Each kid has a few "personal chores" - including cleaning their own room, one load of dishes (or in Kitty's case wiping down the kitchen counters), and a character trait they're working on (positive attitude, personal hygeine, no meltdowns). The rest of the chores are thrown in a pool and each child can pick and choose what chores they want to do. We pay $.25/chore.
The most important part is that they couldn't do anything until the chores are done. No visiting friends, no electronics, no books.... I thought the kids would resent Kitty for choosing not to do any chores, but she actually stepped up a little. Bear had job all Summer so this worked well.
Now of course school is back in session and Bob is back to studying all the time. Ponito has football practice (has to be at school by 6:30am), is in accelerated classes, band AND theater. I've been so focused on getting ready for Kitty's ARD that I haven't had time to figure out how to deal with reassigning chores.
I didn't have much choice, so I decided to see if the kids could maintain on their own. Needless to say no one did any chores, and by Saturday the house was a mess. Hubby was working, but he'd warned the kids that any chores undone would have to be done on Saturday. So I ended up cracking the whip. Bob had spent the night with Grandma because they had a Sunday School teacher meeting Saturday morning - so she wasn't home.
Ponito did a little work, then tried to slip out to play with his friends. Kitty whined, complained and had mini meltdowns, but did do a little work. Bear isolated in his room "cleaning" for awhile, then came downstairs, sat on his behind, and started bossing everyone around.
After a little while I realized that they were not going to finish without help, but I felt they needed a consequence if they were going to learn not to put off chores and that no one else would just do their chores for them, so I decided they needed to pay me for my time since I was being kept from my work. I figured I would do a couple of hours of work (at $20/hour) and have each child pay me $10.
I found Bear sitting around playing on his itouch (has internet access). I reminded him that chores weren't done and he needed to be helping. He grunted and ignored me. I went back to cleaning the kids' bathroom upstairs (Bear is pretty much the only one who uses this bathroom and the one usually responsible for cleaning it, and it was DISGUSTING! I scrubbed spit off the walls and cleaned worse off the toilet and floor.) I came back downstairs to put in a load of laundry and found Bear still playing on his itouch. I told him if he didn't put it away and help then it would be mine.
Bear started yelling at me. He refused to do chores. Said if I wanted to clean that was my problem, but he didn't care what the house looked like. That I "never" clean the house. I told him I DO clean the house, but I'm mostly cooking, shopping, chauffering, filling out paperwork (4 kids starting school = tons of paperwork) and working on the kids' stuff, therapeutic parenting....
Bear started threatening to leave. He's 18 and an adult and he was done talking to me. I left the room before I said something that would make him feel he had to leave. This is the first time he's threatened to leave in almost a year. Within 10 minutes it was time to leave to drop the other kids off at Grandma's and take him to therapy.
At therapy he was sullen, which the therapist hadn't really seen before. I gave a brief summary of what happened, but Bear claimed his mood was because of something that happened several days before, which he refused to talk about. Finally I left therapy, and he talked to the therapist for the last 20 minutes. I took him home where I did more cleaning and he hid in his room (claimed he was cleaning the spit off the walls, but I saw no evidence of it).
The kids spent the night at Grandma's as usual. Sunday morning I was writing an e-mail about my concerns about Bear's behavior (irritable, isolating, slurred speech, vomiting...) and suddenly thought I better check his room for drugs... just in case. First place I glanced I found his sleep med/anti-depressant that he hates to take. I looked further and found more, and more, and more (38 tabs total) and some of his other meds. *sigh* I pulled the mattress and box spring off his bed to search, and pulled his bed away from the wall (more trash, more food, more meds...).
I threw away the trash, confiscated all the stuff that didn't belong to him, took out all the dishes, put the dirty clothes in a basket... and got tired. I didn't put the bed back together. I didn't take down the piles of dirty laundry. I didn't put the furniture back. I just went to Grandma's to pick up the kids. After lunch I put off going home for as long as I could then went to the house. Since Hubby wasn't with me, and Kitty was, I didn't want a confrontation in the car. When we got home, Bear went straight in before I could talk to him.
