Monday, June 2, 2008

On Fiddle

Fiddle is a sweet boy. Seriously, very, very sweet. He likes to read and nothing makes him happier than if everyone leaves him alone for an hour and lets him curl up with a book. Although we aren't related we share this in common, this need to have a book within arms reach at all times. When Fiddle reads he disappears into the book, no sound can reach him and if you want his attention you have to actually physically touch him to break that connection to the book.

Not in the least interested in athletic pursuits, Fiddle would always rather sit than run. He's actually quite coordinated and athletic, but his interest is just not there. I have to persuade or bribe him into joining in our sporty pursuits and he does not love them. He likes to play, but unlike his competitive and blood-thirsty brother, he doesn't have the killer sports instinct.

Fiddle is a little more high strung and sensitive than most kids and it can be hard for him to just go with the flow. There are moments when his need to have things a certain way, in a certain order just drive those around him crazy. We're all in a hurry all the time, racing from one appointment to the next, trying to squeeze in as much as possible for every day and sometimes that does not work for him.

I can see it start. His hands begin to clench and unclench, he looks away to the side and sort of stutters, trying to untangle his anxieties and find the words to explain himself.

He hates to lose, far more than your average bear of a kid, he gets cranked up with higher and higher levels of emotion with every turn of the card or roll of the dice. He takes Monopoly, Trouble, Mastermind and Zooreeka seriously, freaking out if he hits a run of bad luck or if someone else seems to always win.

Fiddle hates to not be perfect. Sometimes his anxiety overwhelms him and it can result in any number of dramas. Most of the time it is the form of tears. He freaks out most often while working on math - when the numbers just won't come up right. Frantically erasing until the paper tears, chucking the pencil sharpener across the room, he makes a wordless shriek. Speaking calmly to him can help, sometimes not. Sometimes the tornado of his freak-out will just spin faster and faster until he burns himself out or crosses the line so that I have to physically guide him to a chair and demand that he sit until this stops.

You can't reach him at his peak frenzy. He is untouched by words of rational, calm thought, lost in a frenzy of feeling upset, angry and a failure, all you can do is wait for him to find a way to calm himself down. Sometimes I hand him a book, sometimes he hides behind my living room curtains, usually a fifteen minute cool down works wonders.

It is a challenge to manage him sometimes and never made easier by Faddle's brotherly need to egg Fiddle on. Why are brothers like that? I never had a brother, it's a bit of a mystery to me. I so want Fiddle to relax, to know its OK to screw up. You can't hold yourself to a perfect standard, none of us can, we do our best. You can ask yourself to always do your best, and if that means that you don't quite make it to number one every time, that's OK.

We've spent a lot of time covering this issue this year. We never stopped playing board games even when they consistently resulted in Fiddle quiting or knocking over the board. He got a consequence and we tried again. And again. And again. Eventually we've seen changes. He still freaks out sometimes and still cries occasionally but he hasn't knocked over a board in months. He has been able to both win and lose games and actually enjoy the process rather than just the result.

Baby steps. Baby steps. Eventually they can get you where you need to go.

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