Beaten Down to Exhaustion

I spent the majority of July in Radio Silence.  I didn’t do much posting.  There was a very simple reason for that, and that reason still exists.  I’m exhausted.  I feel beaten down and depressed.

Life with Norton is wearing me down.  For a while, I was able to make jokes about how we were getting into the Stockholm Syndrome portion of parenting a difficult child: I’d begun to sympathize and bond with my captor.  We’re slipping out of that wonderful ability to tolerate his nonsense.  I’d rather spend my days in bed hiding, avoiding my son.

Beaten Down to Exhaustion - Cloth Diaper AddictsWe’re still awaiting the assessment for autism screening, but at this point, I’m quite confident that my son is not, in fact, on the autism spectrum at all.

But I’m equally certain that something isn’t right.  Life isn’t supposed to be a constant battle with your child.  Every day shouldn’t include screaming because he doesn’t give in until Mommy is about to come unglued.  The day shouldn’t end with Mommy running off to hide and tune out as soon as Dad is home.

I’m terribly certain that how things are in our home right now isn’t how life is supposed to be at all… but I’m not really sure how life should be, either.  Maybe because it’s been so darned long since life has been even remotely normal that I’m not sure what normal looks like anymore.

I have never come across a child so defiant.  Sure, there’s a certain amount of normal to a child who doesn’t listen.  It’s part of testing limits, establishing autonomy, etc.  This isn’t my first rodeo.  But he takes it to a whole new level.  Everything is a battle, even doing the things that he wants to do.  If he wants to “go bye-bye” it takes two hours because he’ll refuse to get dressed.  It doesn’t matter if it’s his idea or not.  We avoid taking him places anymore because his behavior is so unpredictable.  I don’t enjoy being “that mom” with the screaming, bratty kid in the store.  And I never know what will set him off.  It could be something as simple as his sister looked at him.

He’s vindictive.  The other night is a great example.  Eudora was playing with her daddy’s watch.  Norton gave Eudora some string cheese (which sounds like a great start, right?)… but he took advantage of her being close and snatched the watch away from her.  She cried, I insisted that he give it back… so he dropped it behind the couch rather than give the watch back to me.

He’s deliberately annoying.  I’m severely claustrophobic.  Not just “fear of tight spaces” but fear of anything that can cut off breathing freely.  That means nothing tight around my neck, etc.  He’s hung off of my neck while getting in my face… and because I’m having a full blown panic attack when he does this, I’m trying to pry him off of me with whatever means necessary.  And he will do this at least twice a week.  He’ll aggravate the dogs non-stop, too.

He can be flat-out mean.  He’ll jump on the dog when she’s sleeping on the couch for no other reason than she’s just lying there.  He’ll hit his sister just because he can.  (Yesterday, he kicked her in the throat over a toy.  He kicked her hard enough that she smacked her head on a table.  Then later, he just turned and smacked her in the face over an unrelated incident later in the day.)  For timeouts, I have to physically hold the door to his room closed because he will be screaming and trying to yank the door open the entire time.

It’s not always bad, though.  There are times when he can be sweet and play nicely with Eudora.  Sometimes he’ll pet the dog nicely or have kind snuggles with me.  Something isn’t right.  I think that he fits the diagnostic criteria for Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Hopefully we can find out soon.  His assessment is next month.  And school also starts back next month, thank goodness.

On top of all of those behavioral issues with my son, I’m faced with the reality that there are days when I just don’t want to be around him anymore.  And then I feel guilty, because I’m his mother and I’m supposed to want him around all the time or something.  It’s not that there’s less love, but there’s certainly less like.  When you take into account that Eudora has none of those issues and is already a better communicator than Norton is in a lot of ways… and she’s so sweet, then I feel guilty because I wonder if I’m playing favorites.

It’s emotionally exhausting at best, and even physically exhausting on other days when I have to spend time physically restraining him.  Then you figure my own temper that flares up when I tell him that if he does x, I’ll do y… and he responds with “No, you can’t.”  Oh, yes, I can.  And a child telling me that I can’t do something in my own home is sort of like waving the proverbial red flag in front of a bull.

