“I have reached a point where I feel I can no longer cope…”
Two months ago I wrote this.
As I am sure all parents know, you feel terrible to even allow yourself to think something like that. To put it in writing to your son’s teacher, OT teacher, family therapist and his father, was utterly devastating for me and I felt like a failure. It was true. Not the failure part. That was my ego taking a well deserved knock. I was referring to the fact that I could no longer cope. I had reached breaking point. And it was necessary for my son’s sake, his well being, and for the well being of our family. There is no big prestigious award at the end of the day for congratulating parents for doing it all on their own without help from anyone.
15th September 2019
Just when I think I’m making progress with Aiden, we have a meltdown of epic proportions.
I needed help. I felt I had no one I could call. I suppose I could have phoned a handful of people but I didn’t know what kind of help I actually needed. To take Aiden away for a bit? Or maybe Ava, hell maybe me? I didn’t know how to stop him from bullying me. The shouting. The screaming. The ranting. The blaming. The horrible words. If I engaged in the fight it made it worse. If I walked away in silence (like therapists advise, don’t add fuel to the fire) it made it even worse. I tried speaking in a soft, slow, calm tone. I tried not retaliating. I really did.
Then I didn’t.
I should behave better. I’m the adult. But in that moment I lowered myself to his level. I yelled and screamed and then threatened punishment. Once, twice, a third. I called it – No screens for a week.
[Queue, epic meltdown. Yup, the above was just the run of the mill, daily defiance dance. The main event was still to come.]
Here we go again! OMG. He follows me around the house shouting at me in his condescending snotty arssey sarcastic tone, accusing me of everything from hating him and loving Ava more, to wanting to be mean and nasty, to ruining his life and being the devil and of course it’s all my fault and I never do anything for him EVER. He has the worst childhood ever. His life is a nightmare and it all began with me. I’m mean and nasty and ugly an a butt-face. A stupid, stupid butt-face. I ignore him so he stands outside my room and yells mommy repeatedly. No breaks. Like a siren. Forever. Sometimes he changes it up and yells my name. Sometimes there is door or wall banging that accompanies it, just to ensure maximum irritation factor.
I try to comfort him. To hold him.
He shoves me.
He yells at me to go away.
He cries out loud that I don’t care and won’t help him. (maybe for the benefit of the neighbours?)
I go back and try again.
He shoves me.
He yells at me to go away.
He shouts and screams at the top of his lungs “Help me. I need help. Mommy help me. Someone help me.”
I try again.
“No not YOU” he snarls.
Eventually at some point the tide turns but not before the obligatory “I hate you” handwritten note scratched angrily onto a page. And this time a nice little “F u Mom” was added for dramatic effect. I assumed the F was not short for fantastic.
The next phase is the – “I don’t belong in this family. I don’t belong on this earth. I’m stupid” phase which quickly slips into the – “It’s not my fault. I have anger issues. I can’t control my anger. I’m a rager It’s your fault. You didn’t get me a pill to help. You never get me a pill to help. You never help me. It’s not my fault. It’s all your fault.” phase.
During meltdowns, I have no concept of time. It feels like an eternity. Eventually we find ourselves on the floor. At this point I’m usually in a state of tears-running-down-my-face, too-exhausted-to-stand, too-emotionally bullied-to-utter-anything-more-than-monosyllable-whispers, as he tries to make amends. Apologies are spoken. Apologies are accepted. A moment of connection and closeness.
When everything feels calm again, the “rager” boy is gone and my son is back, he looks at me with his big brown beautiful eyes, more apologies uttered, and then asks if we are good?
And if so can I please not do the no screens punishment.
Sorry what’s done is done. No.
And off we go again.
“Mean, ugly, nasty evil mom. Why do I live with you. Why did you want us. You don’t want us. I can see you hate me. Do you know how hard my life is. Do you know what’s it like to be me? I have a difficult childhood, don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? I get bumped and pushed and shoved and hurt every day. No one wants to play with me. Kids at break time never let me play with them. My life is a nightmare. I get shocks through my body, going up my legs and into my hands. What is to come in 2020? What if I end up in detention all the time? What if I get moaned at? What is to become of me? What if the school work is hard? What if the maths is too hard? What if I can’t finish my work on time?”
