He yells. He hurls insults and calls names. He throws things and hits. Sometimes he can control himself a little bit, and he picks soft things to throw or hits gently. He’s trying so hard. But other times, he can’t. It hurts. It hurts physically, and It breaks my heart. I get angry. I get angry because he’s being mean to me. That’s what I think. I don’t deserve this. He’s disrespectful and rude, and I have a right to be angry.
Actually, I get angry because I’m tired, because I don’t want to deal with this again. I get angry because I’m scared. I'm scared I’m doing it all wrong. I’m scared he’s broken. I’m scared I can’t fix him or his anger. I’m scared he’ll end up like me. I get angry because it’s easier to be angry than feel the fatigue and the fear. I get angry because it’s easier to get pissed off than to feel your heart break again. I get angry to protect myself.
If I let the anger win, I yell. I try to demand respect. I try to punish and take things away hoping that will force him to be kind to me, hoping that will force this all just to disappear. Maybe if I act like some of those normal parents, I can make him act like a normal boy. But I can’t, and it doesn’t. Because he’s not doing it to be mean. He’s not doing it to be disrespectful. He’s crying out for help.
It is so hard to see. I doubt it every time. Through the yelling and anger, the name calling and the lashing out, I try to remind myself, he needs you. He’s overwhelmed. His bucket of resilience is empty. He can’t calm his body down. He needs you. And yet there’s a part of me that’s yelling “no, he’s just a mean kid! I don’t deserve this!! I get to be angry. He needs to figure this shit out!” As if a child of 5 years with his unique needs could do that on his own. Most days I’m not sure that I can do it on my own.
But, I doubt the part of me that knows what he needs. I doubt it because society tells me to doubt. Society tells me that there is something wrong with him and something wrong with me. Society tells me kids need to respect their elders, and more rules and more “no” will make the world a better place. I can feel the judgment. Even when no one is around, I can feel it. Next time, someone might be around. I get so scared that I put up my walls and I let my anger win.
But if I fight through the judgment, the fear, and the fatigue… if I can let down my walls and just be there for him… if I can love him so fiercely that he sees that he cannot do anything that will make me flee.. if I can showing him that he is okay exactly the way he is and that together we’ll figure this out…. his walls come down, too.
Behind his walls of anger, insults, and violence, there is a tired and scared little boy. But he gets angry because it’s easier to get angry that feel what his body is doing to him. In fact, getting angry is the only way he knows how to cope with the onslaught to his senses – the noise from the tv, the tag on his clothes, the questions in his head, the emotions that are bigger than he is. It’s too much to feel, so he gets angry.
But when I can hold on long enough, when I can love him harder than he can hit, his walls come down. He crumbles into my arms. He clings to me and cries. In those moments, I get the real deal. I find out what was underneath everything. I find out the ways he was hurting or scared. And, together we can make it okay.
If I’m going to help him learn to deal with his walls, I’m going to have to bravely deal with mine. Anger might be easier, but showing up with love is what I need to do.
I can do hard things. I can do hard things. I can do hard things.