It’s impacting my marriage.  There are days when my husband comes home from work and I just go to bed because I have to check out.  I am tired after a full day of battles.  I’m honestly amazed that my husband even wants to come home some days.  I sure wouldn’t want to.  But it’s wearing on him, too.  When we were first married, he was the most patient guy in the world.  He was fairly calm and unflappable.  Now?  He’s starting to yell, too.

We’ve tried 1-2-3 Magic.  Sure, it’s great in some ways, but it’s only effective when Norton is in a moderately compliant mood.  We’re still seeing the speech and language pathologist bi-weekly for his language delay.  I’m attempting to do the “homework” with him, but oh, how difficult it can be when he’s showing me zero cooperation.

I just want it to get better, by any means necessary.  I don’t think that anyone is truly, completely happy living in this situation right now.  Have you dealt with a difficult child?  How did you get through it?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Mellisa patterson says:

    I truly feel for you. This was a brave story to tell, I think in a way all moms have experienced this but not in a scale as great as yours. My 5 year old son doesnt have anything other then normal brat syndrome but sometimes I can’t handle it. He is so defiant it reminds me of children I have worked with that have ODD. I know at the end of a tough day when I lay in bed all I have is guilt about how the day went and vow to do better the next. I’m sure you have experienced this. The most important thing is knowing this won’t last forever and its hard to imagine that, but it is true. i hope you get the medical answers you are looking into and even if it is a few minutes of checking out time when hubby gets home, take it!

    • Thanks. 🙂 What’s really crazy is right now, he’s sitting at the table with her and they’re having a blueberry snack. He was teaching her how to count her blueberries. I really, really wish it could always be this way.

  2. I’m so sorry you’re having such a rough time. Obviously, something is going on with your little one that hasn’t been figured out yet. I just wanted to offer I’ve gained so much insight and so many new tools to use for power struggles and defiant children. I thought you might be able to find a few new tools for yourself as well. In the meantime, throw the guilt away. You’re doing the best you can and no one expects more of you (except you). Guilt is toxic. Hugs mama.

  3. I had a foster sister with ODD. All I could think as I read it was that it sounded just like that. And then you mentioned it and yep!
    Don’t worry – it gets better. Much better. There are excellent ways to deal with this and cognitive behavioral therapy is perfect. There are a lot of people with mental illness in my family – and I know as a person both affected by one personally and as a person who deals with the ramifications of others’ illnesses, it can be exhausting and painful and downright awful for everyone. Don’t feel bad. It is Mich more difficult to parent in situations like this – and parenting is already incredibly hard! Be honest about your struggles with yourself, your husband, and even your kids. Do your best and seek support. Educate others. Share and allow yourself the time to freak out. 🙂 It will get better. Hugs to you all!

    • Thanks. The crappiest part is whenever I try to find things online about ODD, it seems to be caused by bad parenting. :/ That SERIOUSLY sucks.

  4. Jamie Hammel says:

    I can not say that I have personal experience with your issues, or that I know how you feel, however, I can say that I will keep you in my prayers. Have you ever used Essential Oils? I have recently started using them and through some of the blogs and info pages I have been reading, I have heard about others using them to help with behavior disorders. Please let me know if I can try and put you in touch with someone that can answer questions about the oils better than I can. Just remember, try and keep you head up and know as long as you are doing your best and looking for the help you need, you are not a bad parent.

  5. Jacque R. says:

    Finding a licensed or credentialed marriage family therapist who can help work with everyone may be really helpful. One who has specialized behavior training would be even better. When we all get stressed out and feel things coming on it only increases our anxiety and the cycle repeats even more rapidly. I absolutely can relate after hard days needing to check out and feeling my marriage negatively affected as well. Are there any support groups in your area who may be able to help access local resources. Locals are always the best sources of information. And ODD is not caused by bad parenting. Please don’t let the Internet tell you that! I hope you find support soon 🙂

    • I know that if we do get a diagnosis of ODD, there will be resources to help us out. In the meantime, it’s just a bit of a holding pattern until we get squared away.

