My son has issues with frustration. When a situation is beyond his control, he is sometimes unable to process the outcome that is not to his liking. The result, more often than not, is a meltdown.
These moments are frustrating for all of us.
Yesterday afternoon, I found myself on one of end of a cell phone, while dodging traffic in New York City, half-walking and half-jogging to the train station in the hopes of catching the train that I just couldn’t miss, the one that would take me home to my family in time to preserve the evening’s plans, all while trying desperately to explain to my child how to search his computer’s hard drive for a lost homework file.
That’s a run-on sentence and it’s sloppy and it’s messy — just like the conversation.
Ryan was screaming. He was cursing. He was crying. The phone passed between him and Veronica as I slowly pieced together what must have happened. Ryan brought a partially finished document home on his flash drive to continue work on it. He made a bunch of edits, saved it (or so he thought) and dragged it from his computer’s desktop back to the flash drive, overwriting the original.
Only when he looked, none of his changes were there. Not on the hard drive, not on the flash drive.
It wasn’t that he had lost hours of work, more like a few minutes, but the incident left him uncontrollably upset. Veronica was trying to calm him, while simultaneously talking to me for suggestions about where the updated file might exist. All while trying to make different meals for every member of the family and hustle Ryan out of the house to his social-skills group — where they clearly would have something topical to discuss.
I did what I could, but it was no use, the changes Ryan made hadn’t been saved. As I hung up the phone and ran into the station to catch my train, nothing had been resolved. Ryan was screaming at the top of his lungs, cursing loudly.
I felt useless and frustrated. I hate the moments when we can’t fix things for Ryan, the little things that aren’t little at all to him, and he quickly tips over the edge of reason and plummets into an emotional abyss. I hated that I wasn’t there to do what I could to calm things. I felt for him, unable to control his emotions. I felt for Veronica, stuck to deal with the storm on her own. I felt for Riley, who I imagined was sitting on the couch, watching TV, listening to the scene play out as it has many times before.
By the time I arrived home, the waters were somewhat calmer. Veronica managed to get him settled enough to leave for social group. Only there was an accident on the highway and they got stuck in traffic so bad that they had to turn around and head home.
Sometimes when it rains…
When they arrived, Ryan asked me to look again for the lost document. I did so, without success, and he began to get upset all over again. Veronica managed to stem the tide and convince him he could re-do the work in far less time than he had spent getting upset about it the first time.
He accepted this for a moment, but was soon crying again about his lost work. She had to make him stop working. He would try again in the morning.
We will brace ourselves for the next time. In my restless moments last night, I thought about what technology I might add to Ryan’s computer setup to prevent the next occurrence. I already have “Time Machine” set up on his Mac to back up the hard drive every hour, but it had accidentally been disconnected, most likely as Ryan fumbled to plug the flash drive into the back of the computer. So much for that solution.
These are the moments that remind us how much more difficult some things are for us son. For all his progress, for his academic success, these incidents always serve as a cold reminder of the issues that may always be a part of his life. We will continue to work with him to understand and mitigate them, but there is no guaranteed solution.
So — what do you do when you can’t “fix it”?