Friday, January 11, 2008

Parenting hard kids is hard . . . part 2 . . .

I wrote last summer about how parenting kids with disabilities is difficult on the entire family. My kids are better for it in some ways, and probably worse off in some ways due to the parenting it takes to make Dustin a part of our family. The huge amount of "gumption" it takes to be "on" at times regarding Dustin and his behaviors, his triggers, his rages, his possible reactions is tiresome. It is not possible to simply come home and "check out" for the evening, as some parents can, leaving perfectly "normal" children to fend for themselves. "Mommy is tired, can you just go play please?" doesn't work EVER! Let me give you a snapshot of my night . . .

Last night, Robert had an appointment to film a piece for the local public television about PEACE. Meaning, I had all three kids to myself. It is not my forte. This may sound horrible to most moms, especially ones who deal with far more children than I, but Dustin really knows how to push my buttons. He rarely acts the way he does for me with Robert. Claudia talks alot about how hard it is for her not to play the "push-pull" game when her girls push her buttons. I can so relate even though I am getting better.

Last night Dustin had a major melt-down turned rage about dinner. We used to struggle with major food issues. He would hoard, binge, and even refuse food regularly. Most of that has subsided, and we only deal with it occasionally. Last night was that occasion. Of course. He refused to eat dinner. I never make an issue out of food. If you don't want to eat what we eat, fine, the rule is you have a peanut butter sandwich. of course, he didn't want that either. Usually this is a perfectly acceptable option for him. And by the way, he LOVES the meal we had last night. He was simply being difficult.

He asked if he could go get some air. I told him he could, but he had to stay on the porch. This was the compromise we came to after he ran away the last night. If he needs "air" he can ask, but he has to stay on the porch. he went out, milled around and came back in about 4 minutes later. I said, "Nice job calming down." and he stomped his foot and went back out slamming the door behind him. This continued about 8 or 10 more times. I was proud of my lack of attack and handling the situation calmly and ignoring him. Finally I had had enough of the door opening and closing and the "Hhhrmph" theatrics, and told him he was to stay in the house. Then the running through the house ensued and the stomping, slamming and hollering. Hollering things like, "You want me to starrrrrrrrrve!!!!!" "You never feed meeeeee!" "I'm calling the poooooliiiice!". Nice.

The dog was stepped on, a bowl was broken, the kids were shell-shocked, stuff was spilled, towels were thrown. I was calm. I waited until he was done and asked him if he was ready for dinner. He said "yes." I shut the kitchen door, made him a small plate and started to clean up the kitchen. He grumped, he breathed heavily, he picked. He walked over and opened the door. I said, "Dustin the dog needs to stay out of the kitchen." He ran to the bathroom and barricaded himself in. I went over and removed him. He said, "I'm hungry!" and went over to his plate. The dog had indeed come through the kitchen door he opened and ate his food. The LAST of the food. Nice. Can you say. . . natural consequences?

Another rage ensued but now directed at the dog. Finally as soon as it began, he calmed, looked at me and said, "Can I play gameboy?" Oh Lord, thank you! About an hour later he ate 2 peanut butter sandwiches and said, "Mom! Those were the best sandwiches ever!" Oh brother!


Dizzy Dezzi said...


I admire your gumption and your sense of humor in the face of what I imagine sometimes feels like insurmountable odds, sometimes.

Although, thankfully, my children do not have the same physiological issues as Dustin, I can relate to when they get out of control and I am at my wits' end to deal with them. You try to find compromise and the little imps still try to force the issue to compromise heavily in their own favor.

My kids like to slam doors while screaming "I hate you" and then commence to throwing toys at the door and kicking their legs on the floor (while they are lying down) or kicking the walls while they lie in their beds.

Especially since I don't have the benefit of waiting on Dad to come home soon, right now, I usually have to choose my battles, too. And, like you, my little darlings are not as adorable for me as they are with their Daddy. I don't have his patience, either...they know that and I think that's why they like to push those buttons.

Thanks for sharing your experience with Dustin. I have had a few of those days in 18 years of motherhood...and I have at least 12 more years to, it's going to be a very long ride.


Jo said...

Sheri dear, I do NOT know how you do it. If we had other younger or closer in age kids than Little Man, oh man, I don't even want to think about it. There is just no way we would be able to do it. You did a great job!

FAScinated said...

That sounds so much like our house! I wish we were neighbors so we could just switch off Ben and Dustin once in a while!

You survived your evening and kept your cool. A great success! ~Kari

Patty said...

I am SO PROUD of you for not letting him drag you into his drama. From this side of the fence it looks like the more you remained detached from his acting out the more he ramped it up. When his anger finally burned out there you were showing him cool, calm, collected. Good for you.

After all, what is the point of drama if one has no audience? Isn't that why those Broadway plays close after one or two nights?

Did you have your own meltdown when he was safely in bed for the night? I think I would have needed to.

Kathy said...

Just visiting from over at Claudia's blog. I REALLY don't know how you ladies do it, but I sincerely admire you for the amount of patience and gumption you have.

CJM-R said...


I am new here, found you from Patty's blog. I have commented here this afternoon, and came back for more.

It has been many years now, child grown up and a wonderful person. But we used to go through very similar issues. Brought back lots of memories of very difficut times. I wish blogs were around then, I could have used the support!!

Take Care,