He shut his door and slammed around in his room. I worked on scrubbing the bathroom walls while he calmed down (I hoped). When he took down his laundry I figured it was safe and walked past him. He began fussing at me. I told him I was worried about his behavior so yes, I'd searched his room and found a ton of prescription meds, which was very unsafe. He got angrier, and finally stormed out of the house saying he's an adult now.
I called the MHMR crisis line to see what I should do. They asked if he was suicidal - No, homicidal - No, having a psychotic break - No, was currently medicated, but hadn't left with any meds. So legally he's an adult in this state so they had no advice. He came back in while I was on the phone, got some clothes and said he was going to a family friend's house.
The family friend has 3 adult children (18-22) that are seriously mentally ill (she has legal guardianship of 2 of them). Her youngest goes to the same special school as Bear. Her oldest is a good role model of someone with a serious mental illness coping with it, going to technical school, and successfully living at home. I trust the friend to not let Bear go on a pity party or blame everything on me. She's been through this with us, and she mostly "gets it" (although she doesn't deal with the trauma part since her kids are bio).
Hubby wanted to go get Bear and fuss at him. I admit I wasn't too happy (don't like being yelled at), but I told Hubby we should try to view this as free respite. If we fuss at him, he's more likely to dig in and refuse to come home.
The first night he stayed at a friend's house across the street from the family friend (still in our neighborhood) and went to school in the morning with the family friend's daughter. The "friend" was a 15 year old girl that Bear is attracted to, and the feeling is mutual. We warned the girls' father.
Poor Bear. He spent the night on a couch, the family's main bathroom is broken so the whole family was sharing a small one, but worst of all, their AC went out. This is Texas. We've had 72 days of over 100 degree temps and no rain.
I talked to Bear's therapist, who was careful with confidentiality, but shared with me that Bear feels I see him as a patient or a diagnosis. The therapist was telling me to be more supportive and nurturing. I thought about it and realized this is a Catch 22. I don't see much of Bear because he likes to isolate, unless he's asking for (demanding) something. When I have to say no to Bear and Kitty, it works best when I use concrete reasons, preferably where the blame doesn't fall solely on me (although they blame me anyway). Ex. you can't drive now because of your meds and diagnoses - at least until we have the results of the neuropsych exam, your team decided what your school placement should be, you can't watch PG-13 movies because it triggers your issues...
I thought about why I'm not like the kids' teachers, family friends, and all the people that are constantly telling them they're wonderful and can do anything they want to do.
- The kids believe they're worthless and that all adults, especially caregivers are untrustworthy. If I tell the child they're wonderful and loveable, then they know I'm a liar. (like trying to tell an anorexic person that they're not fat)
- The kids don't want to accept their diagnoses. I'm sure they think that their diagnoses make them broken, unloveable, unworthy, horrible... it feels like life or death. Anytime we bring up their diagnoses then we're threatening them.
- EVERYone is telling the kids they can do anything. SOMEONE has to tell the kids the truth (as gently as possible) and help them learn how to fix it. SOMEONE has to advocate with the schools or wherever to get them what they need to become functioning, productive citizens capable of relationships. If I smelled I'd want to know. If I didn't have the skills and/or abilities required for a job then I'd want to be told before I invested a lot of time applying/training for it. As a therapeutic parent, it's my job to tell my son he's acting intimidating. It's very rare that people will tell you why they're not hanging out with you anymore. (although Bear did have a girl dump him because he seemed like he was "always angry").
- It sucks that we have to be the grown ups and don't get to be the fun parents who do nothing but tell our kids how amazing they are.
Bear's plan was to friend hop until Thursday evening after the high school football game where he wanted Hubby to bring him home. He felt that would give "everyone time to calm down." I told him that I wasn't upset with him, but if he needed the time we would be there when he was ready to come home.
The family friend brought him over Monday evening to take his midday meds, pick up more clothes and meds for that night and the morning (I had told her she had to administer them and that one day's worth of meds was all I would provide - since her kids are on major psychotropic meds too, she understood).
That night we got a call from the family friend asking if Bear could come home. Apparently none of his friends' parents would allow him to stay with them. So Bear is home, but it wasn't on his schedule. He's been surly and quiet.
I haven't asked anyone to do chores because I still haven't had time to do a new chore list (Kitty's ARD was today - more on that in another post). Will be interesting to see what his reaction will be.