Broken Windshields and Digital Detox: Handling Mother’s Day

It was not a good morning. A wet t-shirt whack to the middle child’s arm left him in tears and left the eldest arguing about the subjective experience of pain. My attempt to explain this subjectivity was unwanted factual information at a time of emotional distress which escalated the issue. Before long, TV remotes were flying, pillows were flying and by the time the baseball helmet was about to be launched toward the sliding-glass doors, I took him down.

I give the boy credit for moving into submission rather than fighting back with all his might as he outweighs me by at least twenty or thirty pounds now. But we drove to school with me emotionally exhausted. As they jumped out of the car, tears welled as I texted a friend: “It’s so hard when people tell you how mature and wonderful Super Tall Guy has become and they don’t have to see the shit that he gives me at home.” Over and over again.

He pops into school and does well all day, while I carry around a heavy heart. Because his loss of control seems more intense lately, I eventually decided to call for an intake appointment for psychiatric/therapy services. It’s been on my mind, you know, every time he flips out and then I say, “Well, he’s calmed down again.”  But I worry about the emotional toll on myself, the toll on him to deal with uncontrolled anger again and again, and the toll on the younger brothers emotionally and sometimes physically.

After school he wasn’t much better. I arrived home with The Little Guy (after learning that since a cavity was filled in the same tooth eleven months from the last time, insurance wouldn’t cover it and I’d be paying $175) to find Super Tall Guy running out to my car to say, “I’m sorry for hurting Mr. Ornery.” Sigh. Apparently a discussion had gone awry about who got the “best” placement for the Mother’s Day gifts they brought home from school. Mr. Ornery’s loss left a scratch on his back.

My consequence of banning him from visiting his aunt’s house where Awesome Cousin had just arrived from the West Coast was met with upturning the video/CD shelving. I took the younger brothers over while Super Tall Guy cleaned up the mess. Expecting him to have turned the corner, we went over to my sister’s as well.

The evening seemed to go smoothly and given the beautiful weather, I worked on cleaning my car while the boys rode bikes on the street. I heard but didn’t see the crash that sent my 7-year-old nephew onto the pavement as he swerved to avoid Super Tall Guy lying in the middle of the road. His full-face helmet offered important concussion and teeth protection, but his lack of a shirt resulted in brush burns to back and shoulder. Comforting the young one, I let Awesome Cousin chat with Super Tall Guy about his poor decision.

We soon left for home and just a few hundred feet down the road, I reiterated how dangerous it is to get in the way of young kids riding on the street. Super Tall Guy was not in the mood to hear more about his mistake. Embarrassment leads to anger. Remember that. Embarrassment leads to anger. He picked up his feet and kicked the windshield – causing a brilliant star-shaped shatter. Shocked, I pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there for a couple minutes crying “I can’t do this anymore.” Super Tall Guy cried in sadness and despair. The Little Guy cried out of fear at the intensity of the emotions around him. Mr. Ornery must have been wondering what all the fuss could possibly be about as he didn’t notice the cracked windshield until the next morning.

Walking into the house a few minutes later, Super Tall Guy collapsed onto the couch and fell asleep as I took the dog for a short walk. I gave The Little Guy a tight squeeze as I reassured him that his mom had this. “I’m strong. I got this. Don’t you worry. I’m going to help your brother.” Kissing Mr. Ornery good night, I talked about the many reasons people cry but he seemed unconcerned other than hoping that his cousin would be feeling better soon.

Then I sat on the couch with a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s and let the shock fade.

This is Mother’s Day weekend. This is the boy that first “made” me a mother. This is my love. And yet I struggle so hard to parent him. The emotional toll is huge. The physical burden gets overwhelming. The struggle to understand what he needs and temper his anger is intense.

Reflecting on his day, I can tell that he was very tired. He was probably also reacting to a long week of dealing with consequences for behaviors last weekend that left him without his Ipod and without his laptop to play games on (the XBox has been gone for quiet awhile – that will be another story). And, I have a strong suspicion that he is “detoxing” from sustained “digital heroin” intake and experiencing a reorientation of his dopamine neurotransmitters.

