Tyler is quickly approaching a difficult phase in his development. He has his first small cluster of pimples. He grows more surly and disagreeable by the day. His tolerance for his younger brother has all but vanished. Sometimes they play together so nicely, but most of the time I have to intervene to prevent a murder. If they both survive this transition, it will be a miracle.
In just over a week, Tyler will become a tween. Folks think teens are hard. No argument there! But this stage has it's own challenges. He feels too old for many things yet is too young for many others. He is frustrated by these limitations. Adults expect more from him based on his age but at the same time are always telling him "you are too young to understand."
Add in Tyler's own personal challenges (Autism Spectrum diagnosis) and you have the impasse I have currently reached. Most days I am able to talk him off the virtual ledge he seems to be perpetually teetering on. Other days, I regret to say, we resort to good old fashioned yelling and "go to your room and cool off!"
He has a bad habit of teasing his little brother and treating him with emotions ranging from disinterest to down right loathing. He picks and pokes until there is a final straw moment where even my sweet happy-go-lucky littlest goes off the deep end. In that instant I get the patented Tyler response of, "Mom! Max attacked me for no reason! I just touched his balloon and he punched me in the stomach!" Or some variation thereof.
Do I really have to repeat to Ty all the things he has done to Max all morning long to push him to this desperate act? Apparently so. Tyler seems to forget all those little pricks and prods, comments and asides, insults and injuries. Max doesn't. He can take a lot of abuse and shake it off. But everyone has their limits.
Max is a sensitive and intuitive little kid, but he is only just turned 6. He is entitled to his own emotions and he will stand up to his big brother fearlessly (then run for his life.) I can't expect him to understand everything Tyler is dealing with. Why Max has to leave the room to eat his tuna. Why he can't turn on so many lights. Why he has to wear headphones to play his games or watch videos on his computer. Why Tyler will just walk into the room and change his channel on the TV without asking. OK. That last one might just be rude. *wink*
Tyler senses that things are easier for Max. People like him, are drawn to him, and cater to him. Tyler, on the other hand, can be abrasive, stand-offish, rude, and off-putting. People tend to notice that sort of thing and, over time, are less inclined to want to spend time around him. His grandparents are a prime example. Tyler complained this weekend that his grandmother was giving Max things to eat but he was starving. Tyler felt neglected and ignored. He wasn't, really. She did ask him several times if he wanted various things, but he only half paid attention or said no. She doesn't know that we spend endless time each day offering him various things until he finally tells us what he wants to eat. If you don't take that kind of time to push him, I guess he sees it as you not caring about his welfare.
I get tired of making excuses for/defending his behavior and trying to explain to family. I often feel our parenting skills are under attack. I get comments like "you should punish him more" or "you shouldn't let him talk/act that way" and many more. It makes me sad that people can't just love Ty for who he is. Why does he have to fit in your box in order to be loved? He's just a kid who wants to be "normal" and loved. It shouldn't be this hard, for either of us.
So, back to the challenges of being a tween. Yes, I have relaxed a couple rules and given Tyler more freedom. He needs to know I trust his judgement and I want to encourage his future independence. But at the same time, he needs boundaries. He can't do whatever he wants, when ever he wants. Ah the never ending battle of parenthood. Finding that balance.
Right now, I am off balance. I hope to find it again soon. Maybe I need to spend more time talking with other parents of kids with special needs. I could use some advice from someone who has been there and done that. I have a few friends with kids on the spectrum, but their kids are all younger than Ty. I'll have to work on this, I think.