[Then back to the chorus]
“You never ever do anything for me. You are the worst mom. I wish I could live with Dad. He’s there for me. He cares about me. He loves me. You don’t. Do you know what it’s like to be the only boy in the house? (No. The only adult yes) Do you know what it’s like to be lonely. (Yes, actually I do). Do you know what it’s like to be me? (No. I’m trying really hard though). You never help me.”
I am not sure how this song and dance ended on that particular day. Things return to normal, life carries on, but lately it is taking me longer and longer to get back up in the ring after each blow.
I sat in silence a few days, suffering the hangover of guilt, shame, blame, sadness and hopelessness of how to stop these meltdown cycles. I decided to write Aiden a letter. One day, I hope he reads it with the love it was written in.
I do care. It’s in every little action. Every day.
When I wake you up early in the morning so you can lie in and still be on time for school as I know you hate to be late or rushed or nagged.
When I run your shower, warm your towel.
When I make your sandwich without the butter when you have Nutella but with butter if you having toast.
When I turn the internet off for you. Not for me, but to encourage you to go out in the real world and have real life experiences. I ignore the abusive attacking stance you take every time I plan a family outing or activity that purposefully takes you away from the online vortex you constantly find yourself sucked into. And I try not gloat when you inevitably end up enjoying the experience
I see therapists to learn coping skills to deal with your anger and mood issues. I’ve taken you to therapists and play therapists, and psychologists, and even empaths – where you were equipped with magic stones and protective red dragons. I have tried medication for you. You hated it. (Albeit that was a few years ago.)
Every single night when I say bedtime which is the same time every single night for the last 2 years, and you scream at me “Why? Why are you doing this to me? It’s because I try to keep a routine as best as possible. I know disruptive sleep patterns make your mood worse.
I try make sure you eat something substantial. Anything other than sugar as it makes you go crazy. I try steer away from red colourants as I was told that is a trigger for you. When you yell at me to stop nagging you to come downstairs and eat, I’m not trying to be mean. I try make sure you eat often as you get angry when you are hungry.
I encourage sports at school and watch all your weekend games and even your week games if I can. I try desperately to drag you out on weekends to play outside. I beg you to do exercises in the morning with me, or to box with me in the evening, or to go for a walk. When you sulk with me and yell at me why, why do I want to be mean and force you to do stuff you don’t want to do? It’s because I know exercise helps tremendously with lifting your mood, dealing with anger and helps you focus.
I try limit the screen time because it make your anger flare up and you get crankyand become isolated and sad. I know this.
I know all this because I read up on everything all the time. Anything I can add, remove, change or tweak to help you. I ask if I can play Lego with you. I ask if we can draw together. Read together. I try steer you towards other hobbies in case you find your passion there hence the atlas, the Minecraft dictionary, the books, the magic tricks kit, the playing cards, the 3 tennis rackets, soccer ball, rugby ball, bike, skateboard, scooter, roller blades – all lying in a corner, unloved. Unused. I suggest things for you to look up on YouTube besides Fortnite such as how are tornadoes formed or which snake is the deadliest? When I see how passionate you are about Fortnite and Tiktok I read up on it. I find out things. I go to workshops. I watch from a distance giving you space to do your thing. I try be understanding that this is your creative outlet. I let you play during the week as I know you are the only boy in the house and perhaps, like me, you also need your down time to fill up your cup. I encourage you. I sign up. I follow. I like. I comment. I suggest tips on how to practise your spelling before you post videos. I monitor the comments (of which there are thousands). I check who is following you. If I hear you shouting unkind words or anything that could become bullying I stop you. I explain why. I am trying to help you be the man I know deep inside you are.
Your miserable childhood is only so because that’s what you think. It doesn’t haveto be. I am trying to make sure you have a healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy self esteem and a happy heart. But I can’t do it alone. I need your help. I need you to jump in and do this together with me. I need you to realise I am with you not against you.
I am trying to raise you to be someone YOU are proud of.
I want you to understand that your happiness is yours to own.
I want you to also understand that your anger issues are also yours to own.
And most of all I need you to know that I love you no matter what. Always and forever.
I will always love you more.