video game made it click for him. Tonight we played Umi City Mighty Math Missions from the Nick, Jr. website. The game covers shapes, colors, matching, patterns, and simple addition. We played the game three times. The first time around, Isaac did not understand the pattern problems at all and I had him count my fingers to do the addition problems. By the third round he completely understood the pattern problems and was doing the math without my help. Andrew and I sat staring at each other in disbelief. He would carelessly blow through the the point collecting sections just to get to the educational sections faster. So my final word on video games is, of course, all things in moderation.... Annnd this mom knows when to give in. I'm giving in.