So for the past 6 days or so, our dearest family friend P. was visiting. It was wonderful for me as I miss her terribly. Having the adult company for even a few days was energizing and comforting. It reminds me that I need to make some changes in my life so that I can do this more often. That said, the impact on Tortuga was something else. It gave us a good baseline and a nice sense of his progress.
The good news is that he did OK during the visit. No meltdowns (yet) and only two serious incidents of anger/meanness/rudeness/etc. He spent WAY more time with us than he has in quite a while and it definitely demonstrated that he has made progress. He showed patience, kindness, joy, and genuine affection many times during these days. His hugs were nice solid ones that seemed heartfelt not perfunctory. He was able to transition during the day from one activity to another including car to home and to his room without major issue and many times without minor issue. He played nicely with Milagro, joined the family for several meals, and had one-on-one attention from someone besides me. He generally held it together the entire day up until the very end of each day. This included Halloween, treats, and too much sugar on a couple of occassions.
Patterns that returned with a vengeance. Tattle-taling and hypervigilance about Pollito and Corazon. He had to tell about every little real or perceived misbehavior or infraction. "P. is playing with a piece of trash!" "C. is staring at me." and "P. isn't _______"(you name it.) Bossiness and telling others what to do or not do also returned and it was CONSTANT! "Forgetting" routines (especially in the car and out of the house) and inappropriately demanding my attention were also significant issues. Each evening we could see the toll the changes in his routines and daily interactions were having on him. Each night we could begin to see the transformation as he started to "lose" it. He has a tendency to "blow it" anytime he has had a good time so on Friday and Saturday(Halloween) he started to get really moody, short, and belligerant as the day came to a close and it would be something really small (as usual) that would set him off. BUT in both cases he was relatively easy to redirect. On Sunday we let him "hang out" and watch football for a little while after giving him most of the morning/early afternoon to calm himself and just be away from everyone. He did fine until the end of the evening when he really lost it. Rudeness, belligerance, meanness, faces, attitude,etc.--all directed at me--as he was sent upstairs to read and wind down for the night. This led to crying fits and a near meltdown but C. was able to diffuse it before it got too far down that path. The rest of the time he seemed to do ok after that near meltdown.
The biggest challenges we had are ones we continue to struggle with but that had subsided. One of those is pretty typical of so-called "normal" kids but it always takes a bad turn with him. It's what we call "pushing it." I think most of us have been guilty of this and it happens when he is having a good time and decides to "go for broke." For him it means he starts to test all the rules and boundaries whenever he has been having a good time. Fun playing around and teasing turns into meanness or rudeness, hugs turn into rough-housing, and their is a blatant assertion of his "right" to do something he knows isn't allowed. Then this becomes the reason (excuse) for having the meltdown. It's what we have named the "I'm-having-fun-and-I-don't-know-when-this-is-going-to-happen-again-so-let-me-take-advantage-and-try-to-get/do-everything-I-can-now-before-the-feeling-goes-away" behavior. In his case it then gives him permission to suddenly turn on us(me, mostly) and do some pretty awful things. He got set off on Sunday because as he was going upstairs he asked for a "new" book. I reminded him that he could only read the book in his room until he was finished with it (this is always the case) and he kept "begging" for a new book. At first it was done jokingly but after the second or third time he just got angry then it went downhill from there.
The other big issue is what we call "telling stories" and I have written about this before I think. This is when he convinces himself that something is supposed to happen or going to happen in a particular way and then behaves accordingly. So if and when it turns out not to happen that way he is upset or angry and we get the full brunt of this. Other times he tells himself something is happening or has happened when it hasn't. Then there are the times when he doesn't get his way and he turns his anger about that into a story that he then believes to be true. This was the case when he told some of the kids he was playing with that I was mean to him all the time. By the time he got home it had become that I hit him all the time. When I spoke with him about this he ARGUED with me that it was true. He believed it. He was convinced that I hit him and did this often and we had to "process" this out until he could "remember" that I had never hit him and that he had gotten himself confused. It can also happen when he thinks something is going to happen and it doesn't. This can be a very little thing, such as tacos for dinner instead of pasta, but the response is major.
This can also happen when he "chooses" to forget something or remember it incorrectly. For example, he has lost the privilege of using glue or scissors without supervision due to some pretty destructive behavior a few weeks ago. This happened on Monday again. He is working on a school report that requires a little big of glueing. He asked me for scissors and glue and I told him to leave it to the end of the project. A couple of hours later he asked again and I reminded him to leave it to the end when I would help him. About 30 minutes later he asked again and I reminded him again and told him we would deal with it on Tuesday. About 15 minutes after that he came all the way downstairs (not allowed) and asked again. I said no. He ran upstairs, slammed the door, and started shouting that I was stupid, lazy, mean, etc. He was working himself up so I called to him to come down so we could address this. The bad news is that he was caught up in his "stories" and convinced that I was being unfair about the glue, lazy, mean, etc. and didn't "remember" why he didn't have access to these things. While sometimes it seems like an act I think in this case he genuinely believed it. The good news is he was able to handle the discussion and conversation with minimal rudeness and disrespect. I let him make up the mean things he said to me with a foot rub since we don't "do" apologies around here. All in all a success.
So what have I learned? I have learned he is doing better but we still have a long way to go. I learned we are on the right track and should continue down this path. I also learned that he is able to control, calm and rein himself in pretty consistently except when there are extreme(for him) circumstances such as an audience, too much stimulus, sugar, and of course "too much" fun stuff. I also learned that he likes these changes in himself and is learning to take pride in his behaviors and control of his behaviors. As weird as this may sound I also learned that I like him a whole lot more than I did 3 months ago.