That's all it was.
Thirty little minutes. Maybe not even quite. But however long it actually was, was too long. And it was, and will remain for some time I imagine, the worst 30 minutes of my motherhood thus far.
Last Friday afternoon I was picking up the boys from their respective schools as usual. Josh first, then Zach. I have a special car seat for Josh, so that he's still in a 5-point harness - little safer, given his small stature and he has a tendency to work the shoulder belt into strange positions if he's just in a regular seat. It's made for special needs kids so it will hold bigger/heavier children than a regular car seat or booster. He can get out of it, though. If he decides he's in a mood, he can un-do the harness and just climbs out.
This is a problem, obviously. A lot of the time, he will just plunk himself down in the middle seat beside his brother, and Zach will fasten the shoulder belt around him.
But if he's in a real funk, he will attack his brother. This is also a problem.
Not something that happened very often though, it was more of a rarity, until recently. Back to Josh's current state of unhappiness, this has been happening more and more over the last couple of months. If Zach is getting pinched (which is what Josh does when he is unhappy or angry) he can't even move to the third row because Josh WILL go after him - and that's fabulous. Really.
I've set this up nicely for you. You're welcome.
So, back to Friday. I had picked up Josh. He was actually being quite good in the car on the way to get Zach. These days he gets antsy at stop lights, slow-downs, but he was pretty great it was nice. We get to Zach's school, and again rather uncharacteristically for his current mood, he stayed happy in his seat while we were in the pick up line. Usually he starts yelling and climbs out of his seat the second we stop moving. So I'm thinking, "wow... he's doing so well today, this is AWESOME!"
Zach gets in the car, and we start the drive home. Which is by way of 2 highways and one very twisty road. Within minutes of pulling away from Zach's school, Josh climbed out of his seat and was attacking his brother. And for seemingly no reason - he hadn't asked for fries, we hadn't hit traffic or a long light, he literally just went-off on his brother. He's never done this before without SOME sort of trigger. And for the record, he goes after Zach because it gets my attention, not because he has any animosity toward him. Doesn't make it better, but it's important for Zach and everyone else to understand the motivation is not personal.
So Zach is getting pinched. Hard. He tries to defend himself but Josh is tough when he decides he in this mood, and bless dear Zach, he's never going to just haul off and smack Josh, though he would be completely justified in doing so. Problem is, when you DO pinch back, it only really makes Josh do it more. This is the child who if he hurts himself, will repeat the action or activity just to replicate the experience, even if it means being hurt, again. Sensory? Compulsion? No clue. Josh's brain is a pretty big mystery. I am yelling at Josh to stop and Zach is trying to buckle Josh in all this time, as we are traveling 60 mph on the highway. There is no safe place to pull over on this one, especially since there is construction going on along the sides/shoulders pretty much the whole piece of it we need to travel. Besides, Josh would either not let me get him back in his seat, or he would simply climb back out again so pulling over isn't going to solve anything. I can't sit on the highway forever, we just need to get home. So I kept going.
Zach was really getting it this time, and nothing I was saying or trying to do was having any affect on Josh, who by the way, was still not belted. I am beside myself. I know he's in danger. But what am I going to do, sit on barely a shoulder with cars going past at 60+ mph and waiting for ... what?? Josh isn't magically going to snap out of it. If anything, stopping but sitting in the car will make it worse.
I'm starting to get a bit frantic, Zach is crying and Josh just won't let up. We have made it about half way, off the highways now, I tell Zach to jump in to the third row. He says no, Josh will just follow him. I tell him to just do it and let me worry about Josh. He started to argue... I yelled at him. He was crying more now. I just wanted him safe, I couldn't let him continue to be hurt by his brother.
Josh immediately tried to dive over the seat to follow Zach - but I had reached back with my right arm and grabbed one of his feet. Stopped him, but boy, was he ANGRY. Now his focus was on me, which was good, but also not. At all.
He tried to twist himself free of my grip but couldn't, I had him tight. I was afraid he was going to break his leg he was trying to hard to twist and pull his foot out of my hand... but I had that foot in a death grip, I was NOT going to let him keep hurting his brother, it was killing me.
So picture this: driving, with one hand, the other pulled hard behind the driver's seat, Josh is twisting my arm the entire time as he is trying to get free. My arm is hurting like you wouldn't believe but I won't let go. He also pinches me. As hard as he can, so hard, right on the back of that arm, sensitive area, that it makes me cry. I start yelling at Josh.... terrible things. Things that break my heart when I think about them now. Zach, is now worried about his brother, and tries to comfort him from the back seat..... which makes Josh try to attack him again. I scream at Zach, I mean, are you KIDDING???? After what we went through to finally get you safe, the whole reason I'm doing what I'm doing right now is to KEEP YOU FROM GETTING HURT and you PUT yourself right back within his reach?!?! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????? I yell at him to get away from the middle row. Zach is beside himself, crying, now saying over and over... "I hate this family!"
I wanted to die.
Both of my children are beyond consolation and I can't do anything except try not to crash the car given what I was dealing with.
We made it home safely, thank goodness for small miracles. But what a horror. None of us were safe, particularly Josh. The physical and emotional scars from that 30 minutes were many. Zach wasn't speaking to me. Josh went about his business like nothing had happened. I was left sitting in the kitchen shaking, crying, pretty much shell-shocked.
For the first time since Josh was 3 or 4, I started thinking I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. How can I do my job as a mother for both of these boys? Right now that's not entirely clear. And the thought of Josh getting bigger, stronger, possibly more aggressive as he grows up just makes it that much more difficult to fathom. I can't go there. I can't. But it's coming at me fast and I am a bit lost right now.
We are trying to work through some medication changes. These take time. I'm praying something makes a difference soon.
When we got home, and I could think a bit clearly, I got on the computer and found, then ordered a few safety devices that go over seat belt buckles, to hopefully keep Josh from getting out of his seat. I had looked in to this years ago, when it was clear he was never going to just stay in a booster, but at that time, there were a lot of concerns from fire/safety personnel about getting the child out of the vehicle if there were an accident. They said these devices would make it harder, therefore, they were not ok. So I didn't do it then. But they are on their way now. I don't have a choice, I have to drive, Josh has to be in the car, and we ALL have to be safe. Josh not belted and interfering with my driving is NOT safe and I can't continue to let him hurt Zach. I feel like it's a trade off but not one that I am happy about making.
Zach and I had some hugs and a talk and he seems ok now.
I am not. These are the things that don't go away quickly. The images, the cries, the words - including the ones from my own mouth, the fear, the anger.... the hurt. My heart broke in about 8 different ways in that 30 minutes last Friday. It's going to take a lot longer to put it back together.