I don't know why I don't have emails about it, but several times in the fall of 2005 Evan was reduced nearly to tears because I had got annoyed with him. He had asked me a question and when I tried to answer said, "Well, I KNOW THAT." I sighed and said in a strained voice, "I do not appreciate being spoken to in that tone of voice when I am trying to help you." When he protested I responded in a very quiet, controlled, calm voice with, "I think you can figure this out for yourself. You give it a good, hard try and if you decide you want to ask me nicely for help, come find me."
Evan actually wiped tears from his eyes and said, "I can't believe you said that. You would never treat Andrew or Brian like that." Unfortunately the rest of the family laughed at him and said, "Oh yes, she would."
So there were several episodes like this. It just seemed like Evan did not feel safe with any level of anger at all.
I remember my mother having sudden bitch attacks about the clutter and mess. I remember her flaring up sometimes angry that we did not do things without being asked.
It seemed so irrational. We left shoes in the living room all the time -- why today did she pick them up and throw them across the room? The kitchen was always cluttered -- my whole life that was just the way it was. Why did she think that suddenly I was going to turn into Snow White and whistle and clean without even being asked? I mean, really?
Evan spends the vast majority of his time in his room. He comes out to use my computer, though he would much prefer to use my computer in his room. He comes out at other times and is very friendly and chatty -- he just sees no reason to hang out in the living room unless there is something particular going on. Andrew spends a good deal of time downstairs, but will bring his D&D books up to the living room and work there for a while in the evening.
Every night (nearly) I ask the two of them to clean up after dinner. If it is a big job, or if one of them cooked, I help. Since they tend not to be around much at the same time I often ask one of them (usually Andrew) to get the other and do it. If I tell them to do it NOW, they (especially Evan) will roll their eyes and sigh and say that they would have done it like they said -- I don't have to get all Nazi about it. If I don't tell them to do it NOW, they will promise to do it later and not remember.
Yesterday afternoon I waited and waited for Brian to call after school to tell me that he had visited his teachers and had his lists of late assignments. One hour after school I went to find him (he hadn't called) and he was standing outside the school crying because he had been waiting in the cold for me to come with him to talk to his teachers. No he had not talked to them, no it had not occurred to him to go to the office and call me. We went in together. The math teacher was gone for the day and the teacher he has for most of his classes, Mrs. Cook, was her usually unhelpful self. (She will let students turn in work up to the following Monday. However she can never tell us what is missing until she has finished grading it -- which is usually Monday or Tuesday. She does not see the problem here. Brian should take responsibility. He knows what is missing. God she makes me furious. Right now we are working very hard, or trying to, to help Brian develop that responsibility. In the meantime we need to know what is missing before it is too late to turn it in. Why is this such a difficult concept for her to understand? Why does she keep telling us, sighing, that Brian forgot to turn in x number of assignments last week and so has a failing grade, and expect us to be able to do a god-damn thing about it if she will not tell us in time for us to make him do it?)
So I took Brian home. I reminded him to cook dinner. It is his night and it is spaghetti. At 5:00 I called him upstairs to start dinner, put away the milk and feed his dog. At 5:10 I called more loudly for him to come upstairs, put away the milk, feed his dog and put more than one inch of water in the pot. When he came up I told him not to forget to make a salad or some sort of vegetable. At 5:20 I called him into the kitchen to tell him that once he had put the spaghetti in the pot he needed to stay in the kitchen to heat up the sauce and get the vegetable. At 5:30 dinner was ready; although there was no vegetable. Brian forgot.
I told Andrew after dinner that I wanted for him and Evan to clean the kitchen. He said he would. I reminded him later. When I went to bed I noticed it was still not done and I thought "to hell with it" and went to bed.
This morning I started washing the dishes. I told Hubby that I was angry that Andrew and Evan had to be hounded to do them. He said he would try to help with that (yeah, right, that's going to happen). I told Brian that after school I wanted him to go talk to his math teacher, by himself. Get the details on the missing assignments, ask to review the test he did poorly on and then call me. Hubby asked him if he needed to have it written down. He said no. Hubby looked at me like I was foolish to think that this was going to work.
I asked Hubby what time he was coming home tonight. Why, is there something going on? "Yes. We have that event at the agency." "Oh. That's tonight?" There is so much that I feel like saying, but I don't. I DON'T say, "Yes. That thing that I have talked to you about several times. The thing I gave you the flyer for. The thing I told you I had finally got a sitter for. The thing I have been reminding you about all damn week IS TONIGHT."
