The past few weekends have all had tantrums. Wait, there was one tantrum-free weekend that took place right after Chef's appointment with his mental health worker and "new" psychiatriast. Chef had stated after the appointment that he was embarassed by what had been discussed during the appointment. That weekend, there were no tantrums. There was the usual not wanting to do chores, etc., but no tantrums. That was new. Usually, after appointments in which concerns are discussed, Chef displays his feelings disrespectfully.
That was a few weekends ago, and there has been a tantrum every weekend since. All the tantrums have been chore/responsibility-related or stealing-related. Chef hates chores or anything that he deems to resemble a chore, and Chef becomes angry if something he has stolen has not been used by him prior to the item being discovered missing. Otherwise, things are going quite well. At this point, all tantrums are redirected to outside of our home because Chef has been destructive inside our home in the past.
Last weekend, we were enjoying a very pleasant weekend together - until around 1pm on Saturday when I discovered $20. was missing from my wallet(which I thought I had hidden well enough, but obviously hadn't). It was about four hours before Chef stopped behaving inappropriately and close to another hour before he admitted that he'd taken the money and hidden it. He tried explaining to me that he needs money to have like other kids. I agreed. I also reminded him that other kids don't spend weeks on end trying to avoid doing a chore, and that they do what they can to earn money rather than stealing it. I asked if he needed me to remind him of the allowance/money-earning system in our home. "No, it's ok," was the reply. On Sunday morning, Chef didn't come out of his room til just before noon and was still showing anger about the money. He was reminded that he could use his anger management tools/activities to help himself feel better and turn things around, or he could take himself outside. He stormed out of the house and started repeatedly kicking the door and ringing the doorbell and raging for just over an hour. Thankfully, the neighbour and I had already arranged for Chef to be at her place Sunday afternoon from 1pm til bedtime. When I opened the door and told Chef he could head over to the neighbours', he stopped, yelled that he was hungry, and that he didn't want to go to the neighbours' place. I agreed that I would be hungry too if I'd spent my lunchtime tanrumming instead of eating. A few minutes later he went over to the neighbours' house. A few days later, he told me he's never tantrumming again because he didn't like having to suddeny go to the neighbours' house. I didn't respond to the comment.
This past Thursday evening, Chef and I went with friends to a Christmas party at an art gallery. The staff were instructing folks on how to make origami ornaments to decorate the gallery's gigantic tree. Chef dove in with enthusiasm. Origami is one of his interests and he is very skilled at picking it up quickly. When he is shown something to make from paper, he will initially make quite a few. If he runs out of paper, he'll just rip some to the necessary sizes to make more. I've been amazed at how tiny some of his cranes have been. Once the novelty wears off, he doesn't do origami again until someone other than me does more and then he's back into making beautiful pieces again. On Thursday, Chef learned how to make an origami Christmas ball and an origami pop-star, and made quite a few for the gallery's tree then brought some home and has been making a few pop-stars since. When I encouraged him to show some of the folks at school how to make then, he said he wasn't going to show anyone at school. I have a sense we'll have a nice number of them to hang in our home for the season though.
