Peter and the Wolf, Love-Bombing and Difficult Stages
When we got back home, I had a wonderful time with his post-trip decompressing behaviors. It included a delightful giddy whole face smile and leap into my arms when he woke up in the morning -- just like he used to run to me when he was 14-months-old. Ahhh -- it was so sweet to embrace him and cuddle after such a wonderful greeting. This went on for almost two weeks.
But along with that utter joy to see that I was there was also a request for more help doing things he is more than capable of doing. This included laying his clothes out so he could get dressed, requests to fill his water cup, reminders to do things he has been remembering on his own for a year.
We didn't pander to him, but we did provide the extra little supports. We avoided power struggles by pro-actively helping with clothes, bringing in more water and just being a little busier and cheerier. But the helplessness has been continuing and it has been three weeks and we wonder if it's getting a bit worse. This morning he wanted us to get him his toothbrush and he spent about 20 minutes trying to make that happen. We had already said we wouldn't do that and, to our credit, we stick to our words, but still we wondered what this new helplessness is all about and if we should stick to our guns and insist he do what he's capable of or humor him a bit longer.
Then, this afternoon we received a book order in the mail. In it was Peter and the Wolf with the accompanying music. I began reading the book and soon realized that this was perhaps not okay. My boy gets scared reading Ferdinand and The Three Bears. Everything that has any conflict is stressful these days. He's fascinated by the books and he returns to them again and again and he incorporates them into his play (always as the bad guy), but none of them have the same scary real life feel as Peter and the Wolf.
The wolf chases after the duck and the duck does not get away. My son, standing up and backing away, horrified and about to break into tears said, "Maybe the duck will come back." I didn't think this would be the case so I tried to say matter-of-factly that wolves do eat ducks and ducks eat other things and this is how it is. He said he didn't like wolves and wanted me to confirm none live near us. "They do," I said, "But they won't bother us or our dog. They're just out hunting for their food like rabbits and ducks."
We continued on with the book and as we did, I wondered if what I was doing would be too traumatic for him, but thankfully this version has a kinder ending than the original and the wolf is taken back to the woods and the duck escapes from his stomach after squawking and flapping and causing stomach distress. All's well that end's well, but the book was still pretty stressful.
And then I put on the CD, the real reason I bought the book; I wanted to introduce my boy to the stories of classical music. I expected him to get scared while he paged through the book along with the CD, so I sat close watching him, but he didn't. He inhaled and tensed up a bit, but overall he stayed calm as he looked at the pictures and listened to the story.
And then the second time through the CD, he began to act it out, dancing and running about. His sister said she was the cat. My son said I was Peter. And then my son announced that he was the wolf. The wolf! Just like that. The one animal he told me he did not like at all and now this is the animal he has become.
And that brings me back to his helplessness.
I think my kiddo is doing a supercharged learning curve in the world of emotions and self-regulation and imagination and pretend and real life possibilities. I think he is grappling with so much cognitively that he needs to be reminded that he is still our little baby boy and we are right here to take care of him and keep him safe.
So with that, I will continue to lay out his clothes when he asks and provide extra help getting dressed and extra long snuggles in the morning (that's never an issue) and just attend to the little boy who is still a little boy while at the same time a big boy grappling with very big boy stuff. It's kinda like the hug my grandmother gave my mom. When the world is alright, then we can move forward and be okay.