This is a very long chronicle of last night because I just need to document it so that the many of you who have similar children can commiserate with me.
Parenting a child who with emotional needs is a full-time job. I know…I know…”But Zoot! All parenting is a full-time job!” But I’m going to be honest. I half-assed a lot of it with E because he was so easy. I could relax a lot more as his Mom, I didn’t have to analyze every thing he said and did and then prepare my reaction (based on research and counseling and trial/error) accordingly. I could just react. Or respond. It didn’t require so much…concentration and mindfullness which is GOOD because I was working and going to school full-time and a single Mom for my last 2 years of the hardest part of my college career. My brain was rarely ever capable of anything beyond “zombie mode” when it didn’t relate to school. If he had needed the mental faculties my other two need? He’d have been screwed.
I have one with anger issues and one who suffers from extreme anxiety. And they both require different tools and some days they both need me to be at my best and most of the time those days are when I’m at my worst.
But. I try.
Yesterday evening Wesley needed me in Wesley Mom Mode. I knew the second I picked him up from the day camp he had been going to at a mountain museum here in Huntsville. First? He was mad I picked him up because I interrupted his Monopoly game and he was downright rude to me. Then one of the leaders said (with a very exhausted tone), “He’s been a bit grumpy.” Yep. Here we go.
You learn to spot the signs of your kid being ripe for a meltdown or an attack and this week was LONG for Wesley. It had a lot more activity than he’s used to. And he was up a little later and getting up a little earlier every day so by Friday? The signs were VERY easy to spot. Some days I have to really be in tune but yesterday? Nope. Big Neon Glaring Signs that said, “WARNING! WARNING! POT IS AT IT BOILING POINT! REMOVE FROM HEAT IMMEDIATELY!”
So I shifted into Wesley Mom Mode. And that mode sometimes sucks because I have two kids in those moments. Luckily, both kids have their days when they need special care so hopefully in the end it balances out. Because when I have to focus on one? The other is screwed. There’s no nice way to put it.
I told Wesley we had to run to Michael’s to get stuff to make our shirts for the PRIDE parade on Saturday and he responded with something like, “UGH. OHMYGOD. IDONTWANNA.” There was flailing and exasperating groaning and sighing all while trying to get him in the car to leave. Now, If I’m not in Wesley Mom Mode? I angrily nip that shit in the BUD. “Stop that attitude. It will only take a few minutes and this is for something FUN. GET OVER IT.” Because, SERIOUSLY. It’s not a big deal kid, don’t freak out.
But I had to be in Wesley Mom Mode which means I have to prevent the spiral long before it starts so I have to watch for it. I have to see the signs of emotions that lead to anger: Exhaustion, Embarrassment, Shame, and I have to address those long before we get to the “ANGER!” response if I can.
“Wesley, I’m so sorry. I know you’re tired. But Daddy’s not home so you have to go with me. But how about if I let you pick what we do for dinner? Pizza?”
“No! I DON’T WANT PIZZA!”
And this is when Nikki does what she does when she sees I’m in Wesley Mom Mode – she tries to overcompensate and help me. And while part of me appreciates this, it’s a whole other issue I need to write about another day because it often interferes and puts her in a bad place. BUT ANYWAY. She was trying to be really agreeable and had responded positively to the Pizza – even though she hates Pizza. He noticed and calmly said, “But if Nikki wants pizza that’s fine.” That’s how I know what I do is working, it helps him slow down his reactions and his spiral and gives him time to notice everyone else and calm down.
I talked to Nikki and said, “Hey, we weren’t sure Michael’s would have everything we need.” (Michael’s is small but for obvious reasons we prefer it over Hobby Lobby, but many times Hobby Lobby is the only place that carries what we need) “So should we just skip it and go to Hobby Lobby and not make Wesley have to stop twice?” To which she said, “Yeah, and it’s actually on the way home so we can be quicker.”
“OHMYGOD IDONTWANNNAA GOOOO TOOOO HOBBBBYYYYY LOBBBBBBYYYYYY.”
“I know, Wes. But I promise. I’ll be really fast and I’ll carry you in so you don’t have to walk. We’ll be home before you know it! Pizza and then home!”
