It's sometimes amazing what a little outside perspective can do.
Had a good session with the counselor yesterday. It was just Chad and I to go over history and background. The counselor asked what had changed in the last couple months. At first it wasn't obvious to us, seems like business as usual.
But she was able to draw out a few things that could be simmering and boiling over, causing this behavior.
Sam's birthday - even though grandparents did a great job bringing him gifts too, this is the first time Sam has had a real party and the focus has been on him
Some frustration with math in school (see prior post)
Teenage deaths in Johnston
The cat. Meatball has been peeing on stuff lately, and Gavin loves this cat so much. We've discussed that we may have to give him away if we can't stop him. This really upsets him. He's also been asking how old the cat is (about the same age as Gav) and how long cats live.
So add that to an age where school and social situations start to generally get more difficult, an age where the concepts of permanency and death become apparent - and we have one little boy with some worrisome thoughts on his mind. Of course, when we ask outright what's wrong, he obviously can't string all these together and tell us.
Next step is for her to talk to him in a play therapy session and see if she can pinpoint things that are bothering him. In the meantime, we'll have to make a decision on the cat so the what if isn't hanging over his head. And we'll likely be keeping him (flipping cat! he wins!). I had already been planning on printing out worksheets to help with math. Last night I talked to Gav about his frustration, and that it was ok if things weren't always easy at school, but we just need to talk about it so that we can practice more. That it's fine to not be perfect at it, but I want to practice with him at home so that he doesn't have to feel frustrated at school.
He seemed relieved that I wasn't upset that he was struggling (at first he was all "what?" when I asked if there were some tricky things they were doing in math). He sort of looked at me wide eyed and wary to see what I was going to say about it. We've never been upset about grades, so I'm not sure where this expectation comes from, but I hope he felt better after we talked.
So that's it. All good things, I am optimistic this can be turned around.