Sometimes, when I look into my son’s eyes, I don’t recognize him, and that scares me. It happens so quickly, too. We have a happy child, playing, smiling, and laughing one second. The next moment, a switch gets flipped inside of him, and his eyes go black with rage as he attacks. In a set of frenzied moves, he goes for my arms, my hands, my legs…anything he can set his teeth into. He headbutts me if he can’t get to me with his teeth. Ultimately, I have to put him into a protective hold for his safety and mine, because if he can’t get to me, he’ll hurt himself. Or worse, his brother. While there, he continues to fight, trying to scratch my arms, banging his head against my chest, and rocking.
“I want to kiss you!” he pleads. “I won’t hurt you!”
Lies. The minute I set him free, he may kiss me once, but then he’ll bite me. I learned the hard way once. His desire to hurt me during these moments hurts my heart more than my body, but deep down I know that’s not him in there. I know this because, just like the switch flips on that animalistic fight inside of him, it switches it back off again. *snap* All of the sudden, he’s laughing and trying to tickle me. It’s like nothing ever happened.
Try talking to him about it and he can recognize the error of his ways in a shallow kind of way. But to him it happened hours ago.
“You just bit me,” I remind he when he asked for something moments after the incident. Then, I sigh a long exhausted sigh and answer him. “No, you can’t have a toy.”
“I’m not biting you now, am I?” he’ll say. And he’s not saying in the smart-ass kind of way that it looks when you read it. He’s saying it in this innocent voice, as if he feels this very moment that he’s behaving rectified the entire situation.
The answer in our house, in case you’re wondering, is no. He does not get the toy. No matter how many more explosions of rage it leads to, he does not get the toy or any other unnecessary auxiliary item he requests afterward. It sucks. I hate it. I feel like I’m the one being punished.
I wish I knew how to flip the switch myself. I’m not sure I can prevent him from going dark-eyed on me, but I wish I knew how to bring him back quicker. When my sweet boy gets locked up in there, I just want to free him. Stop that fight or flight response or whatever it is that makes him hurt us. I want him and us to feel safe again sooner so that we can laugh and love and play.
How do we flip the switch intentionally?