I’d love to be a better mother than this, but I just am not. Like, seriously.
Hormones and puberty have hit us like a ton of bricks and the last two weeks here have turned me ass-end-up.
The thing is: I’m notsomuch a punitive mother. I try not to be, anyway. I’m SERIOUSLY. NOT. perfect… but I try. I love my kids. We talk a lot. There are a lot of natural consequences. We talk about those. We’ve had a lot of recent disruptions with BigGuy that were clear indicators of the onset of puberty–but I was remarkably thankful for how those situations went down. Situations that I’ve watched my friends struggle with their kids about that have ended in hard, but not-screaming, conversations with my BigGuy.
I’m not sure if that was suspended reality or if the current state is suspended reality.
For the last week or so, there has been more lying, sneaking, stealing, deception, and occasionally a very strong push to make us feel like horrible parents for not believing some blatant lies (although we can usually break that down with laughter).
We have responded with discussions, redirection, taking things back without any outrageous response, actually hiding things, Mama breaking down and crying that her sweet boy has entered a new stage of life that I didn’t like, and a promise from said boy that he was bringing my BigGuy back.
And the next day him hibernating in his room all day pretending to read while playing a found DS3. Who knows where he found it.\
We didn’t freak. We took it back. He seemed to think he was in really hot water. We talked about what he was doing. We thought it was over.
Until he then stole one of the laptops in his room and proced to hide it under his bed when we came to his room. Our little Gestapo Girl has been a big help here.
So… BigGuy is in jail. Yup–you read that right: jail. He has been confined to his room for way, way, way more time than he has ever spent there. I even brought his lunch to him yesterday IN. HIS. ROOM. (food does NOT go upstairs in this house. Like. Ever. So this was some serious sh*t).
He has managed to get out of his room to help with one thing or another. I believe he ate dinner with us last night. He got to go to his writing group today and that extended into an hour-long playdate with his buddy. Husbeau said “That’s not a punishment–he loves being in his room. He could spend DAYS there.”
Except when he doesn’t have a choice.
My guy is a social animal. Being purposefully withheld from being with the family is now officially not fun after day 2. I pointed out to him that if he’s going to behave like a criminal, he needs to understand what his life will be like. This is as close as I can get. Today, he’s reached the lashing out stage–saying any hurtful thing he can to me. I gave him an end date. He noted that he would not stay in his room that long. I pointed out that he was not in his room full time, had been out (PLAYING) today and would be at all of his choir related stuff all weekend PLUS had been able to come out to help around the house. He was hardly in jail. He disagreed. I got not one but TWO notes under my bedroom door addressed to “The Warden” and one was angrier than the other.
The reality is: I have no idea how to deal with this behavior. It is clearly a reaction to something. Some would say it’s because I limit his screen exposure, but in our house–that’s not a matter of principle: it’s a health issue. He has a reaction to screens that can progress to him being out of control, defiant and physically aggressive. It’s not negotiable. And it’s highly addictive to him. He already has more screen exposure than is likely okay for him because of his online classes (his reactions aren’t contingent on the type of stuff being displayed).
If the screens were drugs, he would be living in rehab because he would be lying and stealing to get the drugs like he’s doing for the screens. And he uses them the way he would use drugs (and the way he currently uses all kinds of things–including books): to escape reality.
We have some much larger anxiety issues to address with my guy. Some of this is inherent to PTSD (which BigGuy has), kids in the spectrum and gifted kids. Some kids with no predisposition or contributing conditions just have severe anxiety. But BigGuy has the cards stacked against him on this one. It’s become clear that a combination of boredom (not being challenged) and his anxiety has pushed him to wanting to opt-out of dealing with reality. It’s just “too hard” for him. I have given a lot of thought this week to how we are going to support and help him.
For now, he just came into my room and we had a snuggle. He said he knew I was having a hard time and I told him that I knew he was having a hard time, too; and that I didn’t want it to be this way. I gently walked through the gentler ways we tried to handle it before now that he wasn’t responding to–that led to where we are. He said he wished he knew what went wrong that made him do those things and I encouraged him to focus more on doing things differently. Then I told him he had plenty of time to think about that in his room.
He gave me a kiss on the nose and I hugged him and he headed off to his room. It could be a lot worse and I know it. But this is MY “worse”.
And this mama is really hoping he gets the message. I know I’ve gotten mine.