Y’all, I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate and love this blog and this is one of the main reasons why. Heather may be younger than me but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate her going before me and having the opportunity to have this open dialog with her and learn from her. She is such a great mom. While reading her message to us, all I could picture was Jackson and how similar to Marvell he is. I am not saying I don’t want your advice or her advice. I just don’t want you to approach it as you know better than we do!!! So, thank you Heather for your amazing input and advice. We love hearing from you and I am so happy that you were willing and able to help with the blog.
Jessica & JJ,
First, I just want to tell you both that I am SO HAPPY that you have each other in your parenting journey. I am so happy to hear JJ’s response to you as you are going through these tough moments, and all the emotions that come with it. I believe he is absolutely right and has the best attitude to pull you both through all that you are experiencing right now, because the fact of the matter is, NO ONE knows YOUR child, the way YOU know your child. Period. People can offer great advice, and I truly believe that, “it takes a village”, but at the end of the day, your opinions and decisions are what ultimately matter.
I am not trying to give you advice (hahaha), but I want to share this story with you. I, too, have been raising Very stubborn, strong willed children. (I guess that part comes from me)…. I know that I have shared with you bits and pieces of what I have went through with my son, Marvell, but I want to tell you the full story. I know that every single child is different, but I hope our story offers you HOPE.
Marvell, as a baby, was the best little baby ever. He never cried unless hungry. He was always content. He was sleeping through the night before he was 2 months old. He was ahead of the game with all the different baby milestones. At 20 years old, throughout the first year of being a mother I felt like, wow, this parenting thing is not that difficult at all! After he turned 1 years old, he starting displaying different moods and such (which I expected after reading different parenting books)… I had created a routine for Marvell at night which included playing, giving him a bath, putting his lotion and jammies on, and then I would put him in his crib for him to fall asleep on his own.
When Marvell was 1 and a half, things became more difficult. When it was time for bed, either during the night time routine or right before he knew I was going to put him into bed, he would start screaming uncontrollably. Loud, uncontrollable screaming for hours! This happened more often than not – almost every single night. It got to the point that if I ever had a normal night with Marvell, it felt odd.
From age 1-1/2 until about 2-1/2, he would just scream nonstop for hours before putting him to bed. I remember talking to my mom one night, full of fear and sadness, telling her, “what is wrong with him? This is not normal, something must be wrong with Marvell”… For a whole year, I wondered that same thing over and over again. Why is he screaming for 2 hours straight at night? What am I doing wrong? I remember countless nights singing, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to him over and over again for hours because, some nights, it was the only thing that kept him from screaming. When I would stop singing and quietly try to exit the room, he would start screaming all over again. After a year of this, we moved into a new home and Marvell got his very own room, a “big boy” bed, and he quickly fell in love with it all, and the screaming at night eventually faded.
For the next year after that, from age 2-3, he started to have screaming tantrums throughout the day, instead of at night. At first, I just thought it was a phase that he would get through. (thinking the night screaming was a phase even though it lasted a year) The tantrums kept happening more and more. I couldn’t find any “reason” for him screaming. He wasn’t hungry, sick, or anything else I could think of. He would just scream, for hours. When this first started happening, I would try talking to him, but he wouldn’t listen to anything that I was saying. I tried holding him, & hugging him. He would push me away or throw himself onto the ground and scream louder… There were times that I’d get impatient and I would scream back at him to PLEASE STOP SCREAMING! I remember spanking his butt, in an effort to get his attention or get him to stop screaming, and it just made it worse… I remember crying my eyes out, SO MANY times – thinking I was the most horrible mom in the world. I felt like a failure every single day, and I felt like everyone around me thought I was, too… I thought I must be doing everything wrong, and I never saw another child act the way my child acted. He was an amazing little boy, and acted completely normal most of the time, then the screaming tantrums would come.
After months of going through this, when he would start screaming, I would just put him in a corner and let him scream in the corner, and I would just try to ignore him. He would sometimes be in that corner screaming and crying for hours. I thought maybe he was just seeking attention, but in the wrong way. So, I neglected to give him any attention while he was screaming. After a while, that didn’t seem to work either, and then I felt like he would feel abandoned if I kept doing that, and I would try hugging him again and all the other methods I felt like I already used a million times before….
Remembering those days, I know those were probably the most heartbreaking, discouraging, and intense situations that I have ever experienced as a parent. When Marvell was 3 years old, I brought him to his doctor, because I was thinking something was really wrong with him. There’s so many things that were running through my head. Emotional and behavioral disorders? Autism? Reaction to vaccines? Marvell’s doctor told me that if this behavior continues once he goes to school, we may have to talk about MEDICATION. I was so scared for him, and I was determined that I would do EVERYTHING in my power to avoid those medications. I just did not want that for him. I didn’t even know what was the right thing to do, and I already felt like a failure, but I was determined. One day, he would be screaming in the corner and I would sit next to him and talk to him about him needing to settle down and he only would scream louder. Sometimes, I would walk away, because I felt like I could snap. The next day, I would sit next to him and talk to him, and he would actually calm down. By the time Marvell went into 4K, his screaming tantrums were no longer an everyday thing. They still occurred on occasion, but they were now more far and few in between, and he became very passionate about learning. I started to see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. & for years, I couldn’t even see that light, so talk about relief! It was more than 2 years that I dealt with Marvell’s tantrums and screaming. I’m not talking about the occasional, “normal” toddler tantrum. I’m talking about almost every single night and day, hours of screaming and crying, and nothing seemed to work. It was so discouraging, and I wish I could have whispered into my own ear every single day during those years, “don’t worry, it will be okay, he will be okay, your efforts are working, you’re not a failure – just stay calm and don’t panic, you got this!”….