  6. Praying for peace in your home! 🙁

  7. Based on your description, Norton definitely sounds like he some intervention. Although difficult, you’re heading in the right direction. Acknowledging the problem is the first step! Hold on, mama!
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Depression Can Start by Preschool AgeMy Profile

  8. Neena Hart says:

    I don’t have any answers for you Mama, but I do have a big virtual hug and a boat-load of sympathy. My 16 year old has Cerebral Palsy and is on the Autism spectrum. She doesn’t walk or talk, but can be very willful (which isn’t always a bad thing!). We have to protect her from sensory overload, and when out and about that is difficult (it was easier when she was little). When she starts to lose it in public, it generally means she can’t take any more and we need to go home. Any family outing has the potential of being cut short. This has been very hard on on our 18 year old, and I fear it means our 14 month old won’t get to experience many family outings with all of us together.
    When our 16 year old is at home and her needs are being met, she is so sweet. But when she’s losing it and is unable to tell me what’s wrong, I feel so damn useless when I can’t figure it out for her. When I’m at the end of my rope it sometimes helps to remind myself that she’s not giving me a hard time, she’s having a hard time. And other times all I can do is disconnect for a little while.
    I used to resent the fact that our life isn’t normal, but I’ve come to realize its normal for us, when it gets really hard I make sure I make time for self-care. I work out, watch a movie, Facebook. I hug my husband and tell him I love him. I hug my kids and tell them I love them. I get silly with them. After all, we’re all in this together 🙂

  9. A couple months after my second was born I was really struggling with my 2 1/2 year olds behaviour, as well as some PP anxiety. I was referred to a counselor dealing with child behaviour and she gave me many great tips and potential behaviour triggers. First we discussed a very structured timeout/chairing for behavior correction. If refusing to go to the chair/freaking out behaviour etc – to their bedroom -devoid of toys and things he could hurt himself on (eg unsecured dresser-ornaments that could be broken etc) when he calms down you say time for time out now and he goes to the chair. So the room is a cool/calm down space and the chair is the punishment – after time out “why are you on time out?” My son is very verbal so this goes well, with Norton’s speech issues it may be better to tell – you will see what works best- you can always tweak it. Keep the discussion short and simple – and then let the incident go. I know that how I respond can inflame the behaviour- and it often starts off first thing in the morning if I have a crappy sleep or get woken up early. Also do a little introspection to see what are your triggers and be aware of them to try and minimise them contributing to the situation.

    Now some of the behaviour triggers that she has seen in her years of practice are related to food. So the best way to see if that can be causing or compounding an issue is to track- make a spread sheet Day, what eaten, then rank the behaviours 0-10 and number of times they have happened in the day. I would also have a note session for any other info that may help (eg note when out most of day or camping, at school, birthday party etc). Look at the data 6 weeks later to see if there is any patterns. Some of the triggers are: apple juice (processing can cause arsenic in it from the seeds being pressed with the apple flesh), milk, wheat, eggs, msg, dyes, medications etc These would be sensitivities not an allergy. Modifying diet based on the noticed changes may take a while for them to get it out of their system and see a change.

    I hope this helps you Suzi, if I think of any other info later I will post. Just remember that you are doing a good job and make sure that you are getting a break. Have someone you trust come and babysit N for a couple of hours and take some time for yourself and for your husband. We send my son to his grandparents for a couple of days every 2 months or so to get a break and let us recharge and to spend some quality time with baby girl. Hugs!

