My Son’s Challenge

My biggest blessing this year is overcoming a parenting hurdle. I call it a blessing because I can’t take credit for most of it. It just happened.

As a mother, one of the most painful things to hear about your child is that he has a mental condition that needs medication. I have nothing against people with special needs. It’s not their or their parents’ fault. However, hearing such a diagnosis isn’t like seeing your child’s quiz marked “7/10” in red by his teacher. It’s a painful journey that nobody wishes to embark on.

My Son’s “Diagnosis” In February this year, my mom convinced me to take my son Jed (then three years old) to a developmental pediatrician because of his behavior. He was rowdy and loud and would destroy things intentionally when feeling extreme emotions. My family believed he had ADHD and needed professional help.

Mama Playing Doctor I believed that Jed didn’t need that kind of intervention. In my heart, I knew that his behavior was the result of several factors that we just didn’t know how to address properly. He was the only kid in a household that hadn’t seen a child in decades. He had no friends because the neighbors’ children were older than him. Left and right, people would discipline and reason with him by delivering long, high-pitched monologues that he couldn’t even understand yet. He also wasn’t getting to spend that much time with me because I was working nights and had to sleep during the day. He spent most of his time with his nanny, who started with us only January this year.

But I decided to push through because I felt that I owed it to my mother since we were living in her home, being a burden, when we should already be a separate unit. Also, it was just my son and I against the whole family. Maybe we were wrong and we did need a doctor.

The (Real) Doctor’s Take The developmental pedia found nothing wrong with Jed and referred us to a child psychiatrist. Based on our interviews, the latter hypothesized that his aggression may be due to his inability to articulate his feelings, lack of exposure to other children, insufficient physical activity, and history of witnessing domestic violence.

As the first step, she recommended having Jed follow a daily schedule of activities and getting him involved in household chores, outdoor play, and speech exercises. I also decided to enroll him in nursery school so he could mingle and learn with other kids.

Regression To my dismay, things declined sharply beginning around September. Jed started to become violent. At first, he would punch people at home, especially his nanny. Then, he started doing it to his classmates too. He was unpredictable and would sometimes hurt people for no apparent reason.

I didn’t want to hit him like other coworkers suggested because I feared that it may just worsen the situation. I just kept talking to him, constantly reminding him of why hurting people was bad in the simplest, most child-friendly way I could. Sadly, this method worked only between the two of us.

Day and night, I would hear reports about his bouts of violence from his teacher and from my family. I personally would sometimes see him and I noticed that he beat his nanny up harder and more often than the other people at home. I was alarmed to see so much anger on his face whenever he beat her. I just couldn’t understand where the rage was coming from.

Blessing in Disguise Jed’s nanny complained of his treatment of her and decided to leave mid-October. Now, there were many things about the way she handled Jed that I didn’t like. I found her too loud and playful, and I felt that it contributed to my son’s problem a bit. However, as other moms may understand, finding a nanny is becoming increasingly difficult. So while I had observations about her, I considered them minor and I didn’t want to let her go. I thought that it would only exacerbate the situation. Unexpectedly, though, Jed’s behavior made a complete turnaround after she left.

Just like in a movie where nothing ever happens at the right time, I then heard from a neighbor that he once saw that nanny discreetly hit Jed as they were walking home. My mother’s help also reported hearing Jed accuse his nanny a few times, “Ate LJ, bakit mo ako pu-punch ha?” I also asked my son if she ever hurt him and he said yes. He would make up stories about Peppa Pig but he wouldn’t lie about something like this. I just wondered why he never told me that before.

The Root Cause Apparently the nanny was the problem. I felt horrible because I hired her. Every month, I paid her so she could hurt and damage my son and turn his own friends and relatives against him. This was all happening right under my nose and I had no idea.

I still consider this as a major blow to me as a parent and I would go to great lengths to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. This is also why I dream of working from home one day if I can’t be a full-time housewife. Nobody will love a child the way his mother does and nothing is more dangerous (not to mention counter-intuitive) than leaving him in the company of strangers who leave just when he’s beginning to memorize their names.

Where We Are Now Now we still live with my family and a cousin takes care of my son. Although I still work in an office, at least I have a blood relative taking care of him. We’re all happy because all that’s left of Jed is his kind, loving, healthy, smart, well-behaved, and well-spoken self. We’re both happy that that was over. This is already more than a blessing.

In true internetz fashion, I’m adding cute pictures to make up for the long post:

In his favorite grocery store, back when he was chubby (mom-speak for “overweight”)
A more recent photo (yay, normal weight!)

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