A lot is said about bringing “sexy” back, but maybe that’s not the problem…

I think I’ve seen just about every female celebrity twerking, or flashing her toned ass online.  I’ve seen, regrettably, Heidi Klum boasting about her love for nudity.  I have seen Emily Ratawhatever in every degree of nakedness known to mankind.  I’ve run into Kim Kardashian’s sizable rump, Khloe Kardashian’s nipples peering through a sheer blouse, and Kourtney Kardashian embracing her son with her nearly naked derriere pointing towards the camera.  Mothers cannot seem to embrace their toddlers without showing their cleavage (even breastfeeding has been elevated to “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman…” in a way that, quite frankly, I don’t get.  I breastfed for FOUR YEARS, and no one ever really noticed when I did it in a public place…because no one likes being stared at while they eat.  That was my logic anyway.  I don’t think it deflated my powers as a breastfeeding woman to be discrete, but what do I -a currently middle-aged prude- know about that, right?) There is also the long list of young girls with pierced nipples, pouting lips, toned tummies.  It’s all empowering, supposedly.  It’s everywhere.  The little girl from Modern Family posed on the beach with her bikini bottom so low-slung that it looked like we’d be able to confirm how well she waxes her nether regions.  No one seems to own a bathing suit that covers anything more than the crack of their butt.  I suppose that fixes the issue with sand in your pants, but it really is getting tiresome seeing women of all ages trying to prove that their bodies are worth a view.

If that is sexy, we have more of it than we really need.  I say let’s call a moratorium on it, and let’s bring something else back…being actually nice to each other.

I am about to say some really trite things, and I hope you will bear with me…  I don’t want you to think that I’ve become some sort of spineless creature, but I am really sick and tired of the meanness that I see (yes, see…and hear) everywhere.

I don’t really know where it started.  We can go back to shock comedians who spoke their mind; we can take it to Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Don Rickles…and we can say “that’s where it stared.”  The thing is this: those guys were smart, and they were direct, but they were not mean.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, but none of them (or their humor) inspired me to be crass and inconsiderate.  Blunt?  Maybe.  Mean?  No, not really.

Why am I saying this?  Yesterday was rough.  Many websites (supposed “news” websites) kept flashing pictures and videos of Kathy Griffin’s and Tyler Shields’ stunt with a supposed Donald Trump “severed head.”  It was unpleasant.  It was unnecessary.  It was shocking and, quite honestly, it made me feel bad.

Furthermore, I had to actually turn off the computer because if I tried to check the news, there it was, and I didn’t want J to see it.  I didn’t want to see it either, but between the stunt, the apology, and the backlash it was (until I said “no more”) hard to escape.

We see, more often than we should, videos of people beating each other up, attacking each other, bullying each other, throwing public tantrums.  Then we witness the comments: people insult each other with either “libtard” or “Trumpster”, and that’s just the kinder sliver of invective.  It gets worse.  The anonymity of the internet allows for all sorts of shameless abuse that feels liberating to those issuing it.

There was a time when our society was angry and proactive.  There was a purpose to the anger.  Now we’re just angry, and we take it out on each other.  We feel outraged by anyone who doesn’t agree with us, and the response is usually potent, concentrated, vicious.  The same reckless abandon that is displayed in exposing bodies left and right and calling it “empowerment” is applied to expressing opinions with no filter or consideration and calling “freedom of speech.”

I am all for both, but I am also for taking a step back and asking “is this the way to do it?”

Dada’s job search has taught us a lot about the way the world is now as opposed to the way it was six years ago.  Yes, a lot has changed.  We didn’t realize how much, but it has.  There are job boards all over the internet, and it is “easy” to apply for jobs there.  You basically upload your resume and then you re-enter all the information into the forms that each employer uses.  Your information then disappears into some sort of limbo where, if you don’t strictly represent very specific parameters, it will never be looked at by another human pair of eyes.

