To Simon, I am ‘Ah-ma’. I am his touchstone, his security blanket, his wooby. * I am what keeps him grounded and calm, as much as he can be, anyway. Even when we’re at home and he is at his most relaxed, he will still come to me every few minutes for a hug or cuddle or just to touch me in some way. When we’re out, his clinginess is more pronounced, as you would expect it would be, but it’s mostly manageable. However, when I exit his line of sight or am somehow separated from him, that’s when the fun really starts. He does not take kindly to being separated from his Ah-ma.
Simon started a new therapy program a couple of weeks ago. It’s a combination speech, OT, and ABA class with a 1:1 student:teacher ratio, and it’s a small class with just 5 students. Simon had been on the waiting list since October and a spot finally opened up. Our concern was how Simon would do being separated from me for the class, which is 2-hours twice a week. Simon is almost never without either myself or Adam around, and certainly not without us in a strange place. That is, I’m sure, a failing on our part. The last time he was away from us outside of the home was in December of 2013 when Simon and Eleanor would go to a babysitter’s home during my OB appointments while I was pregnant with George. Since then, we had a friend watch them at the house just once while he was awake and my parents sat with them during their visit last month, but that was after the kids were asleep. So, yeah, a big failing on our part, and a very big concern as to how he would handle this.
Much discussion was had with his new lead teacher and we decided that I would sit in class with Simon for the first few sessions and gradually start leaving earlier and earlier. Solid plan, right? Well….
His first day in class, he was very anxious and clung to me, crying, the whole time, and at one point, he completely shut down and just wouldn’t respond at all.
The second class was better. He played with the teachers some, but would continuously come and check in with me (I was sitting in a corner away from the action). He really enjoyed the “motor room” (ball pit, trampoline, tunnels, and an outside area with slides, etc) and seemed really relaxed. I left before the last activity, less than five minutes, and while he was upset, we were all really pleased with how well the day had gone.
The next day, which was not a class day, he had his regular in-home OT session. That was rough, because we think that he thought she was going to take him away from me. He was very upset, screaming, and crying.
His next class day, Tuesday of the following week, was a disaster. Even with me in the room with him, he was a wreck. Crying, screaming, head banging, hitting and kicking me. It was hard for both of us; I almost broke down in tears more than once. I felt so defeated. After class, I spoke with the lead teacher and the OT and we all agreed that me gradually easing out of the room wasn’t really working and we just needed to ‘rip the band-aid off’, so to speak. So, that’s what we did.
That Thursday (last week), I walked him to the door of the classroom, hugged him, said ‘bye-bye’ and walked away from my little guy. There’s an observation room with a one-way mirror for the parents to watch, so I got to sit there and watch him scream and cry for the first 40 minutes. He clung to his teacher the whole time, but they were finally able to convince him to play with the alphabet stacking blocks I had brought with us (his favorite toy) and to play with bubbles. I wasn’t able to go to the motor room since he would have been able to see me, but they told me he did pretty well, and he did great during the snack time. We were all really encouraged.
Now, through all of this, his separation issues have been getting worse, which is not entirely unexpected. Even here at home, if he is awake, he has to be able to see me at all times. If I go to the bathroom, he comes with me. Well, why don’t I just shut the door, right? Because he will lay on the floor outside the door and kick it with both feet to the point that we are fully expecting him to break it at some point. So, he comes with me. If I am working at my desk and he is on the other side of the locked baby gate, he will scream and cry and kick the baby gate. If I sit down on the couch, he is climbing all over me.
Bedtime turned into a nightmare of epic proportions because, even with melatonin, he would throw massive fits, including slamming doors and dresser drawers, for sometimes as long as an hour-and-a-half before finally exhausting himself and giving up. We tried sitting in his room with him, but that just made it worse. Telling him to go to bed or leading him back there just turned it into a game. So, we just started ignoring him. And it was brutal. Even with the rough bed times, he was still coming into our bed in the middle of the night and has been waking for the day anywhere between 4 and 6 am every single day. We saw his pediatrician in order to get a referral to the Sleep Clinic and we were also given a prescription for Atarax. The Atarax helped immensely; while he is still not thrilled with going to bed and begin away from me, the screaming tantrums at night have stopped and the past few bed times have been relatively peaceful.
Then, yesterday happened. We went to school as normal and, again, I said good-bye at the door. He was pretty upset, but you could tell that part of his protesting was for show. Like, he’d be bouncing on the trampoline and he would start to smile and then catch himself and start crying again. “I don’t want to have fun and you can’t make me” sort of thing. It was rough on him, and rough on me, but we were all still fairly encouraged. One of the things they tried was a PECS system (Picture Exchange Communication). They had different cards for the different class activities and a board with velcro to stick the pictures to. They had had me send them a picture of me for the board as well. So, they would show him the board and tell him “First we’re going to do this (point to picture) then this (picture) and then you get to go to Mommy.” Bless him, he grabbed the picture of me and carried it with him the whole time. He would occasionally hand it to his teacher and start signing ‘want’, which just broke my heart. He does love his Ah-ma, that one does.
We left class and came home. He was tired, but naps are a huge battle that end in him, well, throwing an hour-long tantrum, so we’ve stop pushing the issue. More often that not, he’ll fall asleep on the couch for an hour or so. So, he was tired but in good spirits. I made him lunch, every thing was cool. I left to take Eleanor to school, no issues at all. I came home and we hung out for a couple of hours. Around 2, I left to run to the store and then pick Els up from school. I hugged him and said good-bye and left. I heard him start to cry loudly as I was walking to the car. From Adam told me later, it escalated pretty quickly into a nuclear-scale meltdown. Screaming, kicking, hitting, slamming doors, the whole nine yards. Adam tried everything he could to redirect him and calm him down and Simon just kept getting more and more worked up until, finally, he began hyperventilating and having a panic attack. Adam then gave him a dose of Atarax and after about 10 minutes Simon started to calm down and then fell asleep. I sent a slightly panicked e-mail to his teacher after I got home and heard what happened and the team is brainstorming ideas on how to help him. Bedtime last night was a bit rough, and he spent some time kicking our bedroom door, but then he fell asleep in the hallway. There was much discussion about if we should just leave him there or not.
I saw his in-home OT today and she is having the family counselor get in touch with us. He did better today, but still got upset when I had to leave his line of sight or leave the house.
I love that he loves me so much and needs me so much, don’t get me wrong, but this is spiraling out of control. He is still very young, but his over-attachment is problematic. I can’t parent my other children effectively with him hanging on me. The only time I get to myself is after he’s asleep at night and by then I’m usually too exhausted to do anything productive. I can’t leave the house without him throwing a fit. His tantrums are becoming increasingly violent and I worry about someone getting hurt, especially George who likes to follow Simon around and could very easily get his hands slammed in a door (yes, I have slam-guards now) or in the dresser drawers. Poor George, he also gets so upset during Simons tantrums; he puts his hands up over his little ears and just cries. No one is sleeping well (except George) and we’re all on-edge and frustrated and completely overwhelmed.
Something needs to be done to help him, to help us; I just don’t know what.
I’m really scared to see what happens at class tomorrow.
*If you don’t know the ‘wooby’ reference, go watch the movie “Mr. Mom”.