Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On A Learning Curve

Parenting is hard. Very hard. Parenting my four year old is very very hard. Much harder than I had ever anticipated. Just when I think I have figured out my son's behavior, he goes and changes what he says or does and how he reacts to a situation. You could say he is keeping us on our toes but man are our toes getting tired.

I knew this move would be difficult for Sidney. While this is his third move in his short life, it is the first one where he has lasting memories of the life he left behind. Prior to our move he had talked excitedly about it "being just the three of us everyday" but apparently this novelty has worn off. Six weeks after we left Albania he still asks where Tirana is, when we will go back, proclaims he doesn't want to stay in Belgium all day, and most heartbreaking of all, cries that he lost something. Upon inquiry he states that it is his nene (nanny) that he lost and can't find her. We've done everything we can to comfort and reassure him and some days I feel as though it is enough. But others, I'm not so sure. Fortunately, these verbal proclamations are becoming less frequent but his sorrow is manifesting in other ways that I can neither anticipate nor address.

The crying fits that marked our first few weeks have morphed into loud outbursts of anger or even worse tantrums involving hitting followed by a refusal to speak. I (thought) I had finally figured out how to deal with the crying through lots of hugging and reassuring that it was perfectly natural to be sad and miss our old home. By also pointing out the positives of our new one--and the things he can do here that he couldn't back in Albania-- Sidney is able to focus on the things he likes about Belgium and thus his moments of sadness seem to dissipate as quickly as they appear. (One of my biggest fears about this move however, fortunately failed to materialized. The prospect of Sidney's starting school had given me great angst but after a rather rough first week, Sidney is loving school. Or so he says when he comes home each day. Unfortunately for us, his entire school is on vacation this week and after one day of not going to school he is already asking when he can go back. When we tell him he can return next week he sadly tells me he wants to go back now. I know, most parents can only hope for a child who actually wants to be in school. But for a child who loves routine, a break in his new routine is throwing his already fragile world further askew).

But these recent angry outbursts of his? I have no idea how to handle them. It takes every inch of my being to not react in a negative way. Reminding Sidney that he shouldn't hit is hard to do when he is in the middle of a tantrum and getting too close puts me in the direct line of fire of his flailing fists. When he refuses to speak to me I have no idea how much of what I am saying is getting through or what he is even thinking. Fortunately these angry fits are much shorter and rarer in duration than his crying fits were. And they are always followed by his being remorseful and talking about the things he likes to do here in Belgium. Or, as was the case yesterday afternoon, a request to sit on my lap and "read" his French book on his Leap Pad. I can only hope that this angry phase is short lived............

Yes, being a parent is very hard but being a four year old who has been uprooted from the only life he remembers is equally difficult. At least as a parent I have the maturity and intellectual understanding and an incredibly supportive partner to help me through all of this. A four year old has......his parents. And as his parent, all I can do is be there for whatever phase or curve ball he throws our way. He'll get through this, as will we. And maybe, just maybe, this is all practice for the teenage years. By then we will be pros at this game.


  1. Hang in there. You describe pretty much what my youngest daughter did when we first moved to France (she was 4 also). I wasn't blogging until after we had lived here almost 5 months, so didn't blog about it. We were also taken by surprise, my oldest daughter who was 10 1/2 at the time too most of our energy as she was the most resistant to move and we also knew learning French at her age would be the hardest of her. Everyone kept telling us that our youngest would have the easiest time...WRONG! What we didn't account for - was that like your son, my youngest had experienced daycare and pre-school since birth. She had friends, caregivers and memories - it wasn't just life with mom or dad. She initially looked at our move as an adventure but once here - we had the crying, the tempers (or in her case screaming fits!) and the daily "I want to go back to America!". Not easy, and for us it was a curve ball, but we muddled through...and it gets better. Yes, you are right routine, making friends, school have all helped. I also give you lots of credit for tuning into his needs and understanding - the best advice I can give is just hang in there, keep doing what your doing and adjustment happens over time. Good luck. Thinking of you.

    1. Jennifer- Thank you so much for your comment. It is such a relief to hear that we are not alone in this battle and unfortunately, what Sidney is going through is normal. The logical side of me knows it will get better but every once in a while I find myself wondering whether or not things will improve. That said, now that I am in Belgium, we should meet up!