Who Are You Again?

It’s a strange thing, after nearly 9 years, to have to learn who your child is all over again.

Sometimes it’s so easy to slide into the old ways which inevitably leads to chaos.

It’s been roughly 38,920 minutes since I picked him up and in that time this is what I’ve learned:

  1. My full moon theory holds true. Behavior gets worse for everyone.
  2. Loud noises are too much. He ran from the garbage trucks this morning.
  3. Crowds are too much.
  4. He responds incredibly well to countdowns: 10 minutes until x, 5 minutes….
  5. He’s still going to rage occasionally. Loudly. If we don’t engage he tends to settle down relatively quickly.
  6. He’s brought back some awful habits from the academy. Language, certain behaviors, certain go-to phrases. We’re working on it.
  7. He’s desperate for friends (He’s not quite ready for “unsupervised” and extended play dates). It’s hard to find people who get it or who are patient/sensitive/compassionate. I get it, it’s scary. Baby steps.
  8. When he gets upset and closes in on himself, I’ve learned it’s best to let him have a few minutes. He likes to hide in his clothes or bedding. So I’ll join him wherever he is and silently copy him- but I make it look like I don’t want him to catch me peeking at him. He’s usually much calmer and sometimes even smiling within minutes. I learned that one completely by accident and it’s worked several times now.
  9. He needs to be allowed to feel his, well, feelings. He doesn’t need to be afraid that he’ll be restrained or sent away. As long as he’s not harming anyone or anything I give him that space.
  10. Eight p.m. is the witching hour. The rest of us had gotten used to a casual evening with dinner sometimes as late as nine. This is a no go. Tonight I got him and his little sister in bed at exactly eight and they were both out within 15 minutes. No meltdowns. No push back.
  11. This child loves to love, but very, very selectively so. He’s incredibly affectionate to the dog, the kitten, and me.
  12. He’s a fantastic helper.
  13. He says he’ll probably be an artist when he grows up.
  14. His self image is destroyed, so there’s a lot of positive reinforcement happening.
  15. Sharps have to be locked up for real this time, not just squirreled away. Did I spell that correctly? Not because he’s threatened anyone or said anything. He’s just got this strange curiosity about cutting things.
  16. You wouldn’t think a can opener would be a “sharp” thing, but the plastic coating on the drainboard would beg to differ. I’ve never seen anyone use a can opener on a drainboard before.
  17. He’s still afraid of swimming.
  18. He’s stopped talking about his father.
  19. You absolutely have to be careful what you say around him. The power of suggestion is strong with this one. To him, suggestions are tangible truths. So right now I’m trying to save money for a certain kind of watch that helps children stay on track. My big mouth has cost me about $80.
  20. He learned a lot of off the wall “facts” out there. They may have dumbed him down a little….

And that’s pretty much it. It’s been hard on the kids. The oldest wants to be in charge and doesn’t like that Little Thunderfoot gets concessions. The Middle has a way of thinking it loud and often Little runs with it. His sister- the poor, lonely thing- is still an area of discomfort for him. He still feels like he needs to be in charge of her. Occasionally he actually lets her within a foot of him.

That being said, I’m so grateful for friends that have stepped forward this summer to keep them occupied. Everyone has someone and although it’s occasional at least they get the random break.

That pretty much covers it. As always it’s wildly intense in the moment but the rest of it smooths it over pretty well. Any questions? Here’s some random pictures…

The days of uninterrupted bathroom time are gone.
He found the art cards and immediately fell in love with this one. So we framed it.
Artist at work
Finished product. He wanted you guys to see.
The watch. I see it’s gone down in price. Well that’s a blessing!
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Of the Little and the Rose

Keeping this brief because it’s late and the phone is almost dead.

You should know that they’ve told each other they are best friends.

That they tell each other they love each other.

That when her elbow was dislocated I found him giving her a hug while they waited for me on the front porch.

That they curl up next to each other in bed sometimes, each under their own blanket. They tell jokes and stories and eventually fall asleep.

That he throws up an intense wall, but has the biggest heart.

I’m overwhelmed by the chaos of four and by the changes and growth I’ve seen in him.

Surprise

Historically, the Rose has always been Little’s scape goat. He doesn’t want her messing with his things. He doesn’t want her near him. He’s always demanding she follow the rules- loudly.

We got home and into bed very late tonight, and things were setting him off easily. I told him he could sleep with me. We found the Rose was already in the bed. He got in anyway and I stepped out for a bit. When I came back in he looked like he was ready to cry and…

A miracle

What the what???? I asked why he was about to cry and he said it’s because she can draw so well. It was because of the letter she “wrote” for him when he finally came home. When she’d first given it to him he handed it to me after she left the room. “Will you put this somewhere? I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” I put the folded note behind the teas and forgot about it. Apparently he went back and got it “on the 15th”, and he’s been carrying it since. He showed it to me, then rolled over. Looking her IN THE EYES he said, “I love you so much.” She was thrilled and told him she loved him too – and he hugged her.

I’m floored. Cautiously elated. Still hard. Still SO much better.

Welcoming him home

Discovery

What we did not know then we certainly know now.

Today is the 13th day he has been home. So much has been learned in such a short period of time!