I don’t say this out of bitterness.  Dada has had a fairly good response from people (actual humans) who reviewed his qualifications.  But all the electronic layers of filters and sieves will overlook the human behind the verbiage.  And this is, sadly, everywhere…

Have you noticed that more stores have self-checkouts now?  You don’t have to interact with a cashier if you don’t want to.  Have you seen how many flavors of pre-packaged chips there are?  We counted six or seven when we were growing up, and now the chip aisle is as long as our kitchen, and multilayered. You can also have your own Keurig or Nespresso machine at home so you can have your latte, but never encounter a barista ever again.  Never mind that it doesn’t taste the same, or that actual coffee bean bags are being replaced by those little cups at the store…you can have that at home, and not interact with humans.

I am not a fan of people.  That is: I am introverted and have trouble behaving in a way that isn’t awkward when in social situations, but I still have manners, and I hope others will have manners, too.  My idea of social interaction is not the one that I see out there: you either agree or disagree, and react accordingly, or you “present” like a baboon in heat and expect people to hit “like.”

It seems we have forgotten that we are, essentially, dealing with other people, human beings like us, and that they have fears, concerns, frailties, senses of humor, feelings just like we do.  We seem to have forgotten that we used to live outside of shock value, outside of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  We used to all populate an actual plane of reality where our feet touched ground and we had to look each other in the eyes after saying or doing the mean thing.

Can we please bring that back?  Can we stop worrying about freeing the nipple, and start worrying about whether we just scared a kid who is not as sophisticated as we think all kids are?  (Barron Trump, it has been reported, was scared by the image of what appeared to be his father’s severed head.  People doubt this.  People assume being eleven is tantamount to being a world-weary fan of Tarantino who has seen it all and feels nothing.  This, I think, needs to stop…eleven year-olds should be allowed to be as naive as eleven year-olds are.  Otherwise, let’s just start handing condoms, Hustler, Jim Beam and unfiltered Camels to all nine year-olds so they are ready when “being eleven” rolls around.)

So that’s today’s rant.  I apologize if you disagree, but that’s the way I’m feeling today…after skulking back online trying to dodge video of the latest “graphic video” that has replaced the last “graphic photoshoot” that made me cringe.

No,  I know I don’t “HAVE” to look, but…does that mean that you have to hide if you want to live in a kinder world?

 

 

…and when you hit rock-bottom there’s more under that…

Ah, anemia.  No, sorry…Anemia.  It needs to be capitalized.  It is, sad to say, taking over everything.  I cannot even walk around the store without looking like I’ve barely survived Lawrence of Arabia’s desert march to Aqaba…

It seems that there’s a normal level for ladies of my age.  It seems I’m not only nowhere near that level, but I’ve drastically fallen short of any reasonable expectations.  I’ve even fallen short of unreasonable ones.  I am, in a nutshell, so anemic it hurts…

Here I go again with Lawrence of Arabia:  “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”  I mind.  I can tell that it’s causing grief to Dada and J, and I mind terribly.

I am in earnest about feeling better.  Going to the doctor twice in one month isn’t my idea of fun, but the second go-round helped greatly.  It didn’t help the anemia per se, but it helped with helping.  Does that make sense?

So unlike Nigel Tufnel, I don’t go eleven across the board…nowhere near, but I’m working on it.

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Spinal_Tap_-_Up_to_Eleven

J has been concerned.  Seeing me walk up the steps (18 of them from basement to kitchen level) and realizing I am out of breath and ready to collapse isn’t something he could easily ignore.  I am also pale, and the bags under my eyes have taken on a really dark hue.

J is helping a lot, people.  He offers me his arm when we go for walks (which, granted, hasn’t been happening as often,) and he sits with me when I need to sit down.  When I show signs of being a little more energetic than I have been of late, J gets very affectionate, wants to cuddle, and requests fish kisses.  He is being very patient with his falling-apart mother.

Whenever someone tells me that a person in the Spectrum (as firmly planted on the severe end as J is) feels no empathy, I call bullshit.  This kid has been worried, and empathetic, and helpful.  This kid cares.  This kid, when he saw me improve thanks to the doctor’s intervention, looked RELIEVED.  So one bad thing opens the door to many realizations…J is very present in his own way.  And I am grateful that he is, and so is Dada.

