As I may have mentioned here, BigBro feels things very deeply or with great strength. He is passionate about things he loves. His compassion and empathy can be his undoing. His capacity to love has always amazed me.
When things lean to the negative side, it is with equal power. His play therapist is really helping him with this. But he still has those moments when he has such overwhelmingly strong emotions, he doesn't know what to do with them.
Around Christmas, he had a pretty big meltdown. He is still processing his feelings about our divorce. He is extremely smart and tries to process everything. However, without full knowledge of exactly how our divorce came about, he is very confused and angry.
As he sat there trying to explain his anger, I noticed his clenched fists at his side. He was yelling to me about how he hates the divorce and doesn't even know who to blame (ie - me or dad). I could see the wound tension in him. And it brought me right back to being that little kid that was trying to deal with something completely out of my control. Something that I hated (usually a punishment or explanation of why I couldn't have/do something). I knew there was nothing I could do to change it. But my rage was overwhelming. My memories of these times bring back visions of pure white rage taking over my sight. I remember wanting to break or hit something. I didn't want to HURT anyone. Or break anything important. I just needed to punch something or feel something break.
As I sat listening to BigBro venting and hurting, it killed me. I totally recognized the bottled rage. I asked him, "You probably feel like hitting something, don't you?" He threw his face to the ceiling and screamed "YEEEEESSSSSS!" Ugh. Man do I get it.
We did a lot of talking. I did a lot of listening. I related some of my memories from my own frustrations as a kid. I wanted to let him know that I understood what he was feeling and he wasn't insane to feel it. We also prayed. A lot!
I wasn't able to get him to his play therapist for another 3 weeks. And it helped. But I can see the underlying anger and confusion always threatening to undo him in those moments of frustration.
I talked to my mom about a punching bag. In high school, when I was still dealing with becoming part of a blended family and full of rage and anger, a friend showed me how to use one of those smaller wall-mounted punching bags that you always see boxers hitting. Bippity bappity bippity bappity. I got pretty good. When I needed to, I just whaled on that thing. My mom and I thought it would be good for both boys to have something to pound on.
But I wanted to check with their therapist. I know there can be a fine line between allowing for a physical outlet and encouraging violence as a solution to frustration. I sent the therapist an email explaining what I had seen, my own experience of wanting to hit things, and our thoughts about a punching bag. He wrote back, "I think [BigBro] has enough cognitive wherewithal to use that as a coping skill in the moment without any carryover consequences. A lot of parents use martial arts classes for the same purpose. Sounds like a good idea."
As I've stated in multiple posts, my parents ROCK. As soon as I shared that email with my mom, she and dad went to the local ginormous sporting goods store. They talked to a sales guy, explaining what and who it was for. He suggested a 70 lb hanging heavy bag. He also warned about their developing bones and not to let them punch it with their bare hands.
This past weekend, mom & dad came and assembled the stand in my garage. Then my awesome neighbor Alex came over and hoisted the bag up so we could hang it on the hook.
The next day, mom took both boys to the afore mentioned sporting goods store and got them each a pair of boxing gloves in their size. Then she brought them home, got them on the computer and showed them a YouTube boxing tutorial video she had researched. BigBro watched the whole thing. Lil'Bro hopped around posing in his new gloves and didn't watch.
When the boys were ready to try out the new heavy bag, BigBro walked up and punched it exactly like the tutorial showed. He got his feet in the right position, shoulder down, jab jab PUNCH! It was pretty cool. Lil'Bro walked up and started flailing at it. So I slowed him down, had him step back and reminded him of his kung fu lessons. He paused and then huh huh PUNCH! Great form!
BigBro testing out some boxing moves:
Lil'Bro (with helmet!) trying out some kung fu moves:
So both boys are enjoying the heavy bag. And I have to admit, I took off my antique ring to have a few hits. My Ex asked if I've put any pictures on there yet to motivate me. Ha! I just may. I just may.
I feel like BigBro will have some options for anger outlets. He knows the main reason my parents got the bag is for his benefit. But I think our whole little family will benefit.