“I’m Bored”

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“I’m Bored”

Those are swear words at our house and I react accordingly when I hear them. My eyes open wide and my mouth falls open as I slowly and deliberately turn toward the offender…

Then in my best Miss Hannigan impression I ask, “What did you say?”

This is usually sufficient motivation for my dear children to find something to do. They have learned that Mom is always more that happy to help them find something to do if they need help finding something to alleviate boredom. 🙂

Boredom is a good thing. I feel like my children have been raised in a generation of constant simulation and 24 hour entertainment. They are told that life should always be fun and entertaining and if they are feeling bored then someone is failing in their duties. I for one can’t stand the entitlement mentality that has infected this newest generation. I refuse to feed into the sickness.

So my children, from the time they were little things, leaned that saying, “I’m bored” to Momma never brought the results they hoped for. Momma will not drop everything to be your personal activities director or live-in court jester. In fact Momma loves when her children are bored because that is when childhood creativity comes alive.

I have one child who still regularly uses the swear word, “I’m Bored.”

And it is Tyler.

What is interesting however is how he uses it. While sometimes used to describe his current situation, it is more often used to describe his emotional state…

“How are you feeling. Tyler?” asks Mom.

“I’m bored,” replies Tyler.

Like so many children that experience early years of abuse and neglect there are deficiencies,

holes in the educational, physical, spiritual and emotional web of their childhood. Some of these holes are glaringly obvious from the start, but other deficiencies are identified as time passes.

When Tyler first moved in with us our focus was survival. That turbulent year was filled with explosive temper tantrums that were intended to destroy and test loyalty. We were a ship in a storm, just holding on for dear life, trying to make sure we didn’t lose anyone to the 100 foot swells, and riding it out the best we could. That first year was about survival and building trust. The second year was focused on managing behaviors and really bonding as a family. Our focus was on the external. Then we finally reached a point of stability where we could focus more on the internal and we saw that there were hurts deep within our son’s soul that needed healing

One of the big deficiencies we saw as we began to bond with him was in the area of identifying emotions.

We noticed that “I’m bored” was his “go to” phrase for any emotional  he felt other than happiness.

Fear, Anxiety, Jealousy, Sadness…they were all labeled as boredom.

This past weekend was Tyler’s final football game of the season. Their team, the Blackhawk Cougars, had an amazing run! They had an undefeated season. In the final game of the season they went up against Sto-Rox.They were an incredible team and it made for an exciting game to have these two well matched teams play against each other. In the end the Sto-Rox team beat the Cougars.

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The coach gathered the little cougars in the end zone for some final words.

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As the boys exited the field some were crying. There was a feeling of finality. The season was over and even though Tyler was straight-faced I could tell he was upset that football was over until next fall.

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Toby gave him a hug and told him what a good game he played.

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“How ya feeling, bud?” Toby asked.

“I’m just bored,” was Tyler’s reply.

“Do you feel a little sad?” Toby prodded.

Tyler replied with a nod of the head.

Tyler recently began seeing Tina, the wonderful therapist that works with Ozzie. He sees her once a week and it has been interesting to see how her approach with Tyler differs from her approach with Ozzie…

both so personal and perfect for their personalities and needs.

Having met Tyler a few times she immediately knew he would be a very different patient than Ozzie. Ozzie loves therapy because he loves to talk. She plans therapy sessions around crafts, activities and a lot of verbal interaction. She recognizes that Ozzie responds well to constant affirmation and is very maternal in her interactions.

She knew her approach with Tyler needed to be different. He responds better to completion and physical activity than talking and maternal encouragement. Before our first therapy session Tina approached her director about purchasing an indoor mini trampoline that Tyler could bounce on while they did therapy. Her director nixed that idea saying it was a liability issue so Tina came up with the great idea of buying a sit-and-bounce ball for him to bounce on during therapy. Her plan worked perfectly. He responded well to using the ball and it gave him a physical outlet for his anxiety during the session. At the end of the first session Tina turned to me, looking a little green around the gills, and said,

“I think the bouncy ball was hit, but I’m going to have to start taking a Dramamine before I meet with him. I feel so nauseous from watching him bounce up and down for an hour.” 🙂

Welcome to my world!

In therapy we are addressing those early childhood “holes” I was talking about. Tyler is not one to talk about his feelings. He has a wall built around his feelings that is used to keep everyone out. I have discovered over the years, however, that his wall is built not only for emotional protection but also comes from lack of exposure and education. As a result of the first two therapy sessions I better understand why he uses the statement “I bored” to describe he emotional state. Other than happiness, he has a limited understanding of other emotions as well as a limited vocabulary for describing other emotions. This is what we are working on in therapy. Tina is exposing Tyler to a wide variety of emotions through a series of pictures and games. She is not asking him to identify his emotions. (We are nowhere near that point yet) she is just trying to build a vocabulary and understanding of the wide variety of emotions people feel.

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She is doing this with pictures. She has flash cards of faces that she holds up and he has to identify the emotion he sees. Right now we are keeping it simple with three emotions: happiness. sadness, and anger. As he guesses, she points out clues on the face that help us identify emotions like: scrunched up noses and wrinkles between the eyebrows show anger. He is getting better at seeing these clues, but she has warned me that this journey will be a slow one with Tyler. We have a lot of foundational work that needs to be put into place before he will be able to identify his own hard emotions as anything but boredom.

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One game we have started playing at home to make our therapy homework more fun and less threatening is an InsideOut game I found online. It is played with candy, thus making it a hit with Tyler! There are five categories of cards based on the five emotion characters in the movie: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. To play the game we take turns blindly picking a skittles out of a bowl and that skittles color coordinates with one of the five decks of cards. You have to flip over that card and complete the task that matches that emotion to earn the right to eat your skittles.

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Tyler loves it. Some of the tasks are hard for him, like name a time when you felt sad, but he knows he can always pass if the task is too hard. It just means he misses out on eating that skittles.

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Here is a link to this great, free emotions game:

https://www.getawaytoday.com/blogs/2015-07-23/free-inside-out-party-game

Like our journey with Ozzie, I know this  will be a long, slow road

But what a great teammate to be traveling with!!

We love Miss Tina!

(On a sad note: Tina just shared with us that she has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She is beginning the battle for her health now. Please lift her up in prayer. She has worked miracles in our boys’ lives, let us pray for a miracle of healing for her!)

2 responses »

  1. Hi,

    As I read this last post it brought tears to my eyes. I’m 70, going on 71. I’ll be honest and admit that I’m an atheist – this due to all the horrific things Christianity has caused over the centuries – but you’re one Christian family that is totally amazing. You show so much of that important word known as “love.” Tyler and Ozzie are “loved” by all of you, just as the girls and Rusty are “loved” by each other. To me, “love” is far more important than Christianity.

    Graham.

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