“Okay George, you know this isn’t going to be easy. But we have talked about this; you have said yourself that you like Elliot and his son Kevin. Yes, it will be difficult, but I love Elliot, and we are married now and are planning to live in one place.” George’s mom, Maggie, was kneeling down to his level trying to calm him down from the anxiety he has over the idea of new people moving into their house. George is young though and may move forward from this change; it will take time and maybe an increase in therapy sessions. Maggie worked hard, though, to balance how often she gave in to him with letting him do what he wanted to reduce his anxiety.
George started to show signs of OCD at a young age, Maggie was a single mother and wasn’t sure how to deal with this change. Her already difficult and stressful life became just that much more difficult when her son’s OCD was diagnosed. Her son often moved her stuff and complained about the way things were in the house. Maggie would also find George putting items in his mouth from off the street. At first, she never understood what was happening and would often get mad at him for these actions, trying to stop them. George hated them too; he got so upset about his compulsions but couldn’t stop. Having been able to identify where they were coming from, both George and Maggie worked around it. They put George on medicine, knowing that these actions are a result of OCD. They also tried various therapeutic methods for working with him on his compulsions. Maggie worked with his therapist to help set boundaries for George and herself to follow.
“What if he moves everything? Or if he goes into my room? What if he bullies me for my weird habits? What if…” George had started to spiral into a wonder of what ifs.
“Hey, hey, hey, George… Remember what the therapist said about ‘what ifs’?” Maggie wanted to give in and postpone their move, but it had been too long already. Not moving in right away after the wedding had been a big decision between Maggie and Elliot. It was a decision they made partly so that Kevin could adjust, but especially due to George’s OCD.
Elliot and Maggie had started dating three years ago. They often spent nights at each other’s houses while the kids stayed with family or a babysitter. They had talked about living together but figured it may be too difficult at the time for George. When Elliot proposed though, they knew it was time to start living together even if George may have problems with it. Maggie decided it was time she did something for herself instead of for George. She did say that she wanted to stay in their current house since it would be a thousand times more difficult to move George, than to move them in. Thus, why they were having this conversation for the seventh time about the new changes coming.
“Now, Elliot and Kevin will be here tomorrow, and we need to make room for their stuff.” She could tell George wasn’t taking this well and things were going to get worse unless she just dove in and did it. “George, you are doing great. I know this is difficult for you, especially with all the changes that are happening. But this is still the same place it was before. Our family is bigger and that means life is going to get bigger.” Maggie was trying to comfort her son; she had learned from counseling that acknowledging even the smallest changes from their habits and supporting them can go a long way. George stood there still trying to process what was happening. Maggie wanted more than anything to stay there are support him some longer, but knew that encouraging these behaviors any more would not get anything done or help him in the long run.
She stepped away from George and called Elliot, starting to move things around to prepare for his and Kevin’s arrival. George is 13, and even though he is throwing a fit and it kills her to hear him cry, she just wanted to make the house ready for move-in day.
“Hey Mags, what’s wrong?” Elliot was working with Kevin to pack up their stuff to move the next day. Kevin thought George was weird, and he was embarrassed about being related to the kid known for putting trash in his mouth. Kevin was worried about what people would say about him due to his new step-brother. He had already heard a few insults once word got out that their parents were dating. Yet, he saw how happy his dad was, and liked Maggie. Kevin knew that he also did not have a strong voice in this, so he chose instead to go with the flow.
“UGH! George is having one of his moments. And I am having a hard time cleaning and organizing this room on my own so Kevin can have a room tomorrow.” She looks around the room trying to tune out George’s wails as much as it pains her.
“Wait… Are you just starting to clean and get the house ready?” Elliot was worried Maggie was getting cold feet and back out of living together. They would need to live together at some point, especially since they are married. More than anything Elliot wants their marriage to work, and this is a key part to it.
“Yes…” Maggie could feel the pressure behind her eyes from the stress. “I had been trying to do it earlier, but with George, it was easier to just ignore it… and I guess I was too good at ignoring it…” She felt horrible before having put it off for so long and not asked Elliot for help. She wished she had worked more with George’s therapist to better prepare him for the move. “I’m sorry Elliot, I should have stood my ground more. But you know how much more difficult this has been with George and everything.”
“Just take a deep breath. When we finish over here we’ll come over with some Chinese food and help you clean everything up.” Elliot let out a sigh of stress. He wasn’t sure how they were ever going to get everything done.
“Thank you, honey.” Maggie put down the phone and got to work.
By the next morning everything was sorted and boxed up for what they want to keep, store, and donate. George was still throwing a fit and having one of his OCD moments, but Maggie knew with time he would come to terms and accept this as his new way of life. Until then though things will be difficult.
It took three days and significant griping and yelling from George to finish unboxing and moving everything around to make the home for two, a home for four. George had gone to therapy every day of the process. Maggie knew it was important to start him on therapy young to help reduce the strength of his OCD in the future.
“WHAT THE HELL GEORGE?! What are you doing in my room?” Kevin started to yell at George who was sitting on the floor of his new bedroom. George was surrounded by neatly organized piles of Legos filled with bite marks. The room before was where George would play games and Legos. George had made an agreement with his mom that he can have the Legos as long as he works on not putting them in his mouth. It was a step in the right direction for counteracting his compulsions. Kevin could have cared less at this moment about the progress George had been making keeping the legos out of his mouth. All that Kevin wanted was for George to get out of his room and respect his personal space.
