My kids have their default positions too, and they're pretty distressing to see. My daughter feels physical pain. Under stress she'll suddenly get hysterical about a hitherto unnoticed skin abrasion or make herself fall to the floor pretending she's tripped. My son gets angry. He throws things around and he screams and screams and screams.
Unfortunately, all three of us have hit our default positions this week. The kids are loving their Sports Club but it takes it out of them. It's stressful to keep up their 'coping' persona all day, and they are shattered by the time I pick them up at 4pm. I HATE pick up time. At least one of 'ems always ready to blow. This is how the week panned out:
Monday: Son was up in the middle of the night, probably because of his excitement at going to the Sports Club next day, so even without a day of running around, he was always going to be knackered. He started off by being rude to me at pick-up, escalated it to defiance after tea, and then upped it to hysterical screaming during shower and bedtime, including the line 'you're hurting me, you're hurting me' when I entered his room to say goodnight. That was nice.
Tuesday: Screaming when he realised he only had a normal amount of time on the wii, and had to go to bed at the usual time. The deal had been that if he could handle extra time on the wii and a later bedtime, then he could have it, but I didn't consider his behaviour yesterday to constitute 'handling it'. Told him that if he could hold it together at showers and bedtime, then he could have the extra time tomorrow, after which ensued a battle inside of him between good and evil. Oh my goodness how he so wanted to tantrum and scream but on the other hand how he so wanted extra wii time and a later bed. The good won. Just. With much chuntering and mutterings under breath.
Wednesday: Daughter came out from club obsessing about some crisps she'd been given (long story) and I do mean obsessing. When we got home I took the crisps off her and said that if she ever said the word 'crisps' again she'd never have another packet as long as she lived. To which she fell to the floor and began bashing her feet on the ground toddler tantrum style, screaming and crying that HER LEGS WERE ITCHING. She's nothing if not logical, my girl.
I verbalised two observations. The first was that she wasn't tantrumming because her legs were itching, she was tantrumming over the crisps. The second was that as son was not tantrumming today she obviously felt the need to fill the slot. Then she tantrummed about having pasta for tea. Then I lost it.
When the kids lose it, I keep calm for them and help them regulate again. When I lose it, no one does that for me. I have to find ways to get myself out of it. So I had a fag out of the window, took some Syndol for the pain caused by my brain which - for reasons unknown - seemed to be trying to jump out of my head, and slept for twelve hours.
Thursday: The morning was a smorgasbord of default stress positions. Daughter was crying about pains in her tummy, my son was being defiant over every routine matter, and I was a wall of hatred. It didn't make for a good day at home on my own after everyone had gone off to do their various things. But when I picked the kids up, something miraculous... we had all seemingly decided to call a truce and went out of our way to be nice to each other. A perfect evening.
Friday: Son very teary, dangerous close to tantrumming on the way home. I observed that this week was like a tantrum fest, and that daddy was the only one who hadn't had one. Suggested to son that as he'd had two days of tantrums this week, maybe he should let dad do the tantrumming tonight. A bit of humour worked. We made it through the evening OK.
So far this weekend we've had the usual attentions seeking, defiance, silliness, and tonight we had screaming again, but at least none of it came from me!
I was thinking that we don't just have one default position, we have two. One for when we're under stress and one for when we're not. I think maybe in their birth home my kids got plenty of practice at their stress default position. It is very easy for them to fall into their stress responses, because they used to be there all the time. But what is a struggle for them is to keep in their non-stress default position. They're not used to being happy, or enjoying themselves for long periods of time. It's probably a bit scary to be happy for too long. Hopefully that's something that will change in time. Like the rest of us, they'll always have a stress default, but I think it only fair they get the other default position too.