My Nearly 5-Year-Old Son: Uncensored

As with most families, the five members of mine tend to feel comfortable enough to show our worst traits and moods to each other.  From a personal perspective, this is fortunate, because it means each of us feels unconditionally loved and accepted.  However, this individual confidence—and resulting uncensored behavior—can be a burden for those witnessing the others’ all-time lows.

My son, now nearly 5, is the youngest in our family by nine years and, as such, is obviously the least emotionally mature.    

Whatever he feels, he shows. 

When he’s happy, this personality trait is spectacularly fun for us.  He smiles and giggles.  He tries desperately to make us laugh, telling jokes, making silly faces and contorting his body in bizarre dance moves.  He’s unbelievably affectionate, giving kisses and hugs freely, along with ample “I love yous.”

Yet, when he’s sad or angry or lonely, we need to watch out. 

He lashes out verbally—with “I hate him” or “I hate them”—when his feelings are hurt, like when his older brothers, ages 14 and 15, won’t play with him, or, when playing a video game not appropriate for a 4-year-old to even watch, they forbid him from entering their room. 

He cries when he will be separated from those he loves, like when his brothers have to leave our home to go back to their mother’s or when his Daddy will be out-of-town for a business trip. 

He has complete meltdowns when his brothers are here, and he’s the only one who has to go to bed. 

He’s grumpy when he’s tired—or simply doesn’t get his way. 

When he’s mad at anyone or anything these days, he proclaims that he’s “starting to hate everything.”

His behavior is age-appropriate, yet I feel guilty because he has had—and continues to have—more than his share of loss.  In September, his 15-year-old brother, who suffers from dyslexia, went away to a school with a special program for dyslexics, so he’s only seen him twice in the past five months.  Every other weekend and on Monday nights, he is ecstatic when his 14-year-old brother lives with us, only to feel abandoned at the tail-end—every other weekend and every Monday night.  He was beyond thrilled to be a big brother to two baby brothers, then sad when we lost one of the twins.  He was upset when, two weeks ago, I was hospitalized for four days due to pre-term labor. 

Our son’s sense of loss and resulting sadness related to his brothers’ visitation schedule led my husband and me, at the ripe old ages of 43 and 40, to start trying to have another child.  After two in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts, we were successful.  Our son is due on April 23, so our 4-year-old still has almost three months to wait to have a sibling who will never have to leave our home.  I am literally counting the days…

However, I’ve learned that, while my son acts sad and mad and lonely at home, he’s the epitome of sunshine when he’s at preschool every Monday through Friday afternoon.  His head teacher says he has “such a good outlook on life” and that she’s “never heard anything negative come out of his mouth—except for some Star Wars stuff.”  When asked to specify what is special about each student for a book I wrote as a fundraiser for my son’s class, the two assistant teachers said that what makes my son special are “his happiness and love for life” and “his tender eyes and cheerfulness.”

So, when he’s able to be social, he’s jubilant.

Tonight, while we were eating dinner, I told him that I was going to write my blog about how happy he is at school.

“I’m not happy,” he said.

“Well, then why do your teachers all say that you’re so happy every day at school?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“So, you’re not happy, even though everyone says you’re the happiest kid in your class.”

“It’s because I’m always laughing,” he admitted.

“But you’re not happy.”

Nodding in agreement, he said, “I’m just laughing all the time at my friends,” then demonstrated how he smiles at his friends when they’re funny.

Even though my happy-go-lucky-when-in-public guy won’t admit that he loves being around 14 other kids at school, I know that he’s smiling and laughing and loving learning for three hours every afternoon.  And, maybe being so energetically happy out in the world is one of the reasons he is such a grump at home.

Regardless, when his baby brother is born less than three months from now, he will be more content at home.  While he will still miss his older brothers, his loneliness will lessen because of the 24/7 love from his baby brother. 

This morning, he announced that he and I are going to take care of the baby, because “Daddy has to go to work,” and his brothers “aren’t here very often.” 

He’s declared to my husband, who is unsure of the name our son wants for the baby, “Well, it’s my baby.”

So, while I know that our little man will always share his most negative feelings and behaviors with us, I can’t wait until his baby brother’s presence eases the feelings of loss and abandonment that are now so prevalent.  I can’t wait until he’s almost as happy at home as he is at school. 

I’m counting the days…

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