My son has been acting out on an average of about once a week the last several weeks. Some of the acting out is not directed at me in particular, but all of it is worrisome and all of it is hurtful.
Last night, he got a splinter in his foot. Now, I may have mentioned a few months ago that he has literally pulled toenails off his feet because something about one of them was "bugging" him. I was unaware of said splinter until an hour after his bedtime when I still heard him moving around. I called him to my bedroom and he told me he had a splinter. He had wrapped his toe in medical tape (because in the mind of a concrete-operational child, medical tape is for medical emergencies--never mind the gauze) so I removed the tape and gazed heartbrokenly at the raw remains of the bottom of his toe. You see, he had spent the last hour using nail clippers in an effort to free his toe of the splinter. What was left of the bottom of his toe was red and raw, and the splinter was pushed deeply into the flesh. After attempting to remove it myself, I realized we needed a doctor's assistance.
Fast forward to our doctor trip. The arguing began as soon as we got to the car and continued in between periods of silence for about forty-five minutes in the doctor's office. In an attempt to quiet him, I told him angrily, "Fine! You're right!" He had insisted his toe felt better after he had cut the flesh from it and I couldn't argue with the illogical nature of it anymore. At the doctor's office, my worries took hold of me from the inside out. Every doubt about this child's ability to keep himself safe, his ability to make reasonable decisions, seemed to be smothering me. My own questions about his ability to function in our home reared their heads. And when he asked me, "Can't we just start over right now?" I snapped, "No!"
No, we can't start over right now. You drew a picture of a boy two weeks ago and surrounded the picture with frightening words of pain and death, enough to warrant a call from the school counselor, and a consideration of putting you in a hospital, despite your pleas of a misunderstanding. You screamed at me for forty-five minutes the other night about how I disrespected you by telling you that you HAD to share a book with your sister, and then you proceeded to rip up the homemade valentines I had made for you, letting them fall at my feet. And now you cut your toe up, and I don't know what to do. I don't know how to fix this. Your therapist says that he does not feel you're a danger to yourself right now and I pray to God he's right. You swear the same thing.
And all of this raced through my mind as he lay on the examination table. What I said was, "I worry about you all the time. And I'm tired from worrying." And he cried and argued that I worried for no reason. He doesn't understand. He can't understand. He's a twelve-year old child with neurological deficits.
The doctor removed his splinter, and when I went to stroke his hair, he whispered, "Mom, please don't." So I removed my hand from his head, but a moment later I heard the plea again: "Mom, please...please..."and his hand had curled up by his chin, out from under his jacket. So I held his hand as the doctor worked, promised he would be okay. He was and he is, as far as his foot goes.
But I am aware on days like this, it doesn't take much to make me feel splintered. As if my whole life is falling apart; as if there is a painful sharp piece of something stabbing underneath my skin and I am red and raw from trying to claw it out, to make things right.
I don't know what right is for him. I don't know what it is for me. But every night when I go to bed, I pray that tomorrow feels right...more right than today.