One Hour Ago.
My son is an hour into a full on rage. Our family room is littered with previously folded laundry. He has tipped the piano bench over and the toy box is now teetering on the edge of the couch. With the Christmas tree clutched in his fist, he is threatening to break every ornament. My husband and I have chosen not to engage. We are sitting at the dining room table with our laptops open pretending to work. We are messaging back and forth. Encouraging one another to keep our cool. We will not intervene unless he is going to hurt himself or someone else. We glance up every so often to see his eyes darting back and forth between his mess, us and the front door. “I’ll run away!” He screams. “I’ll miss you.” I say. It’s the first word we’ve spoken since we found the cookies and candy canes jammed into the pockets of his dress pants. We have an agreement with him that if a rage like this ever happens again he will be responsible for cleaning up every last item. He will also be responsible for earning money to pay for any items that are damaged.
I quickly send a text to my mom, dad and two friends that understand. There aren’t many people who believe that my son is not being a brat. He is unable to regulate his emotions. He is also extremely sensitive to food dyes, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. His brain was damaged before he was born by exposure to drugs and alcohol. He suffered severe neglect in his first year of life and that has left him traumatized. His emotions are on overload right now with the Holiday season. His anxiety is boiling over and the party we just attended has made everything worse.
Three Hours Ago.
My son has been on high alert all day. He struggles with the concept of time, therefore he has been diligently checking the clock every five minutes. “When is the party mom? Will we be late? What if they have foods I can’t eat? Are we going to miss it?” The same series of questions have cycled through his conversation all day. I’m regretting saying we could go to the party at all. It’s for my work though and I’m feeling trapped. It will be fun for other people but for us it has all the components of a perfect storm.
We walk into the party about 10 minutes late. We’ve been sitting in the car for the last 15 minutes talking through how to handle anything stressful that might happen during the night. We’re feeling pretty good as we enter the doors. Friends are waving and welcoming. I’m distracted though. I’m afraid I probably seem rude but something just caught my eye. In the corner of the room is a hot cocoa bar. My son is going to have enough of a struggle with the hot chocolate, let alone the peppermint sticks, whipped cream, chocolate drizzle and marshmallows. Sure enough, my son sits down next to me with a plate overflowing with cookies and sweets. “Son, that’s too much. I’d really like you to choose one thing.” I say. “Gosh mom. Nothing on here has food dye, I checked,” he retorts. I hold firm to my request and he chooses a cookie. We play a few games and I stop to talk to my friends throughout the night but my eye is always on my son. He takes more cookies and I see him slip one into his pocket. I want him to make a better choice but I know he is acting out of fear and self-preservation.
12 Years Ago.
My son sits quietly in a crib. He’s past the point of whimpering. He’s soiled diaper is beyond itching and infected scabs have formed where the diaper rash began. He hasn’t seen an adult in over 24 hours. His big sister has fixed him a bottle but she’s only 3. She tries to copy Mommy. She’s not exactly sure how though and clumps of formula clog the nipple. My son lays there hungry, scared, hurting and that’s when his brain changes. He knows now that Mommies and Daddies do not provide. They do not have his best interest in mind. They do not care.
My hands are placed flat on the dining room table. This tantrum has taken a toll on my heart. He’s had too much sugar, this I know. I’m disappointed in his choice but I feel something more than disappointment. I feel compassion. My husband and I begin to pray for this boy. We to pray for the young man he will become and for the hurting baby he once was. I know my mom is praying too and so is my dad. My friends have dropped everything and lifted my son up as well. As I whisper the words in my heart, I see something incredible. My son puts the Christmas tree down. He folds the clothes neatly back into piles. He rights the furniture and even vacuums the carpet. He moves to the dining room next and proceeds to clean every inch. My husband and I don’t move one bit. He finishes by straightening the kitchen and washing all the dishes. When he’s done he heads to his room, but first he sticks his head back out of the door and simply says, “I’m sorry I took the cookies, I’m sorry I trashed the house.”
We’ll talk more tomorrow. There is so much healing still left to be done. For now I want to crawl into a hole until this holiday season is over. But I can’t and neither can he. He will always struggle with food. Holidays will always be difficult, but I’m hopeful we will one day be able to find a peaceful way to celebrate.
Do you deal with similar issues as a parent? How are you successfully navigating this Holiday season?