Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the meltdown

I spent a good part of the day Tuesday wrapped up in blankets on my bed, sleeping dogs flanking the perimeter. The phone went unanswered except for once, the housework stayed unattended. Outside it was unseasonably warm, but with the promise of a dramatic temperature drop by late evening and a strong chance of snow flurries. On paper a lovely day. But it was not quite what it seemed.

Sasquatch had a monumental meltdown Monday night. A meltdown of epic proportions. Tipped over living room furniture, threw mail all over the entry hall and then moved into the kitchen. Emptied my fruit and vegetable baskets (one deliberate banana and onion at a time) against the sliding glass door, broke my brand new Ikea napkin holder, flung a pile of plastic hangers from the laundry room all over two rooms, sprayed shaving cream on the bathroom floor, upended a box of Wheat Thins into the bathtub and methodically took every single sponge and implement from the side of the kitchen sink and tossed them into the air, verbally taunting me the whole while. The happiest week of his life had been when I was in California. I was a liar and a cheat and a thief. My only reason to live was to torment my children.

All over a video game.

I tried at first to stop him but realized quickly that that was spurring him on. I was standing, back to the sink, watching him in disbelief when the FG walked in the back door to madness. It went downhill within minutes.

All over a video game.

I stood in my entry hall wrapped in my husband's arms and I cried so hard that his shirt stayed wet for the rest of the evening. All I could think of was Am I that bad a mother? And soon, the battle raged. The FG, infuriated, not only for himself, but especially for me. The younger boys scattering like marbles, running upstairs to huddle together in a bedroom, while the sounds of out of control fury lashed out around them. Sasquatch blindly saying and doing anything to hurt and humiliate. He hated us and knew we hated him. He accused my husband of physical abuse, and then, nose to nose, dared him to touch him.

And then, inevitably (and too late), came the remorse. The tears. The I'm so sorry I should never have done that/You know I can't control my temper when I get that mad/I didn't mean anything I said/Can't we just forget about all of this and try to have a nice Thanksgiving remorse. He cleaned up everything he had destroyed. He apologized to the boys. He apologized to me. He did not apologize to the FG, because there is a layer to their anger at each other that goes beyond a simple apology.

I know how terrible all of this seems on paper and I wish there was some way I could explain it so it makes sense. Sasquatch is at heart a wonderful kid. A generous, compassionate, funny, brilliant, loving kid. But...he is also exactly like my father. He is never wrong. Nothing is ever his fault. The world, somehow, owes him, and he doesn't like it when the world doesn't deliver. He has had anxiety issues in the past and even flirted briefly with an OCD diagnosis (which I don't think is accurate). He's been to see therapists and he's been on meds. I've dragged him from pillar to post trying to figure out what in the world is going on. He never cooperates with the doctors (or nurses or therapists or psychiatrists) because he thinks the whole thing is "ridiculous". Over time it's all come down to good old teenage angst. But I don't believe that. I want to, but I don't.

My husband was raised in a military family by a real "man's man" who did not hesitate to respond physically to his children. His was a You'll do it because I told you to kind of household. And there was hell to pay if they didn't. My mother-in-law, much as I love her, took no gruff either. As much as they could (and did) do behind her back, I cannot imagine any one of her children engaging in open warfare with her. It simply would not have been tolerated.

So it has been hard for the FG to not just haul off and let Sasquatch have it. But he hasn't. He has grabbed him a few times when the kid was totally out of control. He slapped him once, years ago, and has never been allowed to forget it, even though he apologized profusely and immediately. Every time there is a situation like this he's accused (by his eldest son) of beating his children. Every time.

My son is out of control and my husband is impotently furious and then there's me. I'm a mess. My chest hurts and I can't breathe and I feel like I'm moving through my day through a wall of water. My grandmother was only a few years older than I am now when I witnessed the dramatic appearance of her bleeding ulcer. I keep thinking I'm on that same track.

Tuesday night update: Sasquatch has been very sweet and apologetic since he got home from school. He has told me over and over again how sorry he is for his behavior and that he didn't mean anything he said. He has vowed to work on controlling his temper. He and the FG are talking and things between them seem cordial. Gumby is behaving as usual, although Surfer Dude is a little quiet. It's the calm after the storm. I'm always so afraid of the storms.

He used to have these eruptions often, but they've gotten a lot less frequent. I know he really is trying. Now having said that, last night was without question one of the worst explosions ever. Not the worst, but one of the worst. At least this time it was directed at the FG and I and not his brothers. I know he'd never hurt his brothers (at least physically), but verbally he can say some just ungodly things.

Sorry. This is a very choppy and disjointed post. The synapses aren't quite firing.

