My wife had problems controlling her impulses. When she and I first started going out, it was cute. She was’t the SNL “drunk girl” when she partied, she was fun, kind of wild, and completely out of my league.
But when we moved to California, a goal she’d begged to have come to pass over the 11 or 12 years of our marriage the impulse control came out at the speed of light. The whole idea of moving to the West coast was an opportunity to gain her the help and support that she had craved and – unrealistically, I have to admit – expected. When she didn’t get the unrealistic support – and nowhere near the promised support – she lost her control. I don’t have any way to say this delicately, it’s just true. Sometimes, when people are at their lowest, they take it out on the ones they love. I was that one with Andrea. I loved her, even had a horrible problem of caving in and doing anything she wanted.
When things didn’t go the way Andrea pictured . . . hell even the way they were promised . . . the impulses grew harder and harder to control. She told me on one occasion that she had these thoughts, these impulses. She cut her sister’s hair because she thought it was a good idea. She sprayed hairspray on expensive mirrored closet glass to get her father angry, which it did. She had a problem with controlling her temper, and she said it got her into trouble. She talked back, she yelled, screamed and threw tantrums. Hell, she even did that to me during more than a few occasions. When we argued she would find the small little buttons, the tiniest things, that would get my ire. She would complain about how you shouldn’t argue in front of the kids and then strategically push every little button, picking up the kids in her arms while upset, and watching me blow, like a volcano. Those days, when our marriage was at its worst, were some of the worst and saddest of my life, and I told her on more than one occasion that I can’t tell her no.
But those were only glimpses into the impulse control problems she had. Most of the time she was able to control the anger. She found ways to make sure that the anger and the impulses were not in control of her.
But she never told me what those ways were. That’s the hard part this week. Hannah came home and there were a number of assignments noted as “incomplete”. When I asked if she knew why or what she was going to do about it I got the same weepy, crying, spin doctoring that she attempts every time she tries to play me. There was a deal struck . . . well two deals . . . missing assignments? No “Black Keys” concert. Fail the 7th grade because of the missing assignments? No returning to the private school. If you’re wasting the expensive, stress out your dad trying pay for it education, then you don’t finish your middle school education there.
The biggest issue is with my son Noah. He, unfortunately, inherited the most difficult parts of both Andrea and myself. Noah looks at the world differently. He doesn’t ramble on about the cartoons he watches or other simple, 9-year-old things, he wants to inform. He learns incessantly and then cannot help himself but to share that information. I was the same way. His problem is that he doesn’t know when he should stop that, when the other kids are annoyed or Dad’s on the phone or what have you. Impulse control. When I was little I did it and I know now, many years later, how it annoyed the people around me, but I was so excited by what I’d learned I thought others would want to learn it, too. But I was wrong. Fortunately, I learned the lesson. Noah has not.
What the poor little guy inherited from his Mom, beside the intelligence, was the fact that he cannot control his temper. No matter how hard we work, or the counselor tells him, eventually the boiling point hits and he can’t back off. He knows it, too. The latest incident was at the school after-care program and he was playing on the playground. Noah cannot take taunting, even the kind of pepper that a baseball game creates, and he loses it. He even admitted it. He was taunted by another kid, called out, and then reminded over and over and over until he lost it and kicked the boy. He even said he knew he was getting mad, getting angrier and angrier. He wanted to stop, he said it, but the more taunting the more he reacted. Eventually he ust kicked, but hard . . . too hard.
So tomorrow, he has to sit home. He’s been suspended for a day. I have to keep him here, in the other room, unable to watch TV, unable to play games, the only thing I’m allowing is eating and reading.
I found myself both upset and angry at my wife. Not just because I’m dealing with this alone, but because this was part of her, the part that led to the worst parts of her. She found ways to control it, but she never told how. This amazing woman, who was able to use those impulses to capture my heart, didn’t tell me how her son could use those same ideas. I’m swimming against a tide here and now I have to look this boy in the eye when he asks me how he’s supposed to handle this and I can’t tell him. I am sorely alone, a blind man in the dark, trying to help him control impulses I cannot understand. The only one who could is his Mom, the one person we all miss, the grief and loss contributing to the lack of control.
But all I can do, as the song states, is to be one upon my brother . . . my family, friends, relying on what I can to make things happen. All I can tell him is the response this will have, what it will do to all of us. His actions reflect and affect all of us, from Abbi having to go to get him at another school if he’s expelled to having to move them all to the public school if it’s too awful.
It’s in the lack of knowledge that I am struggling with. But it’s still a part of his Mom, and sometimes those impulses were so amazing . . . it’s just I have to help him understand them.