Therapy gone awry

By Mir
February 3, 2006

Before I launch into today’s antics, a bit of housekeeping.

1) I lied, yesterday, when I said I’d talk about the not-a-gibbon that Joss sent me. She called dibs, but isn’t ready to do it; so–a thousand apologies, but I must remain silent other than to say OH MY GOD IT’S SO COOL AND I LOVE HER. Sorry to be a tease.

2) Come closer, so that I can whisper in your ear and not piss off the fates any more than, you know, I already have. I think the current antibiotics are helping. Shhhhhhh! Do not tell! But I feel slightly less like wretched and stabbing-pain-ful dog vomit than I have for the last couple of weeks.

3) Every so often I get bored and Google people I used to know but have somehow fallen out of touch with. Recently I found a good friend from high school–how else?–because he has a blog. Huzzah! Of course I managed to open communication at such a time when this post was more or less his reintroduction to my life. (“Hi! Remember how I was weird in high school? CRAZIER NOW! ALSO WITH MORE TALKING ABOUT MY BOOBS!”) I feared that perhaps I’d… uhhh… frightened him into silence… and then yesterday I received an email wherein he informed me that I was overlooking the obvious diagnosis–that I have a “titzit.” I may be skipping one of my Greek favorites for a little while, now, but I did appreciate the giggle.

This morning marked a somber event. Chickadee had her last therapy appointment for the next couple of months. Well, probably. Should her head spin all of the way around or anything, I’ll take her in to have a beating, er, session or two with my therapist, but her therapist is selfishly ditching us for maternity leave. Bitch. I mean, SURE, she appears to be carrying a 4-year-old in her womb at this point (don’t you love it when small, perky people are hugely pregnant and a small part of you watches closely, expecting the sheer weight of the stomach to knock them ass over teakettle at any moment? No? That’s just me? Nevermind), but still, PRIORITIES! Hmph.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation about the therapy hiatus. Chickadee is doing quite well, but if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that her behavior can turn on a dime. Probably it didn’t help that she started out today by tormenting her brother when he didn’t get down from the bathroom stool quickly enough for her liking. To repay him for this horrible affront, she locked him in the bathroom until he bellowed with rage and I came running. And then? She lied and feigned confusion over why everyone was so upset with her. In one swift movement I pinched her head from her neck and deposited it into my pocket for safekeeping until I could hand her over to her therapist.

This morning’s valuable lesson (via the professional, so don’t be hatin’): Feel free to leverage the child’s new passion in slightly devious ways to optimize behavior. To wit: “Hey, Chickadee, do you think your behavior with Monkey this morning was a good embodiment of the tenets you’ve been learning in Tae Kwon Do? No? I wonder what the Master would have to say about the way you treated your brother. I wonder if he would let you keep all of our stripes if he knew how you acted?” Yes, that’s right. It was her therapist’s idea. And if that doesn’t work, we move on to “Shape up or we start killing off your little friends.” Remarkably, Chickadee was fairly receptive as her therapist and I double-teamed her, saying only in her defense, “Well Monkey is annoying.” Voila, a great opportunity to point out that:

1) Everyone is annoying sometimes. Even YOU, Miss Thang.
2) Little brothers have a God-given directive to annoy their big sisters.
3) He is annoying her because he knows it’s a good way to get her attention. If she simply ignores him when he does such things, he will lose incentive to be a pest.

She looked thoughtful, and I was sure it was all sinking in, and then she bounced up and out of her chair, grabbing a nearby toy and singing a spontaneous nonsense song. I turned to her therapist and said, “It’s sort of like having a session with an autistic ferret, no?” As soon as it was out of my mouth I was lamenting my lack of brain-to-mouth filter, but luckily she took it in the (humorous) spirit which I intended and didn’t called DCFS. For her part, Chickadee was unbothered.

“I’m not a ferret, I’m a DOG,” she corrected, barking and falling to her knees to rub her head against my leg. Great.

We finished up the joint part of the session and I headed out to the waiting room to allow Chickadee to have her one-on-one time.

Remember the happy couple I encountered there last time? Our scheduling didn’t overlap this time. Thank God. I was feeling relieved to discover only a pair of brothers out in the waiting area. Of course, I was soon to find out that a whole new horror was in store for me!

The brothers looked to be about 11 and maybe 6. There was no parent in sight, and I walked in on a conversation in progress where the big brother was clearly losing patience with the little brother.

Big Brother: No you’re NOT. You’re gonna have to take lessons.
Little Brother: Yes I am. I’m gonna go with you.
BB: We’ll go on the same BUS, yeah, but you’re gonna go with the little kids for lessons. I already know how to ski. They won’t let you go off by yourself, anyway.
LB: Yes they will. I’ll take a lesson and then come with you.
BB: No you won’t. They won’t let you.
LB: Well I will. I know 3rd graders who go off on their own.
BB: Whatever. I’m not gonna wait for you.

At this point, their father walked in. Perhaps he’d been parking the car. I want to believe he’d been parking the car. But I think in actuality he’d been finishing his cigarette. He reeked of smoke and was clearly not pleased to walk in on an argument.

