Well, lookee here, lookee here…a GAUNTLET!!!!

Have you seen that t-shirt that reads: Come to the Dark Side.  We have cookies!   I didn’t buy it for J because I didn’t want to influence him.  I might as well, he’s negotiating cookies with the skill of Kissinger and the relentlessness of a toddler…  Last night’s theme?  COOKIE?  NO!  COOKIE?  NO!  COOKIE?  NO! and cue the crocodile tears and the haka alternately.  At one point I turned around and told my husband See?  THIS is why I work out.  For these arguments?, he asked.  Endurance.  If I hadn’t gone back to running and doing my yoga I’d have given in the second time he said COOKIE.  My husband simply stated that the house would be quieter and we’d have our dinner without the one-word equivalent of the roaming violinist at the restaurant…  If it’s any consolation, the cookies were consumed when I friggin’ felt like it and not when J insisted on having them.  Personally, I hope they tasted like sour grapes to him.

I think it’s the upcoming change of season.  Maybe it’s the “being seventeen” thing.  Perhaps it’s just that he’s testing my patience and his latitude.  Regardless, I am bound and determined and so is J.  This will prove to be an interesting turn of events over the next few weeks.  At one point or another, we will either reach an impasse or turn a corner.  For either thing I will have to be ready.

Some people (not any of you) have asked me why I sit and write this.  Other people have asked me why I’m so peppy about stuff like this.  There have been those who ask: what if no one is reading this?  My answer to all three types of question is: I’m thinking out loud and it helps me clear out the emotional cobwebs because either I let myself get tangled in the nasty bits or I find the silver lining, and -right now- it’s silver lining time.  No, it’s not one of those overwhelmingly bad times in J’s autistic patterns, but -like Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon movies- I’m getting too old for this shit, and I know it…

Yesterday’s suggestion of going for a walk met with less resistance than the previous day’s.  J, happy enough to hang out with Dada, put on his track pants; away they went to take the trash out and walk for a while.  As I was getting dinner ready, the front door opened and in ran J, visibly agitated and screaming BATHROOM!  Behind him, looking a little down-in-the-mouth, was my husband.  Dog, my husband said; a piddly, tiny, completely harmless dog…and all Hell broke loose.  In the bathroom I could hear J breathing heavily, coughing as if he was about to hurl and nervously repeating a sound over and over again.  A few minutes later, J stepped out, still looking agitated, with his heart racing and asking for food.

I had him sit down on the steps and take deep breaths.  He asked for noodles between breaths and I had to say NO.  For one, I don’t believe in feeding the agitated; for another, I could sense a hint of manipulation in the request: I’ve been through a traumatic experience and some noodles would make me feel better.  Of the legitimacy of his agitation I had absolutely no doubt; J was scared and anxious, and it showed, but the main focus was to get him to calm down and then we’d move on to the next thing.

The dog, as I mentioned, was small and apparently friendly, but J can’t process that idea with the same clarity as I’m expressing it.  In his “dog” catalog he sees every single dog he’s ever encountered (even the ones printed on paper or in movies,) all the way back to the one that nipped his arm when he was three and there ends the love affair of J and the canine species.  I work hard at keeping him calm around dogs, and we reassure him of his safety as we approach an area where a dog is; I remind him that there have been dogs he’s liked in the past, and I remind him that he is bigger than the dogs and that we are here to protect him.  Leashes help.  A leashed dog, to J, looks to be under the control of its owner (this can be true or not…I’ve seen owners being walked by dogs) and he seems to be more willing to remain levelheaded around a leashed dog.  Yesterday, however, the small, friendly dog was loose and, while not yapping, barking, whining, yelping, jumping, sniffing or even approaching J, it was loose and that was enough to cause a meltdown.  I believe the word Dada used was “jogged”…as in “J jogged all the way home.”

To a walk that has been, mostly, uneventful over the past nearly seven months, add a new degree of difficulty: the dog belongs to the caretaker that lives a few yards up the road from J’s bus drop-off.  At the hour when he arrives from school the dog is nowhere to be seen, but -of course- the image of the tiny dog is now embedded in J’s brain and, I’m sure, he will want to run up the hill in a panic.  Lucky me!

We have mentioned before that J is autistic, not stupid.  Do we really think he’s not going to use this little incident to manipulate me?  Do we really believe that J won’t get home and, looking like a man who’s just had a really bad day at the office and needs a shot of whisky, he won’t try to finagle some sort of treat out of this?  I am prepared for this, and I am hoping I am strong and patient enough to see through the upcoming tug-of-war.  J is at an advantage here; he can breathe heavily, turn on the waterworks, grunt and try to hit his head (which he was doing yesterday as he sat on the steps) only to throw me off and soften my resolve…

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go train now…I’m about to run the emotional version of the Olympic Marathon…

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2 thoughts on “Well, lookee here, lookee here…a GAUNTLET!!!!

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