This morning I found my office door not quite shut all the way. Other than my bedroom door, I haven't had to keep doors locked for months now. And we'd needed an extra locking doorknob for another door at one point and then someone lost the key for that knob. At any rate, the office has just a regular doorknob.
I opened the office door to find desk drawers open and things not quite right. The lock on my filing cabinet was broken and the key (which I obviously had not hidden well enough!) dangled from the lock. I could tell immediately that I was missing a book and a gift card and some change. Without taking further inventory, I knocked on Chef's door. When he answered, I opened his door and told him he had ten seconds to put the items from my office into the hallway to show he was turning the day around so he could have a good start to his day. Chef immediately became angry and denied he had taken anything. I knew that he would deny/become angry regardless of the way I delivered my discovery (I've utilized many different approaches over the years), and the longer he held onto the items the angrier he would become about having to return them (the only times he has shown a little less fury over the discovery of items he's taken have been when he's taken edible items and already eaten them; he will still initially deny but will not become quite as angry nor take quite as long to saying that he took an edible item and will usually then either hold up the empty wrapper/box/etc., or will throw it at you or elsewhere in his room). I reminded Chef that I was not asking if he had taken anything, I was giving him the opportunity to return them and start his day over on a positive note. He continued denying. I repeated, "I didn't ask if you took them. Get the items." This played out a few times until eventually Chef started pushing his dresser and computer desk around under the guise of "proving" to me that nothing was hidden in his room. That's when I saw it. The corner of the book was peeking out from inside the ripped mattress cover. I told him to take the mattress out of his room. He did. He was wearing his very-angry-face, but he took the mattress out into the hallway. I pointed out that the book was very obviously inside the ripped part of the mattress. I don't remember whether or not he denied it first, but he did take it out, still maintaining a very angry expression on his face. I told him to go back to his room and do a thorough room check. Chef continued to angrily tell me he hadn't taken anything and hadn't been in my office. The gift card was under his large laminated map on the floor. Chef continued to angrily tell me he hadn't taken anything and hadn't been in my office. My oldest daughter had come upstairs at one point and said that she and her baby needed to have a bit more time to sleep, so I told Chef he was going to need to be quiet in his room for awhile so his sister and niece could sleep. I walked away and went into my room. Chef began to grunt and loudly humph and belch and stomp in his room and I heard unfamiliar sounds, almost like muffled flicking. I went back to check and found that he'd ripped apart his foam puzzles; there were pieces all over the floor. He also had strange marks on his face. When I asked what he had done to his face and if he'd done that with the foam pieces, he VERY angrily said, "That's where you got my face!" "Got your face? What does that mean, 'got' your face?" "When you talked in my ear before, you got my face with your nail!!" I told him it didn't seem possible but I'd have a look. He calmly let me tilt his chin so I could have a look at his cheek. He had one mark longer than the others with two or three other marks beside that one. I pointed out the flaws in his theory and asked what really happened. He then said he had scratched himself. I asked him to show me how and he quickly pretended to grab his cheek and pull down. I asked if he felt he could now be quiet in his room and he said he could.
When my daughter and granddaughter were awake, I told Chef that he could come out of his room whenever he was ready to talk about what he'd done in my office. He very grumpily (not as loudly nor glaringly as "angrily") said he didn't take anything and hadn't been in my office. I reminded him that the shops were closing soon, that there was a Fall Festival happening, and that we needed to pick up groceries for his school lunches. None of that mattered. He stayed in his room and stuck to his story. I've seen it before. He hates chores and he often hates when anyone discovers that he's done something he shouldn't have done. Sometimes the two seem to work well together in theory, since being in his room gives him that feel-good of being by himself in his room with the added benefit of getting him out of chores. He stuck to his anger for 4 hours - and then, as pleasantly as you please, he came to the top of the stairs and said that he had indeed been in my office and he knew he shouldn't have taken stuff. This, however, was after the lunchtime scene.
When I'd told him about an hour earlier that I was going to pick up lunch from a place across the way and asked if he wanted anything, he'd said no. (My daughter had eaten earlier then had stayed at the house with him so I could go out for a few minutes). After I had eaten, there was foghorn-whining from upstairs. I reminded him that that was not appropriate. He yelled back that he was hungry. I reminded him that whining was not going to get him what he wanted. He continued whining for around 20-30 minutes. I read, played some music, watched some tv, visited with my daughter, played with my granddaughter. When he stopped the whining, he very appropriately talked about what he'd done regarding my office. I asked him how he planned to repay his family for the time he'd spent whining. He said that he would do dishes after supper and then spend the rest of the evening in his room. I reminded him that dishes are his regular job right now anyway, and spending an evening in his room not doing anything is what started his problems the other day in the first place. I gave him paper and a pencil and told him he could go upstairs and do some appropriate writing for the same amount of time that he had spent whining. He went upstairs without issue. He tried to challenge the exercise once by coming out after about two minutes and saying he was done but immediately returned to his room when I reminded him that he'd whined much longer than that. I called him down a few times to check what he was writing. There it was - all that he'd been doing the last few days; leaving school to steal candy, bragging to kids at school about stealing, telling me the school staff were liars, refusing to do much of anything since Thursday, ripping his mattress,etc., etc., etc.
Chef hasn't been doing dishes since Thursday, so he had a bit of a pile to work at today - and he got a good start on them, but I sure wasn't up to having him in the kitchen til late into the evening so the rest will wait til tomorrow. And though he missed breakfast and lunch, he did eat an afternoon snack, and his supper, and an evening snack.
Before he went up to bed, I talked with Chef. We talked about what hadn't worked for him and Chef knew all the right answers. I talked with him about the good inside of him and the importance of spreading that good. We talked about the importance of training the brain to make good choices, and the steps he needs to follow when he feels like taking something he knows he shouldn't. He appeared very receptive and relaxed.
And then, on the way up the stairs a few seconds later, I saw him pick up a container of potatoes he'd tucked onto the stairwell while he'd been doing dishes.
This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.