Thursday, March 13, 2014

Something To Talk About

I've said it before and I'll say it again, parenting is difficult. Imagine how much easier it would all be if babies came with instruction manuals. But unfortunately they don't and all of the self-help books, parenting blogs, and "expert" advise doesn't always provide us with the answers. Usually we have to figure out what makes our children tick all on our own. And because kids are always changing, so is what they think, say, and do. As such, as parents we must change and adapt right along with them.

But much to my surprise (amazement? joy? satisfaction?) I recently unlocked one of the great mysteries about Sidney's current state of being. For Sidney, this move has been more difficult than I ever imaged it would be and he has been acting out in an aggressive manner than is unlike the little boy I know and love. He's also been loud-crying, shouting, and general whining- but most recently he has flat out been refusing to talk. That is, until I ask the right questions and provide the right prompts. Once I do, my little chatterbox starts talking, I listen and respond, and we are able to work our way through his frustrations and unhappiness.

When we first left Albania we made it a point of not talking about what we had left behind. I'm not sure if this was a conscious or subconscious decision on both of our parts but when Sidney would bring up Tirana we would quickly change the subject. In hindsight, I realize that this was a huge mistake. Now, we talk about it regularly and in doing so, Sidney is talking about both his old home and new one. I start the Albania-Belgium conversations as I call them when I see that Sidney is becoming sad, aggressive, or generally non-responsive. (This tends to happen when he is tired so this is a conversation that repeats itself most evenings). I ask the question opening question of "do you miss Tirana?". Tears immediately ensue followed by "yes" being said through blubbering sobs. With Sidney unable to really speak I ask yes or no questions starting out by asking if he misses his nanny. I always get a positive response but I quickly let him know that it is perfectly normal to miss people and things you have left behind and that there are things I also miss about our old home. I also counter his sadness by pointing out that here in Belgium, he attends school rather than staying home with his nanny. And Sidney loves school so the tears ease up a bit and he tells me that yes, he likes going to school and having lots of friends. Score one for Belgium while acknowledging his Albanian past! We go on and talk about the cool playgrounds and other children's amenities that are everywhere and slowly Sidney begins to shed his shell of unhappiness.

Then we talk about our house. I asked Sidney what he liked about the house in Tirana and he tells me that he liked his two rooms (one was a small bedroom and the other was a small play room). I counter by asking if he likes his one big room here and he now says he does. (At first he didn't because he said it was too big and too empty which it was before we had any furniture). And the furniture...shortly after moving into the house we bought Sidney his first bunk bed. But this isn't just any bunk bed; it is a bunk bed with stairs, or as Sidney says "an upstairs bed for Sidney and a downstairs bed for daddy with stairs." He loves his bed and admits that it is better than his two single beds he had in Tirana. By this point we move onto talking about the yard. Just the fact we have any grass is a big deal since in Tirana our yard consisted of a two foot patch of grass with fruit trees growing in it and lots of sharp edged tile. In Belgium, not only do we have a grassy yard but since it is completely walled in Sidney can come and go and play outside as he wishes. He can now freely play T ball or soccer in his own yard rather than in the hallway, or heaven forbid, the street. And I do think Sidney really does like this house. This past weekend while we were out and about Sidney asked to go home to his new house because he liked his new house. Score again!

By this point the tears have usually dried up, the sadness has dissipated, and Sidney has moved on to new thoughts. When it comes right down to it, it isn't Tirana itself that Sidney really misses but rather the way he was able to live there. He loved spending time with his nanny, a caring woman who waited on him hand and foot and never expected him to do anything from himself. (Remember the pasha incident?). He's told me as much himself. Life with just mom and dad is drastically different and I think that is what he is actually having the hardest time adjusting to. We have expectations of rules, responsibility, and growing independence that he just doesn't want to accept at all times. But we talk about this too. Sometimes those conversations go better than others but they are getting easier and less frequent so I count that as progress.

Once again, I'm realizing that talking about it is so much better than keeping it all inside. That is my most recent parenting discovery, it is my new mantra and we're going to keep talking all about it.

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