Cracked Halo


Do you recognize the Scripture quote behind him? Do you find it ironic? I do.

It began with Christian shouting up the stairs on his way down to teach his last piano lesson of the night: “Boys, play with Michael!” By the time I got upstairs, less than a minute later, Nicholas was screaming at the top of his lungs…some conflict about who got to play with Michael. “It’s time to get ready for bed!” I told them, and Alex hopped to it, but Nicholas remained pressed up against the baseboard, wailing. Julianna pressed her hands to her ears.

I thought Nicholas’ behavior problems were solved after that last meltdown, but in the last few weeks they’ve been ratcheting back upward. Last night, ever since I told him he was done playing computer games, he’d been copping this attitude: “This whole day was boring!” he said over and over, and refused to eat his dinner. Ordinarily I’d feel a yank of crushing guilt, but I knew better. I took them out after lunch a) on a bike ride, b) to the neighborhood park, where c) he played on the playground and d) we flew the kite for the better part of an hour. He had a nice long nap. We played Hi-Ho Cherry-O after dinner. And how dare he complain about a boring day when he’s spent an hour painting Muck and Roly on the computer? (I started him on computer games so he’d start to develop mouse skills and some basic computer literacy, but now I’m questioning my own judgment!)

In the end, with Nicholas’ vocalizations ratcheting upward until they were freaking out both Michael and Julianna, I decided I’d better step in and just do for him what he wasn’t willing to do for himself. I pulled his clothes off, with him screaming and kicking and fighting me every step of the way. Christian resurfaced long enough to thunder, “GET IN THE BATHROOM!” and he obeyed, shoving Julianna (who was in the process of pulling her pants down to use the toilet) out of the way.

It spiraled downward from there and ended with Nicholas losing his movie/computer privileges and all bedtime books for the coming day (today). Michael wailing because Nicholas’ screaming had scared him. Julianna whimpering, her hands over her ears. Alex whispering that he felt responsible for his brother’s screaming. Me putting Nicholas in bed and closing the door on his screams.

I don’t know what to do. Alex went through this stage, but I don’t remember it lasting this long, and last night was without a doubt the single worst hour of my entire parenting career thus far, outside hospital stays, that is.

There are times when I think if any of my boys are called to religious life, he’s the one. But then I see this behavior, and I wonder. His grandparents and his schoolteachers think he’s the most easy-going, well-adjusted child, and I can see why; in public, he wears his halo straight and keeps an even keel, completely unflappable. Yesterday I called him the Crooked Halo child, and counted him among my top five blessings. To have this kind of night right afterward seems the height of irony. Crooked, nothing. Call it cracked.

This morning things are starting cautiously better. Perhaps last night was nothing but a tantrum. But I’ve been banking on Nicholas growing out of this stage, becoming tractable like Alex, and I can’t help wondering if this is simply who Nicholas is: strong-willed, impervious to reason and consequence, and hell-bent on dragging everyone else along for the ride.

Time for some marathon praying.

13 thoughts on “Cracked Halo

  1. Kelley

    All three of my children have gone through the tantrums phase…it must be the red-headed temperament that everyone talks about. Having a strong-willed child (I have at least one) is hard for sure. But someone once told me that our children’s personality traits that drive us crazy now will often prove to be great strengths for them as they get older. Not much consolation in the short term, but I’m holding on to that thought for the long run!

  2. A friend of mine is the director of Catholic Family Services in Regina and he counsels families in crisis.
    The kids he worries about?
    They are hellions in social settings and angels at home-purely out of fear.
    The kids who come from good, loving homes who are well adjusted? These are the ones who have absorbed the rules about the social niceties and understand how to behave but know they are loved and are free to fall apart at home- this can mean venting. pent up frustarations, anxieties, fears…. It takes a very secure child to “bite” the hand the feeds him, protects and provides for all his emtional. physical, mental and spiritual needs.

  3. I suspect (like my strong will child) you are right and he is moving out of the tantrum phase with a couple spectacular relapses. Hugs and sympathy!

  4. Strong willed, charming, brat boys are awesome. Not for the parents, sure, but awesome for the world once the parents have put in the zillion hours of intensive parenting. Have fun. 😉

  5. My son had a few of those spectacular meltdowns at 4-5, just when I thought he should definitely be outgrowing them. They were so awful. I love the comment from above about very secure children being the ones who’ll lash out at home. And I think even stubborn/headstrong personalities learn to better control it, eventually. Hang in there, mama.

  6. I’m not one to think we always have to do something. Of myself, I can say I, like Nicholas, wore my halo straight for my teachers and the world, but that takes a toll. There’s the pressure of keeping that darn halo balanced, hanging over your head all the time.

    Home is a place were a kid can safely let it all hang out in times of the ordinary give and take, we call “stress.”

  7. Colleen

    My youngest son was the one with the big tantrums. I told him that he had no right to disrupt the family with his tantrums and he needed to go to his room where he can vent all he wanted and throw his stuffed animals around if he wished (not at anything!) After a few weeks of this, he started sending himself to his room! I would say No to something he wanted, and I would see his face scrunch up like he was going to scream and then he would turn around and go to his room. A few minutes later he would come back out and all was fine! Before I knew it, he was over the tantrums. Dont ask me why that worked. I have no idea! But he has always walked to a “different drummer.”

    • Kathleen

      It’s so funny that you say that, because Nicholas used to send himself to his room quite regularly. He didn’t throw tantrums there, he just needed a little space. I wish he’d still do it.

  8. It takes a strong will to cope with the evils of this world – strong will and self control. Your little boy will be fine because you and your husband are good parents. Count on the Holy Spirit to give you the answers you need.

    Once somebody told me that when you’re in a tough communication situation, ask your angel to talk with the other person’s angel and inspire him to do the right thing. Could this be a help?

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