While day after frustrating day passes of trying to figure out my little Caleb, last night I think I finally found some answers. Not from a book or website or professional - just from a good chat with James. We sat for an hour hashing and rehashing the day, how Caleb reacted to certain things, what worked and (mostly) what didn't work. We talked about development stages and what he is realistically capable of and what are normal behaviours to be expected. It was a time to bounce things off each other, hear the thoughts out loud, and try to figure out, as the two people who know him best of all, how on earth we can help him (and us).
I knew we had come to a crossroads two days ago. Colin was sick, but Caleb spent all but 30 minutes of the day screaming and banging his head. This meant that most of the day Colin was left to himself, huddled on the couch, quietly pleading for me. When I finally put the boys to bed, I realized that all Colin had eaten all day was half a granola bar. Not because I hadn't made meals, but because he had no more than pushed the food around on his plate while we sat at the table. Usually I would keep tabs on him, but the day was lost in the chaos of Caleb's behaviour. I also noticed that Colin's behaviour was changing - he was starting to act out, throw things, was unable to play on his own, and was falling into tantrums completely out of his character. In short, he was crying out for attention. My own patience was thin and I spent much of the day angry or crying. I had also canceled all activities outside our home for the next month or so, as Caleb is even worse when we leave home. I realized that Caleb's behaviour was now affecting almost every area of our family life. This was going beyond normal.
I'm signed up for two workshops, and we've looked into talking to a professional counselor. I am recognizing that we can't go on like this, without some sort of change. But these measures are not immediate, hence the conversation last night.
I recognized that Caleb does not respond to "discipline" - he just doesn't seem to equate action and consequence yet, or he doesn't care. So we are going to try three things that will hopefully see us through these next six months until Caleb is more able to understand and deal with his emotions.
First, we are making the home a more positive environment. We have removed the typical things that set him off (things we wants but can't have): movies, the computer, the chairs he uses to climb up. Second, I have made Colin's room a place he can go and play on his own, to eliminate the battles over toys. These measures are to try and avoid the tantrums in the first place. However, as we will be unable to completely eliminate them, we also devised a way to deal with the tantrum. Currently, Caleb will lose it for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, over one small thing (ie: wanting to play with the stove knobs). If we let him cry, it escalates. If I try to hold him, it escalates. If we try to distract him with a toy or food, he throws it. So now we are going to try a complete change of scene, like the backyard. I'm hoping that if we completely upend him in this way, the disorientation will stop the screaming long enough for him to realize he is no longer really angry. (Of course, there is currently a foot of snow in our backyard, but as it's already April, this won't last long).
Today is an up day on this roller-coaster, and I'm grateful for that. It's been a few weeks of downs, and my poor body and mind needed this day of peace. Hopefully these answers will aid us during the next low part.