I just can't take this any more. And I have no idea what to do.


Kaycie said...

Oh, sweetheart.

Bless your heart and just know that he loves you and he is trying.

Nothing I can write will be enough, or right. I am thinking of you and sending good thoughts up your way.

my two cents said...

Ditto Kaycie. And I know that in the heat of it you would still have laid down your life for his happiness if you could. Which proves you are a GREAT mother.

ped crossing said...

Back when we signed up for the parenting gig, we never thought it could be as hard as it sometimes is.

You know you are a great mom. They know you are a great mom. Sometimes it gets forgotten in the heat of the moment.

And ditto kaycie and my two cents.

Willowtree said...

Well you know I'm not going to have any useful words of advice. All I can say is that by the sounds of things, it's not your fault (not that that's any consolation). Oh, that and it's definitely not just teenage angst.

He needs to be careful that he doesn't go ballistic like that when he's not in the company of people who love him, the results could be dire.

ciara said...

(((rc)))sorry you're having a rough time of it. when i first read that 'he's never wrong' i was going to chalk all that up to being male, because i deal w the 'i'm never wrong' crud frequently lol but then i read the rest, and that seems a bit scary. what's he on meds for? could it me some kind of depression? manic depression, maybe? i don't know as i've never dealt w that. you are definitely handling it better than i would have. be thinking bout yall.

Dumdad said...

That's really tough. I don't have any advice or words of wisdom except to say I hope it gets better; at least, in calmer moments he knows he has acted extremely badly and is sorry.

Flowerpot said...

You poor thing. I do hope that by the time you read this yuo are feeling a little better in what must sometimes seem a no win situation. But he is a wonderful kid and he knows your a wonderful mother. Hang on to that.

Potty Mummy said...

There's a great book which I discovered called 'Why Love Matters - How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain' by Sue Gerhardt which I discovered in a child psychology course. I'm not sure it would have changed anything I did with my boys, but wish I had read it pre-kids and now give it to all my friends who get pregnant.

Of course, I'm not suggesting you read this for direction - you're way past the baby stage, obviously, but more for affirmation - you are clearly a great mum, and the last thing you need to do is question yourself, natural though that is.

He's a nightmare, but it's his job. Some teens are just better at it than others, and you got a pro. In the future he won't remember the rages but the way you all moved on, and how reasonable you were in response.

Thinking of you, RC.

Jen said...

I have no idea what to say. But I do agree with you (and WT) that this is much more than just teen angst. It would help if he'd cooperate with a therapist (or anyone), but you can't force him. And you know that, too.

You are a fine mother, but I understand feeling insecure about this. I really do.

laurie said...

oh, my dear. that sounds so awful.

but don't dread the storms. the storms pass. look at him afterward: a good kid, with a good heart, truly sorry.

you did the exact right thing, just standing back and not engaging with him.

he sounds like my dad, too. my dad was smarter than all the therapists that he saw, too, and refused to cooperate.

and re willowtree's comment: even though he had an explosive temper sometimes at home, he never blew up away from home. so somewhere in there there is an ability to control things, on some level.

poor kid, he's got a tough way to grow up. but it does sound like he's trying, and as long as he knows that you all love him despite his temper, he'll keep on trying.

and it'll get better.

it's definitely hell for you, though.

PixelPi said...

RC: I have no knowledge in this area either, so all I can offer is relief that he was able to get control of himself eventually, and in addition was able to apologize and clean up his mess.

Maybe when some time has passed and after the holiday you or FG or both could just start talking to him about this. The game thing may be important because of the "friends" he has online, and sometimes they make "dates" to do stuff together in the game scenario. This may be a social issue with his online "friends."

I agree with everyone else on the subject of out of control when not in Mom's kitchen. He could get the snot beat out him if he pulled something like this away from home.

Sending you hugs, virtual chocolate, and encouraging you to stay snuggled as long as possible. You are probably the mother all of us wished we had (3 different kinds of take-out?).

Anonymous said...

I can't believe we live so far apart Steven is almost exactly the same. We just had a similar melt down a week ago. When you figure it out let me know what to do, I'm out of ideas, I've taken him to therapists too, and they all say it's teenage angst and they are striving for independence. I really have a hard time with that.

You are a great mother I've seen you in action, you are very loving and generous, he is just trying to press your buttons.

Diana said...

I sorely wish I had some words of wisdom. I don't. I just have sympathy and tremendous respect for you. I take encouragement for you in the fact that the episodes seem to be less frequent and that he is genuinely remorseful.

You are an amazing mom, it's just that sometimes there are things that no matter how amazing you are, you aren't going to be able to fix it. It sounds like you are doing the best that can be done, which I know is small comfort.

