Friday, February 22, 2013

Despite Me

Yesterday, my son who struggles with defiance, was having a hard day.  This also meant everyone else in the house was also having a hard day.  After dinner, I had to take his sister to basketball, which meant the oldest two girls had babysitting detail.

Generally I won't make the girls take on too much on a school night if I can avoid it, so when my son started screaming for no reason and refused to stop, I knew I couldn't let this continue.  He was chirping loudly in the living room if only to show that when I asked him to be quiet so as to not wake his baby sister, he wasn't going to obey.   I knew he either had to reign it in, or come with me, or we skipped basketball.

Over the years with this one, I have found that 1) getting puffed up gets me a higher level of intense defiance and 2) being flexible means he will continue until I stop being flexible because he has made ignoring his antics intollerable.   Ergo, I could not simply shrug my shoulders at his deliberate decision to simply scream over and over and over again.  

So I issued a straight choice.  "You may be in the house and civilized (not screaming). Or you may be outside."  When he refused to move or stop screaming, I ushered him outside. He was wearing a coat and shoes so I felt no guilt about this whatsoever.   Shutting the door, he began a new creative form of screaming, ringing the doorbell over and over and over again.  I told him I would take the batteries out of the doorbell but that he would not be allowed back into the house until he could knock gently and ask to enter. He ran to the back door to see if he could bang/badger/bribe one of his younger siblings to open the door.  To their credit, every one of them shook their heads "No."  He kept banging. 

I opened the door, "This is simple. If you want to come in, you will have to be civilized." He ran to the front. 

I was running out of time, and having his sister not get to go to basketball punished her for his behavior. I also considered taking everyone, but the oldest two needed to do homework.  I didn't want them stuck with him screaming or banging and they needed to stay.   I told my daughter to get ready for her practice and walked outside.  My son came over to argue his point that he wasn't being rude, just loud.  I told him to get in the car.  "But I have homework." he protested.  "You can do it when you come home."  He resisted. 

"You need to be obedient.  You need to show self control. You need to get in the car."  I held my breath.  He got in. He left the door ajar.  I shut it and got in. He said he wouldn't buckle, I told him to buckle if only for his own safety.  He complied.  He continued to explain that I would give him bad grades because he wouldn't get to his homework. I'd love to tell you I didn't say, "You showed no interest in your homework before now, so it can wait a bit longer." but that would be lying.  The rest of the drive was spent with him asking me to explain what was wrong with screaming and then illustrating the various types of screaming and occasional mutterings under his breath with just enough volume for me to know to whom they were directed.  It was a long ride to practice. 

When we got to the school, I got out to walk my daughter in, I invited her brother to join us, he refused. "Fine. You can stay here in the van." I went into the school, dropped my daughter off with her coach and in the adjacent classroom, found one of my favorite teachers who knows and loves him well. I told her of my troubles. She listened, made me laugh and promised to review the 4th commandment in religion class the next day.  When I returned to the van, he was quiet.  The ride home was quiet, but it wasn't over.  I knew he was still simmering. 

Back home, at the homework desk, he started in again, wandering, making noises, and I reminded him how worried he'd been about homework.  This resulted in sulky rude responses.  "GO SIT DOWN!" I ordered and went to the kitchen to collect myself.  I'd prayed. I'd asked. I'd used humor. I'd removed him from the situation. I'd ignored. I'd done all this stuff and none of it was working.  A voice that wasn't a voice, unbidden said,"Turn the other cheek." It wasn't a memory, it wasn't my own voice or my own thoughts.  It was a command.  "Turn the other cheek." 

Immediately I went into the red room. He sat at the table with his papers. He looked suddenly lost and small to me. I didn't know how I was to turn the other cheek, but I asked, "Do you need anything for your homework?"  He looked up shocked.  "What?"  "Do you need anything, to help with your homework?"  I asked again.  And just like that, without an actual request or demand or specific or anything, the whatever it was that had kept him hard, broke.   "I'm sorry Mom." he said. It was the Holy Spirit. It had to be.  There was no other way that angry wall of adolescence could have been torn down.  I don't know how long, but I gave him a long hug.   Things weren't perfect after that, but they were decidedly BETTER. 

We live in an age that likes to label every struggle as part of a systemic diagnosis of something, but I think he just has a strong stubborn sense of will, that sometimes dominates his brain, and only love, only constancy, can bring to peace.  Reflecting on my son and his struggles, they are universal, all of us fight to assert our will, however silly, distruptive, distructive, spoiled, angry, agitated, unfair or unreasonable it may be.  The sin that dominates our heart rubs us raw, and destroys every relationship it touches. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit, can heal things that seem unfixable in an instant if only we ask.  Love, constant love, is the only cure.  

2 comments:

maria mcclure said...

So very very very true, Sherry. I find that the same approach works with my little one, but only when there is a moment's peace where she can notice the olive branch. I was in the exact same spot yesterday and I suspect the same teacher came through for me last night. :)

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