Friday, January 07, 2011

Mayhem is worried

What is he worried about?

Things he’s done wrong in the past. Anywhere from last week to last year. Though it is hard to tell with him when the events actually occurred because his sense of time is not that keen and because his sense of guilt is so strong I think he tries to make things appear to have happened longer ago to lessen the likelihood of punishment.

It has been True Confession time around here the last couple weeks.

It seems to hit him suddenly. He’ll be playing a game or something & then start crying. I’ll ask him what’s wrong and we’ll go through this “I don’t want to tell you. You’ll be angry” bit & then he confesses that once, during the summer he put broccoli under his seat rather than eat it. Or that back in October he got into a fight with someone on the bus.

Now, I had found that broccoli long ago & since it never reappeared I never said anything and frankly it could not have been much of a ‘fight’ on the bus if no word was sent home to me about it, so it’s not like these are mortal sins. So far everything he has confessed to have been small transgressions, things he should not have done but did anyway and now suddenly feels bad about days, weeks or months later.

He also worries about things his brother may have done and get very upset that Havoc might get into big trouble for X Y or Z that he did.

It’s like the guilt switch has suddenly been flipped on in his brain.

Which, considering how Mayhem tends to make these developmental leaps is entirely possible.

I was getting rather worried about all this myself until one night DH says “It’s like he’s supposed to be Catholic or something. He needs to confess”

And then it hit me.

Mayhem is 3 weeks away from his 7th birthday. Being raised Catholic I know that 7 is the Age of Reason. You are now old enough & mentally developed enough to be responsible for your choices & accept the consequences of your actions. You understand right & wrong and are capable of making moral choices like “I was told to go right to class with no stopping at all but I came across someone who had dropped all their books & I decided it would be ok to stop and help them because that is a good thing to do but it isn’t ok to stop & play ball with someone” Children younger than 7 generally are not mentally ready to make that sort of call. There were a bunch of studies done about it 10 years or so ago in Britain that pretty much proved the Jesuits were on to something with that Age of Reason thing they had been going on about for centuries. Something happens mentally around the age of 7 regarding right & wrong & guilt & impulse control & all that.

Havoc didn’t go through this as much, but Havoc has always had a more gentle learning curve. If you were to graph Havoc & Mayhem’s mental leaps or development Havoc’s would curve up slowly over a period of a few weeks or even a couple of months. Havoc learned to read earlier than Mayhem but it was a gradual process over a period of months. Havoc’s progression through the reading levels of school started out at the top end but continued to climb up gradually, maybe skipping a level here & there but generally following the usual expected pattern.

Mayhem’s development graph would be a series of sharp spikes. I always say he is a perfectionist that just doesn’t share his progress but likes to surprise you with how he can do a thing once he has perfected it. Now I am not so sure. When I think back to how he learned to read and to walk etc.. it’s more like one day he just suddenly could. His curve only covers a few days or a couple of weeks of practice. He started 1st grade reading at level 2. He is now beyond the levels entirely & is reading chapter books, having skipped over big gaps of levels in his learning in just a couple months. (Comprehension is another matter)

His handwriting appears to be doing the same thing now.

So last night, when he came over all upset about something that he did in kindergarten, we had a talk about how this might be because he’s getting bigger & learning more & new thoughts are in his brain & about thinking about your actions & making the right choices & how it’s a normal thing everyone goes through & just wait until you are teenager with hormones…

I’m not ruling out there isn’t something else going on. I’m just as bad about Dr Google as the next person & things like this can be pointers to abuse or molestation & other horrific things & I can’t ignore the possibility, but after freaking myself out hard about it last week I’ve decided to just remain watchful.

His teacher sent him to the counselor Monday because he was worrying in class about something his brother had done. I know this because Mayhem told me, not because the school told me. Knowing a few things about how the school works with informing parents about ‘incidents’ I am guessing this was no big deal to the counselor. If she was worried she would tell me & so would the teacher. They have both been very good about communication. So for now I am chalking this up to a developmental phase. If he tells me he went to talk to the counselor again & I don’t get a letter about it, I’ll call her myself.