Corey~living and loving said...

You have many lovely comments here, and all I Have to offer you is understanding and hugs.
My heart goes out to you, your family and especially your son. It must feel pretty terrible to lose control like that.
Thinking of you!

Thalia's Child said...

I have no words of advice for you, but I offer as many words of comfort as you need. You're all in my thoughts.

Stacie said...

I am sending hugs your way. I wish I had something more profound to say!

All I know is that you are a wonderful mother and person. He knows that. He loves you. And it is good that he is apologetic because he knows his actions hurt. Maybe when you both are a little stronger this will be the catalyst for some deep discussions about his behavior.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Oh my God RC I just want to come over and make you hot drinks and hug you.

I agree with you, Wtree and Jen that there's more to this than teenage angst. And you did everything right in standing back and letting him get it out.
Pixel PI is right, you are the mum we all wanted to have, and I echo everyone elses love and best wishes for you and your family.
Poor Sasquatch is obviously a very angry young man, but he needs to take a little responsibility now in trying to meet your half way with the therapies/anger management or something to move you all on.

Kimberly said...

Ditto to everything that's been said. The advice giver in me wants to come up with something brilliant to solve all your problems, to take this heartache away from you, but I'm lost.

A punching bag maybe?

~sigh~ You know, you've poured your whole heart and soul into this here blog, really letting us know you, and we know what an incredible mother you are. We know. Simple as that. If you weren't, you wouldn't care, and you wouldn't cry. You are, so you hurt, you weep, you love.

Being a great mom really sucks sometimes.

Maddy said...

I have problems with the synapses too, but it's hard when you're battling from both ends. I've gone through teenagerdom once and I'm not looking forward to repeating it.
Happy Thanksgiving

elizabethm said...

I had my heart in my mouth reading this. I don't know if he would see a therapist, not to "fix" him but to give him somewhere where he can look at what happens without the emotional angst of talking to you, his family. Somewhere cooler and calmer than even the most loving of families can ever be. If not (and I can see that he might not want to and that has to be respected) he needs to understand that, no matter how angry he is (and he is allowed to be angry) certain things are totally off limits - hurting anyone physically, breaking things.
Can you also talk when you are both feeling ok about what it is in what you say/do that makes him feel like that?
My son, now an entirely fantastic adult and someone you would trust your life with, went through something a bit similar. I tried to understand the way I wound him up, tried to treat him like a young adult, not a child, show him that I trusted and respected him along with the very clear boundaries I started this comment with.
heaven knows, none of this might be relevant to you.
thinking of you and all your children, not just this one. all the very best.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

You are all the best friends any blogging girl could ask for. I've been in tears all day reading your responses and comments. Thank You . You have no idea how much it means.

All of you who have sent me emails on the side have been amazing. I promise to get back to each of you as soon as I can. Your experiences give me hope and also a lot of practical "been there" advice that I really really need.

It's been a calmer day here. Quiet. We have had a few (very small) anger dances, but he's very aware that he's used up his good will for the time being. (The time being the next millenium??)At the same time I'm almost looking forward to going to work tomorrow. How scary is THAT??

To clarify one point that came up a lot in comments - laurie nailed it in terms of these tantrums only happening at home. He NEVER does it anyplace else.(or to anyone else) It seems to only occur in the place where he feels the "safest". If he was this out of control in the world I would be terrified, because it would surely just be a matter of time before he got the holy hell beaten out of him.

It's going to be okay. (She said hopefully). I can't thank you all enough.

laurie said...

you're the best, RC. none of us ever want you to be unhappy!

(though that would be an oddly boring life, too.)

Mya said...

Oh gawd, what a terrible time you've been having. Sorry I'm so late to the ....well, it's hardly a party is it? Sasquatch sounds to me as if he knows he's really f****d up this time. I predict humble pie along with the pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. You must be suffering if you're looking forward to going to work. I was an absolute nightmare as a teenager (ask my long suffering Mum) but I've turned out magnificently (modest, aren't I?) - and so will Sasquatch - how could he not with such a wonderful mother? Don't forget that.
Happy thanksgiving.

Mya x

Rose said...

My heart goes out to you. It is so hard to be a parent sometimes. My girls are 18 and 23 and one of them makes me feel like the best mom in the world and the other one makes me feel like the worst. And she was even more difficult during her teenaged years. Kudos to you and your husband for being wonderful parents and to your beautiful children who are learning all the time. And know that every good parent knows at least some if not all of the pain and confusion and doubt you are dealing with.

WendyB said...

Oh dear. So sorry that you are going through this.

Iota said...

You are coping better than you think. Trust us. I'm glad the blog vent helped.