... this Valentines Day! I usually LOVE Valentines Day. My mom always made a big deal about it so I have done the same with the children. This year it feels like a much bigger effort. I got up determined to change my mood so I pulled out all the leftover bananas that Tortuga's class had not used for their banana splits during their Valentines celebration and I started baking. I made 2 banana bread loafs, then I made a dozen heart-shaped banana muffins (with chocolate chips!) and another batch of banana muffins. The spells brought all the family downstairs smiling and ready for a treat. All except Tortuga. I found myself dreading his joining the family after last night's meltdown which has become a regular part of our weekend.
Given our busy weekly schedules of school dropoffs, pickups, gymnastics practice, scouting, football, etc. these Friday nights to Sunday afternoons are precious. Lately we have spent way too much time working on getting Tortuga through his reading, chores and simple interactions with the other kids. As soon as he gets to do one thing he really likes or enjoys it is total HELL the rest of the day/night! The celebrations starting during Thanksgiving and then having so much family visiting made things worse. I know part of it is that he has to sabotage anything good that happens to him (or anyone else) because he doesn't feel like he deserves it. Part of it is his jealousy and he cannot stand to have any of the other kids do/get something good which includes my attention. He still hasn't distinguished between positive and negative attention so if his small acts of disrespect or meanness don't dominate my full attention he has to have a full-blown tantrum. I mean full-blown! For the past three weeks we have seen a renewed increase in his meltdowns. He screams, yells, howls, rolls on the floor, tells us how much he hates us, threatens to run away, tells us to never speak to him again, not touch him, etc. All the while he has tears, drools, snot, etc. dropping off his face. Talking to him or holding him don't help right now and sending him to his room sets him off so much that nothing in his path is salvageable. These rages are nowhere near as bad as they were two years ago and we can tell that he is actually working really hard to set himself off whereas before it seemed to just happen and be out of his control. I have concluded that I need to figure out what it is that he NEEDS that only gets satisfied by a meltdown. I know it is a kind of release for him and cathartic but I don't know if that is it. If there is something else we could do to help him get the release without the meltdown then we could work out that but right now I am at a loss. I have been charting my behavior and his as he gears up for one of these tantrums to see if I can find a pattern. So far it is the weekend, down time with the family, someone else getting my attention, doing something really fun and/or his having to do something he doesn't want to do. I have been able to talk him down sooner each time but not until he has the full meltdown. His words have been very vicious of late. Not just the "I hate you" and "you are mean" but the venom with which he spews his anger, the look on his face and even the use of words we haven't heard from him before. Anyway, right now I am just tired.
Tortuga has been tremedously defiant, rude, disrespectful, and downright mean to everyone in the family for the third weekend in a row. I incur the bulk of his wrath but that is to be expected since I think the happier he get the harder it is for him to reconcile that this much "fun" never happened or isn't happening with his birthmom. He misses her in a viceral way although I think part of the problem these days is that he actually forgets about her and then feels bad about it so the cycle begins again and again and again. We know that when he catches himself "loving" us, he feels guilty and like he is betraying her.
Because I was not ready to deal with him I decided that I needed to have some time without him. I went upstairs and told him he could read in bed. He had taken away family time from the rest of the children last night and so he "owed" that time back to them. I would bring him his breakfast and then he needed to show that he could stay calm in his room without interrupting me until we were ready to have him join us. He didn't like it but he didn't complain too loudly. I went downstairs and had a wonderful time with C. and the other children. We ate the muffins along with other treat, talked and just enjoyed each other's company. Even Corazon was in great form. She really has made so much progress plus when Tortuga is at his worst she is usually better. They must have some unwritten pact about this. Of course, this was short-lived but I savored it anyway.
Once Tortuga was able to join the family it took less than 30 minutes before he was set off again and banished to his room for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I felt so bad that I let the other kids eat as much of their Valentine's candy from school as they wanted and then I popped a movie on the DVD player for them to enjoy while I went off to clear my head for a while. I am tired, tired, tired today. C. and I didn't even exchange cards today. I have one for her but I haven't even had a chance to sign it! I am off to finish making dinner.
Happy Valentine's Day!