I've been trying this weekend to assume Janey understands far more than she lets on. I was inspired to do that by what she said to her teacher for next year, which I wrote about last time. I know that at the very least, Janey understands more than she says. But what is making this hard for me is what it would mean if it were true.
One part of it is what the wonderful blogger of On the Train With Sophie commented. It's too hard sometimes to hope for that, because if we come to believe it, it will be that much more of a fall if we realize it's not true. I am like that in life. I keep my expectations low. I'd almost always rather be surprised by something going better than I expected than be disappointed by it going not as well as I expected. But for the sake of Janey, as she said, I want to take the plunge. I want to believe Janey can understand and do and learn far more than what she shows right now.
However, I think what is feeling even harder to me is trying to figure out how exactly I deal with Janey's tough behaviors if I assume they come from a place of understanding. Somehow it's easier for me to accept Janey being aggressive to me, or biting herself, or spilling things all over, or staying awake all night screaming or laughing, if I assume she doesn't understand in any way what she is doing. I can accept more than she lashes out without understanding at herself or others, or that she spills the soda all over the floor because she has no idea it will bother us, than thinking she understands just what she is doing. Because if that is the case, what kind of torment is going on in her mind that would make her bite her own arm hard? What would make her want to hurt me with biting? Why would she do something that she would know would make us furious, that she knows causes a huge fuss and scene? Is she that sad, or that angry? That is hard to think about.
I've been trying talking to Janey about things she does, like I would talk to any eight year old that would understand me. I explained why biting herself is a very bad idea, and I talked about knowing sometimes people feel very, very mad, and that it's fine to say or just to think "I am very mad at my mother!", but that biting is not okay. I tell her that she can bite a pillow or a blanket or toy, and I've been trying to catch her doing that and praising her for that. Sometimes she seems like she is listening, but I don't know.
Tonight, as I got Janey to sleep, I talked to her. I told her that I think she understands a lot of what I say, and that I am going to try harder to keep that in mind. I told her I loved her, and that I know it must be very, very frustrating if she doesn't have a way to tell me why she does the things she does, or what she is thinking, or what I can do to help her. I told her I am trying to be the best mother I can to her, but that I know I've made mistakes, and I hope she can work with me. I don't know if she understood me. I never know. That's the hard part. But it felt good to talk to her that way. I'm going to keep on trying.