And it hasn't been as tough as I expected it would be.
For one thing, getting a new front gate has made a huge difference and I feel really good about the amount of time the boys had just mucking around in the back yard together. This summer has really seen the bond fostered between the three of them. Sure, there has been plenty of fighting, but the anger is always fleeting and they really seem to enjoy each other's company.
I reallly, really do love the feeling of having my own little tribe happening. I can't wait to add another person or two to the mix and see even more of a tribal thing happening between them. It's very cool, and so much more like how I imagined family life than how it was with just the two of them.
I got some really good advice the other day about Erik's issues with stealing. I was told he is a 5 personality, numerologically speaking, and fives tend to be exuberant, impulsive and restless (this so very much describes Erik). As teens, fives are the ultimate risk takers - which made me laugh because Erik is my little base jumper; he jumps and goes, "Wow, check out the view, now how am I going to land on my feet?"
This person told me that seeing as he's been stealing from the age of four, something back then happened that has left an empty space in him, that he is trying to fill by stealing stuff (mostly food items which he eats, rather than hords). When Erik was four was when we were in Bendigo, he turned four two weeks before he witnessed me have a seizure on the living room couch and then saw two men come into the house and cart me away in an ambulance, and I was gone for four days, and he could only visit me very briefly when my mum drove Dave and the boys down to Melbourne for day trips. Erik was still breastfeeding at this stage (as was Luey) and so his main source of comfort was gone during that time, a time that was very stressful for him and caused quite a bit of anxiety for a few months to come.
Soon after we uprooted the family and moved back to Upwey. The first week in the new house was very stressful. We were also dealing with a lot of stresses socially for Erik with a disturbing friendship for him with another boy who was well and truly suffering from a lack of boundaries and acted out a lot. I put a lot of pressure on Erik not to play with this child (for fear of the dangerous stuff they got up to together that also put other children in danger), and that was very stressful for him, too.
As well as this, soon after we moved, I forceably toilet trained Erik by refusing to put nappies on him, so he HAD to go to the toilet. He coped well enough with wees, but because he had a fear of pooing on the toilet, he would only poo at night in his night nappy. The stress of withholding his poos would probably have been awful to him.
Dave and I were not doing so well at that time either. We came VERY close to splitting up. Closer than any of my friends or family ever knew. I can't imagine the boys didn't pick up on that, but Luey was only two, and still co-sleeping and breastfeeding all day, so the impact on him was probably a lot less.
Anyway, so I can see now why Erik might have started stealing. It was a way for him to control something, and to comfort himself (with food). It was really a survival skill that he developed to reassure himself that if he was abandoned again (by me), or if he couldn't access comfort (from me or Dave) for some reason, he could care for him, get his own food, etc...
I was told that until he'd healed that hole, the stealing would continue, and other behaviour would continue to evolve from the anger and disgust we show him when he steals from us.
I was told that whenever I wanted to tell him to just get out of my sight (something I've actually said more times than I care to remember) I should instead hug him. I should turn my rejection into loving. That would fill the hole and the stealing would simply disappear.
That may seem like an overly simplistic solution, but yk, it really resonates with me, and what's more, it's allowed me to have so much more compassion for Erik, which cannot be a bad thing. So, I've started to implement this new behaviour in myself. It's not easy, because of all my children, Erik is the one I have the hardest time being affectionate with. I nearly cried hearing this stuff, it is something that breaks my heart this strained relationship with my firstborn.
Anyway, I've seen some really lovely things in Erik this Summer, especially when he is caring for his brother's and being nice to them. He has also been very helpful around the house when I needed help. He really likes to be part of the grown up work, and doesn't often shy away from housework.
Luey, my little big man. These last couple of days, he's been so emotional. Yesterday and today he's thrown a couple of whopper tantrums - one because his birthday this year is on a Tuesday, a weekday, and he wants it to be on a weekend, and he wants a party at DarkZone, but they don't allow kids under 8 in there, and he'll only be 7... I think he's feeling a little bit tense about starting school again the day after tomorrow. Both Dave and I are going to drop the boys off on Wednesday and I'm going to introduce myself to Luey's teacher (it'll be good to have Dave there as he's already met Mrs D.)... Luey got to do some painting today, while Erik was at his best mate's birthday party (at DarkZone, don't you know), and Luey has such an artistic flair! He is meticulous with his work, too. Because Erik is artistic, Luey has kind of ended up in Erik's shadow, but Luey really has his own talent for painting, and a great eye for colour. Something to encourage there.
Bryn's language skills have really benefitted from having the boys home all summer. Today I heard him singing along to the theme tune for Bob the Builder, and he actually had about 90% of the words. I swear, before the holidays he only had about 10% of the words. All day long now, he chatters away in complete sentences and it's really just happened in a big way in the past two weeks I think. I'm very nervous about sending him to daycare even for just three hours a week, from next Tuesday onwards. I'm not a fan of daycare at all and honestly if Jayne wasn't going to be working there and her daughter attending for those three hours, I simply wouldn't do it. I'm hoping that already having people he knows well there will make the difference. It is much more like being part of the village because he'll already know one adult really well - Jayne is really like part of our family, like an aunty to him... Well, anyway, that's how I'm asuaging my guilt over it. That and the fact that I really do feel a need to be involved in the boys classrooms and this will afford me that opportunity.
So, anyway, I can't believe the holidays are almost over. Tomorrow I'm going to cut the boys' hair. They have their new school shoes. They need new pants for winter and new sun hats, but that'll have to wait until next week...
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