On Sunday we went to our favorite RV park (see button on left) to hang out with a couple of my favorite RAD moms ldw and Christine. We met for the first time (IRL) about a month ago and were able to just bask in the company of one another while our kids had a really good time playing together. It is hard to describe how important it is to have people in your life who really "get it." We can share stories as we get to know one another and we don't have to watch our words or constantly watch each others' faces to make sure they aren't freaking out by what we are saying about our kids. I am eternally grateful that the Creator has seen fit to bring us in such close proximity to one another.
After our time together Tortuga decided he really needed to get something off his chest in that roundabout way that can drive a parent (me) up a wall. C. and I knew he had been acting out while we were there. I had overheard him comment to a couple of the boys that I wasn't his mother. Corazon had come up to tell me that one of Christine's kids had told her Tortuga was saying mean things about me (dumb, idiot, mean, hates me, etc.) and about her. C. had overheard him saying some other inappropriate thing and checked him while we were still there. I had decided I wasn't going to make a big deal about it. Wrong choice!
In the car on the way home he bragged to Corazon that ALL the boys at our gathering hated their sisters and had talked about this. He bragged that all the boys hated me because now they knew how mean I was, etc. etc. All this happened mostly out of our earshot but we knew something was up. When we got home he was rude, mean and just plain unpleasant to everyone and when I tried to help him regulate he got ugly. I reminded him that he usually does this whenever he has a good time and he yelled at me that he didn't have a good time today because he didn't want to be part of our family. I said fine and suggested he get ready for bed. Wrong choice again!
He was itching for a confrontation of some sort. I was tired, had to get everyone showered and to bed, and just wanted to settle down for the night so that C. & I could have a chance to unwind before the weekly chaos got underway. He made 4 attempts to "get in trouble" by leaving his room after he was settled in for the night. This NEVER happens anymore. Finally he decided he just needed to annoy me so he opened and closed his door, setting off the alarm each time, until I went to him to ask what was going on. "Nothing" he says. I tried to be rational and call attention to all the disruptions he had engaged in trying to get in trouble. Denial. Finally I told him I knew what was up. Corazon had filled me in on what she was told just before she went to bed so I had put it all together but there was no point in trying to deal with it, or so I thought. I told him what I knew he had said. He played dumb. I repeated what I had heard. He denied it. Eventually he shouted that it was all true. Progress. I thought he was accepting responsibility for saying those things. Not quite. He meant it (meaning what he said) was all true. He believed I was mean, I never talked to him, I was dumb, I called him names, I hit him all the time! I had him rewind and repeat. He did. So I started with a question "when do I hit you?" He said "all the time." (Mind you, we have NEVER, NEVER, hit him. We are especially sensitive about this because he was physically punished, spanked, and hit by a number of people who were responsible for taking care of him.) I asked him to name a time. He couldn't. So, I backtracked and reminded him that any time he is in trouble or causing trouble he fears being hit and physically punished so he sometimes acts like that is going to happen. For almost as long as we have been together he has had a habit in public of cowering whenever I approach him especially if it is a sudden move or if he is being redirected. For a time he has also done this whenever other adults are around and we think it is an attention-getting (sympathy-getting) behavior. This behavior had stopped suddenly about a month ago. But here we were and somehow he had managed to convince himself that this was true. We talked about me not talking to him and of course he had to acknowledge that right now I am the one who talks with him and listens to him the most. We continued in this manner for only a few more minutes.
It was late and I really didn't want to pursue the conversation until after I had time to think about an approach. I reiterated that what he had said wasn't true and he knew it, this was part of a narrative he sometimes told himself to keep us at a distance because of his fear of loving us as his parents, and I wished him goodnight with the reminder that there would be consequences if he set off the alarm again. Then I went into my bedroom and cried. Not sure why exactly. Partly my feelings were hurt and partly I was just spent. I have been doing pretty intensive work with him and suddenly it all just felt so overwhelming. C. didn't know what was going on so I tried to fill her in and she just got really mad at Tortuga and went off to talk to him. When she returned she raised the question of our family's safety (especially mine) once again. It is a fear I think all of us who parent challenging kids have. I assured her I still believed we were safe and I do. But what if I am wrong?
On Monday I had a game plan which I will try to write about as soon as I get my thoughts together. I was reminded of how important support and understanding are. I had emailed some pictures of the weekend to the other moms and I got a wonderfully timed email response from Christine. In it she called attention to her conversation with her son about the things Tortuga had said. She also contributed a missing piece of the puzzle: the boys hadn't bought his attempts at triangulation and it had frustrated the heck out of him. That explained a good deal of his need to have a confrontation when we got home. He has such social issues and had lulled himself into believing that he could control and manipulate this group of boys (who he has seen exactly once or twice before) because they were his "friends" and that is what he does with friends (hence, he doesn't have any.) Of course, I was also grateful that we were with people who understand and see through this because the degree of vulnerability when we aren't can be frightening and overwhelming as so many moms of kids with RAD, ODD, PTSD, etc. can attest.