Jerry arrived in town last Wednesday. It just so happened that his home time this month coincided with LaLa needing to “move-in” temporarily, on the day he arrived. These past five days have been quite stressful and overly full. My emotions have been on a roller coaster and a bit angst-ridden. My body has continued to be more active, and now that I’m in the middle of day five, the fibro is starting to flare and I feel a hormonal shift coming on. If all goes well and as planned, Jerry will get back on the truck today and LaLa will be able to move into the space some friends of her have promised. Which will leave Luna and me to ourselves.
The only one who has had a consistently happy time during it all has been Luna ~ she misses her daddy terribly when he’s gone. I, however, can’t wait to get her through the transition and work on routine building again, for both our sakes. You see, over the past month or so, I’ve begun wondering if some of the behavioral issues that Luna has been displaying are less about me being a chaotic, depressed, fibromyalgia limited parent in a conflicted relationship with her dad, and more to do with something happening in her development. Nothing debilitating or bad, but something that needs to be examined and hopefully identified, so that I/we, can learn how to help her become the best possible version of herself.
I’ve noticed for quite some time that she has a tendency to display a lot of the same kinds of characteristics as her father. The difference is that in a three and a half year old many of these things are normal and part of the developmental process. In an adult, however, they are just seen as the childish and boorish behavior of an unreasonable jerk. In a previous post I described Jerry as a difficult man. The fact is that he wants to be a different person, but despite his efforts: counseling, anger management, parenting classes, etc., he is a first class, egocentric, @$$ most of the time. This week, especially today, has been extremely full of childish, tantrum-like reactions to the cascade of disappointments, unmet expectations, and stressors of the past five weeks. I’ve long held the belief that there was some kind of undiagnosed, unrecognized, and untreated developmental disability which fostered and contributed to some mental health issues, which are also undiagnosed. Based on a phone conversation I had with one of his sisters today, she agrees and reminded me that mental health issues and emotional problems run in their family.
When I was trying to get my college degree in human development I studied the cognitive and psycho-social developmental stages of early childhood. During those classes, I processed a lot of personal grief and angst about my upbringing and that of my two oldest children, especially my son. I realized that there were psycho-social issues that had developed for myself, and were developing for my son, and I fought as hard as I could to advocate and get connected to resources and programs that would hopefully fill in the gaps and help me to help us both. As far as my understanding went at that point, I identified the issues we had as nurture vs nature and have worked on the assumption that our issues could be resolved through cognitive and behavioral therapies.
The understanding that I gained was that verbal, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect affects a child’s ability to progress through the varied stages of development. Depending on the frequency, length, severity, and type of abuse/neglect different areas of development can have holes, be severely impaired, and impact the child’s ability to achieve future stages of development and cognitive/emotional maturity. Something I don’t remember learning (emphasis on my lack of memory) is that sometimes, there are things that can’t be identified and defined inside the neurological development of the child by the time he is born that will make all those learning and development stages and tasks that much more difficult.
It wasn’t until Jerry and I had been in tumultuous relationship with each other and had tried many ways of reeducating us all through a variety of methods: Couples counseling, family counseling, group counseling, group family counseling, pastoral counseling, anger management, non-specific christian based 12 Step meetings, and parenting classes, that I slowly came to the conclusion that there is just something in his development that had never happened and perhaps couldn’t happen. Progress has been made, to a degree. However, I truly believe that most of the progress in our relationship is because I basically resigned myself and accepted the fact that Jerry is not capable of moving beyond where he’s at.
While in school I briefly studied Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, among many other theorists and theories in early childhood development. Jerry seems stuck in a few areas: He has difficulty assimilating and accommodating whenever confronted with changed circumstances and information. All his expectations are set in an internal reality about how things happened in the past and what he believes will prevent the bad stuff from happening again. When faced with the slightest difference in actual reality, he becomes so overwhelmed that he instantaneously retreats into his “safe place” of anger. He is “stuck” in the Preoperational Stage in terms of his egocentricity: his attitudes and actions seem to indicate that he’s incapable of truly recognizing, understanding or empathizing with another’s point of view. One of the surest ways I can escalate into an argument with him, is to attempt to get him to think about what may have been going on in the other person’s thoughts or feelings, when he’s upset with how someone did something to him. He perceives it as me attacking him and as taking the other person’s side against him.
So, all of this is the basis for all the stress and tension that has been a factor in our lives for the past 16+ years and what makes it very difficult to deal with him when the few days a month he is able to be at home don’t happen according to his needs, wants, and expectations.