Friday, August 26, 2011

emergency stepdad action

Anna got called away to help with a friend, so I left work early and retrieved J for the afternoon. I'm not sure where to start.

To begin with, he had a standard-issue meltdown--declaring that he's so sad he can't move, and flopping down on the ground--right when I got him from a friend's house. I think this was partly because Anna wasn't there, but he also (at least in that moment) misunderstood when the custody schedule was changing and thought he was going to Daddy's house today. He expressed that as an irredeemable sadness at Anna's betrayal, because after all, if he thought he was supposed to go to Daddy's house, that must have been what Mama told him, because otherwise he wouldn't be sad.

(Don't look so smug. We all do this, we're just less obviously ludicrous about it.)
"I'm so angry at Mama for this."
"It's not her fault. Her friend needed help."
"Then whose fault is it?"
"It's nobody's fault. Sometimes stuff just happens."
"It has to be somebody's fault."
"So I know who to blame...who to complain to, when something happens I don't like."
This went on for a while.
"I'd rather go anywhere than Mama's house, because a day at Mama's house is like a hundred days to me."
Since I asked, there was a discourse on the relative merits of Mama's and Daddy's houses. (Daddy's temper somehow never makes it into that analysis.)

I touched on the idea that his lashing out makes people feel bad, the same way he feels bad when one of the adults yells at him

For a while I wasn't letting him do drawing practice in return for Wii time, not being sure of the protocol...he got progressively more annoyed, and I'll grant that this was a violation of the usual contracts. (Recall that as an Aspie kid, J has only limited tolerance for an unannounced change in routine, and honestly this might have annoyed anybody.) I was getting sort of worn down by the noise.
"You're just the stepdaddy, so you don't overrule Mama."
I'm not proud. And hey, he's got the label down.

Everything went smoothly once I texted Anna and there was Wii time. He did his passive-aggressive thing around dinner choices:
"Now, Chris. There is a kind of pizza I like."
"Really? That's interesting."
"Yes, I like that kind--there are two kinds of pizza I like."
"Wow, maybe you'll have pizza someday."
"So I could have pizza for dinner sometime."
"I could have pizza for dinner tonight!"
"Nope, you're having macaroni and cheese."
(Food has become a bit of an issue recently. The kid eats 6 things, refuses to try anything else, and now complains about how bored he is with the 6 things he's willing to eat. He's also exploring being annoyed with having the same morning and evening routine every day, notwithstanding that one morning Anna did things out of order and J broke down in tears.)

I let him play around in the bath for a long time.
"Hey, kiddo. You've got about forty minutes until bed, and you can divide that between more bath time, or reading, however you want."
He starts doing his dramatic moaning-and-flopping.
"Um, what are you sad about?"
"I'm so sad because you're saying I have to get out of the bath and go to bed without reading, I'm so sad I don't think I can get up--"
I touched his hand to get his attention.
"Okay, if you listen to me, and ask me what's going on, you'll discover you have choices. In forty minutes, you have to be in bed with the lights off. If you get out and dry yourself off, you'll have about thirty-five minutes to read."
Back to smiling. "Oh! Okay!"
Bedtime was peaceful.
"I love you so much, Chris, that you get one hundred snuggles tomorrow, just for today."
I think I did okay.