“Can you buy me YuGiOh cards?”
This is one of the many moments where Regular Mom Kim takes over a little bit and Wesley Mom Kim falls back a bit so she’s not all the way in control.
“Wesley. Don’t try to manipulate me and take advantage of my kindness. You know I can’t just buy you YuGiOh cards for no reason.”
“I WASNT TRYING TO MANIPULATE YOU I WAS JUST ASKING!!!”
Shifting 100% back into Wesley Mom Mode and knows it’s time for some redirection
“Okay, Wesley. We’re at Hobby Lobby. I’m going to carry you in because I know you’re so very tired. Then do you want to ride in a buggy or walk?”
So I carried my giant child into the store and whispered my love in his hear and my acknowledgement that he was so VERY tired and I knew that and I’m sorry he would be home soon. He rode in the cart and got snippy about wanting various things in the store. He told me I was “the worst” a few times but he didn’t say he hated me so we were still in the “safe” zone. I just kept trying to redirect and acknowledge the real problem: His exhaustion. That’s the trick. Address the problem that is the ACTUAL problem and not his responses. He was definitely being terrible by average kid standards, but for Wesley when he’s at the “About To Boil” mode it was pretty average but it required me to be on my toes constantly. Constantly redirecting him before his anger boils over. Constantly reminding him he’s just tired and I’m sorry he’s tired.
We get in the car and he’s still snippy about Pizza so we decide on Sonic. (So healthy when Donnie is out of town.) We get home and he goes straight to his YouTube videos (how he unwinds) while Nikki and I work on the shirts. And I could FINALLY relax a little. I’m off duty from Wesley Mom Mode and I can settle in. We avoided a huge meltdown. We were safe.
I think I was so tired because Nikki had her share of anxiety-related issues and just general emotional distress earlier in the day so I was raw from that. Fridays are sometimes hard if we’ve had a hard week. Everyone was exhausted. Especially me.
Fast-forward to bedtime. Donnie is out of town so the three of us are going to sleep in my bed. I’m tired. I’m EXHAUSTED. I need bed. STAT. Then Wesley notices I painted his shirt and he loses it crying because HE wanted to paint it. But he had shown no interest earlier so this caught me really off guard and I was ready for bed so I was NOT in Wesley Mom Mode and – well – everything went shitty from there.
I got him kinda calm by apologizing but then he was being an jerk about bed and I decided I had enough. I didn’t have Wesley Mom Mode even turned on. I was tired and I had given up so I angrily picked him up and said/yelled, “Nevermind. You’re going to sleep in your OWN bed,” and I went to carry him out of the room and he fought me and Nikki started getting upset so I got beyond the door and shut it to keep her separated (like I said, we’re having issues with her intervening).
Then I caught myself and stopped from angrily taking him to his room. My “Wesley’s Mom” radar finally woke up and recognized how futile my actions were so I switched back into Wesley Mom Mode but it was too late. The spiral had started.
He’s kicking and fighting and screaming to get BACK in my room and I’m just holding him. That’s what you have to do when he starts to get violent or aggressive. He’s not trying to hurt me but he’s just trying to hurt SOMETHING and sometimes it’s himself but often I get caught in the crossfire. I am just sitting on the floor trying to hold him but he’s strong and it’s tough so I just keep saying in my calmest Wesley Mom Voice, “Wesley. I love you. Calm down. Let’s talk. I love you.” And I’m trying to rub his back, and I’m singing a lullaby to him. All of the things that I do when I’m in Wesley Mom Mode and he’s in full tantrum mode. But none of it is working. He’s fighting to get to the door. He’s yelling hateful things at me. I’m trying to keep him away from that room where his sister is. Then he gets his hand on the door knob and turns it so I pull harder to restrain him and he breaks free and pops me in the face and I scream (because it hurt) and the door is open and Nikki comes running (because she heard me scream) and she screams to Wesley, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” in the most demonic voice I’ve ever heard from her and I immediately put my pain aside and I’m scared because I’ve lost control of EVERYONE now. It’s a mess. He screams back, “It was an accident!” and tries to shove her but I can also see he’s scared that he hurt me and ashamed and I’m trying to process everything while my face is throbbing and I made the worst move out of fear to keep them apart because I don’t want him attacking her now that he’s ashamed or embarrassed.
