Wyatt is an absolutely brilliant kid. It isn't so much what he knows, but rather how he thinks that consistently amazes me. Granted, he can rattle off all kinds of trivial knowledge about anything related to the animal kingdom, but most kids can retain all sorts of information that revolves around their passions. Rather, I'm astounded by his problem-solving ability, along with his mind for engineering. He is forever inventing really complex contraptions...albeit in his mind...and relaying to me his desires to construct them in real life. He is also quite apt at logical debate. He comes by that little nugget naturally from his Vulcan father (if you've met Jason, you'll appreciate that oh-so-accurate description). I can barely argue my way out of a wet paper bag, so this is truly a source of misery for me.
Basically, Wyatt likes to argue and debate. A lot. He takes absolutely nothing at face value. Nothing. Sometimes this is a wonderfully positive attribute, as he continues to ask prodding, in-depth questions about a subject which he is trying to comprehend fully. Just last night at dinner, he was asking his Dad about Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden. He knew that while in Eden, every need was provided, and that after they were banned, they had to work the ground for their food. So he wanted to know how they built their house. Did they invent axes and saws and construction tools? How did they know how to make and form metal? How did they know how to build a house? Did they have to invent shovels and gardening tools for cultivating their food? It went on and on. And it was awesome to witness. I could not have been more proud of his mind at work.
Having him pick apart every command you ever give him and question your authority over him on a perpetual basis, however, is anything but awesome. In moments of mental weakness, I will banter back and forth with him a bit, but those exchanges almost always end with an exasperated, "BECAUSE I'M THE MOM AND I SAID SO!" Not an entirely effective discipline tactic, and for sure not one that builds respect in either direction. And...it doesn't stop him from the interrogation or behavior.
Over the years, we've tried all kinds of discipline, most of which fall decidedly short of being effective. Once, for a particularly egregious moment of defiance, I confiscated every item within our entire house that was his, locking it into the spare bedroom. Every toy, every game, every EVERY thing. All he had was his bed. No tv or video games, either. All he had left was his library of books...and me. Two weeks passed, and he never asked for a single thing out of that room. Nor did he ever attempt to open the door. He was content to read, draw, and play with me...or rocks and sticks. So...that didn't work.
Time outs are kind of weak, too, although he really hates being isolated to his room, so from time to time, it's just what the doctor ordered. But I use time outs more for a cooling-off method than discipline. Spankings only work when they're from Dad, and I can count on one hand how many times that's ever happened. Those are monumentally effective, but a last resort for behavior that is detrimental to his or others' safety.
So, you can see where I've been at a loss. Until a few weeks ago, when I saw his report card. Straight A's on every subject except handwriting. Several factors beyond his control are behind this particular struggle; I have partnered with his teacher and an OT for ideas to strengthen his hand muscles and improve his fine motor skills. But the best medicine is practice. Which he loathes.
I honestly don't want to turn something he desperately needs to do into a punishment. I've been encouraging him to write in a journal somewhat regularly, and I do my best to keep a positive attitude when he's plowing through his homework. I reassure him that I'm not looking for perfection, but I want him to do his personal best. Most of his assignments are rather brief, so I have to supplement his handwriting practice anyway. So it hit me a couple of weeks ago that perhaps he should be writing affirmative declarative statements in reference to the behaviors I want to see out of him. And scripture that supports those statements. So that he knows I ain't just blowing hot air out of my nose holes. It's effective, I promise you. The contrition I've seen over the past several days is the most sincere I've ever seen from him. The devastation over a misstep that results in sentence-writing is evidence that I finally found his soft spot.
I don't pretend to have all of the answers. I rarely know what I am doing. This whole Motherhood gig is way harder than I ever imagined it would be. Sometimes, I wonder if I am the only Mom making it up as I go...throwing stuff at the wall to see if it sticks. I wonder if I'm the only Mom who loses my temper too much and yells when I should just count to ten instead. If I'm the only one who feels horrific guilt for not getting it all right. At the end of every day, I replay every interaction in which I coulda, woulda, shoulda, and beat myself up. All I want is for Wyatt to know how loved, how cherished he is. I don't expect perfection...he's only seven for crying out loud...so why can't I remember that in the moments that matter? Why don't I show him grace instead of losing control of my emotions?
At the beginning of this year, I rededicated my focus. God and my family...the Mister and Pooky...get more of me than anyone else. I have removed as many distractions as I can from my path....I reduced my facebook friends list significantly to limit its draw, I've uninstalled that app from my phone, I've committed to being fully present when with other humans (no phone or computer time when I have a person with me!), I've started turning down invitations to things that take time away from my directive, I restructured my photography business so that I can work less hours, and I've been seeking God's guidance. I bought copies of The Love Dare books...both the one for marriage and the one for parents...and I've been reading them simultaneously. With the time I have set aside for myself, I have been spending more time with friends who are edifying and help to build me up in Christ, and who hold me accountable. And most of all, I thank the good Lord that His mercies are new every morning. Things are slowly changing for the better. I am a major work in progress. But He who started a good work in me promises to see it through to completion. And I believe Him.