Wednesday, September 3, 2008

insomniferous straits

No insights today, only puzzled, confused thoughts.

Raising a son sure is tough. Growing up as a boy, I sure gave my own father a lot to be proud of, but I also gave him a lot of headaches and grief. Back then, I never appreciated his being a great role model for me, for spending all that time with me, and especially for his firm discipline when I deserved it but didn't want it. And boy did I get the whippings, mostly across my hands as I tried to shield my sorry but from the leather belt, but the lashings eventually found their mark, and I was left in my room to drown in my tears and reflect on why I deserved it. The whole "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you," was about the most fallacious claim I ever heard my dad make. Today, I know the pain he felt back then, and I snicker quietly inside as I repeat those words as I prepare to administer the corporal punishment to my own son thirty years later.

Yes, I AM old school discipline. "Beatings worked for me, so they're good enough for my kids," is a point of view that has received criticism for its myopic outlook and cruel nature. As a teacher for a decade now, I have seen a progressive "softening" of today's children, as the rod has been spared, and children have been spoiled to the point of diminishing marginal utility (rotten.) It is so taboo to spank children. Although it is still LEGAL to paddle obstreperous, recalcitrant, and unruly students in school, very, very few still do out of fear of litigation or reprisal. I WISH I had the courage to do it myself, because the mere reputation of one who uses the paddle would surely reduce my necessity to use it . . . but I've had a few students in the past who have certainly deserved it, those students who know that my only recourse was to hold them in really low esteem.

Which brings me back to my own current parental predicament. I have a GREAT son who is so passionate and compassionate, a son who is so off-the-charts GT that he is not only very difficult to tolerate at times, but who is flat-out annoying, especially when he refuses to follow directions, orders, laws, etc. He is so headstrong, he thinks, beneficently of course, that his ways are perfectly valid, if not superior to those of us who have 25 years on him (my gosh, I'm describing myself . . . .) As his dad, I try to encourage him to pursue his strengths and to work on his weaknesses. In fact, I tell him this repeatedly, over and over again, until I'm blue in the face . . . . and he simply doesn't do it. Sound familiar?

Well, for the most part, his actions and "violations" are of little consequence. I've learned to live with a colorful array of vegetables stuffed inside the rice casserole simply because it "made a good garnish." I've learned to live with his incessant humming and singing, mostly of Hannah Montana songs. He very seldomly does anything that warrants a spanking, but when he does, he earns it 10-fold.

Unlike my own father, I never use a belt. The terror of the leather straps snapping together is unnecessary, as well as the giant welts from the ordeal. Instead, I use my own hand, which gives a new meaning to "hurting me more than it hurts him." But LIKE my father, I always discuss the infraction prior to the administration. I make sure he knows that the beating . . . err disciplining is a logical consequence of his actions. He's OK with them. He never puts his hands in the way, which would only look like an awkward "high-five" and a seeming approval of it on his part. I seldom have to discipline on this level for the same offense more than once.

Lately, though, he has not exhibited the same "learning behavior" so prevalent in the past. At issue is sleeping upstairs by himself in his own bed--he simply cannot, and will not do it! His mother and I are guilty of allowing him in the past to sleep downstairs in our bedroom, the only bedroom downstairs. We noticed early on in the house that he sleepwalked a lot. We attributed it to his over-active brain and as isolated incidents. As they occurred more and more often, we became concerned for his safety. When we caught him in the darkened living room at 3 in the morning laughing out loud at a TV program that was playing on a television that wasn't even turned on, with his eyes WIDE open, we started to freak out a bit. Since then, we've let him sleep on the small mattress we have set up next to our bed. Some nights, he'd climb up into our bed. He NEVER sleepwalked when we did this. He was much more at rest and at ease. His brain told him he was in a safe place.

This has been going on for 5+ years.

Now that he is 8, and in 3rd grade, we have been trying to rationalize with him about his irrational fears of the dark, of upstairs, of isolation, of whatever. He TOTALLY understands it in his brain, but he leads with his heart, with his emotions. He simply cannot sell himself on the pragmatism of the logic. Consequently, we have been in constant battle over it. A father who wants his son to "suck it up" be brave and overcome his fears and inhibitions, and a son who wants nothing more than to be in closer proximity to us, preferably snuggling with his mother. A Catch-22 no doubt. His mother and I have run the gamut of trying to dissuade, discourage, and deter this behavior, to no avail. He hasn't responded to fineness, force, or other.

Which has me thinking: Is this normal? Will he grow out of this? Will he sleepwalking and crawling into bed with us when he's a senior in high school?

As a parent, I like knowing where he is at all times, but the current arrangement leaves very little to the imagination. I almost wish he'd break my grandmother's heirloom piece of China just so I can get back to the type of easy parenting I can handle, but until then, I'll keep losing sleep from wrestling with the problem and the 8-year knees and elbows in my back.


Anonymous said...

Our daughter used to sleepwalk/talk in her sleep as well. It was very disconcerting. It all pretty much ended after she had her tonsils removed. Seems she was not getting enough oxygen because of the tonsils obstructing her airway. Having them removed solved the problem. Have you consulted a pediatrician? It might be more physical than mental.

Dmac said...

If you figure this out,please share. We are having similar panic from my 6 year old when we ask him to get anything out of his room when no one is on that side of the house, no matter how great the reward or consequence. But the boy will pick up any reptile he finds no matter how large it is. Paralyzing irrational fear. Can't figure it out.
He lost a tooth two weeks ago and got a little freaked out at the possibility of having the tooth fairy come put her hand under his pillow that night. He asked permission to sleep with his light saber, but we decided to write her a letter asking her to leave it in the living room, rather than risk her losing a wing with one swing of the saber.

kwkorpi said...

Thanks for the advice. He has had strep throat his fair share of times. Perhaps if this "stage" doesn't pass, we'll check out the tonsil idea.

dmac, isn't that funny about boys? My son will play with big dogs, wander into my workshop an work with saws (supervised), and seems fearless and tough in other respects. He even loves the dark . . . as long as it's not upstairs.

The situation HAS gotten a bit better since his sister has begun sleeping upstairs with him. We still have to go up and "check" on him at his request every 15 minutes. If we go over by a minute a two, he's back downstairs asking when we're coming. Some nights this goes on for hours.

I still don't think he's getting near enough sleep at night, though.