Thursday, March 2, 2017
SOL #2: Of Love and Anger
He lied, snuck, stole, ignited, disappeared. An already tenuous trust has been blown. He and his friend were confronted by two pissed off moms once we tracked them down. We let them know what they collectively were busted for, then we each took our kid home to go over their role in the series of really terrible decisions they'd made.
The Winemaker and I sat down to talk about consequences. The kid doesn't learn from them, not really. Early trauma and probable FASD override his rational brain time and time again. But as a parent, you can't just go, "Oh well." Clearly he needs more active supervision. Grounding is as much about safety and forming new habits as it is about punishment. "How long are you going to take screens away?" he asked, and we hedged on the answer, because sometimes screens are the only way the two adult introverts can get a break from the two young extroverts in the house. And if he can no longer play with friends...
He'll do extra chores each day this weekend. When we're satisfied with the effort and results each day, then he can get on his screens for awhile. Again, the chores aren't a punishment so much as a way for him to make up to us the stress and trouble he caused us, a way we can let go of our anger with him.
Little Sister has been asking to go out for dinner all week. "Take her out," I told The Winemaker. "We'll make do." The Winemaker is slower to anger but also slower to forgive than I am. When serious shit goes down, it's better for him to get a break from the instigator so things don't escalate. Once my adrenaline wears off, I can be calm and supportive again, even as I'm explaining what the consequences are.
So the kid and I had boiled eggs and potatoes for dinner. Then we played Settlers of Catan. Every once in awhile, he would offer another apology. I would accept it--but not by reflexively saying, "It's okay." He asked a few clarifying questions about what the next couple of weeks will look like. He went from "I should lose my phone for two months and be grounded from playing too," to "Well, how many chores do I have to do each day? Can it just be an hour?" I remained firm, but not vindictive.
In the past, his shame would have sent him spiraling into worse and worse behavior, and in my panic at losing control of the situation, I would have exploded in anger. It would have taken us hours to claw our ways back into our rational minds, and by then I'd have as much to apologize for as he did. We've come a long way, which seems like an odd thing to say on a day like today. But it's true.
When Little Sister came home, I read to them together, another chapter of Harry Potter, then I tucked him in. "Aren't you glad you live in a world where people still love you even when they're mad at you?" I asked him impulsively. He looked at me soberly for a moment.
"Yes," he said simply.