  1. He can handle chaotic situations much better now.
  2. He reads phenomenally well. I have to remind myself he’s only 8, but he brings color and character to his words.
  3. Separation anxiety is alive and well, but I think time will help.
  4. Meltdowns have given way to temper tantrums, and even those are just really loud and sometimes really vulgar words. It’s not surprising given the climate in which he lived for so long. Again- time and patience should help.
  5. These tantrums or outbursts? Other than the one Saturday night they have become so very easy (relatively speaking) to manage, redirect and end very quickly. I think it helps him to know that he’s allowed to express himself and he won’t be punished for it (side eye at MYA). Plus here there’s no one coming after him to bully. So many times I’ve had to say, “I’m here. I have you. You’re safe.” Has worked 99% of the time to calm him.
  6. He loves to create. He loves using his hands. This was actually a known but you guys- he loves to make things.
  7. He still thinks life is the same as a year ago. He doesn’t realize his little sister is more independent now.
  8. I don’t know what they taught up there, but some of these random declarations are out there. I can’t think of any off hand.
  9. As much as he has to stay by my side, he can also detach and go play without a catch. I love watching him run off to play. He’s so alive and free.
  10. He doesn’t seem to have nightmares anymore, which is wonderful.

And then there’s this unusual lovey:

He’s not technically supposed to have guns but long story short it’s not about the gun. It’s about the fact that his father gave it to him- so a connection to the man he still looks up to. And that’s all I’m saying about that.

No girls allowed

That’s it for this morning. I could write more but I’ve already taken what was supposed to be a simple list and turned it into a novel.

Sun’s coming up and I need a few more ZZZs before they’re up too.

Four

There are four.

One more. Who is, by the way, doing very, very well. He’s tried to pull out a few of his old tricks but we’ve redirected beautifully. Last night he began to stress a bit at bedtime because the place is still “new” to him. All the excuses. As I walked him down the hall a second time his brothers voices drifted from their beds, “What about 5,4,3,2,1?”

Um, that’s the centering exercise where you count 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. I think I have those in the right order.

I was so proud of them and he was able to calm on his own without using that skill. I sat on his bed for about 5 minutes and all was well.

So there are four. That brings human residents to five and it’s weird making that 5th plate of food. That’s honestly been the one thing that has really thrown me.

However my dreams tell me otherwise.

I dreamed about tornadoes for the first time since I was a child. I told the kids to hurry and get to a safe place in our house. The oldest boy was, as usual, trying to bark orders but I had everyone get into the bathroom closet. The closet technically is the center of the house but it is also 3x3x10 and of course shelving. So I moved us into the tub where there was only just a bit more room. The tornadoes were roaring right next to the house. We were all so afraid but I kept them calm.

And really that is what it has been like these last few days. The storms are raging at the perimeter of our lives and I’m keeping the kids in the eye. It means being wary, quick on one’s feet, and flexible.

6.11.18
I began this post on Saturday and I’m only just now getting back to it. Obviously life is a whirlwind, metaphorically speaking. So, speaking of “four”:

Today is day four. Their father had them last night and I took them over to VBS first thing this morning. Out of nowhere Little decided he was ready to brave the chaos. So I honored his request and let him go in but not without letting the appropriate people know his challenges.

Saturday night: Got one early because VBS week is VBS chaos.

As you can imagine, I was on pins and needles the entire first hour after I’d left them at the church. As time passed and no phone call came, I relaxed and actually got to enjoy the rest of the morning.

At pick up, he. was. STOKED! and in good spirits. Everyone else seemed to have had a good time as well. After three errands and a trip to our favorite frozen food foodstand (yeah I know but I like alliteration, they were done.

Original Jerry’s Sno Cones. We were literally standing at the edge of the street.

I think we did too much for him today. He used foul language and yelled a couple of times, but it was more or less circumvented.

After a quiet period at home complete with showers that went to waste running after our stupid dog, a trip to the store, and the Middle reading Harry Potter to us, I stood in the kitchen preparing dinner. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. There is so much yet to do. I need time. I need a brain that will let me think in slow, smooth patterns. I used to do this full time. I can do this again. Can’t I? I need help. Real help. A friend to come sit and help me sort through everything that needs to go/be sold/put away. I need my choir, but I think I’m losing the ability to join them.

I’m tired and sliding back into my feelings. So it’s best to sign off for now. I’ve definitely rambled on long enough. By the way? Today there were only three. The oldest son is spending the week doing an “at home mission trip”: the junior high students are helping with VBS and other service projects around town. Good night!

Many thanks to our vigilant VBS volunteers – they were found!

“Check On Your Strong Friend”

Because we’re not going to reach out to you: we don’t want to put the weight of our pain on you.

Because making others happy is a kind of balm to us: if you’re laughing, we haven’t hurt you and at least we helped someone else avoid pain.

Because sometimes the only thing keeping us going are also the things that break our hearts.

Because our quiet and withdrawal is not by choice: everything becomes empty but so heavy we can’t breathe. We are our own prison.

Check on us. We’re not always okay no matter how brilliant a front we put up.

It’s a Quarter to Two

Its a quarter to two and there’s a child in my bed who is not my daughter but my son. Yet his breathing sounds so much like hers. I feel an energy so similar to his oldest brother’s that it is overwhelming. He’s playful like the brother before him, and likely as smart. His hands are shaped like his father’s, but small enough still in my own hands.

It’s a quarter to two and I should be sleeping after such a very long 48 hours. Have you ever been so exhausted you felt disconnected, as though you were watching your actions from a distance? That vertigo took hold more than once? With 6:30 looming ever closer, bringing with it the tasks of emptying the rental and filling its tank, I should be sleeping but…

…but it’s a quarter to two and all I can do is lay here stroking the top of his head, bristly from a recent trim. All I can do is drink in the sound of his breathing, study every curve and line of his face. My fair skinned, blue eyed child, born into my arms again these nine months later. Except this time around he can quietly murmur, “Mom? I love you,” as he drifts into sleep.

It’s a quarter to two and all I can do is feel the same joy, love, and gratefulness I did that night 8 years, 7 months, and 8 days ago.