We're still here...
We're kind of bleary-eyed, but definitely still here :) Brendan was off school last Friday, of course, & Easter weekend was a flurry of getting ready for church on Sunday & then Easter dinner for 9 family & friends. It also included flurries of snow & Charlie was rather disbelieving as he shoveled snow Easter morning so that we could get everything into the car that was needed for church... (most of the "everything" was 108 seedlings in colourful plastic cups that the Sunday School classes had planted a few weeks ago, & I had nurtured ever since at home, to be handed out to the congregation on Easter as a welcoming of Spring :).
The main plan on Friday was to generate the thank-you notes for Brendan's birthday presents & then on Saturday we'd start writing them. We decided together to make note cards out of a photo (the usual thing). The photo above is what we came up with, because the pokemon plushies & japanese were featured in one of the party games. I asked Brendan if he wanted to generate individual cards with the message for each one typed out, or if he wanted a short typed message in each with a handwritten (by him) mention of the gift & signature. He opted to the latter, so we formatted it all & printed it out. All went well until Saturday morning when we got to generating the notes. We did 4 of them, interspersed with playing Dragon Fable, which is pretty much all he did that morning, play DF & get 4 cards done. I wanted to do 2 more in the afternoon, after japanese lesson, but Brendan balked. We clearly had differing expectations as to how quickly this was going to be done. I explained that I hadn't asked him to work on them during the school week because I knew school took a lot of energy, & that's why I wanted to get them done over the weekend & early part of break week. He was having second thoughts about all the writing, as it turns out, but didn't know how to tell me or figure out how to re-negotiate things. Instead, he blew his top & stormed upstairs (this was later in the afternoon). Charlie & I let him be for a while, even though we could hear the crashing of legos in his room, but eventually Charlie went up (since Brendan was mad at me, I thought it too inflammatory to try to deal with him right then). Charlie talked to him, but Brendan was stuck- something that is pretty common for him- & couldn't get beyond his anger. I went up next, & discovered that he'd scotch-taped his door shut, although he finally let me in. I tried to get him to talk about how he was feeling & how things could have been different (how we might have re-negotiated things, rather than his getting mad & stalking off), but he was really stuck in the anger & kept telling me that emotions were useless so why talk about them, that he was an a**hole & didn't deserve to live, & the like. It's always scary when he talks about not wanting to exist, since he's tried to hurt himself before when he's felt this way. I was also concerned because Grammie was coming over to dinner & then to stay with him while Charlie & I went to the choir rehearsal for the Easter Sunday service, & I didn't want to leave him like this, nor did I want to leave my mom with him in this state. When Grammie came he did come downstairs & was quietly civil to her, but it was obvious that he was still really upset & he didn't want to eat dinner. It was although he'd shut himself away, that the emotions were too intense for him. Finally, Charlie went to rehearsal without me (he's the only regular member of the bass section & was really needed to sing) & I thanked Grammie for coming over & told her I'd manage with Brendan. She was worried, but left us to sort things out. And we did, eventually... I told him that shutting himself away wasn't getting him past his feelings & toward working on a solution. I explained that when people are in a family, they work together on things because they love each other & have a responsibility to each other. He just kept saying that he was too awful to exist, so finally I grabbed a bunch of the pokemon guys, & the Rufuses, & told him that he wasn't too awful for us & that we were depending on him, that we loved him. We both broke down into tears & ended-up in a hug pile of us & pokemon & mole rats. It was very intense, but we got through.