Too often I have relied on electronics to keep Super Tall Guy quiet and keep his emotions at bay so that he isn’t bothering his brothers. But time spent in this digital reality hasn’t been teaching him how to deal with the typical everyday annoyances of having younger brothers. It’s going to take years and years to learn that, I’m sure.

The day after his explosions he spent a couple hours doing “community service” for his aunt. He spent hours playing with his brothers and cousins. And, after an hour of TV and then a tantrum about how he “needed” more, he and I started a game of Monopoly before bed.

I remind myself that detox is not easy. I am going to need a lot of patience and friend support as Super Tall Guy and I go through this, I’m pretty sure.

And, I remind myself that this parenting gig is not easy.

But it is oh so worth it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

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The Masks We Wear

My house is dotted with photos. Smiling boys. Smiling mom. I absolutely adore these boys. I love them to the core. I so want to help them grow into amazing men. I want what is best for them. I am their voice and their advocate. I pour a lot of time and energy into them. A lot of time and energy.

I am an “amazing” “incredible” woman, so many say. Yet, I have taken on the responsibility of raising three boys by simply walking one foot in front of the other by faith into this. I head to work with composure. I frequently write about my boys and their antics with an attempt at wit. I provide a listening ear and a gentle shoulder (sometimes via texts) to other tired and worn mothers. I pull it together and smile.

Yet some nights I sit on the couch and cry. “Why, Lord?” In the dark, the mask falls off. In the dark, the weary wrinkled eyes weep.

Some days are just harder than others. Some days the eldest is exhausted because he was so intent on completing “a challenge” of staying up all night that he spends the next two days irritably dealing with the consequences. He tops it off with flatly refusing to get a shower. (A preteen boy who refuses a shower for two days. Let that sink in.) Some days he flashes into rage and lunges at the middle brother with an anger and intensity that shakes me. I bring every calming nerve I can around to attention and sit in front of his face saying, “We are not doing this. We are not doing this.” Somedays, I am so completely disconnected from my eldest. I banish him to his room until he makes himself clean. I ground him for a week for the violent outburst. I refuse to enter his room at night to read to him due to the smell (though our silly dog seems to happily enjoy his company!). I am over it. I weep.

Some days Mr. Ornery completely flips out. Frustrated with a Nerf “war” gone bad, he decides to trash his room completely. In his fit of frustration, he smashes his Christmas Lego sets and empties the thousands upon thousands of Legos from sorting boxes into one large box. My heart aches as I think of all the hours we have spent building Legos together. The hours I have put into sorting Lego pieces by functionality. The hours of creating intricate buildings, cars, planes, homes. Trashed in a matter of minutes.

Some days The Little Guy just can’t stop whining. Every time he comes near, his voice screeches in a complaint about something not going his way. “Mr. Ornery hurt me.” “Why can’t I watch Batman Returns?” “Why do I have to feed the dog. I always have to feed the dog. I’m the only who ever has to feed the dog.” I send him away as his pitch is nails on my internal board. Yet at the same time I know I should be giving him a hug and chasing away his gray clouds. I should be answering his cries to connect instead of pushing him away. We are distant and I can’t find the energy to pull in.

Some days I just sit on the couch. The sting of parenting leaving me empty. The constant mess around me. The constant energy to motivate uninterested young boys. The constant noise and chaos and destruction. The constant demand for my attention.

I sit wondering if I can put the mask back on and rally another day.

Knowing that I will.

Knowing that I am not alone.

 

Knowing that God in His wisdom chose me for this one.

Knowing that it will be better in the morning when I have more energy to deal with it all (if I get to bed soon enough, that is). Knowing that the boys will feel better in the morning. Knowing that I have the support I need – my friends and family are just a call or text away.

I let the tears flow

And the peace return.