Fine-tuning the give-and-take…

The School Day Without Gloves was a success…to an extent.  It was obvious to me that, regardless of the huge step forward that this represents for J, there would be something along the line that would require a great deal of patience.  And there was…

I spent the whole day jumping when the phone rang.  It was never the school.  It didn’t even ring that often, but it rang nonetheless.  I don’t know you, but I operate under the notion that the ring tone of the phone can reveal whether I’m getting a “good” or “bad” phone call.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I tend to assume it’s not good.  I usually can tell if my husband has something unpleasant to tell me by the tone in which he says “hello.”  He claims I’m imagining things, yet I’ve never been wrong about the “he-lloooh” as opposed to the “he-LLO.”  (OK, you have to be there to know the difference, but -trust me on this one- there IS a difference.)

The bus driver and aide informed me that J was a pleasure to have as a passenger.  Apparently he sang and giggled almost incessantly.  The note in the comm book said that he had a hard time adjusting to the cafeteria.  This, of course, elicited a call from me and I was informed by his teacher (who is, in my book, a prime candidate for the Teacher Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) that she had never, in the year she’s known J, heard him scream in the way he did yesterday.

The scene unfolded as follows:

The first day of school, anywhere in the world and even under optimal attention paid to organization, is chaotic.  There are three lunches at school, and J’s class is supposed to go to what is called “A” lunch, or the first turn.  As the morning progressed and things were falling into place, J ended up in the cafeteria with (and I’m quoting here) two-hundred and sixty -something seniors who had to talk to the nurse about their immunization records.

(This tells me that the other morning at the doctors’ office, J was probably among the few from his grade in his school who were there.)

J, gloveless and overwhelmed, decided to act autistic AND adolescent all-in-one.  He made his displeasure evident in a rather loud and stubborn way.

This is one of those moments when I am glad that I’ve been candid and forthright with his teachers because this amazing woman knew EXACTLY what to do.  Basically, she told him -as she would tell her children- “that is NOT going to fly and you’re going to have to wait until I say you can have your lunch.  And you are lucky your mom can’t see you right now because she would be pretty pissed off about this display!!!”  End of story.

Twenty minutes later, and accommodating J’s need for a quieter space, he sat down to lunch in a separate area.  When I had this conversation with him yesterday, I reminded him of how fortunate he had been because I would have made him wait an hour before I even considered feeding him.  J’s teacher told me if it had been her kid she’d have made him wait longer, too.

J had been coming up and down the stairs to listen in on my conversation with his teacher.  I had her on speakerphone and J could hear us both when he peeked into the kitchen area.  He recognized “the mommy look” and he scurried downstairs to the family room, only to come back up and witness the “hand on hip and foot tapping stance.”  He scurried a little faster after that.

Once he realized I was done on the phone, he nonchalantly moseyed into the kitchen area and gave me the “hey, what’s up, mamma!” look.  I simply pointed at his bench and he sat, mouth agape, eyes round, Slinky silent.  The “talk” was brief, but to the point: rudeness and screaming are absolutely NOT acceptable and will not be tolerated, and his teacher has my blessing and permission to not take him to lunch at all if he behaves in such a fashion.  Let’s face it, I told him, you’re far from starving and you cannot be allowed to manipulate people.  I asked him, looking him directly in the eye, if he understood what I was saying…

He shook my hand vigorously and waited to be dismissed.

I know J understood because the hand-shaking is his conciliatory move.  The worst thing -to his mind- is that his teacher and I work together, and there’s no escaping our collaboration.  The way she and I see it, teaching J to behave properly and act responsibly is a sign of respect from us to him, and it inspires reciprocity from him.

We factored in the glovelessness, mind you.  We were aware that this would weigh on the way that J handled stressful situations at school yesterday.  This wasn’t a random intervention to nip in the bud a simple tantrum.  J made a decision to not carry the gloves yesterday and, yes, he might have felt insecure and a little unmoored without them, but it was his decision and he has to learn that decisions always carry with them a certain degree of commitment to expanding their scope.  “I’m not carrying my gloves to school” shouldn’t give him license to bite people’s heads off…if anything, it has added the responsibility of learning to handle difficulties knowing that he doesn’t have that back-up.

Dada and I were perfectly aware that, because of the difficulties faced yesterday in the cafeteria, J might take his boxing gloves to school today.  Considering that it was J’s decision to not take them yesterday, taking the gloves today would not have been a step backwards.  If anything, it would have been a logical conclusion to an attempt that, in J’s mind, had failed to render the results he’d hoped for, and we were perfectly fine with whatever choice he made…

J, we believe, has developed greater confidence in himself and will continue to do so if we all support him in a consistent and respectful manner.  J also seems convinced of this…

He didn’t take his gloves today either.


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