What happened?!

As a parent of special needs children, I rarely relax. There is always something looming. Appointments, big school assignments, holidays or birthdays, a stubbed toe, and more can throw us into a spiral of behavioral struggles.

Mack is newly 9. Nine seems like it might be a great age. Burgeoning independence and deepening conversations can be more fun than arguing with a toddler. They're far more fun than diaper changes at 2am! However, there is a hormone shift that upsets the predictable even enjoyable chill you may have had going. Many parents aren't aware of this ugly shift. Me. I am many parents. When Rory hit this stage, I was terribly confused. I wondered what happened to my sweet, even-keeled girl child to cause her to erupt into tears when I asked her to clean her room.

An older, wiser parent told me, Nine. Prepubescent. Hormone shift. When Will's ninth birthday loomed, I expected angst. I got far more than I bargained for. I think nine was his worst year yet. When Mack neared his inaugural ninth birthday, I braced for crazy! Mack is not emotional. He never has been. I didn't expect emotional outbursts like I got from Rory and Will. I expected him to entirely lose control of his brain and body.

I got exactly what I expected. That hasn't made parenting him through this transition any easier. I want to tear my hair out daily. Mack has always been impulsive. His thoughtlessness has caused himself, others, and property damage. To keep him alive, others safe, and my house standing, I have had to stake him to me many times over the years so I can immediately correct his choices and help him make better ones.

I naively hoped that if I taught my kids to listen and obey the first time, they would maintain that lesson. I was more wrong than a human can be about anything. I have told Mack hourly today that I am not answering "after" questions. I also told him hourly yesterday. And the day before. You get the picture. He doesn't give up. He isn't remembering that I wouldn't yesterday or an hour ago, so I won't now. Or he can't apply previous experience to new situations right now. I am no less annoyed with the question, "after this, can we that"!

Not only can Mack not remember something from five minutes ago, he also lost control of his body. I don't know in what universe he would think it okay to have a battle with his cousins wherein they push on opposite sides of a bedroom door, but that happened Friday. His inclination to simply do without concern or contemplation has grown exponentially in the last weeks. This lack of thought results in his own injuries and in injuries and hurt feelings of others. He seems remorseful in the moment, but ten minutes later, he's repeating the offense.

I write all this to remind other parents you're not alone. Other kids act like different people who've not been taught common decency too. Whatever hormones are changing in their brains, they are woefully incapable of acting with decorum. This is not your fault, and you couldn't have stopped it. You aren't failing. You will come out on the other side with most of your hair, all your teeth, and without having seriously ruined your relationship with your prepubescent clone. Having completed nine twice, I can confidently say my relationship with them is stronger than before. We worked through a lot of feelings and growth in those months.

While I am confident Mack and I will come out the other side stronger, the getting there will be different. Rory and Will experienced emotional upheaval. Though I am not an emotional person, I was better able to address those hurdles than I feel I am able with Mack's. Had we outlets like farm life or martial arts, I might do better. Given the current pandemic, I am grasping at straws to address his intensifying needs. This week with warm weather has afforded more outdoor activity, but we are in the north in November. Cold days are looming heavily. Mack will no doubt hold my hand far more than he is accustomed to in the next weeks while we climb this hormone mountain. He will be excused from play when he gets too rough. He will sit and read to calm his body when his actions hurt others. He will likely have the painful natural consequences of injuring himself, though hopefully not enough to warrant an ER visit!

However the next few months of growing into nine goes for Mack, I know we will make it out. Then I will be staring down the barrel of Will being 12, and Kae being 6. Both of which transitions seem to come with interesting developments.

From this weary parent to you all, hugs and encouragement. You can do this!

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