Those sweet faces are the faces of warriors. They have been through a lot and are still loving, kind, and cheerful 99% of the time. What about the other 1%, you say? Funny you should ask.
Saturday, I had a 14 year old crying about not being able to go to a school dance... and by crying, I mean, crying. While I was mopping the kitchen floor and trying to reason with him, my daughter came into the kitchen soaking wet. My first thought: I just mopped that spot! My second thought: "Why are you wet?" She informed me that she was wet from chasing after Big Brother down the street. And it was raining. I looked out the window astonished. Why yes, it is raining, I thought, and when it rains it pours, apparently.
After further investigation, I came to learn that Big Brother (11 year old with Asperger's and Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and Thing 2 (9 year old with ADHD and OCD) had gotten into a scuffle and that Big Brother had really lost his cool and pummeled Thing 2. I was trying to figure out where I was in all this, that I didn't hear them fighting. Oh, yeah, that's right, I was listening to a 14 year old, six-foot, 230 lb boy crying over a dance. Honestly, I am still trying to get over that, get over the fact that sometimes Bruncle is so broken it takes away from my kids. I don't resent Bruncle for it, please understand that, but it's hard all the same. Anyway, apparently, after Big Brother snapped back to reality, he was so upset with how he was beating the crud out of his sibling that he decided to RUN AWAY. In the cold rain. Without a jacket. Or shoes.
I promptly got in my car and drove to the park... where he had told Baby Girl he was headed and was going to live from now on. There he sat, soaked to the bone, shivering as rain poured over him. He was the most dejected boy I had ever seen. I couldn't even be mad at him. He so clearly hated himself. Anything I would have said that could have been taken even remotely negatively would have just cemented in his brain that he sucked and was Satan's spawn. And you know what? It is infuriating when you want to tell someone how stupid they are being and you can't. Hey. I'm not perfect. I know as a mother, as the responsible, loving, caring adult, what to say and how to behave. But let's be honest: it is beyond hard to remain in control and sometimes it would feel rather gratifying to let your thoughts spew out... for about one second, anyway.
I got my boy home. Dried him off, hugged him. Let him know how much I love him. Talked to him about the Atonement and turning to the Lord. How Christ alone can fully understand what we are going through and has the power to heal the hurt, calm the rage, help us forgive ourselves and know that we are loved.
That was Saturday.
Today? This was today.
Around noon I sent Thing 1 (9 year old with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ADD and Separation Anxiety) outside to get some energy out. He had been rough-housing with everyone all morning and just couldn't seem to contain himself. So, being the good mother I am, I ordered him outside to jump on the trampoline. Now, in my mind, I really thought he was getting a pretty sweet deal. He didn't get yelled at or punished for jumping on Thing 2's back, tackling Baby Girl or ruining a rather large pile of folded laundry. He got to go out and play on the trampoline... by himself for Pete's sake!
And then this.
Yes, that is spray paint on my garage door. It's also on the sidewalk, driveway, car, mailbox, brick on the side of the house, my camping table inside the garage, my husband's punching bag, a few bicycles, the floor of the garage and the door that leads into the house from the garage.
And yes, Thing 1 is still alive. And he will be busy the rest of the week scrubbing his little fingers to the bone, cleaning up his mess.
Unfortunately, this was an act of anger... which is how his anxiety always leaks out and comes to fruition. And we are working on these issues. Please, know that. This post isn't coming from me as a plea for help or attention or a poor me party.
So why would I share these things?
First, to let other families that may be having struggles with a child know that they aren't the only ones. There are other families that deal with the really hard atypical mess too.
Second, to advocate on the side of the child. It just happens to be my child today... or rather children. It is my opinion that there are a multitude of adults that believe that kids are just naughty, that they enjoy being bad. That they are choosing the dark side. The reality is they are just children. They are learning. Everyday. And they aren't there yet. And life is hard. It's hard for adults to keep it together when things go south. The only difference between an adult and a child is that adults have the ability to vocalize what's going on with them. As an adult, I can call my friends, type a blog post, say an heart-felt prayer, purging my pains and sorrows. As a child? Most children can't even process why they feel off, what it is exactly that set them off or has them in a funk.
For example, my 11 year old Aspie is very sensory sensitive. And as he's gotten older, he's become more aware of what sets him off, but even still there are times when he can't pinpoint what it is that's bothering him. Just last week we were at a football game and as the night wore on his patience wore dangerously thin. He couldn't explain why he was so grumpy and upset, but I could. Because I have watched him for 11 years, watched his reactions and how things affect him. I knew it was the noise level of the game that was grating on him, that was sloughing his tolerance away second by second. Once I suggested to him that maybe it was the noise of the crowd, the band, the cheerleaders, the banging of the bleachers underfoot, the whistles and the announcers over the PA, he sighed and said, "Thanks, Mom. Thanks for knowing me and understanding." So, from now on, he'll be sporting his hunting muffs to all sporting events.
This incident with the spray paint and my angst ridden son isn't as easy to figure out. I know this year without his dad has gotten to him more than it has to the other kids. Thing 1 is fiercely family centered.... which is professionally deemed Separation Anxiety Disorder. Whatever. In my mind, it's a good trait, if it can be tempered. Right now, at the end of this marathon, there is no tempering it. But I'm sure there are other things too that culminated in this outburst, this plea for understanding. And we'll get there. We will get to the center of things and I will help be his voice as we sort it out.
In the meantime, I'm going to take him to the hardware store for some sturdy scrubbing brushes, paint thinner, white paint and gloves. And then I'm going to take him by the hand, march him outside, roll up my sleeves and work beside him to fix his mistake. Isn't that what the Savior would do?