I originally started the blog to help people. So many parents like me feel alone and I wanted to help some other mother feeling lost. Somewhere along the way, my purpose changed. Very often I write about triumphs (which honestly feel far too few), but today, I’m writing about a really bad day — partly because I’m still processing it, but mostly because I still know what this blog was for. And, I try hard to see the good in every situation, but I’m having a rough time with this one. Maybe there’s plenty good and maybe if I write about it, I’ll see it. Then I won’t feel quite like such a crappy mom.
About 12:15 today, I got a call from Pumpkin’s learning center. I could hear him yelling in the background. They told me he had tried to run away from the school, threatened to kill himself, and then struck staff when they tried to bring him in. They had him restrained and they’d called the police. And I was 30 minutes away — 30 very long minutes away from my child.
I threw myself and Ducky together. Ducky has been very sick. The worst happened yesterday when he spent most of the day throwing up everything (including water) for more than twelve hours. Last night I’d called nurse advice because I was worried about dehydration and was thinking of taking him to the hospital. But he was in the tub and resting there (with me supervising) so I was torn. Should I upset rest in order to take him to the doctor (which he hates) to have an iv put in him (which he hates) so that he could be rehydrated? The nurse admitted there was no guarantee they’d put him on an iv — it depended on the doctor. She suggested that I try giving smaller doses of water; he had to have a teaspoon full every ten minutes over the next hour. If he kept it down, I could keep him home but I’d have to wake him every two hours for water. It was 11:00 p.m. when I got off with the nurse (I’d had to wait on hold for an hour first). Pumpkin was still awake and worried about his brother. We made it through that first hour and then through the whole night. Ducky was not dressed when Pumpkin’s school called. He still has a low grade fever, so I had him just in underwear. I had to get him dressed before we could even leave the house.
I flew out the door and hit every damn traffic light between here and the school. I also got behind slow vehicle after slow vehicle. The most it takes to get to his school is 30 minutes, but it took the whole time. And that whole time I was thinking about everything I’d done wrong for Pumpkin. He’d wanted to go to school this morning despite the late night. I’d barely spared attention for him him because Ducky was still so sick. And, even though Ducky had stayed home with his daddy (who is currently working the night shift but stayed out of bed to watch him until I got back) I hardly spoke to Pumpkin on the drive to school. I didn’t mean to, but I felt like such a sleep deprived zombie. All the little snuggles I give to Pumpkin to help him handle his day just didn’t happen.
When Ducky and I got to the school, I met the site manager at the door and she walked me in. I asked for a small bucket of water. She asked why and I told her I was going to dump it on him. I know how that sounds — I know her reaction, but the thing is when Pumpkin is locked in that fight or flight place in his brain, the only way out is to be shocked out. The school is not allowed to do anything like that. She went to get the water, but came back and told me that it wasn’t very cold. The vice-principal asked if ice packs would work. I wasn’t sure but was willing to try. The whole time I was holding my struggling little boy in my lap, restraining him in a hug that hurt me (let alone him) while two police officers crouched in front of us trying to understand. They wanted to know if this happened often. No, usually I get on top of it before we get to that level. They wanted to know why it happened. I told them it was usually anxiety or severe frustration — something he didn’t know how to handle. He’d get locked in this place in his brain, mirroring every emotion around him until a shock pulled him out of it. They gave me the ice packs, and I stuck both under his shirt, one in back and one in front. He let out of whoosh of air that everyone heard, and he was back in the land of reason. He cried in my arms, my poor baby.
I sat him up and gave him the dye-free gatorade I’d brought for him. Thirty minutes of struggling, fighting and screaming, I figured he’d need the electrolytes. I told him about the call I’d made to his doctor on the way. I gave him some of his medicine (the doctor figured it would all be burned away). The officers asked him what happened. Turns out Pumpkin is being bullied, shoved out of line by a particular boy at school every day. Today he’d been shoved so hard that he just lost it. He went to the back of line feeling angry and frustrated and unwanted. Then one of his friends, Amazongirl (who has admitted she has a crush on him) wanted to know who shoved him. She was going to defend him. She was really mad. He ran and tried to climb over the fence and the custodian pulled him down. Then he got lost in his emotions.
While I cuddled him, I reminded him that he needed to find his own emotions. He feels all of those around him to such a degree that they stack up. He almost can’t sort his own fear out from someone else’s anger when he’s like that. It’s a terrible thing. High Funtioning Autistic/Aspergers are so often accused of feeling less than those around them. I think Pumpkin feels more and it’s so overwhelming that sometimes he just shuts down. Whether the people in the room took my cues and walled off their emotions or whether they responded to the fact that I seemed to know what I was doing, I can’t say. I only know it got much better in the room after that and Pumpkin was able to get control.
