Decoder Rings


When did they stop putting prizes in cereal boxes?

Seriously, when did this happen? Did a generation of parents finally rise up and demand a change, sick of grubby little hands digging to the bottom of the box and of siblings fighting over the token prize?

It’s a shame, because I could really use a decoder ring right about now.

Ryan is giving off signals that something is irritating him, pushing his anxiety towards tilt. But he cannot tell us what.

All the signs are there. The sudden emergence of a tick-like behavior — in this case trying to pop his ears as if he just surfaced from a scuba dive — that he cannot stop. The increased time spent in his room with the door shut, banging away at the computer. He is typing hockey standings, but he doesn’t even really enjoy it. And if we so much as open the door to check on him he deletes the document and starts over. Saturday, I adjusted the television volume while he was playing NHL Slapshot on the Wii and he insisted that meant he needed to start the game over. Casual inquires, even so much as just calling out his name, are often met with an angered “WHAT?”

We have our suspicions about the cause. The school year is hurtling towards its end — normally something he would celebrate — but this is a transition year to a new school and he is very nervous about the change.

There is also the meds. We seem to have found success, or at least stability, with his latest medication. We have stepped up the dosage slowly. Could this new level of anxiety be a result of that? Is this the beginning signs of puberty? I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Where in my damn decoder ring with the answer?

It’s not all bad. We managed to have a good time as a family at the Devils game Saturday, despite a shutout loss to the Rangers. Ryan actually took the result a lot better than Riley. And Veronica brought both kids out to watch me play hockey Sunday evening — a special treat for me. Ryan ran around the rink like a maniac, but so did his sister.

But between these happy family outings, the anxiety has run high. Thankfully Veronica and I both realize this is not the time to push him, but rather the time to give him space, love, support and reassurance.

We heaped extra praise on him for any positive behaviors. We talked to him in calm, soothing tones. We allowed him to retreat to his room when something — such as a bunch of neighborhood girls playing loudly outside next door — put him on edge.

We don’t know any other way but to feel our way carefully through each of thee situations, consulting with the other adults that work with him and know him best. There is no playbook.

There is no decoder ring.


5 thoughts on “Decoder Rings

  1. I hear you how old is Ryan? It’s a real possibility that all of the above things are happening to fast for him to figure out start small good luck. We are having problems with schooling for next year and tom is very anxious now.


    1. He’s 11. I agree — I just think there’s a lot going on, he has a lot of anxiety, perhaps feelings he doesn’t quite understand, and to deal with all that he retreats into his comfort zone. Unfortunately, his comfort zone is full of repetitive behaviors that he doesn’t even enjoy. We just have to fine that narrow gap between giving him some space, while still encouraging him to express his anxieties so we can help him. We also have to pick which battles we will fight right now so we’re not on his back all the time.


  2. I wish there was a Crystal Ball, Ruby Slippers or Magic Wand to help with everything. 11 is a really rough year on boys in general. I swear that they are wisps away by the faries and only allowed to come back home on blue moons.


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