Back then, I had no idea what was going on with Marvell. Now, I “think” I know EXACTLY what was going on with him. I BELIEVE THAT HE COMPLETELY LACKED CONTROL TO CORRECTLY MANAGE HIS EMOTIONS. I believe that any time his emotional state changed immensely for whatever reason, it became too overwhelming for him to cope with, which ignited the tantrums… (Of course, I am not a doctor, I am actually a college dropout. I am not proud of that, but I’m just saying)… But I know Marvell more than anyone else. Just like you know Jackson more than anyone else!
Also, now that I know myself more than I’ve ever known myself, my theory kind of makes complete sense if Marvell is anything like me, biologically. It took me a very long time to understand my own emotions and manage them correctly. Five years ago, I wasn’t even able to express my emotions at all (in a healthy way)..
Marvell is going to be 8 years old in 5 days. I cannot express to you how much he amazes me, every single day. How much he has changed over the years makes me want to cry joyful tears just thinking about it… Screaming, tantrums, are not even existent anymore at all. He definitely has his moments where he needs immediate and complete guidance, like every child does, but now we are able to sit down and talk about what’s going on with him. He is able to verbally tell me what he is feeling. He is able to identify if he is sad, angry, happy, excited, disappointed, or whatever the case may be, and he is able to tell me why he feels the way he does. We talk. There has been a handful of times in the last year when he has cried to me while telling me what he’s feeling, because he’s going through something quite difficult, and I hug him and tell him that it’s going to be okay and that I am so PROUD of him and happy that he confides in me and allows himself to open up and express himself. (It took me decades to do that!) He gets through it… I just had Marvell’s Parent/Teacher conference, and was reminded by his teacher that he is “very bright”.. I look at his high test scores, and I look at all the 100% grades on his papers, and I’m told that he is respectful and sweet, and a pleasure to have in class. He has overcome SO MUCH!!! I think back to when Marvell was 3 years old, and how I was feeling. If I could have just saved myself from some grief, I would have. It was such a hard time being his mom. Feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling like I’m failing him on a daily basis, blaming myself continuously, worrying about if there was something WRONG with him, or if he may need medication one day, or how I’m going to deal with the screaming because it was hard…
Through whatever Jackson goes through in life, I just don’t want you to feel the way that I did! You are NOT a bad mom. You are NOT a bad dad. You are NOT failing your son. I want you to remember, that every effort that you make trying to help Jackson overcome what he is dealing with, IS WORKING. You might not see the complete results today or tomorrow, or next month. But altogether, it is making a difference. Be confident in yourselves, remember that you know Jackson more than ANYONE ELSE. YOU GOT THIS!!!! “DO YOUR BEST, AND LET GOD DO THE REST”….. Has been my new parenting motto….
That’s why I wanted to write this – to offer Hope to you, and what I have learned in MY experience with my children, not to give you advice or tell you what to do, but to share in case it helps you. I would like to share with you one more thing about a personality trait that I know I have, just in case it helps you. One thing that is very true about me, is that in my immaturity – I was VERY stubborn and something like a “rebel”, & if I trusted you, you were extremely special… Anyone could tell me something, and that didn’t mean I was going to listen or believe them or even trust what they were saying at all. I was that type of child that usually had to experience something on my own in order to believe it. I thought maybe this was something I gained from “nurture” and not “nature”, but I see this same thing in Mya constantly. For one of many examples, about a year ago we were at the tire shop. There was a very large space heater on the ground and Mya walked up to the heater, and I told her that she cannot get too close, because she could get burned. She responds with her favorite line, “Nuh-uh”…. I said, “Mya, if you get too close or touch the heater you can get hurt really bad, so PLEASE stay away. It will burn you.” Within 5 minutes she quickly touches the heater with her finger and starts screaming. Her finger starts to puff up quickly and she’s crying. At that point, I have 3 options. I can shower her with love because she’s hurting. I can leave her in her misery and say, “I told you so” and let her cry off on her own. I chose to do both. I comfort her because she’s in pain, but while I am comforting her I am letting her know that THIS IS WHY I tell her these things. I tell her how much I love her and how much I want to protect her if I am able, and I ask her to please trust me.. I let her know the facts which were, “if you would have listened to me, you wouldn’t have gotten burned”, and then I just put my arm around her for support…. Mya is more stubborn than I think I have ever been. Instances like this have happened way too many times, but I will never give up..
I don’t care if I have to repeat myself more than 1,000 times. Or if I cry myself to sleep feeling overwhelmed. Or if I have to watch my child get hurt because they don’t trust my words. Or if I have to sit down every day, and have the same talk with my children about fighting. I don’t care how many times I have to try different methods for different things and different children. I don’t care about what the situation is, I will never give up on my children. & that’s what makes a good parent.
Nobody is an expert. No child is perfect, and no parent is perfect. We all make mistakes, and we all have our own issues. I believe that if a parent never gives up on their child, they will see their child through whatever situation they are struggling with. DO YOUR BEST AND LET GOD DO THE REST. Remember, no one knows Jackson like you do, and I believe in my heart that you will see him through all the struggles! Love you guys so much!