Today was pretty momentous. I had New Kid again, and he was good. Quite good. See, the crying / clinging / screaming / calling-for-mommy-on-an-imaginary-phone behaviour had stopped, to be replaced with hitting / kicking / punching / shoving / face-pinching / toy stealing. The other kids didn’t want to play with him. I found him very difficult to like. My niece was afraid of him (she seemed to take the brunt of his abuse). Coupled with the inevitable physical weakness of early pregnancy, it was a bad combination.
But we were working on it together, his mom and I, and gradually we saw improvement. Two weeks ago today was his best day yet – he was so well-behaved that I even allowed him to play in the backyard with the other “big kids” while I stayed inside and tended to the babies. I honestly thought we had turned a corner.
His next scheduled day was a Monday, a holiday, so his mom & I arranged that he should come on Tuesday instead. Tuesday morning his dad called and canceled, saying New Kid was sick. Always painfully aware of oncoming plagues, I asked what he had so I could watch for it in the other kids. “Oh,” says dad, “he had the sniffles when he got up this morning. He needs more TLC than you can give him, so I’m keeping him home”.
All of this meant that a week went by between his visits, so when he came back last Thursday, he was horrible. He went into time-out so many times I lost count (and I’m sure it lost all meaning). The oldest kid, a sweet guy who is the natural leader and also the peacemaker, lost his temper with him after New Kid squeezed his cheeks for the 50th time. His behaviour was oddly deliberate for a three-year-old, too – he just kept doing mean, hurtful things to the other children and then standing back to see what I’d do.
It was an exhausting day, and by the end of it I had pretty well made up my mind to fire New Kid. Until he goes to full time in the fall the money isn’t great, and I really don’t see why I should have to be the one that socializes this child. If his parents (dad especially) can’t see the importance in getting him here regularly so he can adjust to our routines and the other kids, there isn’t a whole lot more I can do to help make his time here pleasant for him or the rest of us.
So when his mom came to pick him up, we sat and had a long talk. She admitted that her husband thinks I am the problem, because since he’s been coming here New Kid’s home behaviour has deteriorated as well. He believes that his son is learning these undesirable behaviours from the kids here, and wants to pull him out altogether. She also told me that on the “sick day”, the child wasn’t sick at all – but that he did some exaggerated coughing in front of dad, who then immediately told him he had to stay home and get better.
I do not want to be the rope in this particular game of tug o’war, but… so. I thought it over and came to the conclusion that the continued lack of consistency & regularity in his visits here is a big part of the problem that I can control. I agreed that we would keep on, but that they would need to increase his time to three days a week as soon as The Baby leaves (Friday is his last day). I thought that would be the breaking point, but they agreed.
Which brings us back to today – a better day all around, for everyone. Only one time-out, and he knew right away *why* he was there without me having to tell him (a huge step for this kid). When it was over, he apologized to the child he had hurt without my prompting him. He was very pleasant and when his dad came to pick him up, Kiddo didn’t burst into tears immediately but instead gave me a high-five and told me to have a nice weekend.
I hope we get there. I hope we can keep the momentum going. I want to like him – he’s a funny little guy, he’s got some hilarious facial expressions and I think he wants to be good – so I’m going to keep trying.
I just hope I can get things sorted out before the snow flies.