Thursday, October 7, 2010
It is the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Chef has often not done well with any kind of holiday/celebration. It's yet another change in routine, it's still the beginning of a new school year, he asks almost every day whether or not my daughter and granddaughter are going to be at our place or not and where they are. There always seems to be so much running under the surface for Chef.
On our way to the store today, Chef looked at me and said, "Oh, I have something for you. It's a hug. I haven't given you one in awhile." Then he hugged me.
Wow! THAT is a rarity.
While we were at the store, Chef talked about some things he'd like us to make on the weekend. Fantastic! Chef doesn't usually initiate conversations like that, plus there were some "planning ahead" pieces in that statement! Some of the items required flour. When I reminded Chef that some of those items might have to wait because he'd recently eaten the rice/potato flour, he said, "Ok." I asked him how he'd managed to eat flour just on its own and he said he hadn't - he'd mixed it with vanilla.
Chef had a good evening tonight. We ate supper around 6:30pm, he tossed in his laundry, did some dishes, talked about the painting he'd brought home for me yesterday, we talked about weekend possibilities - all in all, a really nice evening.
And then I saw it.
A link of sausage (about a foot long) from the freezer had found its way to the railing going upstairs. I commented that that looked odd and asked Chef what his plan had been.
"To eat it," he said.
"Is sneaking raw meat from the freezer and putting it in the railing the appropriate way to get food?"
"What would have been better?"
"To eat something else."
"And sneak it?"
"No. But the package says it's been cooked."
"Does that make it appropriate to take it from the freezer and try to sneak it upstairs?"
"No! But I was hungry!"
"We had supper not long ago. If you were still hungry wouldn't it be better to have more supper or to have an appropriate snack?"
"I want the sausage!!"
Chef's eyebrows went down. His arms crossed. His voice raised. And Chef was reminded that he could either take some time outside to calm down or show that he could be respectful inside. Chef slammed out the door. He had taken his dresser drawers outside awhile back because he had never used them as drawers (except for a few puzzle pieces in one and food hidden under some fabric in another) but was frequently opening then slamming them when something wasn't going his way. He and I had talked about using the drawers for plants on our deck next year. Tonight, 4 out of 6 of them were destroyed. Chef started by banging them up against the house and the door, then started taking them apart and using the wood to hack apart the other drawers. I found it interesting that when I came out to give him his med, he stopped what he was doing, opened his mouth for the med, swallowed, then opened his mouth again to show me he'd swallowed. When I turned and went back into the house, Chef went back to grumping, banging on the house, and destroying the drawers. I called the local crisis unit to have someone on the phone while this was happening. We stayed on the phone while Chef finished with the drawers and agreed to clean up the mess and use his tools (usually exercising, especially if he is outside; inside tools also include reading, art, etc.) to deal with his frustration/tantrumming. When I got off the phone, Chef came running in the house screaming that he couldn't stay outside because there was something scary, then pointed to a tiny kitten on the lawn. Chef has never shown any fear of kittens. I asked if the kitten had surprised him and he said, "Yes, and it shouldn't have done that! I can't be outside with a kitten!" I picked up the kitten. Chef continued his tantrumming and yelled that he wanted to come inside. I reminded Chef that I hadn't seen a turn-around yet and needed to see him put some effort into dealing with his tantrumming. Chef walked away, turned around, folded his arms across his chest, and made a face at me. I closed the door. Chef started kicking/banging against the house and the door, and ringing the doorbell repeatedly and swearing. I took the kitten to our back door and gave it some food on our deck, thinking it might stay there for a bit, then I went back into the house. Chef was still tantrumming out front though he would occasionally pause to stare at the house with arms folded across his chest and an angry expression on his face, but would then go back to the tantrum. He even spent time playing with the kitten, who'd returned to the front yard, and would then go back to tantrumming. I called the police so he would receive the message from someone else that it wasn't ok to do what he was doing. The neighbours also came out and talked with Chef, but he'd initially continued on with the banging/kicking/swearing until I came out and said that I'd call the police. Chef stopped immediately and leaned quietly against the wall with his hands folded in front of him. The police came, talked with him, laughed with him, did a few jumping jacks with him, had him apologize, offered him their business card, and told him to listen to his mom. After they left, Chef and I went into the house and Chef immediately started to say something to me using disrespectful tone but I interrupted him and told him he had a choice of starting all over again by taking it outside to deal with it or turning things around immediately. He then rolled his eyes and started to try to argue. I told him that the message he was giving me was that he wasn't yet finished tantrumming and asked if that was the message he wanted to give.
"No," was the reply. By now it was after 10pm (I'd found the sausage around 8'ish). I said goodnight to him and Chef stomped into his room. I called him and asked him again if he still had some frustration to deal with because that was the message he was giving by stomping away and not responding. He started to roll his eyes and I told him to look at my eyes and take the time to find his calm. I haven't done that in ages and wasn't sure if it would still be beneficial - but Chef's eyes met mine and there was a moment of quiet. I then repeated, "Goodnight, Sweetie. Hope you have a good sleep," and Chef calmly said goodnight and went to bed.
I was just telling someone this afternoon that Chef has come such a long way in his life, and that a lot of his attachment difficulties have been healing (not healed, but healing!) over the years. This evening's trigger was very obviously one that is not historically unfamiliar - when Chef has tried to sneak an item into his room or the bathroom and the item is discovered before he can eat it or use it, he becomes furious. I had discovered the length of sausage before it had made it into his room and before he had a chance to eat it.
Tomorrow I'm going to start a combination of support strategies regarding food and see if a combination might be more beneficial for Chef.
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.