If you read my last post, you know it had already been a rough morning with Marcus. So when he jumped out of our moving vehicle, tried to board a city bus, then ran into the Barnes and Noble, I had a feeling we were in for it.
In the nearly two hours that we spent in Barnes and Noble, Marcus repeatedly attempted to convince us to buy him a more expensive toy or Pokemon card set. We stuck to the allowance amount that we had agreed upon and told him he could buy anything that he would like that was $10 or less.
Marcus’s negotiations took the form of rationalization (“Pokemon is cheaper here – so it’s really a better deal than at Target”); threats of self-harm (at one point he picked up a pen from customer service and feigned stabbing at his eye – then he proceeded to draw all over his face with the pen); and destruction (he tore apart the children’s section of the Barnes and Noble – knocking over displays and pushing books off shelves).
And he refused to leave the store with us.
My husband and I switched off during this time and bought snacks and water at the Barnes and Noble cafe. But as the situation escalated, we realized that we weren’t simply in a standoff over Pokemon – this kid was melting down and we needed backup.
At this point, I separated from my husband and Marcus to call for crisis support. The on-call supervisor left her home to drive to the Barnes and Noble because at this point, it was determined by the worker who took my call that we needed someone ASAP and couldn’t wait for anyone else to become available.
During this time, Marcus went into the bathroom and caused a little more mild chaos, taking off his shoes and climbing the door of the bathroom stall. (Shout out to my husband for getting him out of the bathroom unscathed and with his shoes back on.)
While the crisis support supervisor was still on her way, Marcus finally de-escalated. He agreed to leave the store with us (in his booster seat no less).
When I texted the supervisor to let her know our status, she asked me if I wanted to bring Marcus back to the shelter for the night.
“No,” I said. I didn’t want to give up on him. I wanted to show him that we wouldn’t give up on him that easily.
But when we got home, I took a break to “go to the store.” I was emotionally exhausted and didn’t want to snap at Marcus so I cried in my car. I reminded myself why we were doing this. I told myself that staying strong now will only make it easier in the long run. We had to build his trust. We could not give up on him.
When I got back from my short break, we had a lot of fun. My husband and Marcus played checkers and Marcus asked if my husband could begin to teach him how to play chess (he actually started picking it up – he really is so smart). Then Marcus and I played with our dog outside while my husband made tacos. Marcus refused to eat dinner at first (purportedly because we didn’t have the taco sauce that he liked) and we said that was okay but that he had to sit at the table with us while we ate. He did and, since Marcus was refusing to speak at this point, my husband and I played 20 questions with each other. After a few questions, I asked my husband, “What was your favorite part of our Saturday with Marcus?” (teaching him how to play Chess) and my husband asked me the same (playing football in the park).
Then, all of the sudden, Marcus wanted to play too and then he wanted to try a taco and then another taco. We played Clue after dinner. And everything was going great. Until we stopped playing and Marcus asked how much time he had before his 8:30 p.m. bedtime. 25 minutes. Marcus was upset that the bedtime was too early. He ran out the front door into the neighborhood (again barefoot-kiddo hates shoes) and when I couldn’t find him, I called 911 again.
My husband and Millie walked around looking for him while I waited at the house. I made another call for crisis support Marcus ultimately returned to our front yard on his own but refused to go into the house. After about an hour stand off with Police (wherein our negotiations took much the same form as earlier in the day) and a telephone call to crisis support, the crisis team told me what I already knew: Marcus could not stay in our home that night.
We knew this was best. At that point, it would be negligent to attempt to keep him in our home overnight. He was melting down. And we can’t lock him in his bedroom (fire safety rules). It was a safety risk – if he ran away again, he could get seriously hurt or killed.
I wanted Marcus to make the choice. “He’ll say he wants to go to the Shelter,” I said. As a stubborn person myself, I knew what I was dealing with. We gave him the choice: either go to bed or go back to the shelter. For some reason, I wanted him to make the choice verbally, out loud. After all, he already knew the choice that he was making. He’d been in the system. He knew the game and he knew the rules. If he caused his safety to be at risk in our home; he’d be removed to the shelter.
Marcus chose to go back to the shelter.
We told him that that made us sad, but that we’d check on him the next day and we reiterated all of the wonderful things about him and the great parts of the day that we enjoyed.
We drove him to the Shelter and on the way Marcus told us, “the only thing he didn’t like about our house was the bedtime.” That and other comments throughout the day gave us hope that he really wants to be loved but just didn’t know how.
When we got back home after checking Marcus back in to the Shelter for the night, we poured two big glasses of wine and after one sip, I burst into tears and, as if on cue, our dog, Millie, threw up right next to me. I think she was just as stressed and upset as we were.
It was really hard not to think that we’d failed Marcus. It was devastating to see his empty bedroom. When we went to bed, I was legitimately unsure of what would happen the next day. I wish I could say I didn’t think it would get worse for Marcus. But I can’t. I didn’t think anything. My mind was blank. I was just putting one foot in front of the other.