Sunday, June 10, 2007

Well, I wanted it to work, didn't I?

Brian has, for years, been able to cry about the fact that his brother Andrew would someday move away. The first time I remember it clearly was about five years ago when Brian was complaining that he wanted Andrew's bedroom. We gave him various reasons why he should prefer his and then told him that he could have Andrew's when Andrew moved out. This took Brian from pouting to weeping. He tried to climb into his brother's lap and sobbed that he didn't want Andrew to go away, ever. The boys would have been about 8 and 13 then.

He has cried over this more than once. I have held him, comforted him, assured him that he would still be able to talk to his brother. We talked about cell phones and even said we would buy web cams. Hubby and I have noticed that he was more likely to break into these sobs if he was tired or otherwise stressed, though of course that does not mean that he wasn't really bothered by it.

We were often uncertain about whether comforting him was helpful or simply feeding the drama. I struggled for a matter-of-fact attitude. "I can see how badly you feel. If you want to cuddle quietly you can sit with me. If you need to cry loudly you should go to your room." I tried to acknowledge that his feelings were real and legitimate and yet not reward the dramatic behavior.

I still can't think of any better way I might have handled it.

At Brian's counseling appointment a week and a half ago he reported that he was feeling pretty good. School was almost over and so he wasn't feeling very stressed. She (the counselor) asked me if there was anything I thought they should talk about. I suggested that they talk about Brian's feelings about his brother leaving in a year.

I went out to the waiting room and within ten minutes the wailing and sobbing started. Five minutes later she came out to get me. I sat with him and he crawled under my arm and calmed down a little. She looked a bit overwhelmed, said that she hadn't realized just how deeply Brian felt about this and that they would have to approach it differently next time. What she asked him to do this time was apparently not what he was ready for. (I imagined her asking him to draw a picture of how he felt and him refusing and falling into sobs instead). She asked Brian if he felt a little better having "gotten it out" and he shrugged and nodded at the same time. She let us go early, telling me a couple of times that Brian might feel better now that he had "finally got it out." She said something about how she thinks he tends to bottle up his feelings and it was really good that he could finally express this. "Do you think you tend to bottle things up?" He nodded.

I concentrated really hard, thinking, "Don't roll your eyes. You will look like a very bad mom if you roll your eyes. 'Bottle things up' my ass." Out loud I said tentatively, "He has discussed this with us. He has cried like this about his brother more than once."

She nodded sympathetically at me and said, "Yes, of course, but now that he has really expressed himself he might feel a little better."

I left thinking bad things about her. If it was all bottled up, how did I know about it, huh? Didn't I tell her that he cried about this very thing just like he did in her office? Did she not hear me when I said that he had cried and sobbed about it many times? Was she taking credit for some major breakthrough? She got to his pain? Heck, I told her about this pain. She admitted that her methods were a bust (this time). She asked him about it, after I told her it was an issue, and he sobbed. Big deal.

And then we talked on the phone when I was unable to make the last appointment. She wanted to know how he was doing and I told her that he was doing very well, and that we had talked about his brother going away and he had been calm. And she said it again, "Well, now that he has been able to express it, he may be finally feeling better." She had a very self-satisfied tone in her voice, or at least it seemed so to me.

I once again thought bad things about her. I believe a naughty word popped up in my mind. She hadn't done a damn thing. He hadn't expressed anything that he had not already expressed. He did not even express it in a new way. I told her about something and she witnessed it. Period.

But it turns out that that might be a bigger deal than I thought it was, because he really does seem better. I mean he really does. As he is thirteen he was finally allowed to sign up for an on-line game. He played with his brother on different computers in different parts of the house. "Mom, do you want me to instant message anything to Andrew? I'm talking to him on the computer!" Later he says cheerfully, "Andrew says we can set up times to play together when he is in college too!" It is the first time ever I have seen him talk cheerfully about his brother being away at college.

She witnessed his pain. He sobbed and wailed about his brother leaving and someone who wasn't his mother with conflicted feelings about his feelings (sympathy, guilt, frustration), told him that how he felt was understandable. It was normal. It was okay.

And now he feels better.

And I am torn, because I took him to counseling because I wanted him to feel better. I knew he needed something I could not give him. I had high hopes that he would be able to relate to this counselor and that he would share with her when he had not with the others.

And everything I hoped for seems to be happening.

So you would think I would be happy, right? And I am happy, just a teensy bit conflicted. This woman is helping my son, apparently without effort, without doing anything I have not tried really, really hard to do.

Except that when she does it, it works. When she witnesses his pain, it matters. It is exactly what I wanted and I am grateful we have found her.

But in the back of my mind a voice says, "bitch."

And I am not certain if the voice is referring to her or to me.


  1. Just two things:
    1) She is not his mother; and
    2) It's not over yet.

  2. You know, my niece used to talk to me about EVERYTHING when she was in high school. Things she could say (and did) to her mom and all the things she felt she couldn't say. It used to hurt my sister immensely when my niece would talk to her and then go to her room to call me to talk about the exact same thing. Sometimes kids need those multiple avenues and there's always that feeling that mom and dad are just a bit out of touch.

    I can understand you conflict and I think I'd feel exactly the same way. But on the other hand, he did talk to you first, and he probably will again. That's a wonderful thing and testament to the relationship you have with Brian.

  3. I am NOT laughing at you!
    I am laughing in sympathy, honest.

    My kids' therapist drives me nuts in very similar ways - and I think it does help my kids to talk to her in a way that talking to me doesn't because I'm supposed to be loving, supportive and accepting of them because I am their Mom....

    Anyway, I know the feeling of who is the bitch here- I really do.

  4. Anonymous7:12 PM

    I think part of his progress is that he has a different relationship with his therapist than he has with you, and that relationship does not take away anything you have done or the kind of relationship you have with your son.

    I wonder too if there is any power of suggestion going on here. Because she said, "He may feel better because he has expressed himself." it may have given him 'permission'** or given him a new possibility that he could feel better.

    I also have to agree with Process in that "it's not over yet."

    ** I am not implying that you did not give this "permission" or withheld it in anyway. I hope this makes sense to you.


  5. Oh I hear you on this one. There are so many times when "Danielle's" therapist, or behavioral therapist has come off with some big one-liner like they've made some huge progress on an issue that I've known about for a long time.

    They come off so pompous and self-satisfied, and I just want to smack them, because their pearls of brilliance are blindingly obvious if you spend more than 1 hour a week with the kid.

  6. I think Process nailed it on the head.

    But I too don't care for that smug, self-satisfied attitude. Nobody likes "I told you so."

  7. haha you know it is jsut like the husband,,, you say somethign and nothing some one else says the SAME thing and oh my goodniess I never thought of that.... Give yoru self a break thee will be other times when us the mommy just is not the right one at the time.... oh and give the B a break too.....

  8. LOL you just hit the nail on the head sometimes. I love ya.

  9. I love you! Sometimes I think we truly were sisters separated at birth cuz I could have written that, too.


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