As he gets older, some of Tucker’s issues are more identifiable. Things that, when he was a baby, were totally unknown in the way that all things baby are a little bit unknown, have become more recognizable as actual behaviors. Part of what we’ve learned about ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy is that to correct undesirable behaviors, and to reinforce desirable ones, we need to first attempt to identify the antecedents in order to understand what’s setting him off. Then, we can base our reactions on whether we want him to continue each particular behavior or discontinue it.
Basically, what this means is that while Tucker’s pretty much always ground his teeth, we now know that him doing so is an attempt to self-regulate. He’s getting stressed out and if we don’t intervene, his stress level will likely escalate and possibly get ugly. It’s heartbreaking.
Sometimes, we’re not able to recognize the early signs of stress and Tucker goes to an angry, anxious place inside of himself.
He becomes not so much himself. The following is how I imagine it to be, inside my little boy’s head, during these moments.
I’m having so much fun! I’m on the playground and see magic connected climb-through boxes that are going to become a house and an airplane at the same time. They will make me invisible until I laugh. When I laugh is when I’m not invisible anymore, so that Mommy can find me.
Today, I brought my favorite toy ninees to the playground. I’m flying them up up up. So high, so fast.
I love ninees and that’s why I carried some all the way to the playground. Everything is lined up perfectly when my favorites are together – the playground, my ninees, my best friend, and my mommy. Oh. I know they’re called airplanes now. But sometimes, when I’m excited, I still say ninees. Sometimes, something happens in my mouth when my brain talks to it, and when my mouth wants to talk to you, the words get broken on the way out.
But that’s not what makes me sometimes not myself.
I love the playground. I get an idea in my head on what exactly perfectly the-way-it’s-supposed-to-be fun looks like. Sometimes, the supposed to bes don’t happen.
On the playground is when I am doing magic, and flying, and it’s my turn next (I waited for my turn) but then, my friend took my airplane out of my hand and ran away with it. I don’t want him to do that. I don’t want him to do that, because I was just getting ready to do a fly circle-stunt in the air, and now my friend has my plane, and he’s running, and I have to get it.
Mad. But not that mad.
Then, he does it again, and I already said “NO” and “stopit,” which is what my teacher and my mom say when I’m supposed to Be Gentle and Be Nice and Keep My Hands To Self. I did. I kept my hands to myself and I said “Sorry, Friend” after I almost was going to hit him. I didn’t hit him. I stopped it.
My friend has a different game in his head than the game that I have in my head. My game, in my head, is better and why can’t he see that my game is more fun and that he’s ruining everything? He just took my airplane again. And he’s running with it.
I can feel in my body that I’m mad and that I need to keep HANDS to self but I’m mad and running and why can’t my friend see that my game is more fun?
It’s. Not. Chase. Time. It’snotchasetimeandI’mgettingMADandMADDER.
My friend is not taking turns and it’s pissing me off that another kid is making tooloud baby crying sounds and can’t he just stop it and when I used my words to say STOP IT like they taught me to, he didn’t stop it. It’s all tooloud too loud and why won’t he stop it? I want him to STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Nobody is making him stop it and I still want to play my game. I can feel in my body that I want to make them stop it and I can feel in my head. There is noise that is happening in my head and that noise makes my broken words even more broken.
I don’t like the feeling in my body and I don’t like the feeling in my head but I don’t know how to stop it. It sounds like
It becomes white and red and black in my brain and that static noise in my ears…
…and I can’t hear and I can’t think and I just want to play with my ninees the way I WANT TO PLAY with them and this is terrible and I just want to go home and you suck. And this is in my head and my ears and my eyes and my mouth is broken and I can’t say stopit any more and I can’t say anything and all I know is
That’s all I know and…
And then I am sad because I was maybe-bad and I didn’t keep my handstoself…and I’m crying…and I hear
Yes. (deep breaths)
I didn’t mean to hit my friend. Can we still play? I’m sorry. Here. I’ll stroke your head to show you I’m sorry. Can we still play? But don’t take my ninee. That’s bad.
I still want to play and I want Mommy to know that I want to listen, even when I can’t because of CHSHHHHHHKKCHURHHHHHHHHHHHKURCCHHHH.
Sometimes, I can make it go away myself. If I tighten my mouth and my shoulders and my face and my eyes and my hair, sometimes it goes away. But sometimes, it comes even when I don’t want it to and my broken mouth is brokener. That’s when Mommy has to tell me “HANDS!!!”
Then, I am calm. After the crying, and the knowing, I am. Calm.
But Mommy sometimes isn’t. Because Other Mommies look at My Mommy like she is bad and she is not bad, she is just breaking through the CHSHHHHHHKKCHURHHHHHHHHHHHKURCCHHHH.
Sometimes, then Mommy gets sad and I tell her I want to go home because I want to go home and I just want to go home because I am done.
I’m learning. I’m learning to ask for A Break. And to Take Deep Breaths. And that Hitting Friends is Notnice.
And that’s when, me, Tu-uck is sometimes mostly not myself. But not on purpose, and not because.
When are you not yourself? Do you sometimes need a break, hiding under a chair to get your hair back to not feeling like static CHSHHHHHHKKCHURHHHHHHHHHHHKURCCHHHH?
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. Today’s sentence is “I wasn’t really myself when I…” Come join us and play! Next week’s sentence is “If I had a magic wand, the first thing I’d do is…”
Janine: Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kate: Can I get another bottle of whine?
Stephanie: Mommy, for Real
Me: Finding Ninee