Remind me again of who wins when the stricture of structure is in play????

I went to the neighbor’s house to drop off some saltine crackers and Super Nanny was on TV.  “Lazy parents!  You are parenting in a lazy way!  You’re letting the kids run wild because you don’t want to do the work!!!,” or something along those lines.  If the 52″ TV that was flashing this at me had been mine, I would have thrown the saltines at JoJo while screaming “I’m doing the best I can and don’t YOU call ME lazy!!!”  I think I handled myself with a great deal more of decorum than I felt inclined to exercise, but we did have the thinnest schnitzel I have made in a long time…boy, did I pound those turkey filets with that meat tenderizer!!!

I am exhausted.  Not only am I exhausted, but after spending a very productive, calm, relaxed and cooperative day, J decided (like clockwork, mind you) to throw another tantrum in the middle of dinner.  What was the buzz word?  COOKIE!  And back to the rigmarole: COOKIE, NO, COOKIE, NO, thump thump thump, GO TO YOUR ROOM, stomp stomp stomp…and my dinner was cold and my anger was hot by the time it all blew over and peace was restored.  No COOKIE, but it took all I had to not go through the roof.  (Yep, being the grown-up sucks!)

This morning I crawled out of bed at 5:15 and spent a while packing the snack box.  I also set aside one Rice Krispies Treat so that it is what I now refer to as “the wild card snack.”  If J eats his whole dinner and doesn’t throw a tantrum, I will factor in the rest of the day before considering giving him this snack.  I will not give him this snack if he so much as grunts at me, but it will be there if he earns it…  I am working on SNACK TOKENS.  Yes, yet another wild goose chase from yours truly…

According to J’s teacher, he is not giving them any trouble at school.  Of course, he is reserving it for me…how lucky am I? This is how lucky I am: J knows that, regardless of his mood or his intentions, I will be there.  If he wants to scream, kick, giggle, bonk his head, to be hugged…there I am…  The problem is not so much that J knows this, but that Dada and TGG know this, too.

Herein lies the problem: I can’t be the only one.  One of J’s greatest problems is that, in spite of how gregarious and open-minded he is, isolation is intrinsic to his situation.  That his isolation is mostly resolved by engaging in activities with mom is not easy for a teenage boy.  The same people who point out to me that being a guy and hanging out with mom is mortifying are the same people who don’t understand why hanging out with THEM would be awesome for J.  “But dudes don’t really hang out like that!,” TGG informed me, quite earnestly.  J is not just a “dude,” I said…he’s a very special kind of human being.  He doesn’t adhere (and this is not news to anyone) to the same rules of “dudedom” that other guys adhere to…he doesn’t even adhere to the same social rules the rest of the world follows!!!

I explained all this, still het up from my kerfuffle with J, to Dada and TGG who -because they heard the loud voices, the stomping and the arguing- decided it was the best moment to give the kitchen a thorough cleaning.  I made them stop.  I made them stop and look at me.  I wanted them to actually pay attention.

It’s not pleasant when J feels like a tantrum is the “way to go.”  I can tell that this has been a conscious decision on his part when a smile suddenly spreads over his face as we sit staring at each other, my attention definitely and unequivocally focused on him.  At that moment, I know what he’s doing and why…I can’t condone it, but I understand where he’s coming from.  This, however, has to stop, and I can’t be the only person in the house who stops it.  This has to be a concerted effort.

“But I don’t know what to do with him!!!”  Oh, pish posh…

The problem, I explained, is that we all worry too much about how much fun the activity is and not about how much J appreciates the interaction.  “I had him sweeping the garage and cleaning the litter boxes, for crying out loud!!!!  And he was HAPPY!!!!  He was dancing and singing!!!!  He was hanging out with another human being…didn’t have to talk to me, didn’t have to look at me…I was there and he was busy…BINGO!”  My husband and son look at me like I have sprouted a horn in the middle of my nose when I say things like this…

The truth is that in a family with Autism nesting in the middle of it there will always be one person who bears the brunt of it all in greater proportion than the others.  As a general rule, the person with Autism will feel like one person is more in tune with them than all the others.  No, it’s not that this person loves or understands them better, it’s just that there’s a stronger sense of “ah, there you are!  I was waiting for you…” involved.  Mind you, the “ah, there you are!  I was waiting for you…” might come with a screaming fit attached, but this doesn’t invalidate the connection I’m talking about.  TGG can make J engage in physical activity with more energy than anyone else; Dada can get J to leap with joy towards the car…I am the go-to person for everything else…  I don’t resent this role, but I understand how it can become too much for J (because I’m his mom and he’s a teenage dude, and that’s mortifying) and for myself (because there’s only one of me, after all…)

I am exhausted.  Emotionally exhausted.

Things, however, will get better…that’s why we’re here…



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