Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Tantrum Before Bed...

Isaac did not care that yesterday was his parents' anniversary.  He did certainly enjoy the spoils.  We celebrated, as is our tradition, with a cookie cake which is reminiscent of the one we used as a groom's cake at our wedding.  Isaac was most impressed with that.  He was also impressed at the homemade pizza which we made to remind us of how right after the wedding Sam and I , famished, (who gets to actually eat at their own wedding?) stopped by Pizza Hut and paid with the cash out of our wedding envelopes.  But beyond the food, the day itself had no real meaning for our son.

I didn't expect the day to have any real significance for him... but I could have done without the tantrum.  In Isaac's defense, the day seemed out of order.  Sam had taken the day off work so he could spend the day with me.  Isaac did not expect to see Sam pick him up off the bus and certainly did not expect to eat as early as we did.  The days at school seem different as the students prepare for summer break and now the day at home was different too.  Isaac usually excels at transition...but yesterday, he didn't.

It was time for bed.  I told Isaac to shut down his computer and use the restroom.  He glared at me and left his computer.  The boy stomped toward the bathroom.  He sat down and folded himself in half over the toilet.  He does that and usually it means he will have a bowel movement...but sometimes he can fall asleep that way.  I gave him some time but realized there was no evidence of action.  "Isaac, use the bathroom!  Come on, its time for bed!"  I admit that I raised my voice.  I was frustrated.  I had been coaxing Isaac's younger siblings to clear a trail between their individual doorways and their beds to maintain fire code compliance.  Isaac was already huffy and now caught my mood too.

I will always hate his yell of frustration.  Tonight, he sat on the toilet red faced, screaming, yelling and hitting himself about the head with a closed fist.  "Sad!" he screamed.  "Upset!"

Immediately, I turned away from messy room patrol.  My mood went further south.  We had been here before.  Isaac has struggled with aggression and self aggression.  "Really," I thought, "not tonight...please"  Outwardly, I maintained composure.  I shut the children's doors.  "What do you want Isaac?" I sighed.  I was more tired than anything else.  Emotional fatigue seized.  We have danced through this scene so many times before.  Isaac, still on the toilet, stopped beating his head and turned toward the mirror.  He took himself in with his red face and teary eyes.  He pointed to himself and let the image rev up his emotions further, "I want sad!  I want upset!"  He began to beat himself again.

"All done fit."  I am nothing if not matter of fact.  "I need you to finish using the bathroom.  It's time for bed."  My words were received with more yelling and hitting.  He kept looking at himself and revving his emotions up to a more and more excited state.  I kept a blank expression.  One cannot respond with any expression or it feeds the behavior.  I don't know if its worse that I know that or worse that I can watch my son beat himself and maintain an expressionless gaze.  "All done, Isaac.  Time for bed."

Isaac had now reached that place in his behavioral pyramid that demanded he strike out.  I was there.  Isaac's aggression is never personal.  He just uses it as communication.  I know when to back away but today he was quicker than I expected.  He caught my wrist.  He grabbed it and squeezed hard.  I tried to turn out of the grab but he is getting stronger.  His nails dug into my skin.  "Snot," I thought "he broke skin".  I am ok at the sight of blood but I hated that he broke skin.  The fact that he changed the skin and produced blood on it would be reinforcing to the behavior as a whole.  I tried again and this time twisted out of his grip.  I maintained an expressionless gaze and a flat affect  "No thank you." I repeated.  "What do you want?  Use words."

"Upset!" He screamed!  " I want sad!"  He kept stealing glances at that stupid mirror.  I made a mental note to move that thing out of the bathroom.

"I need for you to go to bed."  I responded.  "Put on your pajamas"  The doors of Isaac's siblings were still closed.  This is certainly not the first scene they have witnessed.  My youngest used to say that Mommy was "brave like Mulan" because Isaac's tantrums did not appear to phase me.  Isaac finally complied and laid down in bed after a few more grabs at me.  He went for my chest once but I managed to back out of that one.  He did get my wrist again.  Each time he made contact, I realized a bit more fully how much bigger and stronger he is getting.  I wonder sometimes when he will really hurt me.  He knocked me off balance a couple of times but I was still able to maintain composure.

He was still screaming when I left him to go to sleep.  I couldn't figure out what he wanted exactly.  He never would use his words other than to confirm that he was upset.  I did not dare go to him to comfort him as I had already been at the wrong end of his behavior.

It was as calm as it would get.  I read a story to my eight year old and kissed my ten year old.  I checked in on my thirteen year old.  I felt like a horrid mother for not passing the threshold of Isaac's room but I did not want to make things worse as it seemed like he might be calming.

I came downstairs.  The gentle mood of our anniversary had evaporated.  Worry set in as I imagined fifty different futures that were bleak and dim.  It's times like these that reality shows it face...and away from the children....I allow myself to shudder.  He's getting bigger.  How much longer can we do this?  It's not personal and I know that.  Isaac is frustrated and is trying to communicate that he is not happy.  But how does this play out?  I can't go there because there are no good answers.  I comfort myself in my husband's arms.  We watch Netflix and sip coffee.  We choose not to think about the future too much.

This morning, Isaac got up and was tired but ok.  The events of last night were gone from his thoughts.  He does not hold a grudge.  He lives in the now.  It was a usual morning of dressing, breakfast and bus.  He's off to school and I sit here at the kitchen table pouring myself out in this blog.  I do think about the future.  I pray.  I hope that all will be well...and then...I push it to the back of my mind...until I have to face it again.

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