i can't handle your normal.

When my parents went to Colorado in June, John and I were in charge of Ryan. It. was. terrible. No, Terrible, with a capital T. 

I don't know how it works in families with special needs kids. Are you allotted one major, disproportionately sized meltdown per lifetime, per decade or per day? Not sure. But I had mine. 

I vividly remember Ryan had just woken up and was still in his downstairs bedroom, I was sitting at the table organizing pictures and BOOM. Ryan came up the stairs and started knocking on the wall to scare me. And it did. But what it really did was send my dog into a frenzy. Which was no surprise. Ryan knew he would bark incessantly and did it anyway. And there it was. The first tiny misstep which led to my demise. Then came breakfast. He pulled out a mixing bowl. A MIXING BOWL, people! And poured half of a box of cereal in it. Then, there wasn't enough milk so he added coffee creamer. Say what? Chunky globs of artificial powder floating in your milk doesn't sound tasty? I took a deep breath. Then he sat down at the table and demanded I take him to buy a caramel latte from Latte Land. And I snapped. 

Not reach across the table and choke him, snapped. Just crumble on the inside, feel a tinging in your skin, push out a deep, voiceless moan, snapped. It was like a mirage of feelings I knew I would experience over the course of the entire day came all at once. The hopelessness. The exhaustion. The frustration. The impatience. The boredom - what to do for the next hour WITHOUT spending money (I'm cheap to a fault). And I felt overwhelmed and not in the mood. I told him he can't demand things of me. He pushed the dining chair back invoking a screech against the hardwoods that would make you shudder. His milk and creamer cereal splashed as he went from sitting to standing. And a few choice words came from his mouth in a relatively calm manner as he walked back to the kitchen for more cereal. Namely, Fine, you little brat. Damn you. When is mom coming home? I'm calling mom right now. You don't do anything with me. I hate you. I'll do whatever I want. Where's John? 
Good question. Where is John? At work. Lovely. 

Both my dad and John had encouraged me to just leave if I ever felt like Ryan was getting out of control. But he wasn't. I was getting out of control. 

I got up anyway, told him that I couldn't handle him and I went to the car. That's the disproportionate part. We put up with stuff like that all the time. We never leave when the worst word out of his mouth is damn. I think he was shocked. And enraged. He ran out to the car and told me I better not leave and raised his fist. 

*****This isn't the time to be playing out scenes in your mind from a movie about an abusive man. This wasn't me driving to a battered women's shelter. This was me raising the stakes by reacting the way I did. Ryan feeds off of your reactions to him. You're happy, he's usually happy. You yell at him. He'll yell back. I knew I was overreacting. And he hadn't even been in a bad mood that morning. He was far from any sort of aggression. He was just playing the part I invited him to play with my attitude. And he never would have gone through with it. A lousy push would have been the best he'd had.*****

He went inside to get a shirt on and said that I better take him if I was leaving. I got out of the car and went straight to the shower. I needed alone time. A place where if he called for me, I'd have an excuse not to answer back. And I just started crying. Weeping really. For the first time in longer than I can remember. I'm not a big crier. And I started praying. The prayers were more like groans and moans, and I don't know. Maybe you'd call it a pity party. But have mercy on me. I'm a selfish kid. 

I had this crazy idea that if Ryan saw me cry he'd feel remorse (remorse for what, I'm not sure...eating too much cereal? knocking on a wall?). I thought I should let him see the stress his selfishness puts people in. But that's the pinnacle of selfishness. Can you imagine if God did that to us? Let us feel the weight of our sin? Consequences, sure. But guilt is not from God. The Spirit convicts; it doesn't guilt. God offers full forgiveness, not deserved punishment. And I was hoping Ryan would be so overcome by guilt for making me feel so hopeless that he would be nicer. 

It didn't work. He started insisting that he take a chill pill to calm himself down. It's a pill reserved for the very worst days and his very worst meltdowns, when we need him to majorly calm down and fall asleep for a long, long night. And that's when I shouted, "Ryan! Don't you get it? You're not having a meltdown! I AM! You're not out of control. I just can't handle your normal! Your everyday, normal behavior is what's too much for me!" 

I just can't handle your normal. 

Can you imagine a better way to make someone feel like a piece of shit? He looked so confused. I'm sure my emotions came out of left field for him. Like I said, he really wasn't being any different than he usually was. It was as though he had to make himself madder than he was to match my anger because he didn't know what else to do. And he had no idea why. 

I didn't know where to go from there. How to get through the day. I took him to Latte Land for that damn caramel latte he wanted. Then my mom's friend Karen came over to be a buffer. Ryan took that damn chill pill even though I didn't want him to. And he slept from maybe 3 in the afternoon through to the next morning - whereupon I put my best smile across my face and took him to Oceans of Fun. Life continued as normal. 

I used up my mental breakdown of the decade. No timeouts left. You have to get back on the field and play the rest of the game. 

This week my mom is in Michigan with some friends. Bless her. She needed a break. And my dad is working, although he's tried his darndest to come home every four or five hours and make sure I'm not in the bathroom weeping :) Or maybe it's to come home and check on Ryan and play with Annie. Because this time, unlike last, I have my baby here with me. And I planned ahead to have relief from friends of my parents every day. A dinner with one family, a movie with another, even a Bass Pro outing. I won't name names but one of these gracious people even bought Ryan a pair of shoes in exchange for his commitment to vote for 'Ronny.' You know, Kylie, the one who's president of all the taxes and stuff. 

And this week, unlike the last, I've surrendered a lot to God. I've tried to embody grace towards Ryan. I've tried to be kind to him. To be authentic with him. To enjoy him. To give him credit where credit is due. It's still the morning. He's not even awake yet and we have another 11 hours before my mom gets home, so who knows. But, as of this moment, it's the best four days I've ever had with him. 

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