Thursday, October 24, 2013

JROTC the Death of Me

Confession:  I am seriously contemplating how I can possibly take a vacation away from my kids.  I'd love to have a month ...but I'd take an overnight.

In my delusional mind, I always thought once the boys became teenagers, it would be a breeze to get away to do grown up things.  Once my mom moved in with us ...I thought it would be even easier.  Built in kid-sitting right? Only NOT!

When your teenagers are high maintenance and volatile with the tendency to explode and fight, you can't always walk out the door, drive away knowing that it will be just fine. It may actually turn into holy hell within a matter of seconds.

Sunday was the most peaceful day I've had in quite a while.  The days the kids are at school, are not that peaceful.  The phone always rings with some crap or another.  There is driving, running around from place to place, putting out fires, taking them to appointments, to work, to church, maintaining a household, etc.

On this Sunday however, Red spent the night with a friend and would not be returning until the evening.  Blue went to a youth festival at a friend's church.  The sun was shining, the air was crisp.  I sat on my chase lounge, near the window of my bedroom, sunbathing, writing and browsing facebook.   I took a long, hot, delectable bubble bath, before going out to meet a fellow blogger/autism mama friend,  Author of Balanced Imperfection for dinner.  She was in town for one night only.

I left with the confidence that all ducks were in a row.  The kids would be at home minimal time, before having to go to bed.  Vitamins,  meds and dinner for everyone was all lined up. Easy breezy, right? Dad and Nana can handle it right? Right?  I mean for God's sake...I deserve a freakin break! Me time is becoming more and more infrequent  This is ridiculous!  My kids are 14 and 18.  We have 3 adults in the house?  Why should I have to be so tied down that I can't even go out to dinner with a girlfriend?

In fact, this was my status on FB just before I left.

In the peace and tranquility of this Sunday afternoon, I sit I think, I write. There are no children in my house at the moment. I will be leaving before they get home to have dinner with a blogger, mama, friend of mine.

I have an ah hah moment ...
I need to leave them more often.
They need to figure out how to live without my presence, and deal with each other, and their father more.
When I'm gone, I need to really be gone.
Unavailable for complaint.
No access.
It's not as if they are any happier when I'm present.
In fact, I present them with constant opportunity to lay all of their burdens on me.
It's not that they will appreciate me more when I return.
It's that I will appreciate me more when I return.

While I was smiling for this picture... holy hell broke lose!

Me and Monica 
While academics come pretty easily for Blue, anything physical is extremely difficult.  He has always hated P.E. because of the noise, the crowds and the competition.  Sports and physical activity is just not his thing.  He made it through middle school P.E. by the grace of God.  He had the most phenomenal coach ever as his teacher.  He didn't tolerate any bullying or putting other students down.  He and Blue became fast friends.  In fact, Blue even became his Teacher's Assistant during his 8th grade year.

So for high school he chose JROTC as his physical credit, because of the recommendation of a friend.  Thus far, it has been a real love/hate relationship.  It has been the source of much anxiety, and several meltdowns. Most meltdowns have been a result of the uniform and inspection days.  Other's have been related to feeling like crap because he is the slowest runner in the entire squad a lot!  This wreaks havoc on his self-esteem.

There was an incident last week in which they were playing a football game on Fun Friday.  Ironic huh?  His team was losing badly. He felt like he sucked and it was all his fault.  This conjured up all kinds of self-doubting emotions, which he decided to link to a teacher from middle school.  He felt so overwhelmed that he shutdown and ran away from the game and started crying.  Yep...crying where peers could see him, which made him even more mortified when he realized what he was doing.

Over the next few days, this anger built up in his mind and somehow it also got tied into his father.  They've been butting heads a lot lately too.  I think in some ways he blames his father for some his problems and feelings, because they are so much alike.  He needs someone to blame for his lack of self-esteem.  All of these worries, problems and imperfection, couldn't possibly be his fault.

So when I left Sunday night for dinner...the shit hit the fan big time.  One thing led to another and there was a major meltdown, which included some aggression and very nasty words towards dad.  When I arrived home after dinner, Blue was exhausted and had fallen asleep. The following morning, the first words out of his mouth were, "You left! And this is all your fault!"
He was still exhausted, mentally and physically.  He ended up not going to school. That morning, you could cut the tension with a knife between him and dad.  It was bad.  So bad that it frightened me.

