It’s been a few weeks of steadily improving behavior. I think this requires a celebration. Or a footnote mention on the nightly news. It may not sound like much but in our world this is huge. It means we may be breaking a difficult cycle. Or maybe it’s just summer in the offing that makes me feel more optimistic. Whatever the reason, I'm hoping for more sunny days ahead.
We are emerging from a three-month streak of unpredictable behavior. That, too, may not sound like much. Trust me it is an eternity.
When we are within the aura of good, one day rolls into the next with little notice. After a long enough streak we begin to take it for granted. Even expect it. But the very minute – no, the very second I see a certain dark look linger in Sam’s eyes everything changes. Suddenly the entire future becomes uncertain.
Breaking a cycle of challenging behavior is difficult. For Sam, self-control is grueling work. The angst in Sam’s eyes during these times is heart wrenching. It is emotional to watch him crumble into failure. It is exhausting to bear the brunt of his sudden anger. It is frustrating not knowing why.
Each day I take a deep breath and force myself to believe we can get there again. Each morning I wake and think, maybe today as I bargain with every god. I watch the pain and determination in Sam’s eyes when he barely hangs on to control. I see his brief relief when he has made it through with his composure intact; when he makes all the right decisions. Those are moments of triumph you can’t imagine.
We document the difficult days, looking for trends and those elusive clues. We note the good days with equal importance. Maybe as a means of getting through the tough stuff. Maybe it’s my inner Pollyanna. Or all the positive re-enforcement we’ve been trained to provide.
On marking our first successful week in a while, I asked Sam, “How was school?” “Is good,” He said. I prolonged the conversation by offering, “You had a perfect day. How you feel?” Sam continued to busy himself on his iPad, glancing up only quickly. He seemed disinterested.
But then I saw it: the corners of his mouth began to slowly turn up into the sly, smug smile he reserves for the important moments. It is a smile that says, “I did well.” It's a very contagious smile. “Feel proud,” he finally said.
Sure, there will be tears in the days ahead. But there will be triumphs, too. Life is too short to miss the triumphs.
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