Today was our last day in our summer therapeutic riding program and unfortunately for Alex, it did not end on a positive note.
Although initially eager, as soon as he got on the horse, he began to whine and complain. When that didn't bring the desired results, he began to kick at the horse and throw away any toy or tool his volunteers brought him. Finally he began throwing the reins over the horse's head as it was walking, risking a major tripping incident.
The volunteers decided to cut the lesson short (a decision I agree with and probably would have done sooner than they did). He was quite upset at being denied his usual post-ride cheese bagel but I've always told him that was a reward for cooperation. He ended up sitting with me while Nathan finished his riding lesson.
Aside from today, the lessons have gone quite well. Alex has learned to use the reins and adapt to a saddle. He sits well and has no fear of the horse. He usually enjoys the lessons and I see him recreating them with toys horses and Playmobil figures.
I've been trying to decide what went wrong today. Is he stressed with the upcoming routine shift to school? Is something physically bothering him (he's been fiddling a lot with one of his teeth although it doesn't seem to be loose)? Was this just an exercise in defiance and non-compliance? Is he becoming ill?
It's hard to tell. I likely won't know for days or weeks after the fact. I think I did the right thing in sticking to my parenting guns on the cheese bagel. Regardless of what is going on, throwing tantrums is not a socially acceptable way to express displeasure. He does have the words to express himself (not easily but the capacity is there).
He's been even more irritable through the day at home. Having to watch Nathan get his reward for compliance was difficult for him (although I hope it helps to drive home the message). It seemed that every time I turned my back or tried to get something done, Alex was getting into something he shouldn't, pushing his brother or having a toileting accident (8 changes of clothes and counting).
Days like this are frustrating. Aside from the stress on me of having to deal with crisis after crisis, I have to try and play Dr. House to find a differential diagnosis with minimal symptoms. And unfortunately, no writer is sorting the symptoms for me to make sure I only have the relevant ones.
It's days like this where I have to remind myself that he is not actively trying to drive me crazy. That he is probably just as upset and frustrated as I am in trying to communicate. Empathy is an active process but it keeps me from losing my temper inappropriately.
6 days and counting until school starts.