Charlie was gone for only about an hour & a half, & he found us watching "Happy Feet", which Grammie had brought over to watch with Brendan & kindly left for us. It was fun to finally see it, & a nice way to relax after all the tenseness. After the movie, though, Charlie brought in a partly-melted candle that usually sits on his dresser & asked Brendan how it got that way... Brendan looked crestfallen, & it turns out that it wasn't just legos that were shredded while he was angry. He'd gone into our room & destroyed some things, too- he found matches (pretty well hidden) & melted the candle, crushed some popsicle-stick creations he'd made when he was little that had been sitting on both our dressers, & (I discovered later) shredded one of the HP legos that had found sanctuary on my dresser. I was horrified that he'd been lighting matches while angry &, although I didn't get angry or yell, I made sure he understood that he had broken trust with us & would have to make reparations. He started to get defensive again, but when we saw it start we distracted him, explaining firmly that this is a learning time, & that it's important that he learn what to do when he's angry so that irreparable things won't happen in the future. We were able to bring him back before his emotions got too intense again. I was absolutely exhausted by the afternoon & evening, so Charlie read to him before bed while I zoned-out for a bit. Brendan agreed to take a melatonin before bed & it really helped him- the night before he'd been so antsy while I read to him that it took a full hour of reading for him to relax enough to fall asleep. Afterward, Charlie & I talked about what we wanted Brendan to learn from all of this, & later Charlie typed it all up on the computer so we'd have something Brendan could refer to. The first thing was to work with Brendan to see what he thought needed to be done & incorporate them into the list as well. Our main points were: that Brendan learn to find healthy outlets for his anger so that he didn't destroy things inappropriately (a list of things to be determined by us all together), that Brendan would have to repair the things he'd broken (with our help, if needed), that he cannot light matches for 6 months, that he may not go into our room when one of us isn't in there, even for a lego (some of them are stored in Charlie's office, off our bedroom), that Brendan would go shopping with dad & buy him another candle with his own money, that he would look up & type/dragon the definition of vandalism for future reference. Since the next day was Easter, we put off discussing these ideas until last evening at dinner (we were going to do it after but Brendan was getting really anxious about it, & it wasn't going to help him to be really upset going into the discussion, so we just did it). Brendan agreed to it all- he had already decided that he should fix the things he broke & that he'd swear-off matches for a long time. We talked about how we needed to be able to trust each-other, & Brendan has a strong streak of fairness in him, which helped him to understand why he needed to stay out of our room & make reparations, too. Charlie told him that they'd work on the list of things to do when he's angry, & suggested that they go to garage sales to find old pottery for Brendan to smash when he was really upset (we have a friend who swears by this...). It's a work in progress, for sure. but the peace has been restored to our house.
Easter was a mix of work & fun- getting the seedlings to church, sorting out how the kids would distribute them, figuring out where Brendan would be while we were singing in the choir loft, & then actually doing it all... everything fell into place. Then home, eating lunch & pacing ourselves throughout the afternoon to make Easter dinner. Brendan never actually joined us at the table for dinner, but the new laptop is on my desk in the dining room, so he was with us even when quietly playing DF, & very mellow & personable through it all, so we felt that he had a good time, too. He kind of munched on things throughout the day & we decided that every day does not have to be superior nutrition day... what was important was his comfort level with all the people visiting, which went fine.
Yesterday Brendan's best buddy spent most of the day with us, which was a lot of fun, then we watched the latest episode of "Kamen Rider Den-O" online before dad came home from work. Today I slept-in while Brendan watched another of the Marx Brothers movies he got for his birthday. This morning we finished the thank-you notes, after re-negotiating that I would scribe the message & he would sign them. He did some Dragon Fable & then worked on rebuilding the lego on my dresser that he'd broken. Brendan seems to feel much better to be actively doing something to repay us for his actions. Charlie & I feel that it's better to be dealing with these sorts of things while Brendan's younger, rather than when he's in full-teen mode. We've talked about the reparations as creating memories for him to fall back on when he has impulses to damage things in the future. And finding things that help him to direct & get beyond his anger are important life-lessons. In the late morning walked to our neighbourhood japanese restaurant (the weather is finally warming up again!) with our friend Kelly for lunch. While there we discovered that our waitress is a friend of our japanese teacher's :) She was impressed by our japanese (I think, in particular, Brendan's). After we got home Brendan got back to working on a new story (about a "multiverse" that he's illustrated using the go board & stones) & returned to madly building legos to represent the characters & vehicles from the story. I've suggested that he start documenting the story using the his new dragon software, then we can take a photo of the legos & go board to illustrate it. He's intrigued by this idea... Stay tuned!