Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Of Course It Bothered Me

Since I have already confessed on one blog today that I am not as patient as I wish, I will make a second confession. I am not always as gentle as I wish. Generally I can tolerate (at least externally) a great of frustration and irritation, but there comes a point where I am done, the boundary has been crossed and my volatility explodes into verbal expressions of rage.

Today was one of those days. Our elementary kids are home from school for Thanksgiving (the older kids get out tomorrow) so our regular pattern of life is a kilter. Changes in our family routine are always challenging for our children, and occasionally for us parents. In the confusion of this morning twelve-year-old Dominyk did not receive his required medications, so his behavior has been very challenging. He has a challenging array of diagnoses and when unmedicated it is a test for even the most patient. Incessant conversation, belligerence, distractibility, short attention span, obsessions and perseverating, all in one human package.

Claudia, Dominyk, Wilson and I had lunch out together today, and I decided to work from home for a little while this afternoon before my responsibilities with Salinda. We had been home a short time when Dominyk began to proclaim that our house "is so hot. It's just so hot, dad. I can't believe how how it is. I'm sweating. Can I turn the heat down? Oh, dad. It's hotter than hell in here." On and on, over and over, again and again. When I moved him beyond the confines of my bedroom desk area he went to another room to begin to assail Claudia with the same perpetual harangue. She managed to get him into the back yard so he could cool off, but in the process he was angered and sat under a tree screaming and crying, peppering his emotions with the verbal grand-daddy of them ("you f*****r") over and over. While I am uncomfortable with my children using that word, I have become somewhat immune to it over the years.

And then I heard the "ping ... ping" of rocks being pelted at our house's back walls. It was really something. His blubbering gibberish, punctuated with profanity and rocks propelled at the house in rage. It was the rocks caroming into our house's siding that pushed me over the edge. I stormed down the stairs, ripped open the door and commanded Dominyk to return into the house. He complied with my request.

In the meantime my wife, sensing my heightened emotional state, entered the room, and in an effort the diffuse the situation ended up only further enraging me. It was not pretty. With Dominyk's crying, my screaming and Claudia's imploring shrieks I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call law enforcement. There are times, I admit with embarrassment, that my wife must feel like she is raising thirteen, not twelve children. The result was that I asked (that's putting it much too nicely) Claudia to return to her work, so that I could take Dominyk for a walk. As I stormed out of the room, I happened to notice the mute witness to our emotional display, Wilson, our nine-year-old son. Wilson joined our family with older brother Leon a little more than a year ago, so he isn't used to his Mom and Dad demonstrating such poor people skills. Really, this is a rather infrequent occurrence in our home. I said nothing at the time to Wilson, making a mental note to myself to debrief with him later in the day.

Dominyk and I went for our walk, which was a calming experience for the both of us. By the time we returned home both of us were in a much better place emotionally. I spent a few moments with Claudia, apologizing for the whole series of events leading up to the altercation, and then went on to take Salinda for her driver's permit test.

The rest of the afternoon and night has unfolded in blessed calm. While Claudia was at the school watching Leon and Ricardo win their wrestling matches, I stayed home with several of the kids who helped me cook dinner. We had a nice time, actually, singing some discordant versions of several musical genres, cooking eggs and sausage and bacon and hashbrowns, dancing around the kitchen like a "bunch of ninnies" (as my grandmother would have said years ago). When there was a moment of relative peace I remembered my need to talk with Wilson about what he had witnessed.

"So, Wilson," I said, "you know about this afternoon?"

"Yeah .... " he said, his brown eyes looking at me for further inquiry.

"Umm. Things got kind of loud, didn't they?"

"Yep."

"So, did it bother you?"

"Of course it bothered me," he said, his shrill young voice commanding attention.

"Were you scared?" I asked, summoning my best pastor/counselor/father of troubled children sincere tone.

A look of derision, a flash of impertinence from his smoldering Asian eyes. "No, I wasn't scared."

"So what were you feeling?" I invited, using all the skills I have learned in ways to combat dysfunctional family dynamics.

"I was mad," he said in that "you really can't be that clueless, can you?" voice.

"You were mad? Mad about what?"

"I was mad because y'all were interrupting my computer game. I was just about ready to win, and then I couldn't hear it anymore. You just about screwed that all up for me."

I've learned a long time ago not to make an emotional issue out of something that isn't there. So I said simply, "I'm sorry, Wilson. I'll try to be more controlled next time."

In such an emotionally healthy way that it makes me a little jealous, all I heard from his diminutive being as he moved from the room on to something better, "Yeah, okay, Dad."

I am grateful that at least one of us home today is emotionally balanced enough to take it stride.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in not always being the "calm, patient parent" I want to be.

And it's also nice to know that sometimes our kids are more resiliant than we give them credit.