Today we had a visit planned with Matthew and the plan was to pick him up at 12:30 and bring him home for a while. His respite worker was going to meet us at the house, and I was happy to know that should there be a problem, we would have an extra pair of hands.
The little boys and I started off the morning wonderfully- we lazied around the house, cuddled on the couch, the boys played a little, and then I gave them lunch before we headed off to get Matthew. Needless to say,the mood for the little boys and I was upbeat. So as we left the house, I was even more comfortable with the fact that we were going to get matthew.
As we pulled up to Healy House, I could see Matthew bouncing around in the window and I got a pit in my stomach- he seemed to be really bonkers which did not bode well for a calm visit. I was met at the door by Tim, the head of healy house, who told me that Matthew had been having a rough morning. He was edgy, getting in everyone's space, and not respecting the adults. After talking more with Tim, I told Matthew that I expected better from him and that he would not be able to stay with us for the full 4 hours, since he had not had behavior that earned him a long pass, and that instead he would come home, go for a hike and then return to Healy House earlier than I had planned. Matthew was upset by this, but accepted it and understood that it was a consequence for his behavior.
Once we left Healy House, Jacob's entire mood changed. Even just as Matthew got in the car, Jacob became whiney, and whimpered. Matthew was too close to him, he touched him climbing into the car. Vague concerns, but it was the look on Jacob's face and his tone that had me worried. As we were driving, Jacob was complaining a lot- Matthew asked for his ball back, and Jacob refused to give it to him. Jacob wanted to see something and Matthew complained Jacob was looking at him. It had only been 3 minutes, we were hardly out of the parking lot for Healy House, and I knew I had to do something.
Jacob and Matthew had always been good brothers. Even as Matthew struggled and Jacob would be scared, the next day Jacob was always willing to give Matthew another chance. But here I could tell that Jacob was legitimately afraid. He was afraid that Matthew would get angry, and when Matthew gets angry, life for Jacob is too unpredictable and Jacob can't cope. Rather than living in the moment and enjoying the good times with Matthew, which as an adult I was able to do, Jacob was petrified from the first moment Matthew got in the car, and it was likely that Matthew would feed off of this negative energy and the day would end in an explosion.
When we got home I decided we would do a family project to build unity and ensure some family time, so we built a house out of lincoln logs. This lasted a little while, and then Jacob and Matthew each got involved in their own activities while David built the log cabin of the century. After more play time at home, we enjoyed a hike at 5 Rivers together and then it was time for Matthew to go back to Healy House. From the moment we got back in the car, I could sense that things were going downhill. Jacob kept talking about the fact that we were going to a friend's house for dinner, which only served to upset matthew, and Matthew was muttering that he hated healy House and that he was coming home in 9 days.
As we got out of the car to walk inside, Matthew was coming very, very slowly which meant that we were bound to have a hard time. When things are going to be ok, Matthew runs into Healy house and tells the staff about our visit. When he will not go inside easily, I know we are heading for a tantrum.
I agreed to go to Matthew's room with him to try to make separating from us easier. He struggled. I agreed to one more hug, one more kiss, he struggled. I agreed to call him later. He tantrummed. Finally I asked another staff member to take Jacob and David so that I could talk to matthew without them watching his tantrum. Unfortunately, no matter what I said or how I offered to touch base with matthew later, he could not be calmed down, and finally I just left as he screamed for me.
As I walked outside to meet Jacob and David, Jacob just looked at me with his eyes, and said, "see I knew he would get mad again", and walked towards the car. I don't know how to build a relationship between the boys, make sure everyone feels safe, and meet each of their needs all at the same time. I think it is truly an impossibility. Even when I planned and had another adult with us, it wasn't enough. Sure, I didnt have the extra pair of hands the entire visit, and yes, that would have helped. However, in 9 days matthew is coming home and there won't be an extra adult here all the time.
I am reading a book about teaching an Oppositional Child, and I am working hard to implement the ideas presented into my parenting. I am doing some extra hugging and snuggling with David and Jacob to ensure that they feel loved and safe as much as possible, and again I am "filling the boys buckets" with positive messages and love that will hopefully carry them through the challenging times.
For now, I have found that when we visit Matthew at Healy House he seems to do better, than when he comes home or out with us in the community, so between now and next Tuesday, that is what I will do with him.
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!