There are times that I think I am hypersensitive to any differences that Cameron has, and therefore I, in essence, “gave” him Nonverbal Learning Disorder. It doesn’t matter that a psychologist spent hours testing him and then explaining results to us, while waiving some of the fees due to the fact that he spent much more time assessing Cameron than originally planned. It doesn’t matter that the said psychologist had to do so many extra tests (11 tests in all) because he kept finding “holes” in various pieces that make up Cameron—processing skills, executive functioning skills, visual memory, pragmatic language, etc. Even though I have pages of reports that prove that he truly does have this disorder, I still think I’m somehow projecting it onto him. There are times that I think I made something that wasn’t really there, especially when so many friends and relatives look at him like he’s so “smart” and “polite.” Then there are days like Saturday and I am reminded that I did not make this up. This is real and it is difficult–for Cameron and for the rest of us.
I am not going to lie. My husband and I spend much more time away from our children than other parents I know. We love spending time with each other, and sometimes the only way we can cope is to get away every now and then. This month, in particular, feels a bit more full than usual, with two overnights planned with grandparents while we have dates—once with just the two of us and once with friends. It’s not rare for the kids to spend the night with grandparents, but it usually doesn’t occur quite so frequently.
The first overnight was Saturday night. Jon and I were going to have a solo date at a restaurant where we’ve never before eaten, followed by a night without kids or the dog. Before the date, we split the kids up for the day, with Cameron going to a Sports Show with Jon while his sister and I delivered Girl Scout cookies all around the city. We met up at home with only a couple of hours before we were expected to drop off the kids at my in-laws. After an amazing day with Cameron, my husband expected that he’d be able to ease him into spending a night away—usually he does okay with this, but sometimes he complains. What we didn’t take into account is Cameron’s hatred of change. Since he had such an amazing day, he was most likely sad that it was over. When Amelia and I entered, it was really over because his alone-time with his dad was done. He started in on Amelia the second we walked in the door from the exhausting eight-hour day of cookie deliveries. Everything she said, he contradicted with a disgusted face. He instantly tried to parent her by telling her what she could and could not pack for their grandparent’s house. I admit it. I am not good in these situations. I have read (and continue to read) so many books trying to teach me the “correct” way to address this—let’s call it what it is—bullying, but I always seem to find myself going right back to my original reaction, which is frustration. I try to talk to him calmly, I try not to take sides, she starts saying mean things back, I try to explain why that’s mean, he interrupts me to explain why he is in the right…
Let’s pause here for a moment. Cameron’s arguing is exasperating. When I was in trouble as a child, I SHUT.UP. Cameron does not know how to shut up. He will not do it. While we try to explain why what he did is not acceptable—even if it’s for five seconds—he interrupts to explain why it is. His volume goes up, ours goes up, I try to walk away, he keeps arguing. UGH! It is actually even worse than I can write. The arguing and the lack of accountability! Oh, but we’ll get to that accountability piece…
So anyway, I was lying in bed. My stomach was a bit upset from the giant burger I ate for lunch and I was panicking a bit since everyone I know has the stomach flu. I could hear the drama that was occurring. I could feel the aura of arguing and frustration and I could hear Cameron saying, “I don’t want to go,” a million times. I could hear him say he wished there were more things for them to do at his grandparents’ followed by him yelling at his sister to not pack an extra bag of things to do because she’ll forget it all the next day. He told me he didn’t have pants to pack. Then he didn’t have underwear to pack. And every time I’d give a suggestion, he’d tell me why my suggestion wouldn’t work. He just did not want to go and he was going to make the entire house miserable until we all knew it.
So I called the kids into the bedroom with my extremely tense and frustrated husband, who was at his breaking point. I calmly explained that they were to stop arguing and were to finish their packing, which was met with more arguing. Finally, Jon said, “Fine! You’re not going! Instead of going, you will clean your rooms tonight!” Cue the tears.
This could go on for several more paragraphs just expressing what happened when Hurricane Cameron entered stage left, but I will keep this short(er than that). Cameron was mainly angry because Jon “made the decision” for them. Dad chose that the kids weren’t going, and the kids didn’t get to choose. It was Jon’s fault because this is what he said was happening. When I mentioned that Cameron said a million times that he didn’t want to go, he said, “No I didn’t!” Ummmm…. Except he totally did. A MILLION TIMES! I said this, and he responded with, “Yeah! I didn’t want to go but I wanted to spend time with them! [umm, what?] I’m sure they’re crushed! Dad really [he air quotes here] ‘made’ their night!” When I said I’m sure he was feeling a bit guilty, he responded with, “NO! I’m angry! And Sad!” What I am leaving out here is his tone and volume. He has become a screamer. He was screaming at me, but I calmed him down. He was a step above screaming (what would that be? Exploding? Shrieking? Caterwauling?) at Jon. I could not believe the attitude, lack of accountability, ingratitude, and lack of respect that was coming out of my son, especially after he had just had one of his “best days” with his dad.
Fast forward 30 minutes or so, when I felt he was ready to talk this through. Three things I wanted him to learn from this were: 1. Never, under any circumstances should he ever, ever talk to anyone with that tone, volume, and disrespect again; 2. He needs to work on being kinder to his sister; 3. He needs to take accountability for his role in the events that occurred that night. I would not need a blog through which to vent if this conversation was met with open ears. Instead, I learned about how his sister is mean to him, too, how it’s not his fault, how Dad yells at him, and on and on and on. In the end, though, that 10-year-old’s head was on my lap and I was rocking him because it wasn’t that he would not calm down, it’s that he could not calm down. I was taken back to when he was seven years old and I looked into his eyes to see that his emotions were out of his control.
I suppose we all get that way sometimes. I suppose it’s better that he’s out of control at home than at school or at his grandparents’ house, which, truth be told, is one of the main reasons we could not send them there. It would not be fair to expect them to referee our savages while they argued their way to bedtime. I am well aware that other children are like this and that children without any diagnoses do similar things. But this is my child. This is the child that I have spent so much time trying to help him cope with these things and be more appropriate and accept responsibility, and when this happens, I feel like I’ve failed. That’s the truth. As I’m writing this, I see the million and one things I could have done differently from start to finish. I am on a constant journey to do better—parent better, listen better, discipline better, etc. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling. I don’t know if we’re any better off than we were when we didn’t have a diagnosis or we didn’t spend hours in occupational therapy or social skills group or seeing a therapist. Sometimes it feels like it’s been all for naught.
Cameron did calm down eventually that night, but Sunday was only slightly better. So what is my next step? I have a stack of eight parenting books on my nightstand that I’m planning on reading, but I don’t expect to find anything life-altering in them. I think my next step is to take each day minute by minute because if I think that this will last for the next eight years, I’ll go crazy; and considering the fact that I have eight parenting books on my nightstand, I think I’m crazy enough.