We went to Colorado at the end of August for a family wedding. C. and I had struggled mightily with what to do with Tortuga. The last few times we have travelled with him have been pretty challenging. C. was of the mind that we needed to send him elsewhere so that the rest of the family could enjoy quality time with her relatives. We were staying with her parents, siblings, nieces, cousins, uncles, aunts and other relatives in two houses that had been rented for the occasion. The close quarters and the scrutiny of well-meaning family members who don't "get" his issues (and those of our other kids) was going to be particularly challenging. In addition we really wanted to give the children a chance to enjoy this time with family they haven't seen in several years. Now that he is bigger (and older) it is harder to give Tortuga what he needs in the midst of family and celebrations. That being the case, I felt it would be hard to show up without him (in addition to making whatever arrangements were needed if he didn't come along) and explain his absence to family who don't get to see the whole picture.
In the end we decided to take everyone and hope for the best-knowing full well that we'd had issues either there or when we returned. I truly hate that this is how we have to roll but ultimately it was more important for us to have all the kids see family and vice versa. People just don't understand this. It's why I have become even more of a homebody. The thought of dealing with the fallout just isn't worth the trip most times.
We talked with him before the trip and explained that we were taking him along with the understanding that it was a "test" for him. If he behaved appropriately and didn't hijack the experience we would bring him along on our next planned outing to a popular water park. We knew this could be a motivator for him because the last time we went there a few years ago he did not go. He was away camping with his grandfather and uncle and they kept him for a couple of extra days so the rest of us could go to the water park as part of a business trip C. was making. While he had a great time camping with his grandfather, he was very disappointed that he missed the water park trip and this has come up a number of times when the other kids recall that experience. We struggle with distinguishing what Tortuga can control and what he truly cannot control. Sometimes we think his impulse control issues, ADHD, emotional, developmental or cognitive challenges make it impossible or difficult for him to do X or Y. Other times it is clear that when he is motivated he can accomplish the seemingly impossible.
For the most part it was a successful trip. The kids enjoyed spending quality time with their grandparents, uncles and cousins. We enjoyed seeing them have so much fun and having family members who hadn't seen them in years recognize the growth and progress of the two older ones in particular. Several people commented how wonderful Corazon was and how calm and happy she seemed to be. Tortuga was praised for his manners, his helpfulness and his all-around good nature. Except for the incredibly long drive both ways, it was a good trip and we had minimal issues with him. As soon as we walked in the door he announced "yay! I get to go to the water park!" I told him he did well and he had earned that trip which is coming up later this Fall.
Fast forward a few days and all hell broke loose. He was asked by C. to do something correctly and he got really angry. He escalated so fast and without warning. When I tried to help him get regulated and focus on what he needed to do he attacked me physically. I was able to talk him down but for about 48 hours we had a really challenging time with him. Nothing would help him get regulated. He dragged the sheets off his bed and made nooses for his stuffed animals out of them, he laughed maniacally when he was in his bed, he talked all kinds of trash-talk, he did his usual posturing about how he hated us and wanted to live anywhere but here, and so many other un-bloggable things. Ultimately, I told him he could choose to leave. He was getting too old for us to force him to stay. We would help him find another home if that is what he wanted. We had relatives that might be willing to take him for awhile so he could go stay with them. We were no longer letting him scare the little kids with behavior like this when he had other options. Somehow that seemed to work for him and he eased back into some semblance of normalcy after a couple of days of this. My best guess was that after holding it together there is usually payback but we were thrown off guard by how aggressive his payback was. We haven't seen this behavior in at least a year. It worries me that he won't/can't use other strategies to let out his feelings. How else do we help him help himself when he gets like this? Perhaps more importantly, how do we help the other kids, especially Milagro and Pollito understand these behaviors? Pollito has been especially affected this time.