Double The Disturbing Speech?
By Cheryl Lage
I've been trying to think of where I might find an answer to a question my husband and I have regarding one of our twin boys, J.
I thought I could ask you for some of your thoughts.
Recently, J (now 4.5 years old) has seemed very "frustrated" - always ready to whack his brother when he doesn't get his way. And sometimes the hitting, etc. is quite severe. Been increasing over the last 4 months or so. J has also started to talk a lot about blood - sometimes in relation to his brother S (he wants S to go away, or have blood on him, get hurt). Now, I presume a lot of this talking is because of them being together so much, the normal sibling issues twins might have.
Today, J talked about "blood" again, but this time, he said he wished he could hurt his foot again at the pool so that he could see the blood. Now, we were at an outdoor pool recently and J had walked across a patch of cement bottom that was rough and he really cut this foot. Blood everywhere, he was screaming, etc.
Cheryl, J talks about blood a lot. You think we watched horror movies or something, which we don't. The most he watches at home is Kids CBC in the morning on occasion, or a Wiggles video!!! We don't have the TV on in the evening whatsoever. If I ask him where he sees blood, he says "all over." He says he likes it.
Both boys still go to the dayhome 2 afternoons a week, but again, they watch children's videos on occasion for 1/2 hour when it's quiet time. I was thinking perhaps when he plays with the other boys there who are his age, perhaps they play superheroes, bad guys and the like and have mentioned it. I really don't know - I do plan to ask the dayhome operator on Thursday if she has heard him say anything about it. Our child development centre, where I still have support from a number of workers (J was going there to get some help with fine motor skills), is closed for the summer so I can't ask them about it. My husband and I were thinking perhaps all of this is just a "phase", that a lot of it is perhaps related to him wanting more one-on-one attention. But, the fact that he talks about this particular thing is troubling.
We did our best to describe to him that when there is blood, usually someone is hurt and sad. He said "I know, I like it sometimes." ???!!??
Cheryl, I honestly do not know what to make of this - any thoughts?
Thanks again for "listening" to me, and I appreciate any ideas you might have.
-Twin Mom M
Great to hear from you and with such wonderful honesty, M. My guess is there are many families who have experienced something "similar," yet haven't spoken about it, so I salute you! Now to your question:
As always, bring your pediatrician into the loop with this and ALL concerns, physical and developmental...he/she should always be made aware of your concerns, and of aspects that make each of your children who they are.
While blood and pain as a topic for a 4-year-old seems disturbing to you (and us too, we've had similar "fascinations") as parents the talk from a four-year-old evokes great curiosity as to "where" the concept came from, the fact is J at this point is "aware" of blood---as he will be many, many topics that we as families and care centers don't introduce.
The kids' sponge-like absorption of their surroundings continues WELL beyond those infancy years! Ideas come from friends, personal experience and various environmental stimuli...in our family's case in particular, toy packaging seen when were seeking a gift for a cousin had an impact we heard about WEEKS later!
While ideally our children would remain innocent and unsullied by less-pleasant aspects of life, it's unavoidable. Yes, you can minimize exposure to inappropriate TV and other unpleasant imagery, we cannot ever insulate them fully. (Although I tell you what, on more than one occasion I've wished I could have!)
Let me relay a couple of personal experiences that hopefully will provide some reassurance that J's fixation (and again, you and your doc know him best, so do touch bases there) with blood at age 4-5 may not be all that "unusual"...and in actuality may be closer to "normal" than commonly addressed.
Parents are ever-so-quick to share their kids' verbal "achievements" but rarely discuss openly the things their kids say that might be interpreted as "disturbing". In our house, we've had PLENTY of disturbing! We have lived to tell the tale...and know more spoken surprises and fascination phases will be around each developmental turn!
Case one: Our daughter Sarah, never spanked, but aware of the practice at around age 3-4 (and occasionally now at age 5) ASKS to be spanked. Her father and I do not comply (despite my mother's---Sarah's grandmother's---belief that spanking "works," I disagree for our family; and have to believe it would be pretty ineffectual "punishment" if she asks for it!) Whether it is the slight endorphin rush from the harsh contact she's seeking or a repeat of the reaction of dismay that I was unable to disguise at her first "Spank me!" request, I don't know. I DO know that when I have over-reacted to statements/requests/behaviors, the behavior or words that provoked that response is repeated ad nauseum by Sarah...not by Darren.
Twins, while twins, as you know are their own individuals and respond differently. I would not characterize the physical frustration J has exhibited with his brother as a by-product of their twindom, but as a byproduct of his age (particularly at 4), individual response to frustration, and the desire to affect outcome. As always, provide consequences for the physical response so he can learn and work toward more appropriate reactions (and it will take many, many repeated consequences if our family is any guide), but it IS very normal.
To the intentional infliction/desire to draw blood you're not alone, our kids at pre-k had this experience: Darren wiped out on a bike, and had a profusely bleeding knee (I heard all of this later, did not see it). When Darren got the special treatment, including consoling hugs and not one but two superhero bandaids to cover the wound, his friend Will and sister Sarah went all around the playground trying to use sticks to "cut and scratch" themselves to make a "bloody boo-boo."
I think your wisdom in describing that blood is accompanied by hurt is exactly the right approach, and your non-reactionary calm in talking about it is very important.
Statements like J's: "I know, and I like it sometimes," while they sound jarring, are not that uncommon. Those words could have come straight from our Sarah's mouth. We obviously as adults logically project that words like that indicate he enjoys pain somehow (and on some small level, there may be a slight "enjoyment"). What may be more accurate is the "liking" of the visual stimulation of something out of the norm...perhaps a physical demonstration of how the body works...etc. And again, DO tell his doc your concerns, and ask for his/her directives, advice and ultimately what I feel will be their reassurance (out of J's earshot, or get ready for a REAL barrage of disturbing speech!).
Hang in there...it sounds to me like you are a very attentive and committed Mama...
Hoping this a stage that passes, and makes us all more ready for the next one around the corner! I did find this website that had some related info:adviceboys.html Maybe it can provide a smidge of reassurance that your boys are spot-on developmentally!
Ain't parenting grand? ;)
Great to hear from you, and do keep in touch--
Feel free to contact me with your experiences in twin potty-training, or with any twin parenting dilemnas you may have at http://www.twinsights.com. I hope to hear from you!