LB: EDDIE SAYS I CAN’T GO SKIING WITH HIM!!! *with the urgency of this declaration, he began bouncing slightly in his seat… and on the third or fourth bounce, punched his brother in the arm*
BB: OW! Dad, tell him to stop.
Father: Joe! Knock it off, now.
LB: But he said–
Father: I don’t CARE what he said. Settle down.
BB: I was just–
Father: Drop it. Just drop it.

The father settled into a chair across from the boys, with a heavy sigh. He was now sitting a few seats away from me. I, of course, had been concentrating on my very important game of Bejeweled on my handheld all this time. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the smaller brother still bouncing, bouncing, bouncing in his seat and muttering under his breath. Every so often he would sort of tap his brother, who would tell him to quit it, and then the father would yell at them both.

After about two minutes of this, the little brother bounced, bounced, bounced, and pulled his arm back and punched his big brother full in the crotch. The larger boy doubled over, howling in pain. The smaller boy? CACKLED WITH GLEE.

I gave up all pretense of not watching them. In fact I probably gaped, at that point.

Not that they noticed, because one boy was trying not to cry, and the other was now trying to get away from his enraged father who had leapt up and grabbed the boy so roughly that his chair clattered over sideways. “You don’t EVER, EVER hit a person THERE!” bellowed the man.

(Right, good message. Son, we only punch people in the face. Leave the nuts alone.)

“GET OVER HERE BEFORE I LET HIM HIT YOU BACK!” he continued, fairly throwing him into the seat next to him, away from the brother.

(And when the jewels ARE affronted, violence is appropriate. Quick, hide.)

To the big brother’s credit, even after recovering he seemed to have no desire to retaliate. I had a feeling this was not an entirely unprecedented occurrence. Even in his father’s vice-like grip, the smaller boy was still laughing. I sort of wanted to hit him, myself. Not really. Mostly I was just… appalled. Yeah, it’s a therapists’ office, but still. This child was… not well. And his father wasn’t much better off (he was still berating him and shaking his shoulder). My own “troubled” child and even my most frustrated parenting suddenly both seemed quite tame, in comparison.

It’s always a party at the counseling center!

Chickadee finished up and came out, and I took her to school and went about my day.

This afternoon, I got the kids home after school, and they were playing in the playroom while I finished up some work on the computer (on the other side of the wall from where they were playing). I was only listening with half an ear when I heard Monkey’s voice go into what was clearly a designed-to-annoy chant of some sort. I braced myself for the explosion.

“You know, Monkey,” Chickadee said matter-of-factly, “if you keep being obnoxious like that, no one will want to play with you.” I aspirated diet coke and tried to choke quietly. Monkey stopped chanting. They kept right on playing. I said a silent prayer for the therapist to have a healthy and SPEEDY birth experience.


  1. meghann

    I totally felt this post on many levels. I have been the child in therapy. I have been the parent of a child in therapy. And I LOVE Bejeweled.

    *whispers so the fates don’t hear* Glad you’re feeling better.

  2. melora

    I sympathize with the loss of your therapist. My daughter has only a week of speech left before her therapist quits to have a baby, And since all the other therapist’s rosters are full, our therapist is saying that our dd no longer needs therapy (which really just means that, after talking to her for two years, She can understand the poor kid). It sounds like Chickadee really has made good progress, though! She sounds very mature for her years.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a week or so now, but haven’t commented before because my security program had your comments section blocked as “adult content.”
    Wierd, eh?

  3. Jennifer

    Somehow I get the distinct feeling that Chickadee is going to be just fine. She’s already a rather remarkable little girl; there’s no telling how amazing she’ll be when she’s all grown up.

  4. Amy-GO

    I’m thinking locking Monkey in the bathroom looks pretty good next to the punch-in-the-nuts boy. Which, by the way, was MY favorite way to deal with my annoying little brother. And we’ve both grown up to be reasonably well-adjusted adults! And despite my history of abuse, he speaks to me! So your kids are going to be FINE! But stocking up on valium while the therapist is away seems like a good idea…just in case! ;)

  5. Cele

    I am forever amazed at children and their parents. Once while I was working in a grocery store, a little girl asked her mom for a candy bar. After repeatedly being told no, the little girl walked off alone, only to return to the check out stand with a bite out of the forbidden candy bar. The mother snatched the candy from the little girl’s hand, saying I told you no. Promptly split the remaining pieces in two and handed the two pieces to the little girl’s sisters. I could have done a happy dance while the little girl screamed in horror.

    I had just one child so I avoided the horrors of raising two (based on my childhood with two brothers and a sister.) But I have often wondered how my Mother survived my childhood and my siblings.

  6. Contrary

    Whew, I finally get to comment here! I made my way through your archives first, and let me just say, it’s a good thing you’re funny as well as prolific or I wouldn’t have enjoyed the last WEEK quite so much.

    I’m not a slow reader, I just have to keep my online time to when I’m not working or taking care of the eleventy billion kids I seem to have spawned when I wasn’t paying attention.

    I’ll be back. Often. Take care!

  7. Jenn2

    It’s God’s little gift to parents. Just when you think your child has reached the limit of what a parent can endure, you see someone else’s child go so far beyond the boundaries you feel relieved that is not your child.

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