I’ve started reading “Raising Your Spirited Child” and it’s like someone’s turned on the lights. I can finally see what is right in front of me. My child. I see him from a whole new perspective.
I am also realising that I too could be described as spirited, which explains why I react the way I do to the behaviours he exhibits. Of course, the same characteristics can also be explained by anxiety. There is a lot of “is it this or that?”ing in my self-reflections.
Spirited children (and adults because, well, children grow up) are particularly intense. They feel things more deeply and react more strongly. A small inconvenience will mildly annoy most people, who will then move on with their lives. A spirited person will feel a seething rage inside and rant/tantrum about it for an hour. Anyone who has experienced a delayed train with me can vouch for this one.
Caide and I must absolutely finish whatever we are doing before moving on to the next activity. He must finish his episode/puzzle/tower/jumping etc before he will move on to something else, or he will lose the plot.
So do I.
If I am in the middle of something and a baby cries, the phone rings (not that I plan on answering it anyway) or someone asks me to do something else I can’t cope. I have to finish mopping the floor before I can go to the baby, answer the phone etc. (Unless it is a “serious” cry obviously, I don’t leave my baby in pain/danger etc, but I’ll be thinking about that floor while I cuddle him).
To help myself with this aspect of my persoanlity I break tasks down into smaller chunks. “Clean the bathroom” becomes “clean toilet”, “clean bath”, “clean sink”, “clean tiles”, “clean windowsill”, “clean mirrors”, and “clean potty”. It helps me leave a task unfinished without feeling (too) overwhelmed.
For Caide I give him a warning. “Last episode then it’s lunchtime”, “we’re going to the post office after you finish that puzzle,” etc. Then he knows the current activity is about to end, and what’s going to happen next, ahead of time. It (usually) helps.
Overly sensitive (but not in an SPD sort of way) to sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. I have an Asperger’s diagnosis in part because of this. And Caide has been putting his hands over his ears a lot lately. And has always seemed to get generally overstimulated in busy places.
This sensitivity extends to other people’s moods. Spirited kids often act out more the more stressed their parents get. Caide definitely does this. And I’ve noticed that my mood can change (up or down) when Phil gets home, depending on his mood.
They notice everything. Everything. “What’s that noise Mummy?” “What noise?”. “Look bird Mummy!” “What bird?” “What’s that Mummy?” “What?” Picks up tiny piece of plastic from between two blades of grass, “This!”
It makes decision-making difficult because every possibility, with its pros and cons, is visible all at once. And well, I changed University course 3 times. I can’t even decide what to have for dinner. And we have a meal plan.
This is a big one for me. I am not at all adaptable. I like being at home. If I am anywhere else I want to go home. If something changes my routine I literally want to give up on the entire day. Recently I’ve noticed that a change of routine is probably necessary to prevent the period from 2-5/6pm that is basically a perpetual tantrum. But I haven’t yet made a single change.
It’s hard for me to tell if Caide is adaptable since I never change anything about his environment or routine.
But adaptability includes adapting from awake to asleep, which we both suck at, and asleep to awake, which I definitely suck at, Caide less so.
Eating/sleeping/pooping at the same times each day. Nope. I’ve always hated mealtimes. I’m either ravenously hungry by 10am or can completely forget to even have lunch. I can finish dinner and be hungry an hour later. I can have no appetite for dinner and eat 3 bowls of cereal an hour later.
Caide too is difficult at mealtimes. Sometimes he sits and eats and I’m surprised to look up and find he’s finished. Sometimes he just arses about and it’s WW3 to get him to stay at the table, or even in the kitchen. Maybe this is why.
Ok, here is where me and Caide differ vastly. I am very much on the “can sit for hours at a time and not step foot outside the house for weeks and be fine” side of things and Caide is on the more spirited “does not stop ever and needs regular fresh air and exercise, like a dog” side of things.
He exhausts me.
Spiriteds are either all-or-nothing here. Either jumping right in over-enthusiastically to a new situation, or hanging back, wary, immediately saying no to any hint of a suggestion of doing something new. There’s no “healthy skepticism followed by giving it a go” here.
Caide and I both fall on the wary side of things for this one. My immediate reaction is to say no to any suggestion of doing anything outside my routine or trying something new, even if I want to do it. Caide also does this.
Generally more serious and analytical, seeing the flaws in things and improvements that could be made. Even if the experience was overall a positive one.
Honestly I think we’re just setting each other off. He reacts strongly to something then I react strongly to his strong reaction and before we know it we’re both screaming and/or crying.
I don’t want it to be like this.
I’m hoping this book has the answers.