The officers agreed that he was safe soon after. They decided to leave. I thanked them and so did the site administrator and vice-principal. I heard one officer say to the other as they walked out, “Maybe we should be dealing with the autism tantrums with ice packs. Did you see that?” As it currently stands, there’s the one upside to this whole situation that I can see. Maybe some police will be gentler when called in the future.
The vice principal and site manager were kind to him. They told him that he could come to them in the future if he is bullied. The old site manager had the same deal with him. But she left very abruptly two weeks ago, leaving him feeling a bit lost without his “safe person”. She didn’t leave notes in his file, so they really had no idea about all of this. That’s a strange notion to me. I’m slightly angry about that, though I probably have no right to be. I should have made sure this stuff had been put in his file.
They may want an IEP now. But we’ve been down that road before. He’s so smart that what usually comes out of an IEP is that he’s not got a learning deficit from his ASD and ADHD. If they put an IEP for behavior, that sends the wrong message, though I’ll do whatever I have to. In general, he loves the learning center and he loves being there. He’s going through an emotional rough patch right now — the first signs of puberty rearing it’s ugly head while we scramble to get on top of it. They did say he’d be welcome back on Tuesday, but also that they’d call this afternoon. I never got a call, though. This may be my fault. I didn’t want his E.S. blindsided, so I called her when I got home and gave her the whole story. She said she’d probably call and get the ball rolling herself. Maybe that will help a lot. I can’t know.
Pumpkin has some crazy bruises tonight, finger marks from restraint. I do not blame the school personnel. If a child is hitting you or banging his own head on the wall, restraint has to happen. He pulled away so hard that he caused the bruises. As I look at that, I’m strangely grateful for each bruise. He was so freaked out that if he had gotten over the fence, he probably would have run right out into the busy traffic on Chicago Avenue. Each bruise represents how hard they worked to keep my child alive.
But I feel like the worst mother in the world. I knew he was tired. I knew I had dropped the ball on all those little rituals that help him manage his day. I sent him to school anyway, because he wanted to go and because I was tired. I knew I might get a nap while Ducky slept if I only had the one to deal with today. And that’s the truth of it. I wanted a little break because I was tired. It could have cost Pumpkin’s life.
There will be fallout. He screamed so loud that the school had not returned the kids to their normal day until I got him calmed down. They’d moved everyone into the multipurpose room and turned on a movie. Some children saw his mad escape first hand and they will talk. The resulting story may be far from the truth, though the truth is scarey enough as it is. I don’t know how many friends will remain friends. I think Amazongirl will. She has an ASD sister, which is part of why she’s always his champion. Unfortunately, he counts Amazongirl as a friend, but the girl he has a crush on is entirely different. Daintygirl may want nothing to do with him and that will be a hard pill to swallow. I also don’t know how his best friend will react. Usually Friendly fits his nickname. He’s pretty unshakeable. He’s seen Pumpkin meltdown when I was there to get on top of it. Friendly didn’t run then, maybe he won’t now.
As for the child who bullied him, I kind of want to hurt that one. I’ll get over it. Today I’ll give myself the mother’s prerogative of holding a little grudge. Tomorrow, I will forgive him. I don’t know his story. I don’t know what makes him bully and maybe it’s so awful that I’d cry to hear it. We rarely get to know the motivations of everyone around us. Maybe he needs help too. Maybe by being called out, he’ll get it. I’ll hope so.
**Update: On a happy note, I had some friends’ phone numbers. Both Amazongirl and Friendly came to his birthday party last year. Me, being the packrat that I am, tucked away the numbers from the RSVPs. He called both tonight and both said they understood he’d had a bad day and that they were still buddies. Amazongirl was especially understanding. For the record, Mama is fan of Amazongirl and not too certain of Daintygirl. I’ll be supportive, but secretly hope he’ll take a second look at Amazongirl. She has been his friend from day one, and her nickname comes from the fact that she’s tall and tough and always his champion. What mother wouldn’t love that?
***Update number two: Daintygirl emailed him, kindly telling him he’d been missed at lunch and their last class together. She told him she was worried about him. He sent her an email back telling her he’d had a severe anxiety attack and had to go home early, but he was a very happy little boy because she cared. Maybe she’s pretty awesome, too.