Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dodging and Deflecting

Today's Daily OM spoke to me loud and clear, as if it was written specifically for me. Letting things go and not taking things too much to heart have arguably been the biggest challenges of my life. And now that I have an anxious daughter (Maya was recently diagnosed with GAD, ODD, with a bit of OCD mixed in), I am forced to wrestle with this challenge more than ever. Which, I suppose, could be considered a blessing (at least that is the way I am going to look at it!)

The other morning, before leaving for the bus stop, Maya was pulling her hair back with her hands, so I asked her, "Do you want a ponytail today?" She replied, "No, but I want a ponytail for the KinderMusical on Friday." I remember that she will be wearing a baker's hat type of head piece for her costume on Friday, so I reply calmly, "Okay, but it might be difficult to put your headpiece on if you are wearing a ponytail." She immediately gets frustrated by this answer, so, again, I calmly tell her, "We can work out a way to wear a ponytail with your head piece." "NOOOO!!!!! I didn't want you to say that! I don't want you to say we can work it out!!!!!" I obviously can't win here. She doesn't want to problem-solve; she wants life to be problem-free. And when it isn't, even in the most trivial sense, she copes by making me the scapegoat for her frustration. She fusses all of the way to the bus stop. I try more than once to change the subject and focus on our morning game and story time. She is relentless in her fussing. Consequently, we miss our time to do our usual morning story or game while waiting for the bus. The bus arrives, and she glares at me and says, "We didn't get to do a game or story! I hate you!" as she climbs up the steps. She takes her seat and glares at me out the window. What just happened here? The words of James Lehman echo in my mind: "A day with a child who has Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a series of battles in an undeclared war." Oppositional Defiant Disorder: The War at Home

Fortunately, this is not a typical morning. She is usually very good about getting ready for school, having special time while waiting for the bus, and blowing me kisses from the bus window. But this is typical ODD behavior that stems from her anxiety that can occur on a daily basis, at any given time, and it can be very disruptive to our lives. Often, being her mother, the scapegoat is me, but I have seen her do the same thing with her "best" friend. Thankfully, she has a patient mother and friend who are both willing to tolerate her quirks until she can utilize a better way to deal with her anxiety. But there are no easy answers, no quick fixes. It is difficult to know where to begin.......

Then, sometimes beginnings happen when we aren't looking for them. Last night, when it came time to fill in Maya's daily chart, we got to the category of "Respecting Mommy and Daddy." We asked her if she thought she deserved a "smiley," a "frowny," or an "okay" for this category. She said, "I deserve a frowny because I was mean to Mommy this morning. I shouldn't have fussed and said 'I hate you.' I was just frustrated and didn't know what to do."

Recognizing the problem is half of the battle, and for her to acknowledge that she handled the situation inappropriately is a huge breakthrough for all of us.