It's been one of those days. The kind where you want to go sit in a dark room and contemplate your very existence. And if that dark room happens to have a bubble bath and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon - even better! Because some days leave me wondering if everything I think is true is really just a misinterpretation of facts that I have gotten so comfortable with that I stopped paying attention.
I have a child who is...ahem...difficult. When he was very tiny he started showing signs of having a temper. He is now nineteen months old and the temper is going strong. I'm not talking about the "Terrible Twos". I'm not talking about an occasional fit. I'm talking about having major temper tantrums involving kicking, biting, flailing, and screaming every time some tiny thing doesn't go exactly his way. It's all day, every day. And I'm exhausted. We've tried every discipline tactic you can imagine - short of chaining him to a wall in a dungeon - with very few positive results. He takes his punishment and then he goes right back to doing whatever got him in trouble in the first place.
So for the past several months I have wondered if there could be something "wrong". Could he have some sort of learning disability? Could he be on the autism spectrum? I've talked to friends and family about ways to work with him and I keep being told to contact ECI and get him evaluated, but I don't see any developmental delays (unless you count him being so stubborn he refused to walk until he was 18 months old) so I haven't done that yet. I wanted a doctor's opinion.
Today we went to a new doctor for his 18 month well-child checkup. (Yes, we're a month behind. New insurance is a PAIN.) I had my list of questions for the doctor and I talked while he listened. Then he said what I assumed he would say. "Toddlers are feisty. It's too early to tell if there's anything really going on in the behavioral or social areas; we'll have to wait and see. Just keep up the loving discipline. Etc. Etc. Etc.". I agreed with him to an extent, but I also felt a little dismissed. In my head this voice was screaming "You don't understand! It's NOT just Terrible Twos! Don't write me off as a weak parent!".
And then the doctor did his physical exam.
And my kid has a raging double ear infection and a throat is that bright red and inflamed.
I'm the parent who missed that their kid is sick.
To his credit, the doctor was very nice and assured me that some kids don't show symptoms of ear infections and he could've just developed it yesterday for all we know and that I shouldn't feel bad. But it was what he said next that bothers me. He said "When I look at him I just see a little guy that doesn't feel good".
It bothers me because that's not what I see when I look at him. I mean, it is now. Now it's painfully obvious. But I was so busy trying to correct his behavior that I missed the simple fact that he was trying to cope with being sick. I think back through the last nineteen months and I realize that we have basically gone from diagnosing acid reflux to weaning off reflux medicine when he outgrew it to diagnosing reactive airway disease and working through learning about breathing treatments to flu season to allergy season. And maybe, just maybe, he has spent the majority of his short little life struggling to keep up despite feeling crappy 90% of the time. And I missed that. And now the doubt starts swirling in my head. Satan starts whispering in my ear and I start beating myself up for all the things I'm not.
I wish I could tell you that I have a profound revelation from God about all this, but right now I don't. Right now I'm tired and frustrated and disappointed in myself. I think that's where you come in. Surely I'm not alone in this, right? Surely there is someone out there whose kids are grown; someone who has been-there-done-that-has-the-T-shirt and can tell me how they used to feel the same way? Or maybe a few of my fellow Moms Of Toddlers Club members that can just throw me a comment like "yep, sometimes I suck too but my kid isn't institutionalized yet"?
What do you think?