It’s not that I am ashamed; please don’t get me wrong, I would tell you all the gory details if I felt it would help. However, I know that those parents out there who live with a child who can rage with such anger that they have to hurt themselves, you and deconstruct their surroundings, already know what that is like. Those parents will also know that once your child is in that apocalyptic zone; there is almost nothing you can do to entice them out. Usually we have to wait for exhaustion to wash over him before we can see the finish line. For those that don’t, be grateful.
Crossing the finish line is somewhat harder than just eyeballing it. I’m not sure you ever have a clear finish, often the line fades or moves. There is never a feeling that you’ve cracked this one, a heady rush of success, no, when you live with a violent child the finish line is often out of reach.
However, we move as close as we can to it; a place where there is peace and where our child feels safe again or just safer. How we do this, how we reclaim the lost confidence in our relationship, is with grit and determination, amongst many other things.
Sometimes it’s through clenched teeth. I remember the time Stig kicked off on a busy train, yes that was the time someone filmed us on their phone, thinking we were mistreating him. Well by the time we’d got home he’d calmed significantly and had moved into tears and shame. Because he’d been writhing around on the dirty train floor and gotten very sweaty, I ran him a bath.
“Will you get in with me?” he begged. Inside I hadn’t yet come to terms fully with the repeated punches I’d received on that train but I knew, if I could, I should.
“Of course” I trilled. I got in and we had that skin on skin contact that made him feel better and actually, I found that it helped me too. On this occasion, that connection was our first step towards that evasive line.
Often I take him an offering, expecting hunger and thirst to be top of his needs after such exertion of energy; I offer a drink or a snack. It’s like a little peace offering. Him accepting it is a step towards that line and often opens a channel of communication. Cleverly I’ve worked out food is a great leveller. Only this week, to avoid a possible explosion, I made fried eggs.
There are those occasions when, even with clenched teeth you can’t do it, not straight away. I hope, on these occasions that Mr H can make those first steps alone, whilst I recoup. On one occasion only, but fairly recently, because it was one of the worst outbursts we’ve seen, we made no contact after. We stayed away for him and us to calm, by the time we did make advances, he’d fallen asleep. This made things hard in the morning, he was still on edge, as were we, unsure of the firmness of the ground on which we stood. I also didn’t sleep on that night, not one wink. So that was a lesson learnt.
In the past,when we first entered a long period of “episodes”, when they occurred weekly, I had been terrified by the possibilities of our future. Whilst I still find any outbursts very traumatic, when I realise his mind has altered to “that” state, I shake at the possibilities of what is to come, I am now able to make a reasonable recovery. I know that there are always lessons to be learnt.
There is the lesson’s Mr H and I discover on unpicking our own contributions to the escalation, often recognising our own failings, not quite being therapeutic in the heat of the moment. We also de-brief with our son. We try to work backwards, to find out what the trigger was and how we could have changed the outcome. We talk about bodily sensations which indicate anger; we talk about making right choices. We hope that he can make a little more sense of his emotional make up. He says he’s sorry and we say ours, maybe we could have been more supportive at the beginning. We never apologise for hold him and preventing him from hurting himself, we make it clear that if certain behaviour occurs, then we have no other option.
He often needs to be close in the following day and I find jobs for him to help me with, to occupy us whilst we talk. We unload the dishwasher, make the tea, sort washing and do the recycling whilst talking about everything and anything, although I draw a line at the zombie apocalypse.
Now-a-days, it’s not long before we can almost imagine that the event didn’t occur, we come together at a family meal and share jokes or mutually enjoy a walk, a television programme or a game. But we’ve not crossed the finish line; we are close but also maybe a life time away. A little bit of us remains with the last time it happened, as a reminder of the possibility.
Will we ever cross that finish line?
In honesty, I don’t know.