Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pete, Re-Pete & a Parenting Quandary

This summer, Keenan is going through the same anger/grief/adjustment cycle that Miles went through last summer.

The good news is that I'm a BTDT Mama, and so I'm not making the slew of mistakes I made with Miles.

The bad news is that I'm finding some behaviors just as draining, as misplaced u*rine has never lost its magical ability to suck the marrow clean outta your bones.

On occasion, I'll ask my boy, out of sheer exasperation: "Don't you remember Miles doing this last summer? How fun was that?"

He can tell me, yes I remember, and not fun at all. Miles will often exaggeratedly smack himself on his forehead, shake his head and say in his cute and deep voice that carries a trace of his Haitian accent: "Oh, Keenan, Keenan! Dees is ridiculous! Have fun! Play!"

Doesn't matter how much we say in the moment. Keenan will get there when he gets there. I do believe that me saying it, however, that repeating my mantra's of: "Mom's a good Mom. Mommy takes care of you because she loves you. Mommy is a safe Mom. This is a Safe House" and so on and so forth does seep in.

Miles can tell you those facts in his sleep, and it seems to be part of his internal dialogue now. He's certainly fierce in his protection of me, often scolding Keenan and telling him: "I do not like it when you act not nice to Mommy! It makes me angry because she loves us."

Holy Cow, what a turn around with this child.

Yet, Keenan is a completely different child with a completely different set of issues. Why the great delay in processing this grief and anger? Well, he hung on to a deeply ingrained set of coping mechanisms-- pretending not to understand, speaking unclearly, basically acting cute but dim-- which prevented him from ever having to face his trauma.

Now that he's been essentially stripped of those behaviors--and now that he's not in a school environment, which is basically a daily hallucinogen of 8 hours of free "feel good" love with no strings attached--he has no escape where he can resort to those long held coping techniques.

Hence, the anger, rage, grief at his short but tumultuous life that has had so many major changed that he could not control at all.

So now he's trying to control everything. He's remarkably good at trying to take "time and energy" away from me (something we are working on in therapy.)

No matter what I ask this child, he will take a full 2 minutes to answer. Even if I ask him, do you want an Oreo or a chocolate chip cookie?" he will look at me and wait. Not because he's trying to think of a way to get both, or he's stuck in the throes of indecision. It's just his thing. Making others wait.

This are really sticky behaviors.

The waiting 2 full minutes to answer a question. Or to respond to his name, no matter whether I'm calling him or one of his siblings.

The answers which don't match the questions I ask: "We're going to dance, where's your backpack?" answer: "My shoes are in the garage."

The constant interrupting, as I'm talking to the neighbor in the front yard. "Mom, Paloma is wearing a green shirt." "Mom, they are painting their house." "Mom, we have 3 dogs."

The constant asking: "Can I play with this?" "Can I get out this toy?" "Can I play with Miles and Paloma?" "Can I play with this?" but never doing anything of the things for which permission was granted.

I have read the books and understand the different techniques for how to handle these types of situations. Our intuitive therapist is great at offering perspective.

But here's my quandary: How do you deal with a child who is trying to suck the time and energy out of a day, when you have 4 other children, who are doing great, to parent?

Last summer, I gave ALL of my energy to Miles. The other kids were maintaining, and I let them.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I'm trying to teach Keenan that it's not okay to steal time and energy away from the other kids. I refuse to make the same mistakes again.

Yet, at the same time, I owe him the time/energy to help him heal, learn and cope.

I am finding this so frustrating. I have not seen this issue addressed in books. And our therapist, God bless him, has one perfectly adorable, neuro-typical child, and does not truly get this situation. Or he does, but the theory behind it and putting it into practice are two very different things.

So that pretty much sums it all up. We're here, and despite dealing with Keenan's coming to terms with his life, we're doing well. The kids are enjoying their summer, and it's flying by with dance, camping and swimming. And I'm trying hard to live in the moment with them, making sure it doesn't go by with me missing out. But it's sure not easy.


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Having dealt with this for 4 years I can tell you what I have done that worked at knitting. However, 4 years later I am still dealing with it. Sigh.
When I get no response, I whistle loudly. Return a nonsense question with a nonsense question... "Is your hair purple" or "is it dark out" when it is daytime. Incessant demands get "I love you honey". One time I gave Genea about 12 blocks and that was the amount of questions she could ask in 3 hours. She had to trade me a block for a question. It worked immediately and unbelievably well.
Anyway, those are a few things that helped. I tried about 900 things that didn't help.

Steph, G's Mom said...

Hi Sarah....just image what an awesome time you wil have NEXT summer!!!

One thing comes to mind....can you set up a video camera in a room where these timesucking behaviors are likely to happen and capture an hour or two on film, or longer, then edit it down in YouTube or what not to eliminate the long stretches of nothing and then show it to the therapist. I honk there is no substitute for them seeing for themselves the behaviors and how the impact your life in reality. said...

We have done the things Essie does as well as 20 questions, that's all you get today and keep track so he does not go over, if he wants to ask another question past 20 he has to pay for it withmoney or a chore. The other thing that I found worked was setting aside some specific time to work just with him, everyone else gets to do something like watch tv and you get time to play a board game or read or something and can hopefully talk a bit during that time. It worked well here cause tv is a highly sought after privilege which may not be the case for your kids but I am site you can find one. Good lick, good yarn and chocolate might help as well

Sara E. said...

Da questions are killing me too! OY! Yes, to the interrupting and yes to the ridiculous questions and the ridiculous answers! How about waiting for me to actually answer a question before asking another one...that would be good.

I think you are hanging in there nicely...

Big Hugs,