The terrible troubles with leaving
Bright Eyes has had lots of good things happen recently, and most of the time he's been pretty calm and happy, which is great. It's becoming clearer and clearer though, that he still gets really upset about making big transitions. Specifically, transitions involving travel, leaving the house and going to be sociable.
For example, last Christmas was a disaster. I had to forcibly put him in the car to get to Sydney. Once he was there he was (mostly) okay but he hasn't forgotten that I made him go and he's been threatening for months now to Stay Home Next Christmas, You See If I Won't!
In the last month my husband and I made the decision to try to leave the house on Sunday afternoons and go out to, well, anywhere that's fun. The beach. The park. The river. Whatever.
Every single time, Bright Eyes has had a meltdown and refused to go.
Today we were heading to Sydney to see our cousins. The plan was to meet up at a nice park with a beach. Lots of fun, space and time with rellos. Of course, he refused to go at the last minute. I 'did a deal' with him to get him into the car (thankfully no manhandling involved) and he came along reasonably happily. And had a great time.
In fact, he had such a good time that he didn't want to leave. He spent most of the day thigh-deep in Sydney Harbour, skimming stones and poking about and when it was time to go he commanded me to leave him be. "This is the best place I've ever been to," he said.
An argument ensued. Finally he came up to the car but not before I'd threatened to carry him if he didn't and pointed out the fact that he'd be extremely embarrassed if anyone saw me do it. I am officially a Freak, A Weirdo, an Ex-Mother and a B*&#$. Mmm. Noice.*
So... the issue is really, how to help him manage these transitions more mindfully and calmly.
To do that, I'm going to have to break down the whole experience into tiny segments and start talking about each one and modelling my own response and reaction to each part of every transition I make.
Here are some of the parts of the whole I can think of.
- Being mindful of the comfortable state of 'being at home'
- Thinking about the bigger picture of the plan for the outing.
- Being aware of the challenges of the plan.
- Being aware of the benefits of the plan.
- Feeling how it feels to break out of the comfortableness and find the energy to move outside.
- Thinking about the items that might be needed (although I'm going to leave this out for now - it's enough to get him to leave happily.)
- Walking down the stairs, thinking positive thoughts.
- A sense of 'we're all doing this together' and that being a good thing.
- Positive 'looking forward to' feelings being shared.
- Perhaps being involved in thinking through what we might do on the outing (although my gut tells me this might backfire at this stage... he'd be more likely to react strongly and decide he WONT GO)
- Some sort of family ritual in the car?
- Being mindful of the state of 'inbetweenness' when you're not comfortable at home but you're not at the location you're heading to yet.
- Thinking about the possible activities during the trip.
- Being aware of how to negotiate all the usual comfortable routines that he would normally engage in at home, and making sure some of these can still be done on return or on the trip.
- talking about it with plenty of time.
- Discussing what might happen if he gets upset at the point of leaving and what plan of action we might enact for him to self-regulate and calm down.
Can you think of anything else I should be thinking about?
*Note: I just went up to say goodnight to him and he said, "Sorry mum for being so mean to you. It's just I loved the water so much. Once I got the taste for it I couldn't stop." I suggested that we have a big talk about ways to leave fun places without all the fighting and he agreed. So watch this space.