Despite my recent posts and spirals into parenting paranoia (they all know I am a fraud!!), many things have improved around here. Not that everything is "fixed" by any means, but I think we've untied a few knots that have kinked us all up.
I've been practicing smiling. Which never used to be hard. However, when I started becoming aware of smiling, I realized how little of it I had been doing the last few months. H is extremely sensitive to facial expressions, voice intonations, body language. He is sensitive and intuitive in general, though I'm sure a lot comes of the early days when he didn't know English and had to figure out what was going on any way possible. If I don't smile when he looks at me when he's doing a questionable behavior, he will either continue the behavior magnified 10 times, he might start making loud/rude noises, or turn away from me. If I smile, he will turn away, but he will be suppressing a smile. Then eventually he'll return to us instead of zoning out. I've been experimenting with it, and it seems to hold true. Even a neutral facial expression seems to worry him. So I've been trying to "collect" him (Gordon Neufeld's term) with a smile at first, and then attempting to refocus the behavior. It can get challenging when I'm sick and tired of the disruptive, inappropriate behaviors, so sometimes I leave (gotta go to the bathroom!). Or sometimes I pretend I don't notice what's going on. Basically I'm trying not to lose my mind and my temper.
Tonight we had Al's cousins over, the prospect of which was causing H to literally bounce off the walls. They have two sons ages 9 and 11 whom H and L LOVE to play with. I had spoken to him earlier about why he behaves oddly or unkind to Mommy when people visit, and he came up with "Me shy." So we talked about which people made him shy (women, mostly), and what we might do to help him. I told him he didn't have to say "weird" things to Mommy when he felt shy, he could come to me for a hug, etc.
Before the cousins arrived I sat with him and Lire and read three of their favorite books to settle them down. I really wanted to run into the bedroom and lie down in anticipation of the excitement but I soldiered on and read. Simple, but seemed to help cement him to my side by the time the bell rang.
When his Aunt arrived, he began acting a little overexcited and attached himself to his Uncle, who was lifting him up to do mid-air leg lifts. I mentioned to this aunt that H had told me he felt "shy" around her. Wonderfully intuitive person that she is, she said, "Hey Habtam, come here and do leg lifts with me!"
Perfect! He did his acrobatic feat with her and that seemed to settle him enough to approach her again. She and I were sitting and chatting by the cheese and vegetables, and Habtam came over and hovered nervously. I felt so much for the guy, I had been there myself back in college in the dining hall! We both fed him cheese and olives, and he further relaxed. I made sure to touch him whenever he was within reach, stroking his hair, his face, patting his shoulder. By the end of the night when the four boys were playing "Monster," he was routinely running to hug my waist in joyful terror as his cousins chased him.
A successful day. Oh, and although only Lire and Mommy had waffles yesterday, EVERYONE had waffles today. And I made them. And he didn't compare them to Daddy's. Hallelujah!