Until people in this household learned to pick up after themselves, there was no better way to stab me into early-morning alertness than stepping on Legos. Forget caffeine! The sharp jab of a Lego piece corner, stabbing the soft fleshy part just before my tarsals beats any other method for waking parents up. We can argue back and forth about how I could’ve gone in looking at the floor, but you have to admit it’s never the glaringly obvious pieces that get left behind. This little exercise in early morning pain reduced the amount of work the coffee had to do and expanded my children’s vocabulary: one of the first words J enunciated clearly starts with an F and ends with a K.
One of my favorite sayings is “I am not your maid.” I know I’m the stay-at-home something; I’m responsible for taking care of the house, but I had to draw the line somewhere. When the boys were younger and they didn’t have hair in places not frequently seen by us adults, I cleaned their bathroom, put away their laundry and straightened up their rooms with impunity. I knew this wouldn’t last and I didn’t want to run into details of their private musings, activities and such. The only way to stave off any parent/child embarrassment? Have them take care of their own stuff. I feel I have done humanity a favor.
Second on the hit parade is “You do it!” Helplessness is a learned habit, and J learned this from an aide who wouldn’t even let him carry his own lunch tray. There’s a saying back home: pity is the friend or ally of ‘you’re screwed.’ The last thing we would want is for J to end up feeling like he’s screwed because we fostered helplessness. In essence, the aide was getting paid to cater to J at school and we were paying the consequences at home. He’s autistic, not stupid…of COURSE he would let people cater to him.
Was this a period of regression? No…we quickly noticed that little, helpless, sad J was quite nimble when it came to helping himself when we weren’t looking. That is when “YOU do it!” became an integral part of the home vernacular. Much eye-rolling and muttering-under-the-breath come attached to this particular dictum, but J has become empowered enough to give us a taste of our own medicine. A few months ago, tired from packing for our big cross-country move and from the yard-sale from hell (during which our oldest sold our doormat for a dollar), my husband was resting on the living room floor. He asked J to help him get up…
Today’s phrase has been “hey! Help me!,” and this is possibly the phrase that elicits the most enthusiasm. When someone tells J they need help, J realizes how very capable and necessary he is. This is not about making him FEEL helpful, he REALLY is helpful. The only other person I know is aware of how my kitchen really flows is J; never do I find the whisk in the drawer when he’s the one who helps put things away. Today he is helping me cook Thanksgiving dinner, and the only thing that could improve this is if Katy Perry and Selena Gomez were here to tell him how awesome he is…
We seldom cook a Thanksgiving turkey thanks to Thanksgivings past (namely 1999, 2000 and 2001) when J had meltdowns because of the bird. Technically, we could purchase, defrost, season, stuff, roast, carve and serve a Thanksgiving turkey, but we couldn’t eat it…for some reason, that whole Thanksgiving and turkey combo makes J seriously sad. So from 2002 on we’ve basically had everything from brunch to lasagna to lamb to pork for Thanksgiving ON the actual day. Turkeys have popped up here and there for Easter, birthdays, even just a Sunday dinner that will be reincarnated several times over during the week as enchiladas, sandwiches, pot pie. This year we had planned on some sort of roast beef (a cheap one, of course, tenderized with Byron’s poetry, Attila the Hun’s sword, and some vigorous praying.)
J’s older brother recently started a job at the hospital, and -in one of those egregious scheduling kerfuffles that befall the young, unattached, childless neophyte- he has to work tomorrow night. Thanksgiving dinner is no longer ON Thanksgiving Day…we are roasting a turkey! J is actually fine with this because it’s not Thursday and we have been praying with gratitude every single day for so long now that tonight’s dinner looks like DINNER! He has been so happy carrying the roaster up the stairs, helping with the cranberry sauce, slicing leeks and toasting bread for stuffing that I don’t feel at all pressured to get this right because it IS right already. My son is a wiz at slicing things with a sharp knife (yes, please, of COURSE I supervise.) He is better at cracking eggs and separating yolks from whites than many grown-ups I know. He knows the name of every kitchen utensil and he can find it for me in a matter of seconds. And he cleans up as he goes along!!!
Tomorrow, while other people’s houses waft with the aroma of herbs and poultry, we’ll be at the movies watching The Muppets. We will usher in the holiday season, three adults and one young adult, happily munching on popcorn while Kermit and company entertain us, and then we’ll come home to make crepes madame for dinner (yes, J knows how to make crepes!)
I’ll tell you how we went from The Holidays (with Vincent Price laughing and bloodcurdling screams in the background) to The Holidays (no crying, recriminating, moping or seeking refuge in the bedroom until after the first of the year,) but not today, though…my supervisor’s Slinky is clinking impatiently as he waits for me to be done here.
Time for a second cup of coffee…without the Lego aperitif.