On Friday, Chef informed me that there were no rags (again) to do any chores, and he'd already taken close to an hour in the kitchen without having actually washed any dishes. I hadn't been feeling well since Thursday night, and just sent Chef to bed early on Friday. Chef was up at 6am doing exercises on Saturday morning. From my room, I called to Chef to go back in his room til later because it was too early to be doing exercises on a Saturday. Chef went back to his room. At 7am, Chef was out in the hallway doing exercises again. I told Chef he needed to wait until I was up before starting his day. Chef said, "OK" and returned to his room. I was up around 9, but there was no sound from Chef's room until just after 11am, at which point there was banging. When I knocked on his bedroom door, there was no answer. My second knock was met with a loud banging in Chef's room. I opened the door to see Chef sitting on his floor wearing just a shirt and banging his heel against the floor with an angry look on his face. I told him he needed to use his tools and behave appropriately or take himself outside. He looked down at his feet and banged again. I told him to take it outside. Chef stood up, put on a pair of pants and socks, walked down the stairs, put on his outerwear, went outside, then immediately started yelling that he was cold. I opened the door and told him this was his one reminder to work off his anger and then he could come in, that doing something physical would warm him up, and that the sooner he shows he's being appropriate, the sooner he'd be inside. Chef continued to yell and make "foghorn" sounds. He continued yelling and "foghorning" for awhile, then started picking up snow and throwing it at the house. A few minutes later, he started throwing small balls of hard snow at the door, then the window, then would quietly look for large chunks of hard snow and/or ice and hurl them at the window. I wasn't too concerned at that point because he was far enough away that it wasn't making an impact and I figured he'd quickly tire of the physical energy required. Wrong. He was shortly seeking out large chunks of the hard stuff and coming closer to the house to hurl them at the window and at the neighbours' window. I called the police and explained the situation, and that my son needed the message from them that this was not appropriate. I had the blinds closed at a certain angle that allowed me to see out if I stood in a certain place. Chef would scan the living room window, then step back and look up at my bedroom window and hurl snow then look at the living room window again or at the neighbours' house. I saw that after my son would throw at the neighbours' window, he'd then grin and laugh as he turned to pick up more snow. When he'd throw at our window, he'd yell and "foghorn." I called the neighbour to let them know that the police were on their way. When the police arrived, my son told them that he was angry because he knew he had to do exercises. Needless to say, I informed the officers that he usually does an exercise program on his own every morning and that I hadn't allowed him to exercise as early as he'd wanted that morning. I also mentioned Chef's "do anything to get out of chores at all cost" way of thinking and the steps that needed to happen before Chef could come back into the house. I also informed the officers that Chef's usually employed the yelling of, "I'm hungry!" when tantrumming outside if he has tantrummed through a mealtime and missed his meal. The officers were very clear with Chef about the importance of listening to his Mom, and directed him to start doing some physical exercise. They also informed him that if he'd broken either of the windows, they'd be cuffing him and taking him to the youth detention center where he'd have to stay in a tiny room by himself and would only be allowed out for meals and a short break each day. (Unfortunately, that information has never been much of a deterrent for Chef, even when his mental health worker talked with him about it when he was around 8 or so. Chef has stated in the past that he'd like to be able to just sit and do nothing all day.) I informed the officers that the last time I'd called in officers, Chef had started up again as soon as they'd left and that Chef needed to know that we were all on the same page about what would then happen. The officers talked with Chef more about being appropriate and stated that they would be returning to deal with him again if he continued once they left. They stayed and talked with me a few minutes while Chef got into a jumping jacks groove and seemed to be turning things around. I thanked them, they left, Chef continued exercising, and a friend of mine came over to hang out in the house for awhile so Chef would be more willing to get his chores done. Chef came in appropriately and started cleaning up the kitchen appropriately. Then began a few "games" here and there; flitzing dirt from the kitchen doormat out into the living room, removing his dirty sock from his foot to use as a rag because he'd gotten rid of the rags so he wouldn't have to do chores, pretending to be cleaning the bathroom upstairs while we were downstairs but instead going into my bedroom, which I had mistakenly left unlocked, and removing items then hiding them in the bathroom for later retrieval, etc. Chef lied about being in my bedroom and made an angry face. Back outside to deal, but this time he immediately did some exercises. When I asked him if he was ready to come inside and be appropriate and honest, he asked if my friend was still there. I asked him again if he was ready to come inside and be appropriate and honest. He angrily asked if my friend was still there. I closed the door. Chef turned to face the house, pulled his toque over his head, and started foghorning while jumping - then started losing his balance, stopped, put his hat on properly, turned around, and did jumping jacks. A few minutes later, Chef was honest about what items he'd taken from my room and where he'd put them, and started dishes. He finished dishes just before 6pm, had supper, and went to his room. Chores finshed so far this weekend: dishes. Sort of. I still need to weed out the ones that received the "dip,dip,dry" treatment. Chores started: floors.
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.