My son has been kidnapped and replaced with some kind of highly energised, relentlessly obnoxious alien being.
Which may sound overly dramatic, but on some days- like today- certainly feels true.
It came to my direct attention after a few weeks of school. My sweet little man had picked up some seriously annoying speech and habits. Mild mannered swearing. (Poo. What is it with the word ‘poo’?) Playground games. (“Chop!!” I yell after he slams his shoe down on his sisters bare foot. “What?” He is thoroughly confused. “That’s how you play Footsies!”). And just a general rough and tumble, testosterone-fueled harshness in his demeanor that’s never been there before.
“Maybe he’s just settling in”, I told myself. “Perhaps he is just tired.”
The school holidays- marked by ten long days of solid noise and almost continual confrontation- seemed to solidify this slightly obnoxious boy-ism as just another part of his evolving, kaleidoscope personality.
I know it’s probably natural, just a ‘boy thing’. Something that I wouldn’t even be aware of, I think, if his dad was still around. For the last two years, the Chop has had very few rough and tumble male influences in his life. That’s okay- it evidently hasn’t hurt him. It’s just that the emergence of this side of his personality has taken me by surprise, happening all at once rather than through the slow osmosis of continual exposure.
Curbing his behaviour, deciding and managing appropriate punishments… that’s become more difficult. How many times can I send him to this room, before it reaches a point where it simply begets more stress, more pent up energy resulting in more frustrated outbursts? (The answer to that would be, roughly, a few hundred before we move onto iPad and TV restrictions. Which work just as well.)
One day during the seemingly endless school holidays, my son was in complete bored five year old mode- tearing around the house, jumping on couches, harassing his sister with nonsensical rules to complicated make-believe games, and generally being, in the politest terminology I can think of, completely feral. There was no physical violence, no losing control, no real danger of hurting himself… nothing that required refraction beyond a verbal reprimand (“Stop… being… annoying!” was met with maniacal laughter and a HotWheels car zooming past my feet); and I was not, for reason of my own mental health and sanity, restricting TV privileges on a day like today.
So I, half-jokingly, instructed him to come outside and presented him with a rake, which I used to mark out a four foot long, two foot wide stretch of browned and fallen leaves in our backyard. “Rake these,” I told him. I expected him to thoroughly object, and I certainly wouldn’t have pushed it… the idea of forcing a five year old to rake leaves as punishment seems a little bit… Edwardian, maybe?
But he didn’t object. He took to his task, finished, and then resumed playing with the Bump. That frenzied edge of energy had been burnt off. Total win. It’s become the ultimate technique for those days when his energy is just too big for the house.
And thank the gods, school is back in session as of now. Next holidays, I’m planning to be significantly more prepared.