Evan came in and I very calmly told him that I knew no one had said anything to him last night, but I wanted him and Andrew to remember on their own to clean the kitchen. This was their job. (I was thinking that the reason no one told him was that he spent the whole evening in his room. No one can tell him anything without making a damn appointment -- I am getting pretty angry on the inside but so far nothing is showing on the outside). He says, "oh." Hubby says "When are we supposed to be at the agency tonight?" I tell him and Evan says, "Why are you going?" (He has an edge to his voice. He is frustrated that we have not told him our plans, though it seems to me that he must have heard. I have been talking about it -- arranging it. If he doesn't know it is because it is apparently necessary to visit his room and tell him. He never just hears things because he is involved with the family). I am angry, I am doing the dishes (not my job) and a bit curious as to whether Hubby even know why we are going. So I say, tensely, "Why don't you tell him Hubby? I am busy washing the dishes."
I don't know what look Hubby gives Evan, but they both leave the kitchen. Hubby goes to finish getting ready for work, and Evan goes into the living room and turns on the TV. (If he knew me better he would have gone to his room. He would have looked very, very busy.)
All the anger from the past 24 hours is building up. Here I am doing someone else's job, being their god-damn organizational system, picking up the slack, driving around for the kids all the time, and Evan is sitting the kitchen watching television. It seems to me so obvious that the human decent thing to do would have been for him to help with the dishes. It is his job. I just told him it was his job.
Now really I am angry and frustrated about a lot of things. Right then though it seems like Evan watching television while I do what I just told him was his job was unbearable.
I turned into my mother.
I started off being tense, but calm. "Evan, I am feeling very frustrated right now. There is work that needs to be done. I did not ask you to do it this because I thought you still had to get ready for school. If all you have to do is watch television than I think it would not be too much to ask for you to help...without being asked. I just told you that this was your job."
"Well I am sorry" (In a voice that clearly indicates that he is NOT sorry) "but I'm pretty upset at you yelling me just because I want to know why you are going out."
"Evan I am not yelling. I am angry that you are not helping."
"Gees...I'm going to my room."
Then I lost it. There were words coming out of my mouth...words like, "I WASN'T YELLING BEFORE, BUT NOW I AM. FOR FUTURE REFERENCE THIS IS WHAT YELLING SOUNDS LIKE! NOW I WANT TO KNOW AT WHAT POINT, IF ANY, YOU WILL ACTUALLY PITCH IN AND HELP AROUND HERE!"
Of course Evan had more sense than to actually try to talk to the insane woman in the kitchen. Fortunately Hubby quickly got everyone out of the house and off to school.
Evan did not deserve the level of anger and frustration that got vented his way. I know how he feels -- he is just living here, being a good kid. He is nice and polite and he does what he is asked with much less reminding than most kids. Suddenly I won't answer simple questions and turn into a banshee because he doesn't do something no one even asked him to do?
He is a very sensitive kid. He is likely to feel hurt and might have even cried in the car on the way to school (he has cried when I have been less angry). It is absolutely not fair to him. He has never seen me yell at anyone else. He feels like the outsider, excluded.
I know that if I thought of him as an outsider I would have remained polite. I have less control with him just because I feel like he is really part of the family. I know that I would have been furious with Andrew under exactly the same circumstances. Of course Andrew knows me well enough to recognize when I am teetering at the edge of sanity. He would know that that was a moment to pitch in or look too busy to do it.
Evan has no way of knowing how upsetting it would be for someone to go watch TV when I was, it seemed to me, very clearly stating that I was overwhelmed and needed help. He really was hurt that he had asked a simple question and I responded the way I did. He did not realize that I was angry at Hubby for not knowing the answer, not at him for asking the question.
So now I know that when Evan comes home I will need to sit down and talk to him. I need to make him feel safe again. I need to tell him that it was not his fault. I need to apologize to him.
Right now though I feel so tired and so stressed that that FEELS like more work. I have to make him feel better -- because I am the mom and it is my job. Just like it is my job to make certain that everyone does their chores, their school work, gets new contacts before they run out, has their medical appointments made and is driven to them. It is my job to know everyone's schedule and make certain that everything gets done.
And it is my job to make Evan feel better; to make certain that he knows he is safe and loved. It is my job to figure out how not to have these bitch attacks and upset everyone.
I wonder if I could just print out a copy of this letter and give it to him if it would explain it all.
It is clear to me that I need a break -- but I am not certain what sort of break I need. Do I need to send the kids on respite? That seems unrealistic. I am home all day without them. I have plenty of time to chill.
Maybe I need new drugs
I obsessed over this most of the day. I talked to the social worker. I asked if she could talk to him. I talked to a friend who is also a parent. When Hubby came home I asked him if he could please talk to Evan. Could he be the one who comforted him and made him feel safe and warm? I just didn't have the energy.
Hubby said Evan was fine. He had talked and laughed on the way to school.
It turns out that my "I am annoyed but totally under control" attitude was frightening to Evan. Losing control and screaming, on the other hand, he understood.
Evan's Story Part 1: The Beginning
Evan's Story Part 13: Evan & Andrew