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Let’s Ride Again

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Photo Credit: Warren County CVB

Roller coasters are my favorite amusement park ride.

If you stay at the park late enough, people stop filling the queues for cars in the middle of the coasters. If no one is waiting, the nice 16-year-old earning minimum wage to run the train will let you stay on for extra rides.

The day our son almost passed out on a kiddie ride, I thought my dreams of sharing terror and joy at top speed were dashed.

Five years later, I rode the tallest coaster in our state. The air rushing around me filled with the happy screams of my kids.

I love roller coasters, and I love that my kids have become amusement park thrill-seekers.

Sadly, this summer, I found my limit.

Three coasters with upside-down loops, and I’ve had enough. (Thankfully, I can still ride no-loop coasters in indefinite glee.) 

***

Our son has been in a residential treatment facility since the fall. Sometimes I think of it as

Centre Residential Amusement Park, where EVERY ride goes upside down.

I’ll leave you to think through the park name acronym for yourself. 

Good behavior earns passes for leaving the facility with family in 6-, 12-, 24- or 48-hour increments.  

He displays consistent major upsets over minor issues; because of this, he qualified for only one 6-hour off-grounds pass in nine months.

However, this month he appeared to turn himself around and managed to have ZERO incidents requiring a staff member to physically intervene.

We worked with the therapist to quickly arrange two passes, hoping to show him that his good behavior benefits him.

One of our concerns is his potential intent to hurt his sister, but she was away at camp, so we brought him home for a day, and the following week we brought him home for an overnight.

He appeared to be a different child; even when things didn’t go exactly as he wanted, he managed beautifully.

We talked with the therapist and decided to try bringing him home for an overnight now that his sister has returned.

And then…

Tuesday, he intentionally provoked a peer, trying to get the child to fight him.

Wednesday, he punched someone.

He hasn’t physically assaulted another individual in almost two months.

The therapist called to let me know he didn’t feel comfortable approving a pass.

After a month of good news, I thought we were heading for the exit of Centre Residential Amusement Park.

Guess I’m buying a few more tickets for the roller coaster ride: one for me, one for Hubby, one for Jesus. I thought I’d reached my limit, but it looks like we’re riding once more.

Sometimes I forget to mention how much I appreciate Hubby and Jesus.

If I have to ride these loops again, at least I’m never alone.

 

 

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Roller Coaster

Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson

Riding a roller coaster with my brother is one of my favorite childhood memories. Whenever we could, we stayed late at the amusement park; as long as no one waited in the queue for our seat, the coaster operator allowed us to ride again. We rode so many times we lost count. Once, we even rode in the rain, drops pricking our skin like thousands of tiny needles.

Thanks to amazing guts of steel, we never puked. (I consider this a point of personal pride.)

Hubby and I choose to ride a different kind of roller coaster. Again and again. Every. Single. Day.

Sometimes the coaster is fabulous; other times, the ride makes us queasy, but we opt to stay on.

The summer of 2016 included a few twists and surprise dips but generally kept us smiling and laughing with hands in the air. We thought we’d turned a corner; both the girl and the boy seemed happy and well-adjusted. Together, we camped, traveled, sang along in church (what we lacked in pitch, we made up in enthusiasm) and did everything “regular” families do.

The kids weren’t perfect—and neither were we—but most of the time, we just enjoyed being together. Hubby and I finally exhaled and let go of the “this can’t last” feeling.

I often joke with Hubby that “normal” is just a setting on the dryer, but I won’t lie…it was nice to feel normal for a while.

After so many steep climbs and drops, riding our coaster around gentle curves was a welcome change.

Then the summer ended.

Dark storm clouds gathered. The coaster dive was sharp, deep and straight through a painful downpour.

We aren’t sure of the triggers, but every October for the last six years—right after Halloween—negative behaviors spiked sharply in both kids. In 2016, they didn’t wait for October. As soon as school started, they both had an immediate personality flip. By November, we had plumbed our expertise and found ourselves hitting bottom. They didn’t respond to any consequence, positive or negative.

His behavior at school spiraled out of control.

Her Reactive Attachment exploded into full bloom at home.

The roller coaster fell into a series of spirals and drops, and life flipped from “normal” to “triage” without warning.

 

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