The Easter weekend is a welcome break – a rare 4 day weekend. The schools are closed Friday and Monday. Both my husband and I get it off too. Usually we travel to see our families – between 4-6 hours away. This year, we decided we weren`t going anywhere. Maybe a day trip, but no long car trips. We like our families but it is always a bit discombobulating to be away from our house and our routines, especially with M.
No matter how much my husband and I are looking forward to just hanging around and relaxing, there is always the challenge of keeping M occupied. He would be perfectly happy to spend the entire 4 days playing computer games / Wii, watching You Tube / television and listening to music on his iPod Touch. The only way this could be better would be if he was allowed to stay in his pyjamas the entire time. But we know from experience that M has a tipping point in terms of media time – he`s good up to about 2 hours and 15 mins. Much longer and he gets overstimulated, which causes him to become cranky and argumentative.
Since it was a holiday/weekend, M woke up early this morning (he only sleeps in on school days). He`s old enough to amuse himself, so we can sleep in a bit longer, although someone usually needs to get up and give him some breakfast and his meds. He will eventually eat if no one is standing over him, but he won`t take the meds without prompting – he doesn`t have a problem taking them, but if he`s distracted by the tv or the computer, he won`t remember to take them.
This morning, I got up about a half an hour after M. He was on the computer, watching America`s Funniest Home Videos on YouTube. I wanted to go one the compter too, so I gave him a deadline and read the paper while I waited for my turn.
When the appointed time arrived, M got off reluctantly.
M: What should I do now?
Me: Read a book.
M: But I can read a book on the computer.
Me: No, you can`t.
M: yes, I can – I can read Archie comics.
At this point, we spent a few minutes debating whether an Archie comic is really a book, before I told M to find one of his books and read it.
M: How long do I have to read?
Me: 30 minutes.
M grabs a book on the history of New Zealand his grandparents sent him, sits beside me on the sofa and flips through it.
M: I`m finished reading. How much longer before I can go on my iPod?
Me: You just had over an hour of computer time. You can`t go on your iPod for at least an hour.
M (voice rising): But you said 30 minutes!
Me: I only said you had to read for 30 minutes – I never said you could go on your iPod right afterwards.
By this point, M was getting agitated with me – he clearly thought he could play on his iPod after he finished reading. Instead of backing off and admitting we had misunderstood each other, I dug in my heels. Not the best strategy with M, but in my defense, it wasn`t even 9am on the first day of a long weekend. I was busy on the computer and I figured M would have lots of media time over the next few days. An extra 30 minute break wouldn`t kill him.
Things went downhill from here. M started shutting the laptop lid down on me, throwing the newspaper and yelling at me. I grabbed his iPod which was on the couch and told him he`d he couldn`t have it for another 30 minutes, on top of the original hour. I grabbed the iPod and the computer and started to head upstairs, at which point M latched onto my ankles to prevent me from leaving the room.
We were making a fair amount of racket and after a few minutes, my husband came down stairs. He tried to calm M down to no avail. We finally carried him struggling and screaming up to his room. My husband didn`t want to leave him alone in his room – M tore him room apart the last time he was shut in his room. I went back downstairs and could hear M`s door slamming repeatedly and M swearing at his dad. M`s door already has a hole in it from when he put his fist through it a couple fo years ago – it is usually covered up with a dart board.
My husband decided to take the door hinges. This prompted a new wave of swearing and yelling from M. Once the door was off, my husband left M`s room and I stayed behind. M was still yelling but he was also crying. We sat at opposite ends of his bed and he told me how much he hated his life and his parents. On a whim, I grabbed on of the many stuffed animals that live on M`s bed and tossed it at him. he trew it back at me, as hard as he could.
We went back and forth throwing a stuffie at each other. If it fell off the bed as we were throwing it, I would grab another animal from the pile and we keep going. After a few minutes, M stopped launching the stuffie at me like it was a missile. he kept throwing it, but he obviously wasn`t angry any more.
Eventually we both stopped and apologized to each other. M also apologized to his dad. He couldn`t tell me why he got so upset, but I expect it was partially because he could see the weekend stretching out before him and didn`t know quite how he was going to fill up his time. His regular weekend activities are cancelled due to the holiday and most people are away or busy with family.
Admittedly, I did not handle the situation very well. I have learned the hard way that changing the terms of engagement on M generally provokes a negative reaction on his part. Since I can be just as stubborn and intractable as he can, I have learned to back off before I box myself into a corner. But this morning, I ignored the warning signs and ended up in a battle of wills with M. Tossing the stuffie at my head allowed him to vent his anger. Once he was done, he was highly apologetic, as he always is when he has a temper tantrum.
As it turns out, one of his friends is around today and he went over there after lunch. I went back to bed for a little while and M made some origami animals (also a gift from his grandparents) and played cards with his dad, without further incident.
Three more days to go – tomorrow, M`s dad can get up with him.