Monday, January 9, 2012

Of Boys and Power Tools

It's long been a well-established fact in our house that M1 has no focus.  On weekends, especially, he's the family drifter - he drifts through his morning routine sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. with occasional bursts of energy motivated by us parental units 'encouraging' him to get his stuff done already.  Then he drifts into the living room, picks on his sister, gets sent to his room for some time to himself, drifts back out when we feel like he's ready to be around people again, and the cycle repeats.  He really has a hard time coming up with things to do by himself, and he often does epitomize the "SQUIRREL!!!!" stereotype that comes with ADHD.  Weekdays aren't so much of a problem because he has a plan of attack and knows that he has to focus to get school done in a timely manner (today, for example, we're having a really hard time because he refuses to pay attention to anything I've asked and would much rather spend his time flopping face-first into the couch or hanging upside down off his desk rather than listening to even the simplest of instructions).

No matter what day it is, though, he always a good job of proving the old adage that "idle hands are the devil's playground."

Gosh, he's just like his mother.  How many times did she hear that as a kid?  She pleads the Fifth.

Moving on... when it comes to the boy, weekends are really the biggest issue.

Take Saturday.  We all got up late.  We had brunch at a nearby restaurant (one that serves breakfast all day) and then went mattress shopping for Oz and I.  Even before we left the house, M1 had managed to irritate all of us to the point of snapping.  He spent the day in perpetual motion and behavioral limbo.  He refused to focus, wouldn't keep his hands to himself, interrupted conversations constantly, and just generally made a nuisance of himself.  I knew this was largely caused by his being up until nearly 10 p.m. the previous evening, but it still didn't really excuse his behavior.  He was being, for lack of a better term, a total and utter ass. He knew it, but he didn't really see the need to change since nobody had made him stop.  (We're working on the concept that he has to make himself behave, but it's an uphill battle.  Since the world clearly revolves around him, he doesn't understand why he should follow any sort of social norm unless the consequence is so dire that it actually might inconvenience him in some small way... and then we get the flopping-on-the-floor, shrieking, pouting, running-away, "IT'S-NOT-FAIR" fit... the sort that you see 3-year-olds throw on grocery store floors, except that he's 9 years old and 5 feet tall and UGH.)  The final straw came on the way home from the mattress store when I turned on some music, which often calms him, and he decided he needed to kick, punch, and otherwise 'drum' on the seats... and his sister... to the beat of the music (and when I say beat of the music, please understand that M1 can't follow the beat unless someone points it out to him... he eventually gets it, but he can't pick out a beat to save his life).  So I told him that when we got home, he was going to his room.


This did not make him very happy.  He did do as he was told when he got home... for about five minutes.  Then he emerged and said he felt better and was going to come out now.  I told him that no, he wasn't, because A) I was in the middle of taking my bed apart for the new mattress and couldn't monitor him and B) it'd only been five minutes, which is nowhere near the amount of time that it takes for him to recover any sort of positive thought process.  So I sent him back to his room.  On his way, he announced, "Then I'm going to be really horrible so you HAVE to let me out!"  This floored my mother-in-law, who had loaned us the bed of her truck to bring the mattress home in.  Sure enough, M1 proceeded to pound on his door and make shrieking noises.  I marched down and demanded five (allowance) dollars as payment for potential damage to either my house or my ears. He paid it, then promptly started stomping; I took two more.  He settled into a sullen silence when he realized that he was literally paying for his anger.

We managed to get through the rest of the day, but it wasn't pretty.  Sunday morning wasn't much better.  I'd had enough by that point, so I assigned him chores.  M2 was upset that she wasn't getting to spend time with her beloved brother, but after the discussion we had a few weeks ago about M1 needing to learn a few lessons, she kept her mouth shut.  M1 dusted the living room and cleaned the glass, washed dishes, sorted the recycling, and did a couple other household chores before he finally seemed to settle down.  At that point, I told him he had a choice:  He could go do a science experiment or he could go do woodworking in the garage.  His face lit up, and he immediately ran to his room to get a book of semi-simple wood projects that he had recently purchased with some Christmas cash.  He schemed and dreamed and planned and finally convinced Oz that he really wanted to build a certain set of shelves (well, really, he wanted to build me a brand-new nightstand, which I thought was really sweet, and I do need one, but that project was both out of his league and out of our price range since even the easiest plan involved cutting biscuits, and we don't have a machine for cutting those).  So he and Oz went to the store, picked up wood, came home, made space in the garage, and started working.  I came out just in time to see Oz teaching M1 how to use power tools.

Now, I'm leery of power tools at the best of times, but really, a severely ADHD 9-year-old using power tools is right up there on my list of OMG NO.  But I trust Oz, and he was patiently showing M1 how to use the machine, so I stepped back to watch.  Oz made M1 put on safety glasses.  He held down the wood so that M1 could use both hands to hold the tool (and thereby keep his fingers out of the way).  He had him do several practice cuts before they moved on to the real project.  And I was amazed to see M1 pay attention the entire time and do very well when it came to actually cutting the wood.

In no time at all, they had the pieces cut and assembled, and they proudly brought it out to the front porch (I was painting the trim) to show me.  They went back into the garage to finish it up.  I finished painting, cleaned up my mess, and went into the house to start supper.  Shortly afterward, M1 came into the house.  He was quite calm as he washed his hands and told me that Oz had been holding two of the pieces of wood when they dropped to the concrete garage floor and broke, and that the entire project was ruined until the following weekend.  He wasn't angry.  He didn't yell or shriek or throw a tantrum or even cry, so I assumed he'd done all that in the garage.  Oz came in and I asked how he had taken the incident, and he was as shocked as I was when we learned that he hadn't thrown a fit in the garage, either.  No anger.  No crying.  Nothing.

I may not be in favor of the boy using power tools on a regular basis, but if that's what it takes to keep him focused and out of trouble... I'll take it!


Mom on the Verge said...

Sounds like a Good Thing -- more power tools!!

SabrinaT said...

Your 9 year old sounds A LOT like my 11 year old.

We try and keep him active, boy scouts is his thing..

I might have to try the power tools..