7.13.2008

Relapse or "How I became a domestic disturbance"

Well, with yesterday being all wonderful we really should have not pressed our luck as much as we did. The kids had to be woken up for church today and were groggy and cranky until H realized that we really were going to go to church whether he ate breakfast or not. Then they both started eating and the mood lightened. They handled church really well. I mean they were both fantastic. We were really impressed so we went to the park of their choosing afterwards as a reward. Then as we were toodling on the riverwalk, H suddenly yelled "NO!" and got all angrified so we set him down on the bench. The problem was, it was a lousy substitute for "the chair" and it still had way too much going on around it for him to relax. When he gets worked up, so far all our attempts to let him "walk it off" or "go to his room" have failed terribly. It has to be "the chair" and it has to be isolated. So after about 20 minutes of sitting by himself, he was still muttering which is his way of telling us that he hasn't cooled down yet. It was lunch time so I approached him with said information and Voila! we had a full blown tantrum on our hands, right there on the riverwalk.

So picture this... you are in your home enjoying an absolutely gorgeous Sunday afternoon, when suddenly you hear screams of terror coming from near the river. You look out to see a white man wrestling a flailing, screaming black child to the ground, and then suppress him. The child continues to scream for half an hour. There have also been reports of two child abduction attempts in the area over the past couple weeks, what do you do?

Two concerned citizens approached me about the situation and as I was saying, "Attention feeds the problem" H escalated, proving my point nicely and they backed off. When the police came, the officer was actually very understanding once he ascertained that I was indeed the boy's father. I gave him the, "I know it looks bad, but..." speech and he gave me the, "It's not illegal to discipline your child" line, and that was about it. I then dragged my son into the car and his tantrum continued for another 30 minutes at home.

Chris was exhausted from keeping (and carrying) Yordi away during the whole ordeal. I was covered in sweat and mud and wishing I had eaten a bigger breakfast. We felt like we were back at square one; back at the airport. There wasn't even a pretend reason for it, like "Y got such-and-such and I didn't." It just happened. And I keep hearing the voices of various people in my head saying, "In Ethiopia, a 9 yr old boy acting like that would be beaten." But that doesn't help me resolve the situation. It doesn't even make me feel better anymore. I know it's driven by fear and grief and that he doesn't know why it happens. I also know that he isn't delirious and he's very aware of what's going on while he's screaming. But again, how can we help close this chapter and move on?

As near as we can tell, here are the contributing factors:
-We were on a path we hadn't been on (i.e. unfamiliar territory)
-We had been to church, which even though they handled it well, there's still a lot to process.
-My son had his first full-size, jelly-filled doughnut. I know someone was just trying to be nice, and I didn't swat it out of his hand either, but frankly I can't ignore that as a factor.

Once it was over, everything was fine again (as far as the kids were concerned) and Chris and I had to cook up the economy size bag of quick-rising forgiveness. We ended up spending the afternoon with our Amharic speaking friend and his family. We told him how well things had been going and about today's episode. He later struck up a conversation with H who eventually asked him why the police came. He told him it was because he was acting like he was being attacked by a kidnapper and that in America there are indeed kidnappers (just like in Ethiopia) so boys don't scream like that unless they really are being attacked. I think for my benefit he tacked on a line about how it's dreadfully disrespectful to treat your father like a kidnapper.

He's really wise. I'm glad he's on our side. :-)

6 comments:

small world said...

Boy does this bring back memories!! Three years ago we were dealing with the exact same issues with our 10-year-old son from Russia. Hang in, there the tidal waves will reside and you will eventually have your son 100%. Not long ago in the car we were marveling at how well Denis can speak English and that such a short time ago he only knew Russian. He turned to me and said with his hands clasped under his chin,"Mom I finally got what I have always wished for...a family." It took three years and a lot of working through the pain for him to be able to say what he had felt all along...now he has the security of a forever family!!
Theresa

Molly said...

What a day!! I am so amazed at the tremendous blessing God has given you in having a friend that speaks Amharic!! Again and again he's been able to help you guys work through issues with the kids. Hang in there!!

Jori said...

You are so lucky to have a Amharic speaking friend on your side!! What a blessings!! (Would have loved to witness the "disturbance") :):) A family you are!!
Jori

Nicola said...

Chris and Lee, you guys are doing great. It's hard to work through any kind of tantrum in public, and that sounds like it was far more intense than most of us will ever know. It may not have felt like it, but it seems you worked through it as beautifully as you could, and you're a great team. Sooo glad you were able to have Zac over to finish reconciling the whole situation.

Much love,
Nicola :)

Ali BG said...

Grateful for your honesty on this journey, and admiring you from afar!

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you both. We have all had those public moments of absolute horror and embarrassment that OUR children are acting like THAT. However, your 'walk in the park' is way off the charts, and goes WAY beyond anything I ever experienced. It sounds like you handled it extraordinarily well ~ you are being consistent, fair, and loving, even in the hard times. That's great parenting, my friends! Your kids are learning some great life lessons from their mom and dad. And so are the rest of us as we share your journey.

{Okay just a side note here-you know how we all keep telling you how great you are doing. Well, the truth is, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!!!!! We are NOT just saying that to make you feel better, really, I mean it.}

And Ditto to the other comments:
a. Hang in there! Things will get better,(although no guarantee on the time-frame)
b. thanks for your honesty
c. gratitude that you have Zac
d. and deep admiration for you both.

Love and prayers,
Sue Laude
P.S. I'm really sorry, but I have to agree with Jori, I would have loved to have witnessed the "disturbance". :) :)