As 2009 ticks away, we have experienced a lot of turbulence in the self esteem department. Nathan has struggled being out of school, not being on a regular routine, eating at random times and having epic hangry (hungry + angry) episodes. At one point, he had a tsunami like meltdown where he was slamming his face into his pillow, wailing into it. His eyes were rimmed heavily with red and his face was puffy from the constant rubbing. I was VERY concerned, as every diversion tactic I tried did not work. I used tickling (which failed), offering treats (which failed), wrapping him up like a burrito (failed miserably). I even resorted to child like pranks (i.e. ripping spontaneous wind). Epic Fail. He kept on saying that he could not calm himself down. I knew he was trying, but he wasn't able to pull himself together.
I was at a loss of what to do. I had used my bag of tricks + 5 and still, no dice. I hadn't seen him like this and his behavior was triple the intensity I am used to. It had me very nervous. I finally told him that if he felt he could not calm himself down, that I had to take him to the hospital. I wasn't bluffing. It was something I wanted to never have to consider, and I was sad and frightened that I had to consider it. Once I said this, it was as if Nathan had a bucket of ice water thrown into his face. He stopped crying and looked at me and asked, "Hospital?"
I told him yes. He rubbed his already swollen face, he curled up in my lap and said, "Mom, I don't want to go." His heart had slowed while he was snuggling up next to me. I knew that this storm had passed.
Another storm came in on Wednesday. I work for the YMCA and we had Vacation camp. I'm lucky to be able to take Nathan with me. Wednesday was a movie and swimming. Swimming has been a bone of contention between us. He LOVES to swim. Being a water sign (like me), it calms him and lets him be as free as he wants. However....the Y instituted a new rule. All kids must take a swim test to go into the deep end each time they go into the pool. During summer camp, Nathan passed. The first time he took the test at the Y, he failed. This was a BAD thing. A very very bad thing. He spent an hour and 10 minutes crying in the pool, like an emo dolphin. This failure had soured his interest in the water.
On this fieldtrip, there was much fretting and crying before hand. I told him he has the power to either go into the pool or not. He was still miserable. I prepared his backpack with swim things and non swim things, in case he changed his mind. Waiting on the pool deck, I told him that he could still swim in the shallow end if he didn't want to take the test. That was like saying he could be Yoda, but without having the Force. Then, I said, "Well...if you promise to take the test, and then you don't make it, I will get you an ice cream sundae."
He gave me the ice water look on his face again. He quickly asked if he could change into his suit. I asked the lifeguard to watch him swim and not have people know he was taking the test. He did his best dog paddle halfway across the pool. The lifeguard gave me a thumbs up. I gave Nathan a thumbs up. He gave a loud, "YEAH, BABY!" His former drama llama self had been left in the pen and his old confident swimming self had returned.
We triumphantly went to Friendly's and he got a one scoop chocolate sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream and jimmies. (We New Englanders eat ice cream all year round) He carried his well deserved treat back to the house, where he promptly flopped on the floor and ate it.
Did I use a bribe? I most certainly did. I try to ration my bribes, only when I truly need to. I try to use other things as leverage, like computer and DS time. In this instance, I felt a particular I-don't-get-this-very-often kind of prize was in order. His confidence has been shattered and I didn't want him to wallow in his failure, which is something he excels at. I needed a confidence builder, and by chance, this worked.
Will it work again? I hope so. Will I use it again? Something similar I think. Nathan doesn't require a day long ropes course or a yoga retreat. Something a simple as a $2.63 sundae brought the light back into my son's eyes. That to me is money well spent.