So I yell at HER.
If this had happened earlier in the day it would have never spiraled but that initial response of mine when I was NOT in Wesley Mom Mode because I thought we had entered the ALL CLEAR, that sent it all spiraling.
Wesley ran to his room, Nikki started BAWLING. My face is throbbing and I’m thinking. “Well. You screwed ALL of that up Kim. Good job.”
I took a moment to explain to her that she CAN NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES get in the middle of a tantrum like that. She has to trust me that I’ve got it no matter if she thinks I don’t.
“BUT HE HURT YOU!”
“But it was an accident. I just screamed because it caught me off guard. He didn’t do it on purpose. You have to stay as far away as possible when he’s having a tantrum.”
And then I had to remove myself. I had screwed it all up and I needed to count to 10. I got some ice for my face and I sat on the front steps and just contemplated how quickly everything went wrong.
Then I went back and talked to Wesley who was having the self-hatred episode I knew he’d be having.
“I hurt you. I’m the worst. I hate myself. I’m terrible.”
I calmed him down and hugged him and told him I knew it was an accident but that’s why those tantrums are not acceptable.
“I pushed Nikki.”
“I know. And you can a apologize to her for that. I love you Wesley and this is hard, I know, to learn how to process your anger and hurt. You’ve come such a long way though. Don’t forget about that. You’re doing better. Tonight was a bad night. You’re tired. I didn’t handle it great.”
“You are the best.”
“Thank you, Wes. But a lot of things went wrong and we’re all tired so we’re just going to all go to bed, okay? Want me to tell you a story?”
So I held him and told him a story about a kind boy named Wesley who helped a homeless man who turned out to be a prince in disguise.
“But I’m not kind.”
“Yes you are, Wesley. In your heart. You are just learning how to handle the other feelings and it’s hard. I failed handling my feelings tonight too. We all make mistakes. We have to work together on that.”
I asked him to give me some time with his sister to talk to her since I yelled at her. I haven’t yelled at the kids in a long time. I had to apologize for that but I also needed to make sure she understood she can not get in the middle of my parenting in those moments. We had a talk and she would NOT promise me not to get in the middle. “He was hurting you.” And it’s tough because from her point of view he is, but he’s not. I’m just trying to restrain him and he’s flailing. It’s tough. All of it. Because we all have roles we need to play to keep everything in balance. And it’s not just on Wesley days. Nikki has her days too and often Wesley doesn’t play the part on those days and everything spirals for her and we have similar but reversed conversations where I’m begging Wesley not to make things worse (in the reverse though, he’s not trying to help, he things her episodes are hilarious because he’s a little brother and he tries to make it worse) so I can never been a full parent to both of them at the same time.
Wesley came in and apologized to Nikki and it was sweet and sincere and I sang lullabies to both of them. I have this generic lullaby I made up when E was a baby.
Yes I always
will love you,
what you DO.
And it works with the other two as well:
and for some reason they love it even though I’m a terrible singer. Nikki asks for it a lot. So last night I sang it to both of them and then Wes turned the tables.
Oh, Ki – im
Oh, Ki – im
and so on. It was sweet and I’m reminded he’s such a loving boy. That’s the problem. His emotions are so strong and overwhelming. ALL of them. Even the love. So there’s a balance at least. I’m not dealing with the negative and getting nothing positive in return.
It’s just exhausting. And a total struggle. And sometimes I do great. Like all of the errands home and keeping Wesley stabilized. And other times I’m in the wrong gear when an episode happens and all hell breaks loose and then I yell when I shouldn’t yell and we all end up in a ball crying. But most of the times? It’s the first situation. But all of the times? I’m exhausted. I’m just overwhelmed with the emotional taxations on parenting one child with anger issues and another child with extreme anxiety issues. And I had to cancel therapy this week due to scheduling issues. THIS WAS A BAD WEEK TO CANCEL THERAPY.
The kids are all still sleeping. We have a full day of PRIDE parades in the fun shirts we made last night, and fun with NASA so I’m hoping the good night’s sleep we had will help us all.
Thanks for listening.