**Update: I wrote this about 2 weeks ago. I couldn’t figure out if I should post it or not, but then I decided that I would. It is hard to see my oldest have rough days, even rough weeks. It’s awful to have him labelled as an explosive child or to have a safety plan in place at school for him. However, there are others going through the same thing or even worse. So the least I can do is write about it and see if my words can help anyone.**
So the last couple days have been pretty rough. Everyone has rough days, but I don’t think we talk about them often enough. As mentioned before, Ethan has an anxiety disorder. Some days are better than others, most days are manageable and then there are others that are just not controllable. This weekend was one of those ‘others’.
Last week was a slowly descending spiral. It started on Wednesday and progressively got worse from there. I am not sure if it was the full moon or what, but something was definitely in the air.
Wednesday was supposed to be an exciting day. We were finally doing our Christmas gift exchange with our best friends. Yes, we like to carry Christmas on for as long as possible!! Our friends showed up for dinner, we ordered pizza, the kids ate and then came the fun part! PRESENTS! We always let the kids open presents first, and we go from youngest to oldest. Both boys were very excited about their gifts. Iron Man and Captain America cars that our friends built for them in Disneyland! (Did you know that you could do this? Like Build-a-Bear, but with cars!) So we finish up the exchange (I got a lovely bracelet from Alex&Ani from my bestie) and we let the kids play some WiiU. Now is where the terrible part comes in. The kids tend to fight and argue when playing the Wii. It’s all very competitive and of course, there is only one way to do it properly. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but Ethan was asked to step away from the game for a minute and then proceeded to lose his shit. Literally screaming, yelling, crying all at once. Then he tells my husband that he is going to kill him. Kill. Him. I had never heard these words come out of Ethan’s mouth before. I couldn’t believe it. Naturally he was sent upstairs and our friends left shortly afterwards.
Later that evening I sat Ethan down and asked him what was going on. Now, if you know Ethan, you will understand that he hates talking about feelings, problems, etc. You can sit at his level, try to make eye contact (he hates this) and it doesn’t matter what you say. It’s like he doesn’t associate the punishment with the action. Before you ask, no, he is not autistic or anywhere on the spectrum. He doesn’t have ADHD, ADD or any other problems. His only diagnosis is anxiety and Developmental Coordination Disorder. Anxiety can tend to play out aggressively, but not DCD.
Anyway, back to the horrible, rotten, no good 2 weeks that we have been having. It kept getting worse. Every little thing set Ethan off. It didn’t matter if we gave him notice of the plans, or sprung them on him. He freaked out for everything! Taking him to Nanny’s to stay the night, taking them to the park, grocery shopping, etc. It all caused massive blow ups!
Last week at school was the worst. Monday evening I received an email from another parent at the school asking if I could call her and chat with the issues going on between her son and mine. I sat there looking at this email thinking, ‘What issues?’ This was the first I was being made aware that there were any issues at school. And with this kid specifically as Ethan and him were buddies as far as I could tell. So, I immediately email the teacher to find out if I am missing something as I was blissfully unaware of any problems at the school. I get an email back asking if I could come see her in the morning and talk to the teacher. So, again, here I am completely caught off guard. So needless to say, the teacher had had a few complaints that Ethan was bullying this other boy. And the other boy was feeling very stressed out about coming to school because of him. I couldn’t believe it. My little boy bullying someone? That seems a bit extreme. First of all, we definitely do not encourage bullying, name calling, violence of any kind towards anyone in our household. Secondly, Ethan is barely 50 pounds and 4 feet tall. So, being almost 9, he is one of the smallest kids in his class. I sit Ethan down the next night and talk to him about the situation. It’s the same answers as always. ‘I didn’t mean to hit him’, ‘my brain told me to’ ‘I should have asked him to talk to me’ ‘I’ll never do it again. I promise’. Ethan has a really hard time with impulsivity control. So this is something we are working on, and something that we will probably have to work on for quite a while.
Next day at school (Tuesday), Ethan winds up and punches this same little boy in the stomach at recess. Are you kidding me? We just talked about keeping our hands to our selves and how this little boy is upset about going to school because of Ethan. The teacher and I discuss it and decide that I will come and pick him up from school and he will have to go home for the day. Maybe being sent home will make him understand what he is doing. So, I leave work to go and pick him up. I get to the school and I have my first annoyance. They have let him go back to class. So there I am, ready to pick him up, and I have to go to his class to get him. I don’t understand this. When we were in trouble as kids, we had to wait in the principal’s office until our parents showed up. This day was also a birthday party that Ethan was invited to. I informed him when I picked him up from school that he would not be allowed to attend the party. I also let him know that he would have to walk up to his friend’s after school and drop off the gift, and explain why he wasn’t allowed to come anymore. Needless to say, that was a very hard afternoon for both him and I. It was heartbreaking to watch him cry and plead to go to the party and then to watch him explain to his friend why he couldn’t come anymore. But I stayed strong. All the while, I keep explaining to him that we need to keep our hands to ourself and to treat others how you would want to be treated.
Wednesday (the next day), again, I get a phone call around 1pm. It’s the school. I am now dreading these phone calls. Ethan has punched two friends today and would I be willing to pick him up? Sure, but the only way that I am coming to get him is if he is waiting in the office when I get there. Because if this is a consequence to his actions, then he should have to be sitting in the ‘chair of shame’ in the office until I can get there to pick him up. So off I go again (side note here: Thank you to my amazing employer who is very understanding of family issues and lets me go without asking too many questions). I get to the school and lo and behold, Ethan is NOT in the office. Are you kidding me? I specifically said that he was to be in the office when I got there. The lady who called me, not the teacher, is a woman who I have had a few issues with this year at the school. She is new and seems to have her own way of doing things. The admin staff call around and find Ethan. He has gone back to the classroom with this woman to wait for me to pick him up. ARGGGHHHH! I want to pull my hair out at this point. I talked to her on the phone 20 minutes earlier. I made it perfectly clear what I wanted. And she still didn’t do it! So frustrating. I take him home and we discuss the same things as the night before. Keeping your hands to yourself, not hitting, punching, scratching, kicking, etc, listening to our friends, listening to the teachers, doing our school work, the list goes on and on. I am still not sure if this is all getting through to him though, if I am being honest.
Thursday, he hit someone at lunchtime. But no adult saw it and he ran to the lunchtime supervisor and told them right away that he hit somebody and that he really didn’t want to go home. His teacher called and explained what happened, but we have decided that sending him home is not really an option that is working for everyone. So with all the resources in the school, we are going to look at different options for him. Friday was a great day. Kept his hands to himself, did his work. There were no problems. Things tend to do this. It’s a constant rollercoaster with him. We will have all these ups and downs and then these extremely low downs. And then everything gets better.
With all of this going on, I stressed out. I made an appointment with his pediatrician, I started calling around to find a therapist for him to talk to, I googled all kinds of different syndromes (DON’T DO THIS. EVER!) trying to fit my Peanut into a box, I called the school to arrange for the counsellor to talk to him and I borrowed parenting books from friends. I am trying anything and everything. I have issues with our school district. While all of this is happening with Ethan, there are some underlying factors. One, there is no consistency with his EA. Some days she is there, some days she is absent and some days she is assigned to a different child due to her training. The school district is too large and does not have enough support for the whole district. And I know this isn’t the school’s issue, I just feel like we are all failing him. I just want him to be able to discuss with us when things are going bad at school and I want him to be able to express himself vocally instead of physically. I want him to know how much his friends like him, but if he keeps doing the things he is doing, he won’t have any friends anymore.
Needless to say, this has been a rough couple of weeks…..