For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know far more about my family than you probably ever wanted to know. Parenting is a carnival ride on the very best days. The other days, it’s still a carnival, but the ride is busted and there’s a two-year-old with a lollipop stuck in his hair, screaming about how much the world sucks.
Those are the days, however, that make for the best stories. The times that make me feel like I’m either going to toss one of the kids out the window, or jump out myself, are the times I laugh about the hardest later.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
My son–beautiful, charming, handsome boy that he is–turns twelve in about a month. He is squarely in the middle of pre-teen hormones. When our oldest went through this stage, I said “NEVER AGAIN!” And I was emphatic about it. But then time does what time does, and I forgot all about the awful. Apparently Tara did too, because she said yes when I asked if we could have another baby. And then another.
Except, it turns out, when Michelle went through puberty and I thought I may never see the right side of sane again, that was a cake walk. Because, as hard as that was for her (and us), she had a level playing field to start with. For all intents and purposes, she was “normal.”
Now, I hesitate to use that word because it implies what comes next is somehow bad. And that’s not the case. What I mean is that, while Michelle had a steady influx of evil-crazy due to hormones, she didn’t have any extra hurdles in her brain to keep her from stumbling across the finish line eventually.
Her brother, though, he’s stumbling for all he’s worth and trying like hell to stay upright, and every single day is a monumental fight.
You see, Wyatt has Asperger’s. It’s something I’ve talked about lots and lots over the years, so I’m not going to bore you all with a detailed explanation this time (You can check HERE if you need a refresher in all things Wyatt.). The takeaway for Wyatt is that he experiences everything with the volume turned all the way up.
On his very best days, he still struggles to keep it all together. Add hormones to all that, and the results are…interesting.
The last three nights, Wyatt has expressed his discontent in an ever escalating spiral of behaviors that would make most people reconsider parenting completely.
First, when I didn’t let him take control of the remote, he glared at me (boy has a seriously evil look of death), then went downstairs to play a game on the PS3 instead. A few minutes later, we hear a crash and a thump and Wyatt yelling some pretty inappropriate things. The game did something he didn’t like, probably killed him off, and in his frustration, he threw his glass full of fruit smoothie onto the floor. The glass broke. The carpet will never be the same.
Up the stairs he comes. Still glaring at me, he flipped off the powerstrip for the TV and unplugged all the corresponding cords. Then he went to his room. I plugged everything back in, turned the TV back on, and waited.
A few minutes later, Wyatt returned. This time, he moved the dog kennel and unplugged the powerstrip from the wall. More glaring, and then back to his room. I plugged it back in, moved the kennel back in place (found a missing case for eyeglasses in the process), and turned the TV back on. And waited.
A few minutes later, back comes Wyatt. Once again, he moved the kennel, unplugged the cord, and kicked the kennel for good measure.
This time, before he could leave, I asked him if he needed to talk.
Now, before you start on that “If I’d done that when I was a kid…” tangent, let me explain a few things.
I too grew up in a time and place where that kind of behavior would have been met with some extreme corporal punishment. Probably in the form of a leather belt. Possibly in something more aggressive. Regardless, the point would have been made, and I would have thought twice before doing those things again.
That fear of what might happen kept me from doing a lot of shitty things as a kid. It worked because I was able to weigh my actions against the possible outcome and then act accordingly.
For Wyatt, when he’s in a place where all he can see is what’s wrong in his world, he’s not capable of stepping back and regrouping like that. Physical violence (because that’s what a spanking is, folks) or even yelling would only escalate the situation. All we can do is ride out the wave and then talk to him about it.
So, back to our story in progress.
Wyatt did want to talk. But he wasn’t ready to. He sat down, but used the time to tell me how it was all my fault because he wanted to watch TV and I wouldn’t let him. Sometimes when he’s like that, I can redirect him. This time when I tried, he said that he can’t control himself. He’s not making the choice to be bad, so he can’t make the choice to not do those things instead.
At that point, I decided to remove myself from the conversation. It was going nowhere and neither of us were really listening to the other. I was pretty calm, but I was also frustrated. That does strange things to my hearing.
Tara and I went to bed. Unfortunately for Wyatt, the remote went with us. No, I didn’t snuggle up with the remote, but it was a clear, easily explained consequence to his outbursts.
As you can imagine, this did not meet with joyful celebration.
Wyatt stomped around for a bit, then he came to our room and turned on the light. For good measure, just in case we didn’t notice the bedroom light, he also turned on the light in the master bathroom. I waited a moment, practiced that deep breathing I’ve heard so much about, and then got out of bed.
Turns out, it wasn’t just our lights, but every single light in the house was on. That, for those of you who made the connection, is a romantic country song, but not great when trying to settle down for the night.
After turning off all the lights, I went back to bed.
A few minutes later, Wyatt returned. This time, he flipped the switch on and off a few times, then left it on and stomped away. I let Tara know it was her turn to get the light. She turned it off and came back to bed.
And, you guessed it, Wyatt came back a few minutes later, did that flippy on and off about fifty times, then stomped away with the light on. Again. This time, instead of returning to his own room, he headed back to the living room, turning on lights as he went. He also, just to make sure I understood his pain and outrage properly, turned over all of the easy chairs (we have a sofa, a love seat, and three recliners).
I found him in the kitchen, glaring at the pantry and puffing his cheeks in and out as he breathed hard through his nose.
I pulled him into a hug, which he allowed, told him I loved him, and then said, “The next time you turn on my light and leave it on, I’m removing all the light bulbs from your bedroom.”
First he did a shocked double-take. As a parent, I take special pride in those moments when I can still shock my children. Then, he snuffled in that way that man-sized children do, buried his head in my chest like a toddler, and said, “Okay, Mom.”
“Let’s go back to bed now. Are you ready?”
He nodded and led the way. I turned off the lights but left the chairs for him to pick up when he calmed down completely.
Oddly enough, my light stayed off for the rest of the night.
Parenting. It’s one hell of a ride.
8 thoughts on “Flipping a Switch”
Thank you! I was reminded once again about grace in parenting.
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Lol, I don’t feel very graceful.
Hardest gig I ever loved – grandmothering, Now there is the gig of a lifetime. Great log-
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I’m looking forward to grandkids!
I love how you handle the struggle Wyatt deals with. As one who was on the other side of the spectrum, I sincerely appreciate any parenting that does not entail physical punishment. Go you, and go Wyatt. This shall pass, but you’ll need more hair dye. 😉
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I already need a lot of hair dye!
Wow. That’s a whole lotta patience you used up.
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That was night three. The two before were very similar. It helps that I can still remember when he was tiny and smelled like brand new baby. And I have a video on my YouTube channel of him around age 5 talking about his belly button. Anytime I’m really feeling short with him, I watch that video and remind myself that little boy is in there somewhere.