Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tortuga is grounded!

Backdated entry not posted until 3/4/09.

It is really great to be able to SEE the progress and the areas that need work in such tangible ways. Ever since the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) Tortuga's negative behaviors and meltdowns have been on the rise. We'd had a break from them for several months and I had almost forgotten what they were like. He reminded me. We have been able to attribute each of the meltdowns to times where he is overwhelmed by the really good things that are going on (visits from beloved family members, more one-on-one attention, feelings of belonging and being loved, etc.). We have also tried naming them for him and trying to get him to see how "being miserable" is still his most comfortable place to be which is why we often "save" the really fun stuff for right before bedtime so he doesn't "blow it" and end up missing out.
Over the holidays he just couldn't keep it together and even though I can usually "talk him down" it was taking tremendous amounts of energy and the results were extremely short-lived. This was causing the other kids to scream for more of my attention and even Corazon was revisiting really old behaviors in attempts to get attention. Anyway, Christmas Day was especially bad and after we sent him to his room to calm down he totally trashed his room! There isn't a lot of furniture there but he managed to break a lamp and two framed pictures. He pulled everything off the bookshelf (good thing it was anchored to the wall) and the drawers out of his very small dresser. He had also ripped his shirt to shreds (second one in two weeks.) So C. and I spent the latter part of Christmas Day taking all of his stuff out of his room except for essentials. He lost his books, magazines, dresser, etc.
As upset as we both were about doing this he had been leading up to this and we just needed to give him a fresh start. We did find the humor in one small factor which is that we were once again reminded of the beauty of having gotten him a metal bed. He used to have a tendency to throw himself on his bed and have an all out meltdown while jumping up and down (while sitting) or rolling around on his bed. That broke his first bed so we replaced it with a metal futon frame that has a bar down the middle (lengthwise). The first time he threw himself on it it hurt him back so that particular behavior hasn't been repeated.
He was totally shocked that we took everything away and immediately asked how he could earn things back. (We were please that the items he was most interested in earning back were the 2 stuffed animals we gave him when he moved in, his pillow, and a framed picture of the two of us--which was one he broke.)
He has earned some things back but we have taken it slow with him and there have been lots of two steps forward, three steps back kinds of incidents. January and February are big anniversary months for them (we celebrate the days they moved in and not formal adoption days) so we have had lots of little celebrations that I know make him happy but are also hard for him. Especially because he always likes to be the first at everything and the order of their anniversaries puts him "last" of the three we celebrate in close succession. Top that off with Valentines Day happening two days after his anniversary and that his school celebrated it on the day of his anniversary and we have had recipes for disaster. That said, we have had MISERABLE weekends for the past 5 or six since New Years and have been besides ourselves because he has fought us every step of the way. Frankly we got really tired of having to cancel plans, neglect the other kids, etc. without any break. (We just moved here so the only person we know locally is my sister and she tries to help but dumping all 4 of our little cherubs is tough on her.) Instead, C. and I have been trading off being the one to stay home with Tortuga while the other one takes the others out on errands or to the library or other fun activities. That means we haven't done much "as a family." Valentines Day weekend solidified it for me when I saw how relaxed the other children were without him around and I had to confront the unfairness of it all.
Anyway, the past three days there have been more tantrums and meltdowns and vile things coming out of his mouth. We have notice that what is also going on is that he is working really hard to get himself worked up as quickly as possible. He is using this as a strategy to get out of doing things he is expected to do and needs to do and for whatever he has decided he doesn't want to do. So, we decided it was time for drastic changes and tonight we GROUNDED HIM from the family for a week!
What that means is that he is excused from any family activity and responsibility (with the exception of 1 of his regular chores) including Family Chore Day on Saturday (usually a fun time for us), shopping trips (fun for him), family dinners, family story time and/or video, or even being in the same space with other family members except for riding in the car. He is exempt from having to work hard at the things that cause him so much difficulty these days (being nice to us, being respectful to us, being responsible to the family, our belongings and our space, etc.) His response was "That's great. I don't want to be with the family for a week." He also loses out on playing in the family play spaces, which he replied he didn't want to do either. So, we start this tomorrow. I sure hope we know what we are doing!

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