Developing My Improved Attitude

Image courtesy graur codrin @
Image courtesy graur codrin @

When I posted a few days ago, I noted that I needed to address two ways that I feel I contribute to the maintenance of Blake’s OCD.  One of those is my attitude – the need to be more patient, less quick to anger, less tense, more loving overall.  I need to look less for OCD and more for the wonderful parts that make up my 14-1/2-year-old-son.  Since we’ve been alone while my husband and Blake’s older brother, Michael, are in Central America on a service trip, there’s been a lot of opportunity for me to practice and to step back and observe my interactions with Blake.

While it is definitely challenging to confront myself, we have definitely had a much improved few days around the house.  That doesn’t mean that Blake’s OCD has changed any.  It hasn’t.  He still washes just as much, prays just as much, refuses to cook in/on our “contaminated” appliances and pots and pans, and panics just the same.  What is different in this little bit of time we’ve had so far is the amount of tension between the two of us – and I think that makes life better for us both.  There’s been more laughter, more relaxing and more heartfelt hugs (Well, I’m the one who usually does the hugging.  He is, after all, a teenage boy.  But I did get a spontaneous kiss on the cheek from him yesterday).

I think Blake is a little bit confused by the decrease in my “getting into it” with him.  He’s been a champion arguer since he could verbalize (probably even before).  As a teen – and one with lots of rigid OCD ideas – he’s constantly ready to spar with me.  Over the last few days there have been several times he’s shared some of his rigid thinking.  He just plops it out there and waits for my response.  So, I’ve given him responses:  “Oh, that’s an interesting way of thinking.”  “Hmm, I’ve never thought of it like that.”

“Is that all?” he asked me, quizzically, one time?  “Aren’t you mad?”

“Nope. Not mad.  That’s all.  Glad you shared.”

The toughest challenge I faced was when we made plans for the day yesterday and Blake didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.  We’d agreed he would be up and ready to go by 10:30 am.  We went over it several times.  He set his alarm clock to give himself enough time to be ready (he shut it off when it rang and fell back to sleep).  I woke him before I left for an appointment and reminded him of our plans and our agreement.  I let him know I’d be pulling him out of bed if he continued sleeping until it was time to go. He nodded his head – and then continued to sleep until I returned home at 10:25.

I was pretty sure that’s what would happen, and it took a lot of self talk to not go angrily storming into his room.  No. Instead I entered, happily reminding him of our agreement, and pulling him from the bed as we both giggled.

“Pull on some clothes and let’s go.”

All was fine, until Blake realized this was going to mess with his required routine of prayer.  His body seized up.  He stammered over his speech.  His face was red and deeply concerned.

“Umm….I don’t think I can go, Mom.”

Okay.  Breathe.  Don’t yell.  Don’t lecture.

“Blake, we have a agreement.”

“Yes, but I can’t do everything I need to.  I can’t go.  I can’t do it.”

Blake was panicking that he wouldn’t complete all the prayers that he usually does in a day, and he was willing to sacrifice the day we had planned together in order to do them.  I was churning inside.  This was my day too.  I wanted to spend it with him, and now he was going to let this prayer requirement get in the way.  He’d slept his morning away, despite the alarm, despite my waking him twice, and despite all the talk we’d given to how he was going to make this happen today.

I was feeling discarded.  Was the prayer routine going to be more important than our time together?  What to do?  I struggled internally for a bit.  I could leave without him.  The thing is, I’ve done that many times with Blake. It doesn’t phase him.  He doesn’t seem to have any sense of missing out, and he gets the satisfaction of doing his rituals.  Should I insist that he go and fulfill his agreement?

“I’m sorry that you’re in this situation, Blake.  However, you made an agreement with me to be ready at 10:30. That meant dressed, showered, fed and all prayers done.  You chose, instead, to stay in bed.  You lost three hours of time to do all of the things you say are important.  If they are that important, then you would have gotten out of bed.  We are still going – together.”

He wasn’t happy.  He got in the car and argued for the first 10 miles of our drive.  My answer stayed the same.

“Blake, you had the opportunity to do these things, but you slept instead.  You made a commitment to me.  When you are willing to break that commitment over these rituals, it makes me feel unimportant and disrespected.” I did my best to keep it simple – not to lecture or let my temper flare.

He continued to go at me.

“Blake.  You can continue to blame me for the situation you are in – or you can take a look at what you did to contribute to this situation.”

“I am upset with myself.  But I’m mad at you too.”

I was okay with that.  He could be mad at me.  I didn’t try to convince him otherwise.  We didn’t argue about it anymore.  Instead, we had a great day together.  Blake had a few moments of panic while we were out.  I let him have them while I did my own thing.  He quickly re-joined and participated.  He even admitted a couple times that he realized he was panicking – even briefly apologized for his behavior.  In the end, I was glad I’d gotten him out of the house for the day.  I’m sure he found a way to do his rituals while we were out, but I left those up to him and made no comment about them.  Only he can decide if they are worth it or not.

I will keep on this track with him, challenging myself to improve who I am in our interactions.  I think that’s the best I can offer right now.  At the very least, it brings me more peace and it gives Blake more space to have to deal with himself, his thoughts and his rituals.


8 thoughts on “Developing My Improved Attitude

  1. Angie, way to go! And you had some real quality time with Blake. I can tell that working on your “attitude change” feels right to you, and it’s already brought some benefit.

  2. Thank you for your blog. I can so relate to your post. It is a challenge to stay calm when dealing with a child with OCD. I know it is the right thing to do and yet, I still loose my temper at times. My daughter is 11 and has had OCD for at least 3 years. She has a better grasp of it now then when she was first diagnosed, yet anything related to time continues to be a challenge.
    That must have felt good that you did get him out of the house. Thank you so much for sharing. It really helps to hear from another parent.

    1. We are human. We are going to lose our tempers. It feels crummy when it happens, but it also gives us an opportunity to refocus. It did feel good to get him out. Thank you for encouraging me to keep on sharing! – Angie

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