I need my teammate to help me through these teen years with the boys.  The problem is they are at such odds, it makes it more difficult for dad to parent.  It ends up leaving everything on me, and I end up feeling resentful towards all of them.  Dad ends up with pretty negative feelings.  It's a horrible, downward spiral for the entire family.

We end up in a 2 hour family therapy session where we worked out some of these thoughts and feelings.  It was not fun, but it had to be done.  The therapist told me and dad that sometimes we have to let the boys vent their frustrations, without judgement, without trying to teach a lesson,  or trying to fix the problem.  No lessons are learned when an Aspergers child is angry.  There are no fixes to the issue that will come from an outside source during a fit of anger.  In the midst of anger, everything we say to the angered person, can feel hurtful to them.  Can you believe that?

One of my friends on the spectrum told me this about anger,

"As an aspie myself, I totally understand the frustrations of being misunderstood. Trying to relate or cope when no one understands life from your point of view. Many NTs try very hard to understand, but it's difficult to understand unless you know the mindset. When we hear your words, even the empathy from you hurts during those times, because we do not feel understood and don't think anyone can understand what we are feeling, so it is at those times where everything hurts...even the loving kindness that you are showing. Please don't take it personal. It is just our way of dealing with everything. We love our family so much and feel so safe that you become our punching bag in a way because we know in all things that we do you will not hurt us... I'm so sorry that you feel pain. Keep trying calming methods, they will eventually work for you."
~Jackie Pilgrim

This is not to say that we can not teach them lessons or help give them the answers that they desperately need.  It's all about timing.  Many lessons will come to them by the example of the way that we live our lives.  Others can be taught when the mood is right, when their minds are ready to receive.  A lecture or debate when the child is already upset and confused is only going to exasperate them, and make them more angry.  Fight or flight will kick in and they will end up lashing out in one way or another.

The therapist also encouraged the boys to accept our answer of no, with the explanation of why, and not to continue to carry on all of these extended debates.

I thought we made it through the family crisis, when on Tuesday morning Blue had another major meltdown over the ROTC uniform.  This was the first time he was to wear his dress jacket for inspection.  He had no idea how to put everything together properly.  It took him over 45 minutes to get dressed.  When he finally came downstairs, he had on the jacket, with no shirt, with the tie around his naked neck! When I told him he is supposed to put the shirt on underneath the jacket, he flipped! It sounds funny and it was.  But It was also very ugly.

Keep in mind, this is a kid who likes to wear jogging pants and t-shirts most of the time.  He is being asked to wear this very uncomfortable, although quite distinguishing, uniform and then be inspected for perfection!  That's a lot of pressure.

He ripped off the uniform and threw it to the ground! We both nearly decided that ROTC was not worth the many meltdowns that he's having as a result.  I was actually, the main culprit telling him to just forget about it!  (Bad parenting moment ...I know). In the heat of the moment we were both extremely frustrated.

After taking a deep breath, I realize,  the thing about parenting when your children become teenagers, is many things are no longer your decision.  You are merely a consultant in their lives.  They really do have to make their own decisions when it comes to interests, activities, classes to take, what to major in,  and so on.  I even extend that to their spiritual beliefs.  It's not about what I believe anymore.  I really do want them to make their own choices and be comfortable in doing so.

We ended up in the School Psychologist's office for yet, another therapy session.  She was brilliant!  She got to the root cause of his thoughts and feelings and helped him figure out what he needed to do about it.  She got him to figure out what supports and resources he could connect with to help him through his ROTC issues.

His Commanding Officer is really an awesome guy, and a wonderful resource.  They decided that Blue will now take his uniform to school and get dressed there in the ROTC building, where he will get whatever help that he needs.

As far as his physical/exercise and drill issues, he will put in the extra work and effort to improve slowly.  It will have to come from inward motivation to do better.  The unit is really a supportive place full of students who want to help each other.  It really isn't a typical judgmental, competitive environment.  It's all about teamwork.  He is a part of something good and everyone there wants him to succeed.

With the Psychologist, he determined that he has just has to stop dragging around the negative weight and baggage from the past, and the negative voices inside of his head.  He will use his energy to move forward and continue to improve.

He ended up wearing his uniform instead the next day -successfully.  In fact, he ended up making rank and -received his first promotion.  He got two pins to put on his dress jacket.
I think he felt proud of his uniform.  He didn't really want to take it off once he got home.

Here's another FB Status I wrote as a reminder to myself last week...

Dear Aspergers Mom,
Just listen.
Do not try to fix it.

Sometimes, we all need reminders.