There’s an art to finessing these things so we don’t feed into them while still trying to force the little monster to gain some control. I don’t honestly remember what set him off either time, and once he’s in the heat of one, it doesn’t really matter.
If he were older, just a little older, I could comfortably put him in his room and, barring his own ability to confine himself to its four walls, lock the door and leave. Sometimes, I have to do this anyway, because I’m not willing to sit there and have him throw things at me. Physical restraint just gives him something to fight against, so I only use it when I have to keep him from hurting himself or others.
If it’s a very bad day, I have to leave the whole thing to Scott, because Sam’s rage can inflame mine like nothing else I know. Then, it’s all I can do to contain my own violence, and I’m completely incapable of mothering my own little demon. Thank God Scott is a good Daddy.
Mostly, though, because Sam is such a Mama’s boy, I’m the one who can bring him down. I put him in his room, and, if the meltdown has nothing to do with audience, I sit in there with him, barring the door with my body, and wait him out. It’s always a long wait.
Yesterday, he’d been going ten minutes before it was safe enough for me to enter the room. He’s a thrower. He screeches and bellows and throws things. But he’s learning. He doesn’t throw hard things anymore, when I’m on hand, because I throw the things away that he throws at me. I’m trying to teach him to punch a pillow or throw a stuffed bear. But frankly, when I hear the bear bashing against the inside of the door while Sam caterwaulers, there’s nothing I can do.
I waited for the pounding to slow and let myself in with him. At which point I realized he wasn’t throwing the bear, he was throwing himself. He was hurling himself at the door, then, at the last second before he hit, throwing his arms up. He would grab the handle, use the energy from his legs in motion to position those just under the hands so that he was dangling there monkeylike, still howling at the top of his lungs. On and on he went, jump catch, scramble, dangle, scream, scream, scream, scream, scream.
Usually, there is a point in these horrible wars where I can see him starting to weary. That’s the moment when I can insert a hug. Or a soft word. But yesterday, he wasn’t tiring even a little. He just kept amping himself up further, and I was about ready to leave again and try in a few minutes or let Scott take a shot.
But that meant detaching him from the door.
So I slid a hand up against his chest. Though Sam is a tall four and a half, he’s so thin that my hand almost spans that chest. And even when he’s furious, I’m a thousand times stronger than he is. So flung him backwards into my lap.
He kept yelling, but suddenly, he was smiling. Not the demonic smile that means he’s completely out of control, gone-baby-gone, possessed, and out for the kill, but a shocked smile. A smile of amusement. He threw himself back against the door, watching me the whole time. He never stopped the noise, but the smile never went away.
I threw him in the air, and things suddenly went from battle to game.
So I threw him again, back across my legs.
He started laughing, gleeful cackles that were frankly as scary as the screams. My sister used to do this, flip a switch and suddenly go from screeching to laughing. For me, when the anger comes, it lingers. For her, there was a corner at the end of the anger, and she would sometimes round that corner and be experiencing the same emotion on the other side. Still out of control, but laughing. You have no idea how badly it frightens me that Sam does the same thing.
Still, he wasn’t yelling anymore. I threw him three more times and then, in fear for the doorknob’s heath, started tickling him. He loved it. From there, it was at least possible to bring him back down to earth with the rest of us and go on with our evening.
So when he started in with the screaming today, I listened for that point when he was at the cracking edge. It wouldn’t have worked at first. He was too focused on whatever had made him mad in the first place. But as he forgot about that, started remembering only that he was angry, not why, I had a chance, and I took it.
I braced myself on hands and knees, put my face right against his, and shouted, “TICKLE WAR.”
He yelled “NO,” and head butted me in the clavicle.
Good thing he ducked first, or he’d have broken my damned nose. Maybe he was going for the boobs, which push my shirt out to drag the floor without a bra. Anyway, he knocked us both over.I flipped off him, turned him over,blew a great big zerbert on his belly, and said, “Tickle or trampoline. You pick.”
He went for the tickle.
I don’t kid myself that this will last. It didn’t work this afternoon in the car, when all we could do was pull off at a gas station and restrain him. The only certain thing with Sam’s meltdowns is that they’ll keep coming. But I’ll take it while I have it. Another tool in the battle to keep my child from hurting himself. From hurting another.
I’m also connecting for the first time with the folks over at Just Be Enough. Because this is definitely a situation where Scott and I have to remember all the time that we’re doing the best we can. For those unfamiliar with Sam’s situation, you might want to start here or here