“This is where we play with Legos…” George looked up at his older step-brother.
“Not anymore it isn’t! Now get out of my room you weirdo.” Kevin shooed George away and slammed the door after him. He picked up all the Legos and threw them in the bin. He is happy that his dad has found someone, but he can’t stand George. The other day he found George opening and closing the hamper door for three minutes. The kid was messed up in the head. His dad told him that George has OCD, and he had met him a few times. Three of the times that he had met George he found him taking various pieces of trash off the street and gnawing on it like a lollipop.
“Dad, this kid has no respect for me!” Kevin hissed to his dad later that night.
“Thanks, dad. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.” Kevin left and went back to his room.
“Hey, honey,” Elliot entered his bedroom where Maggie was sitting on the bed. “So… Kevin had some concerns today about George’s respect of boundaries. Apparently he came home today to George playing with Legos in Kevin’s bedroom.” He removed his tie and got ready for bed.
“Well, I worried that would happen. He learned a certain routine, and breaking from that for him is difficult. I will talk to him and work with him tomorrow.”
“Thank you, I know this is a big change for all of us.”
“That’s not where the blankets go,” George was trying his best to not get overly upset. His mom told him that morning to try his best to respect his new brother. Kevin looked at George like he was crazy. It wasn’t just George who was talked to about respect. Kevin was an older brother now and it was his job to look out for George.
“Where does it go then, George?” Kevin tried to add the nicest tone to his voice when asking George. Kevin wanted more than anything to just live by his own rules and how he did before they moved in together.
“It goes in the chest behind the couch. Wouldn’t you know? Since you took it from there to begin with. Was it not there to start?” George looked around confused, as if Kevin was crazy.
“Thank you, George…” Kevin started to put the blanket in the chest.
“NO! Not like that…” George started to yell at Kevin, pulling the blanket from his hands.
“Fine, take it! You put it away. Freaking crazy person.” Kevin just let go, dropping the blanket into George’s arms and walking away.
These differences and spats went on multiple times a week. Kevin had talked to his dad but things never seemed to get better. His father has tried to explain how OCD is a chronic illness. Things were never going to be exactly as they were before they moved in, but as he gets older and with therapy, things should slowly get better.
“Maggie, it’s been almost daily that George does something to upset Kevin.”
“Elliot… you and Kevin knew going into this it would never be easy. It’s chronic and it is hard every day for George to go against his compulsions…but that’s what therapy is for.” Maggie wanted things to get better between Kevin and George, and had hoped by now things would be better.
“You can’t continue to accommodate his every wish and every time something sets him off.”
“I’m not accommodating him; I am trying my best to work with him. Maybe you can work a little more with Kevin to respect George’s OCD?”
“Kevin has been doing his best to respect George, but can you blame him? George is not easy…” Elliot was trying hard to be respectful of Maggie’s parenting, but he was a parent himself. It was a concern of Elliot’s that George wouldn’t like him, or that he would favor George too much and there would be problems with Kevin. Maggie had similar worries, but was concerned about the affects her relationship with George was having on her marriage.
“I think we should stop talking about this.” Maggie shut her nightstand light off and pulled the covers up.
“Kevin, wait up! I need to tie my shoe.” George had stopped for a second on the way home from school to tie his shoe. He also found a piece of gum, and couldn’t resist the compulsion to pick it up and put it in his mouth.
“What are you doing, George? That is disgusting.” Kevin looked around to see if there was anyone from the school to witness his step-brother’s actions. “Get up before someone sees you…”
“Ew, what the heck is wrong with your brother,” a few of the popular kids said as they sneered and laughed at Kevin.
“If you don’t get up in a few seconds, I am leaving without you,” Kevin hissed at his step-brother. George sat there petrified. He was anxious about people seeing him act like this, and anxious that Kevin is so upset.
Kevin started to walk away without George, leaving him there amidst his panic attack.
“YOU JUST LEFT HIM THERE?” Maggie yelled at Kevin for having left her son alone on the side of the road. Kevin stood there under the wrath of his newfound step-mother wishing that his dad never remarried. Kevin walked away from her, hoping she would just go back to focusing on George, so he could escape unscathed.
“Where do you get off yelling at my son?” Elliot came storming into their bedroom that night.
“He left George on the street alone!”
“Yeah, then you talk to me before you start punishing him! I know we are married now, and that you are technically his ‘step’ mother. But, we are still new, and we need to work together.”
“Like you have been supporting me with George?”
“I have been supporting him, and you. But I also need to support Kevin. This is all just as new to him as it is for George. Maybe the circumstances are somewhat more difficult for George, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t just as hard for Kevin.”
“They are… maybe Kevin should be better educated on OCD… or go to one of the therapy sessions, so he can better understand George.”
“You’re saying my son needs therapy? Maybe George could use some more. He was literally eating chewed gum off the side of the road.”
“Maybe you should sleep on the couch or the guest room. Your choice.”
“Maggie…” Elliot realized he crossed a line about George’s OCD and Maggie’s parenting methods.
“Just go Elliot.” Elliot left the room and went to the guest room. He could hear the silent challenge in Maggie’s voice when she suggested he sleep on the couch. He knew it would set George off in the morning.