Emerging Pattern

After meeting with Brendan’s principal I can honestly say that we hoped the situation with Brendan and his tormentor were under control.  No parent likes to see their child picked on, and it upset us more than a little that Brendan was being hounded by the same boy over and over again.  All was well for a week or so, Brendan reported no issues from school and things seemed to be settling back into their regular routine.

That all changed on Friday when I received a call from Brendan’s teacher.  Evidently there had been another incident in school that they wanted to make us aware of.  As incidents go this one was minor, but through working with Brendan this year his teacher has begun to understand him as we do.  He didn’t seem upset to her, but she thought he might be once he got home.  She explained that the class had been lining up after gym class.  Brendan and the other boy ended up next to each other in line, and with the entire class jostling around and jockeying for space Brendan lost his balance and fell into the other boy.  Well most kids would be at least slightly annoyed by this, but this particular little boy decided to take it one step further and shoved Brendan.  Luckily there were teachers present and they broke up the situation before it could escalate further but it was enough to prompt a call home.

I was furious.  I understand the school is taking steps to prevent situations like this from happening, but in the meantime I’ve got to sit back and watch as Brendan is picked on.  My instinct was to march into the school and demand some justice, revenge, or at least some heads be knocked together.  Knowing I wouldn’t get very far with that I instead waited for Brendan to come home from school and get his take on the situation, and then wait for Matt to come home and calmly discuss our options.  (I know… less fun, but more practical)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when Brendan got to the car.  Sometimes he shows signs of extreme agitation right away, and other times it’s hidden a bit deeper below the surface and will sneak up on you if you aren’t looking for warning signs and triggers.  He got into the car and, on the surface, seemed happy as a clam.  I asked both boys how their days went and got a chorus of “fine” out of the backseat.  I even went as far as to directly question Brendan about what had gone on at school that day.  He walked me through most of his day, hitting the highlights but made no mention of the incident in gym class.  In fact gym was the one part of his day that he skipped over.  He talked about spelling, match, science, social studies, lunch, recess, and everything in between…but not gym.  I let the situation go for the moment and decided to wait for Matt to get home before moving forward.

When Matt arrived home I brought him up to speed and he decided to have a go at it.  When Brendan wandered through the kitchen a few minutes after Matt came home he too asked Brendan about school, trying a few different questioning lines to see if he could get Brendan to open up.  No luck.  At this point we could have confronted Brendan directly about the situation, but at that time Brendan hadn’t shown any outward signs of being upset and neither of us wanted to bring up the subject if Brendan had truly put the situation behind him.

He hadn’t.  By the time bedtime rolled around it was apparent, to us at least, that Brendan was in one of “those” moods.  Everything anyone did seemed to set him off.  He snapped and grumped at anyone who interacted with him.  And although we usually let the boys stay up a little past their regular bedtime on Friday nights we made sure to put the boys to bed on time that night to ensure that Brendan got a good night’s sleep because being tired and in a mood like this is a recipe for disaster.

And the last thing we needed was for him to have a rotten day on Saturday.  We had plans to have some of Matt’s friends out to the house to play games that afternoon.  The last time the guys had been out to the house was at the Fourth of July and Brendan had thrown such an epic fit in front of them that afternoon that I asked Matt to take their games elsewhere for a while because I couldn’t handle dealing with Brendan like that in front of them.  I didn’t intend for them to not come back for 7 months, but things got busy for everyone and so this was the first chance they’d had to come out here again.

I got up early Saturday morning to finish up some last minute cleaning and prepare the house for guests that day.  I was soon joined by Kaylee, and then Cameron.  I did what I could to keep the two quiet so Brendan and Matt could get some extra sleep.  I had a vested interest in making sure Brendan was well rested, and figured Matt could do with some extra rest himself since he’d been battling a cold earlier in the week and was still fighting the cough that remained.

About 30-40 minutes later Brendan got himself out of bed.  At first it seemed that the grumpy, surly attitude from the night before had been swept away by a nice long sleep.  But about 5 minutes later that image was shattered by the first of a great many mini-meltdowns for that morning.  Cameron had been to a birthday party the night before and gotten a goody bag to bring home.  Inside were a bunch of cheap little trinkets that boys of that age love, including a yellow plastic slinky.

Now in our house the general rule is that if someone receives something as a gift they are the first person who gets to play with it.  Once they’ve had the initial play time with it, it becomes communal property to all the kids and anyone can play with it at any time. Cameron had played with the slinky the night before making it free for anyone to play with on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, by the time Brendan got up for the morning Cameron was already playing with it.

Cameron agreed to share the slinky with Brendan, as well as a little plastic snake that he had.  I was pleased by his grown up attitude and expected no further problems.  Silly me.  Cameron told Brendan that he could have a turn with the snake first, and then in a few minutes they could trade and he could have a turn with the slinky.  It seemed like a fair plan to me so I didn’t interfere.  Brendan, on the other hand, felt this was grossly unfair.  He didn’t want a turn with the snake, he only wanted the slinky.  When Cameron tried to hand him the snake he knocked it to the ground and made a grab for the slinky.

Yes folks, my 10 year old son was reaching out and grabbing for a toy like a toddler.  I stepped in and reprimanded him for his attitude, and he continued to reach for the toy and grunt like a caveman when I restrained him.  I sent Cameron off to play and Brendan to his room for an attitude adjustment.  Brendan was in no mood for an attitude adjustment and we started down the path of full fledged meltdown mode.  I led him to his room and after a few attempts to escape Brendan finally resigned himself to staying in his room and screaming about the injustices in his life.

Meanwhile Cameron appeared back in the living room.  I had a long talk with him about what he’d done wrong as well.  After all there was no reason to make Brendan wait for a turn with the slinky and Cameron and I both knew that he did it in order to exert a little control over the brother who usually calls all the shots.  Cameron apologized to me and agreed to let Brendan have a turn with the slinky.  But that was going to have to wait because Brendan was still in the midst of his screaming fit.

I tried, unsuccessfully, a couple of times to try and talk him down from his tirade.  I finally suggested that he practice his cello since A) it has a tendency to calm him when he’s agitated and B) we needed to get it out of the way before our friends arrived.  This “suggestion” began a new round of yelling and screaming as he insisted that it was “too early” to practice his cello.  After some firm reiterations that it needed done he finally unpacked it and sat down to practice.

Practice is usually something Brendan looks forward to and enjoys.  On that morning it was punctuated with mutinous muttering, and the occasional venomous shriek at the cello as it wasn’t doing what he wanted it to.  Finally, after his full 20 minutes of practice he came out of the bedroom with a better attitude.  Not perfect, but at least he was no longer lashing out at anyone who talked to him.  Cameron was as good as his word and gave over the slinky immediately.  That cheered Brendan a bit more and we made it through the rest of the day with only a few minor bumps.

We made it through the weekend and by Monday things were back to normal for Brendan.  Matt and I decided not to pursue anything with the school since it was indicated to us that the shoving incident had not gone unpunished.  I was still angry that the incident had caused so many problems for us at home, but as Matt so wisely put it much as we want to protect Brendan we also have to teach him how to deal with situations like this on his own since we won’t always be around to help.

We decided instead to contact his teacher and request that Brendan meet with the councilor at school.  If he wasn’t willing to talk to us about the situation maybe he could work out his feelings about it with her.  We don’t know yet if that’s going to be successful but at this point we are willing to try anything.

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