P ran away yesterday late in the day. (He's now home safe.) The whole thing feels totally like my fault. I really mishandled the situation right before he went. I am angry at myself and ashamed. And really scared.
P, B, and I cycled to the daycare yesterday morning, and then I cycled to work. After work, I cycled back and picked P and B up from daycare. We were cycling home, B then me then P, single file along a not-very-busy residential street. Approaching a stop sign, I called out just like I always do "stop sign, everybody stop." And then BANG! P slammed into the back of my bike, producing a horrible sound as I heard little parts of my bike breaking. As soon as I registered that neither of us was hurt, I started reeming him out: What on earth were you doing? Weren't you looking? The least you could do is answer me! I need you to just get yourself home right now. (We were about 5 safe blocks from our house.)
I was just so out of patience for the bike bumping after Sunday's ride with him: two solid hours of being repeatedly run into every time we stopped somewhere. He must have nudged me at least 50 times during that ride, and I managed to not engage the behaviour at all then.
But that is no excuse. My reaction was totally off my attachment parenting scripts. Totally off my Love and Logic scripts. Totally off my goals for myself. And totally not the way to handle this particular kid. I know better. Plus, what an example to have set when I talk and talk and talk at him about impulse control and appropriate expression of anger. I could kick myself. His face went from crumpled to that scary empty look in the eyes, and as he biked off, he shouted "fine, if that's what you want, I'll just run away," and I shouted after him "That is not what I want."
By the time B and I got home about 5 minutes later, P was nowhere to be found. He'd dropped his bike and lunchkit off, and dashed off after telling M that he needed "to take care of something." That was at 4:30. M spent the next several hours out on foot looking all over for P, while I stayed with B and tried for some semblance of everything's-going-to-be-all-right, when in truth we were all scared, and -- at least for M and me -- this reminded us of the month of December 2008, the last time P bolted, in -30 temps and winter darkness. But more on that in a minute. B was a nervous wreck, so scared for his brother. I tried to carry on through our normal afternoon and evening routines, while also trying to have reassuring discussions with him.
At 7:30 we got a phone call from some sort of business watch guy in another part of our city. He had P and was wondering if we could come get him. P got on the phone and declared that he would not get in the car when we got there, that he "would rather live with [his] alcoholic mother," and that he had found tons of little caves and hiding places (probably along the river paths that wind through our city -- scary) that he would also rather live in. I told him that he might want to take a few deep breaths to help him stop saying things he didn't mean and would later regret. (But what credibility do I have with him, when I did not stop and take deep breaths instead of yelling at him that afternoon?) I told him to put the watch guy back on the phone so that I could tell him to release P either to us or to the police but not by himself. P said that the guy had already told him that he couldn't let him go off by himself. So I repeated that that meant his choices were to come with us or to go with the police, and that if he chose the police then either I or the watch guy could arrange for that -- whichever he preferred. That gave him pause, and he chose to come with us. He was sobbing into the phone as he stated his choice. M went and picked him up. P did get into the car without a struggle (big change from the December incident when M had to carry him home, kicking and screaming, from the pawn shop he found him in), and he came home silent and sullen but without incident. B was still awake, so was able to go to sleep knowing P was safely home.
We stayed up reprimanding and talking with P, trying to get him to understand what a misuse of power this behaviour is in a family -- how hurtful and scary it is for the other members of our family. I don't know whether it's easier for me to think that he doesn't fully get that, or that he gets it and chooses to do it anyway. He was adamant that what I'd done had hurt him really badly. I tried to be empathetic about that, and I apologized repeatedly and told him that I was really embarrassed by the poor example I'd set. I said that I regretted how I handled the whole thing and that I wished I had it to do over. An hour later when we were tucking him into bed, he whispered those same things to me in the darkness.
I got P up early this morning to discuss my feelings some more. I explained to him that M and I had felt traumatized by his running away in December (P understands the concept of trauma), and how the fear he'd caused us to feel would not go away quickly now just as it didn't go away quickly in December. After he ran from us in December, he kept threatening it for another couple of weeks -- he would try to bolt from us right outside the daycare door and things like that. I explained to him that M and I were going to be fearful for quite awhile now. I explained to him that M and I had completely reorganized our schedules throughout December in order to always be on call and available to help each other get both P and B home safely in the event that P ran again or was refusing to leave the daycare building. P's eyes widened at this new information; he had not realized how much our lives had been affected by his choices then. After awhile, he said that he was really really sorry, and that he had not thought at that moment about how he was affecting anyone else. I said that my yelling had been selfish also, that in that moment I had not remembered to think about how my actions would affect him.
We will go back to keeping him really close to us, rein in his privileges, try to make him feel safe, and try not to feel too constantly scared. In the coming days, I will be thinking about the cycle of ups and downs that constitute the weird unpredictable dance (dance? herky jerky stumble? or is it an alternately bumpy and smooth flight?) of healing from RAD, because I KNOW he is healing. It is clear as day. I will try to remember that he is hurting inside where we can't see it. And when I feel scared, I will try to think to myself that my fears are a good reminder of how he must feel so much of the time.
Notes to Essie: First, I had been hoping to participate in your TTT this round; hopefully I'll join in on the next round. Second, I've seen your knitting and it's beautiful. If I am able to knit this stole, you totally can. That second row instruction turned out to be not tough at all once I knew what it was talking about, and I ended up with the right number of stitches when I finished it.