Last night was our first official session of family counseling. We went to the intake session last week, and now it was time for the real deal. We weren't sure how the session was going to go, but we did know we had a team of four people. Two would be sitting in the room with us, and two would be in the next room watching through a window. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about not seeing the people watching us, but one way or another I knew it would be a little odd.
I came prepared with some toys for Carter, but what I didn't anticipate was how difficult sitting in the room for an hour would be for Jacob. He spent the first 15 minutes of the session begging for Craig's phone, despite the no phone policy in the room. He had a very hard time sitting still, and was alternately hanging off the chair, slumped in it, or on the floor. It was actually pretty hard to watch as a parent, because it's a little horrifying to realize that your seven-year-old can't sit still at all. We know he has a hard time at dinner, and often he'll stand at one end of the couch near Craig's head (or mine if Craig isn't around) rather than sit. He had a tough time answering their questions in general, playing sort of coy, I guess. He definitely seemed nervous to the point of acting extra silly and very fidgety. I told Craig on the way out that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they tell us we need to get him re-evaluated for ADHD after how he acted. It's like he can't be serious and straight-laced for a moment when he's on the spot like that.
They asked us a lot of questions to get a feel for our ultimate goals from this process, what we think could be one step to make things better (for example, if we'd rate our current situation as a 2, what would be one step to get us up to a 3?), and what has worked in the past. I thought the questions were actually really insightful and did a good job at getting to the heart of our issues. We talked about Jacob's and Carter's interactions, as well as Jacob's troubles with following directions and responding immediately to our requests/demands. Jacob couldn't explain why he doesn't listen, aside from just having other things on his agenda at those moments. He couldn't really explain, either, why the new behavior chart at school worked for him. Why does he listen to his teacher and not to us? That is the million dollar question, apparently.
They got to see Jacob and Carter interact pretty typically. We rated their relationship around a 2, while Jacob said it was a 1! During the session, Carter broke out in his new fascination, potty talk, and of course Jacob laughed hysterically, so it continued. Then Carter went over to try to hit Jacob (his other recent development), and then it dissolved into a mess of them chasing each other around the room. Luckily most of that took place after the main part of the session, while the two in-room counselors were comparing notes in the other room with the hidden folks. Craig and I looked at each other like, "Oh man, they're getting quite the show back there." Not that we weren't trying to stop it--we did, and we tried multiple distractions--but ultimately it always went back to the chase. Exhausting.
Overall, I suppose having the hidden people watching us wasn't as bad as I thought. I think just knowing that four mental health professional-types were sitting there watching our every move makes you think twice about what you do and how you do it. I think the part that got me the most is that while the people in the room with us had to maintain their poker faces, all we could picture is the hidden people's unrestrained reactions to the kids' behavior. They could be back there laughing, or shaking their heads, or looking completely bewildered, and we'd never know. Who knows what they were thinking back there?
We got homework to watch very carefully when the boys interact nicely, as well as to note in what situations Jacob does listen. We go back in two weeks--luckily we got in an hour earlier so we can still make Jacob's winter concert--and apparently they'll want to talk to Craig and me alone for part of it. I feel awful for the person who will have to wrangle the kids for that part!
As a whole, I definitely think it's a good thing. I think we need people to help us talk through our issues and find ways to manage them. I think that's what's been sorely lacking in much of what we've done so far with Jacob--we never had someone pushing for results at home. His school counselors did a good job a couple years ago with helping him in the classroom, but it was hard to translate that success to home, and this sounds like a promising start. I definitely think Jacob needs someone to tell him straight-up that he needs to listen to us, and I think this is a good first step toward getting him somewhat desensitized to his brother's presence. It's definitely going to be a process, but this one feels better already.
Of course, by the time we got home, Jacob was complaining of a headache, and at the time dinner went on the table, he was moaning and crying in pain. I knew he wasn't excited by my dinner choice, so initially I thought it was an act, but eventually I got him some Tylenol and let him go lay down in his bed. Craig went up with him, and about 15 minutes later he came back down saying Jacob was asleep! So, yes, there probably was something wrong. He had a rough night of sleep, waking up at least twice with bad dreams. His head still hurt this morning and he definitely seemed off, so Craig stayed home with him. I worry about whether he will add this to his arsenal of avoiding school, but sometimes you just have to make that call. His head was still hurting a bit this morning, so if it keeps up we'll definitely have to consider taking him in since this is odd for him. Maybe it was a migraine, though the way he was screaming and carrying on I can't imagine that was helping his head pain. We'll just have to wait and see. Never a dull moment for us...