Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Standoff

Tonight, we’re licking our emotional wounds after another rough day. Things started to fall apart 2 days ago when my son and I had a 45 minute standoff in the parking lot at school when trying to take him and 4 other kids home.

It all started when he saw me on campus and happily shared that he only had a math sheet for homework. When I gently reminded him that he also had his 20 minutes of reading, his internal switch was pulled.

I immediately sensed a change take over him. So much so, I actually kept a few feet of distance from him and myself because I sensed he could strike at me, at anytime.

As we approached the car I quietly warned all the other kids to keep their distance and that there would be no talking allowed in the car today. This was my desperate attempt to keep my son’s anger in check.

Within a minute of everyone taking their seats, my son began tipping my other child’s car seat over, with him still in it.

So I calmly escorted all the kids out of the car, one by one, until it was just my son and myself.

I told the other kids to head back to the school office and hang out there until he felt better.

...45 minutes later, we’re still sitting in the car, waiting for him to come back to his senses, to have enough self control to not hurt the other kids. He wasn’t in a rage, but he was somewhere else in his mind. The kid I had in the car was cold, distant, defiant and unwilling to budge. I also knew that he was on a verge of a rage if I pushed back at him.

As the parking lot cleared out and we were the only car remaining I saw how ridiculous the situation looked. Basically, he was calling all the shots and had control of the situation. But before you shake your fingers at me, let me explain.

I decided to allow this to happen. In the past whenever he was in this “mode” I would try and force my will on him. I would take control of the situation, force him into a timeout or into a car seat. But every time I’ve done this, the situation escalates, ending up with my son hurting me as he rages.

So this time I wanted to wait it out, to see what would happen if I waited for his brain chemistry to correct itself, for him to return back to me. Also, I couldn’t risk putting any of the other kids in harms way when trying to drive him home.

Towards the end of our standoff, he got up and climbed on top of my car, threatened to brake off the windshield wipers and twice, he took off on foot walking away to who knows where. During this time I said very little and kept a safe distance.

Then he turned to me and calmly said, “Lets go home”.

A sweet moment, but it wasn’t over yet. I picked up the kids from the office and requested help from the principal to help keep my son in check. Once we were on the road and only a minute away from home, he tried to open the car door while I was still driving. I don’t think he would’ve jumped out, but he was trying to scare the other kids. As he became more threatening, I pulled into my driveway and quickly removed him from the car, while locking the other kids inside to keep them safe.

From there he took off on his scooter, only to return 5 minutes later saying he was ready to go inside and start his homework. My son was back.

Yesterday, I asked my son what he was experiencing from his viewpoint during this whole event. He said, “When I heard about my reading homework I got really mad, then the anger grew more than ever and it was like I was sinking down inside my body. As I went inside my body, another bad soul came out acting bad and angry. The entire time I was stuck inside my body trying to do the right thing and listen to you, but I couldn’t until I came back.”

You know, his description seemed to perfectly match what I saw too. It does seem like my son disappears into his anger, once in that “mode” he isn’t reachable. But once he comes out, he returns to his normal self. I wouldn’t say this is anything like multiple personalities, it’s just his brain shifts gears and he gets lost in it sometimes.

Can anyone else relate to this?

Well after a day like that, I wouldn’t call it a success, but I felt the standoff was much more bearable then a rage, but as today showed us, we still have to suffer through his rages because there are times when he has to be separated and a timeout can’t be avoided.

Being that it took both my husband and myself to hold him down today, I’m afraid that our month of stability is over. And that makes me sad.

But we’ll see what tomorrow brings.


  1. I keep nodding my head after every sentence. I can relate to EVERYTHING you wrote. I used to do the same thing as you used to do...the forcing of my will on his (time out in your room) and now I do what you did too. Wait it out. Put no time pressure or constraints. Make sure he and others are safe, yes, but no mandating he "move or else". My son also becomes a totally different person; one that is deffinetly not in control and doesn't even look the same. By what I read, I know now that someone knows exactly what I go through!

  2. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write about this whole experience. This happens so much for us and it really takes a toll on the whole family.

  3. Thank you Sarah for your comment. It was very encouraging to me to know that I'm not alone in this. As for the toll on the whole family, you couldn't be more right about that. As much as you try to not let it affect you, it does. It affects us all.

    I was reminded of it yesterday when my son was in a rage in his room. My 5 year old kept asking if the door was locked because he was afraid of his brother getting out. When the whole house shakes because of a screaming person who is bashing stuff against his door, how can we not be affected.

  4. I have been so busy that I haven't checked in in a while, but this is EXACTLY what we go through on a regular basis.

    Oh, and the Halloween costume? Been there before, too! The MadMan gets COMPLETELY overstimulated when asked to make a decision. Our last experience was at the school book fair. We told both boys that since they had such good parent-teacher conferences, they could choose a book. HOLY MOLEY, it was an ENDLESS procedure, ending in him yelling at me in the middle of school and throwing a book at my head, then calling me the "meanest mom in the world". Yep, for buying him a new book.

    It is SOOOO nice that you take the time to write about your experiences, as it makes me feel a little less alone in this fight. Hope things are getting better.

  5. Hi Gina!
    It seems our sons both have that challenge in making purchase decisions, it brings my boy so much stress and takes so long for him to make what appears to be a painful decision. We too have left the store after trying to do something "nice" with our son feeling miserable. I wish I knew how to make this easier for him.