Sometimes, once in a while, I can figure out what has made Janey upset. But far more of the time, I have no idea. The same strangely holds true for times she is very happy. Her happy, contented moods also seem to arrive out of the blue and have no real connection to the world around her. It's very frustrating, but in a small way, also a little freeing, as I start to come to see how little anything I can do seems to help or hurt.
This week, Janey was up and down, up and down, all around the place. She had a terrible day at school followed by a great night at home, a great day of school followed by a tough night, whole good days, whole bad days, nights where she slept, nights where she didn't sleep---it was a roller coaster. Her teachers and I try hard to figure out a pattern, but so often, there just doesn't seem to be one. For example, this morning Janey woke up happy. That was after a night with little sleep (but little crying, either). We took her with us to a thrift store, which can sometimes be very bad news, and we were able to stay a full hour. I think she behaved as well as any child in the world ever has at a store, special needs or not. She stayed with us, was interested in everything but didn't grab things, had a smile on her face the whole time, was calm---it was fantastic. We gave her high praise. Tonight, although nothing really has happened to change things in the interim, she is screaming and crying off and on continuously. I don't think it's tiredness, as when she's tired she just goes to sleep. I don't think we set her off in any way. I think whatever drives her moods is internal.
I was very affected by the book I read recently, "January First", about a girl with childhood onset schizophrenia. I don't think Janey has schizophrenia, but I do think she might hear things we don't. Sometimes there seems to be little else to explain what sets her off. She can be sitting there, happy as anything, in a quiet room with nothing to provoke her, and suddenly she screams hysterically. Sometimes after this, she'll recite a phrase for hours---usually something from a video or song. She doesn't say it happily, she says it in a haunted sort of way. I wonder if these phrases jump into her head and scare her.
Everything we do to try to keep kids happy, to try to reinforce good behavior, is based on assuming there is a reason for good or bad or happy or sad behavior. And even if the reason is internal, it's a reason, but what if you have a child that is not usefully verbal, and they are being tormented by internal forces that make them sad? How in the world do you deal with that? I have no idea. On the other hand, although it's much easier to take, how do you explain Janey's extremely happy days? Nothing seems to cause them, either.
I figure out little pieces of things, as I have lately. I can comfort Janey a bit better all the time, by constantly analyzing what seems to work to calm her down. But as for figuring out her triggers---I don't know. I don't know if I ever will, really. Maybe I just have to accept that---to take whatever Janey shows up each day and work with that. It annoys me when sports announcers say things like that "The Red Sox just didn't show up today", when they played badly, but maybe that's a useful way to see it. Happy Janey just doesn't show up some days. Crying Janey shows up. The next day, Happy Janey might be back. Maybe I need to stop trying to fix her moods and start working harder to accept them, to live with them. Janey, you never, ever stop making this parenting gig a challenging one.