We’re on our last day of a two week trip. We have four more hours to drive and then we’ll be home, where construction rages on. Our built-in amenities when we arrive will include a basement bathroom, laundry, hot water, and a single bedroom we’ll all continue to share. Possibly internet access. Our makeshift kitchen will hypothetically still be there, and I’m praying to any Thing any sentient being in any Galaxy has ever believed in, in the entire history of the entire universe, that the construction crew didn’t hit our liquor stash. Because I need some numb time.
Jesse mostly kept it together in the in-between moments she shared with other people, but whenever we were alone together, Jesse made us miserable. She screamed, whined, tic’ed, and abused Anthony, Nick, and me both verbally and physically. It has been noisy and brutal, especially on the long-drive days when we’re trapped in the car together for hours. Unless you’ve experienced it, there’s no understanding how persistent and relentless Jesse is. There’s no humor to be found in the details, just heartache and a desolate sadness.
The past few months have been rocky for Jesse, but really all we’ve seen is a continuation of behaviors she’s displayed her whole life, ramping up for one reason or another. This trip took her to a whole new level, and we see no way out of the tunnel anymore.
From a safe distance, things would no doubt appear clearer. Why are her tics so bad right now, and why is she so abusive? Because of her anxiety. Why is her anxiety so bad right now? Because of the home construction, anticipation of middle school, a noisy brother, vacation stress, food allergies. Maybe she’s pre-pubescent. It’s all so obvious.
Better parenting would no doubt solve a lot of these issues. Sticker charts! Reward systems! Spanking! Food denial! Firm discipline and clear boundaries! Lock her in her room! Set her free! Exercise! Outdoor time! Give her more love and patience! No electronics!
Blah blah blah. Anthony and I are at the end of all parenting roads that we can travel, and we see no hope. Our only remaining tool is one we’ve hoped to avoid; but I no longer see how Jesse can do anything — like start a new school — without some big changes in her behavior. So the dirty word raises its head: meds.
I can’t even think about it without falling to weeping. It was one thing I wanted for Jesse so badly: to find a way to avoid dependencies until she was older and her brain and body had more time to develop. Maybe, I fantasized, I could hold her hand and walk with her out of the dark place where her mind resides, and she would never have to rely on meds to get through her life.
So this moment, when we will almost certainly turn to meds, is the most profound failure for me as a parent. I have failed Jesse in letting her get to this incredibly miserable state. I could do no worse by her.
I’ve also failed Nick, who watches the melting-down interactions of sister, mother, and father in fear, huddling in distant corners and taking deep breaths with his eyes closed, using tools to calm himself that are well beyond his six years of experience. I haven’t protected him from anything that matters.
We managed to get Jesse calm enough to drive today. After a hellish beginning, she was actually really good for 2 hours. She only threatened to hit Nick twice, tic words only came out a handful of times, and she didn’t scream or whine at all. So when we stopped for lunch, we let the kids pick some candy in the gas station shop.
Jesse selected some giant sweet tart thing. Sweet tarts don’t contain eggs, so I said yes without a second thought. As we drove off, she ripped into her treat. A moment later she announced, “this is disgusting!” I resignedly put my hand back and she spit it out, a gooey mess of half-chewed giant sweet tart.
A few minutes later, Jesse was coughing with a sound I’ve heard before. I looked back and her face was a little splotchy. I quickly checked the label on the sweet tarts, which I hadn’t bothered to read before. Sure enough: EGGS.
We pulled over at the next exit and gave her a double dose of Zyrtec. Ten minutes later, as we continued down the highway, Jesse emptied her stomach in the back seat.
Add it to the list of my parenting fails.
On the up side, we have further corroboration that Jesse’s egg allergy is still serious business. And all that puking and Zyrtec has sapped enough energy to quiet Jesse for a time. Also, a lady cop stopped to help us as we tried to work through the mess. She gave the kids each a stuffed animal for their troubles. How cool is that?
I threatened to take Jesse to a police station yesterday. As we headed down the road after cleaning up all the vomit today, Anthony pointed out cheerfully that Jesse did get to meet a cop after all! Only she was puking, not screaming or beating someone up, when it happened.
Well that’s something, eh? Maybe things aren’t as bad as I think they are. Especially if I never ever ever have to go on a vacation with Jesse again. Everrrrrr.