I'll give you a bit to back story here. Since Maximilien started school Julien and I noticed that he hasn't been a very good listener in the sense he doesn't obey or follow instructions from either of his parents. For things that are dangerous (ie. stopping at a cross walk, trying not to look out the window in our 6th floor apt, etc) he is pretty good about listening to us. But when it comes to the things at home like eating dinner, or playing with his food. Hitting or teasing his sister. BREAKING THINGS! It seems like he is incapable of listening to us. Or just defies us completely and does the opposite. Then outside of the home he doesn't listen to his teachers at school (a big problem he had this year) or his grandmother and he doesn't listen to Mama at the tea house.
The latter is what fueled this blog post because I am sort of at my wits end (doesn't happen often but it's that time of the month so I feel at my wits end) and need some perspective, advice, ideas, dialogue on this subject... something.
Today, I took Max with my to the tea house while I worked for two hours from noon to 2pm. Max is old enough now he can go to the bathroom alone and there are lots of fun things to do at the tea house to keep himself busy. I make sure he's got a lot of choices of things to do while I'm working. I like having him there, he loves being there and my customers really like seeing Max. And before someone says it because I know someone who doesn't really know me is going to say it, not bringing Max to the tea house is not an option. It's a part of our lives including his. Just wanted to clear that up before going into the today's story. So, I prepared Max before arriving to L'OisiveThé today by explaining to him that we were going to arrive to the tea house and have lunch together then he could have a dessert of his choice. I had brought lots of activities for him to play with including Legos, coloring books, movies on my iPad and not to mention all the books and toys that are already at L'OisiveThé. He agreed that he would play and understood that I had customers to take care of. That's how he sees me when I'm working, taking care of people. :) Upon arriving he did exactly THE OPPOSITE of what we had agreed on. He ran around yelling, did not eat his lunch, insisted on dessert, played loudly, bothered people and the list goes on... One rule I have set is he can't cross the gold line into the kitchen. There is a marker on the floor that designates the kitchen and the main room of the tea house. He has respected this rule since he was 18 months old. I have clear memories of him being Alixe's age pointing at the floor and not crossing into the kitchen showing me he understood the rule. But today it was like he didn't even care. And the two things that really got my upset was that I had told him at least 7 or 8 times not to push on the table with his feet. The tables at the tea house tip over if you push them a certain way. All the tables are like this, I can't get around it. Max has tipped the table over twice I can remember just buy pushing with his legs. I reminded him of this and he told me over and over again, "Ok, Mommy". But then within in seconds of telling me that I see him pushing the table again with his legs! Finally I pulled his chair out (mind you in the middle of lunch service) and turn it around and face him towards the window. I told him he is in time out (I hate this term) and he has to sit like this until he can explain to me why I am angry. Now, he is angry at me! He is pouting and he keeps turning around to see if I see he is pouting. After a minute or so I go to him and put my arm around him and we talk. I asked him why he is mad at me and he says he isn't mad at me but mad because he can't listen!
Can you believe that?
I smile and told him I don't know what to say to that except I love you. I let him go back to coloring. He sat and colored for a good 15-20 minutes before he started to tip the table again with his feet.
I ask him to get up and go play on the floor because he can't listen to me about not tipping the table with his feet. He tells me that he will listen and that he wants to keep coloring. I let him stay in his seat and the tipping of the table stopped. Another ten minutes pass and I ask him if he wants a snack or something and he says he wants to watch Alice in Wonderland. I agree and let him use my iPad to watch the movie. I set up everything and told him not to touch the iPad on the table. He agrees. Five minutes into the movie he starts to tip the table AGAIN! I just looked at him from the kitchen (mind you I am like three feet away) and he sees that I see him tipping the table. He stops. (trying to get my attention? Totally) I go to serve the last customers their coffee. We are 5 minutes from leaving the tea house to go home and then I hear a crash. The table tips and my iPad and everything on the table goes flying onto the floor. There sits Max with a look of utter shame as everyone looks at him.
I am angry. I'm angry because he can't listen to me. He tells me that it's "plus fort que lui". It's stronger than he is.... what? The urge to not listen to me?
I can't talk to him in this moment. He sits still and watches as I pick up everything and pack our things to go. I tell him to put his boots on and get his coat. He does this without delay. We put the coat on and go outside. I ask him once we are away from the tea house if he knew why I was mad? He told me because he had dropped my iPad on the floor.
Then I feel rage. Rage because he doesn't understand at all. He doesn't understand that I am angry because he doesn't listen to me. I am not a material person things like breaking my iPad will make me mad but this anger I feel is different. It's like this hot, white frustration emanating from my core. I say nothing to him in this moment. Grab his hand and walk like a crazy mother dragging her kid behind her. Though I'm not dragging him he's just running a bit to keep up. I am not proud of this. I also happen to cross paths with three people I knew and they witnessed my crazy rage walk with Max. Gah, I feel ashamed.
After a few minutes he starts to talk to me and ask for ice cream (!). I look at him and tell him that I am angry and that he can't ask me for anything because the answer will be "NO!". He starts to sniffle a little and I stop and ask him if he knows why I am mad? He starts talking about the iPad again. I stop him and tell him that isn't the reason. I explain to him in a semi calm tone, stern but not yelling that I am angry because he doesn't listen to Mommy. I start to list the big points of the day where he hasn't listened namely THE TABLE. He shakes his head and says, "Je understand, Mommy". We walk in silence all the way home.
Once we arrive at home I tell him he is being punished for the rest of the afternoon. Grounding a four year old. Does that really work? I hate saying that he's in punishment but I don't know what other terms to use. Punishment in our house is quiet time in his bedroom. I told him he needed to go back to his room and think about why I was angry. I asked him yet again why and he responded because he didn't listen to Mommy. The point is across his brain now, I think. I told him no sleeping while you are in punishment because for me that isn't punishment and this kid LOVES sleeping. He told me he wouldn't sleep. I started this blog post and stopped mid way to check on him because it was WAY too quiet and he was asleep. Mean mommy woke him up and told him he can't sleep and that he has to stay out of his bed. I left him in the middle of his floor in his bedroom. I wonder if he's asleep...
So, I don't know where to go from here. The not listening is really starting to take a toll on Julien and I. We don't know what to do. Julien suggested making a chart where if he listens we make a mark or put a sticker up with a reward if he listens. The chart would be for a month with a rewards at the end of each week. If he was able to go four weeks with good listening points a big rewards at the end of the month. Will this work? It's in essence bribing Max to listen, no?
Any advice, ideas... please? And please don't recommend that I don't bring Max to the tea house. The tea house is MY business it's my home too. Just as he needs to listen at home he has to listen to me at the tea house. Voila. He's going back to the tea house again with me tomorrow so we'll see what happens again. I am hoping that the events of today will still be fresh in his memory and he will try to correct what he did wrong today.
Right now I am going to leave you with a photo of him walking to the tea house today in the rain with his cool umbrella and new red boots. Then I'm going to go back and hug my boy and try to lift our moods with a board game.