  10. Have you ever looked into the Feingold diet for kids on the spectrum or with ADHD? It has been a lifesaver around here and for many others!
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  11. I have a 13 (almost 14) year old with ODD, it just took creative parenting although some days were hell. However I also have a 15 (almost 16) year old with non-verbal learning disorder. It’s poorly named cuz it does not mean he is non-verbal. It means he doesn’t learn anything that isn’t verbal. This includes empathy. That is visual. He struggles to learn sports obviously. Can still only draw stick figures. I taught him to read verbally (huge ordeal). He is extremely manipulative amf selfish. My best years with him were homeschooling. Then shit hit the fan of life and he ended up in school and with my ex then returned to me after 8 months. I was returned an almost 13 yr old with a drug problem who beat me and stole my money (would clean out my bank account). Sadly it was not safe for me to keep him home any longer. I pray your child does not have this bit some of what you say rings so true. If it is ODD at least you have something you can work with. ((Hugs)) I know how difficult this all can feel.
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  12. I do have some advice: what.ever the diagnosis join a support group and ask the psychiatrist for a blunt breakdown. I say this cuz the internet has a tendency to be politically correct and pretty up the reality. For example if I were to read about my sons non-verbal (which is an autism spectrum disorder, I would not be informed of the undeveloped sense of mind or total lack of empathy. Real people will tell it like it is and then hive realistic tips. Positive parenting works great for lots of kids but not for nvld cuz that child doesn’t care what you think of them, they assume your thinking and feeling what they think amf feel. An ODD child needs to be lead to choose good behavior for themselves so they are great with positive parenting as long as they don’t feel tricked into it.

  13. I am so, so sorry. I’m not going to list my advice, because the previous comments have you covered with the important stuff. What I will say though is this: you are a good mom. This is some seriously tough shit, and no one really knows that until they’ve been there. You are not a bad person for needing a break from your child when he is being particularly defiant and frustrating. You are not a bad person for wanting to get away sometimes. If I have learned one thing in this post it is that you are a good mom, that you care, and that your children are loved. I wish you the best of luck with your son and family, and I truly hope that things begin to look up for you all soon. <3
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  14. Theresa L says:

    There are days when my toddler acts like that, but it’s usually a combination of her not napping, waking up early and me not sleeping b/c her little sister still isn’t sleeping through the night.
    And it’s not daily.
    And nothing works.
    I will say, as a teacher who has worked with special needs children (and difficult, and ODD, and ADD, and just plain spoiled brats), if you can stay calm, you are still in control. or so more seasoned teachers tell me…

    You are not alone. You are strong, and will get through this.

  15. Adrienne says:

    Suzi, this sounds identical to my situation with my now 5 year old daughter, Olivia. Last summer was the worst… Literally everything I wanted her to do was a fight. I tried a passive approach, an aggressive approach – and then I just totally lost it. There was this one night I remember when I was trying to give her a bath and she was throwing a fit about something and I just broke down. I climbed into the bath with her, clothes on and all, and just held her and cried. I felt like I couldn’t be her mom anymore, and it was breaking my heart. I can’t say that anything we did in particular really made a difference. But she got older, and slowly started listening a bit better. I put her in a daycare with a wonderfully kind, but strict woman. I got some breathing room during the day, and she got structure and discipline. I’m also trying to work on compassion for her situation. I think she’s gotten so used to being “the bad one” that she just acts that way regardless of how I am treating her. She needs love, and the easiest time to cuddle or hug and kiss her are in those unexpected moments where nothing bad is going on. She seems to respond well to that. I spend less and less evenings hiding in my room now.
    I feel your pain – it is unbearably difficult to have to parent a child who is difficult to like. The only real advice I can offer is that nothing stays the same forever – your son will change, and so will you. There will be good times in your parenting relationship, as well as really difficult ones. With some children, the pendulum swings a little higher in both directions.
    I wish you all the best.

    • We have moments where we can just snuggle and it’s peaceful. And they’re good. They happen daily. I sometimes feel almost like Eudora is the neglected one because of how much time and attention I dedicate to Norton. Which is funny, because I sometimes feel like I favor her.

  16. I 2nd positiveparentingsolutions I did one of their free webinars and was able to deal with an issue we were having quite successfully. She is super approachable and can help you determine what information might help you best for your child.

  17. I do agree he very much sounds like he’s has ODD. That can certainly be exhausting and frustrating. I hope you reach out and get the help you both need to get through this. (Hugs) You are brave to post this, so many just suffer.
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  18. That definitely sounds stressful….I hope things are improving!

  19. I’m sorry you are going through this. I know that parents a lot of times as parents we want everyone to think we have it all together so thanks for opening up and sharing your story. It’s nice to know that all of us aren’t perfect. Also, hang in there, because it will get better “this too shall pass”.

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