Mayhem said he was going to tell his teacher today that it was all ok, his mom had figured out what was wrong with him. I asked what he was going to tell her was wrong with him.

“My brain is growing.”


joanie jenkins said...

Stacey, this is a very good thing. I am so glad that his conscience is being pricked. He is a very sensitive child, and you are so right about his development stages. It is scary when you see a kid who has no sense of right and wrong, so praise the Lord that he is being so sensitive at a young age. My Pastor's son went through this same stage. He is very similar to your son, he also had insomnia when he was learning to read! He would only sleep about 5-6 hours a night. While it is good that he is confessing, the worry is that it will turn into anxiety for him.
There is an answer to his problem, Jesus! He came for this very reason, to take away our sins and make them as if they never happened. We can be free from the guilt of those sins, if we repent and believe. Repentance means turning away from those sins. Believe that Jesus died on the cross and has made a way for us to get to heaven. Then give your life over to him, and ask him to give you a new heart. It is simple, it is real, and it is important.
Stacey, you mentioned the Bible class at school. I pray that you would re-think that. It doesn't have to fall to you to do the teaching. Anyways, I support you as a parent, and I am available if you have any questions. :)

Lizziemade said...

"My brain is growing." - that is wonderful and really does sum it up! My DS is like Mayhem, in that he also has "leaps", rather than a gradual learning or growth curve. He learned to read almost overnight - apparently; he didn't go through the rolling over/getting up/ sitting/crawling/getting on his feet/ standing/cruising furniture/ trying to walk/ stumbling/walking gradually thing. He just went from sitting, to sort-of-crawling when he felt like it, to standing up and holding on, to walking/running. The walking happened over Christmas - when he left his child-minder the day before Christmas Eve, he was still scuffling round the floor; when he returned the day after New Year, his dad put him down on the floor, he saw the cat, said "Jack" and ran after him!
IT has even extended to his physical growth. He always used to grow one shoe size every September (not so convenient for school shoes, until I got the hang of it!). He would grow an inch or two overnight - in fact he still does that.
He often seems to just "get" something, all of a sudden.
We haven't had this same issue with worrying about things he did in the past, that he now feels he may have done wrong; but we have had incidents where he gets a bee in his perfectionist bonnet, about something or other, which disturbs him for a while and upsets his system - stops him sleeping, gets him upset etc. I think it's probably a similar thing with Mayhem and his sudden Conscience awareness. You are right that there are distinct developmental stages in terms of brain growth - psychologists have mapped these. I think you and his dad are right - it's a growth stage and, being Mayhem, it's happened suddenly and taken you all by surprise.
I don't suppose it'll do him any harm to become aware of his conscience - especially as the adults who love and care for him are so sensible. "My Brain is Growing" is a great explanation for a natural happening. But I hope this episode of severe conscience-pricking settles down to a more reasonable self-awareness - or you'll all go nuts!


SciFi Dad said...

I was going to make a Catholic joke myself, but your husband beat me to it.

(Also, for the record? I would never have connected what you described to possible molestation. Even now, I can't connect the two.)

Lori, Martha Points said...

I take the approach: Things are fine until I know they are not fine.

Otherwise all of my children would have been in therapy long long ago.

Serious things DO happen, of course, but more likely weirdness is just a "brain growing" (love that) and new processes.

That being said, I do still harbor TERRIBLE guilt for the time I hid the banana in my desk in kindergarten and then claimed it was the "early bird" kid that did it.

I'm horrible, aren't I?

Andrea @ The Creative Junkie said...

"My brain is growing" ... how incredibly astute!

I don't think I'd be too terribly worried about the conscience thing - a conscience has to be developed, just like any other personality trait. If it gets to be crippling, then yes, I'd be worried.

I can only imagine what my girls would be confessing. EEEEK.

Darcy said...

HA! Great insight "My brain is growing". I think Aiden went through something similar to this around 7..though he's more of the gentle curve kind of kid. But there was a time when he just seemed to understand that thing were going to get him in trouble. It might even be the first time he knowingly lied to us. That's always a very sad day in this mom's heart, too.