In the meantime, I am trying to be patient with myself.  I don’t know how I got this bad, but there you have it.  I am working on it, though.  I won’t go so far as to eat liver (blech…double blech…super double blech…ultra blech), but I’m working on getting better.

And that’s all there is for now…

 

Wild thing, you make my heart sting…

Our oldest son, always known here as TGG, got married on Friday.  Because of a disagreement we had over the weekend, we only got notice of his intention to do so via text.  Confirmation came over iMessage on Friday night…from someone who saw it on Facebook.

I gave Facebook up months ago, and actually went back on to see if there were pictures.  I’ve been blocked.  Oh, well…  I deactivated the account again.  I will not be sucked into the drama because, well, I’ve come to realize it’s really not worth it.

So we’ve spent the whole weekend wondering how we became the villains straight from central casting.  We’ve reached the conclusion that we suck so badly our entire experience raising children has been part of a delusional alternate universe we live in…

Something in the posting our son and his wife put on Facebook caught our attention.  Stay wild, stay true, stay you.  Not being up on all the youthful lingo of the hipster generation (which they claim not to belong to,) we assume that this is some sort of call to arms.  We are baffled: our son has never been wild (tattoos notwithstanding…he is possibly one of the more timid people we know,) and as for being true and “you,” well…this is the kid who used to be tremendously unique until he realized that the other kids made fun of him, and he relinquished his uniqueness so he could embrace the “generational uniqueness” that all his friends professed.

My dad used to say that what we all have in common is that we want to be unique.  More often than not it is the people who sustain the barrage of abuse from their peers who fly the flag for uniqueness.  If you sublimate, you are saying “thank you, I will blend in until such a time when I am comfortable with not sublimating.”  Our son became one more of the long line of kids who got tattoos, earrings, listened to rap or heavy metal, and acted like the world was an unjust place without ever really understanding that he was doing all this from the comfort of his middle-class existence.  He was “edgy!”  He was “rebellious!”  He was “wild.”

The results of this are two children by two different women in less than three years; a wasted semester in Nursing school; living from meager paycheck to meager paycheck, and complaining about how hard he has to work for said meager paychecks.  And, of course, the attitude that WE are the ones who have NEVER understood him.  How dare we???!!!  He just wants to be…wait for it…HAPPY!

In a nutshell, we are bad parents who don’t understand, and we bring him down.  We are lame, and that’s why we don’t understand.  I believe Busby Berkeley had a sequence in the movie set to this tune; I’m sure Cecil B. DeMille had a cast of thousands performing a scene where this was the gist of it.  Francis Ford Coppola, Lasse Halstrom, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders…they’ve made movies about this, I’m sure.  The entire musical history of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and so on and so forth has documented this feeling…

Parents of young adults who think they are entitled to whatever it is we do for them: we had it coming.  We suck.  We had best sit here and accept that we failed.  As they raise their iPhones in the air, shake their fists on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to protest our lack of understanding, let’s take a moment to look deep inside and see the swamp in which our lack of parenting skills is steeped.

We wanted him to get an education.  We never demanded straight As; when he wanted to be an actor, we encouraged him.  He liked to draw…I have lost count of how many sketchbooks, pencils, materials we’ve bought over the years.  He had a guitar, a keyboard.  He was interested in them for about twelve minutes in total.  He wanted to learn swimming, be a Cub Scout, play soccer…we acquiesced.

He wanted an earring.  He wanted tattoos.  He liked to dress like James Bond.  He wanted girlfriends.  He wanted to not be subdued by parental demands for academic excellence; he almost didn’t graduate high school because of his grade in Baking.

His first car, granted, was a Saturn, but then he had other cars.  Against our better judgment we allowed the Playstation, the Xbox, the GameBoy, and the countless hours that were necessary to become well-versed in all sorts of games.  When he wanted to get a job, we signed the paperwork so he could work.  When he graduated from high school (I think his Baking teacher simply didn’t want to deal with him over the summer,) he traveled to NYC with his friends, and went to see plays on Broadway.  When he was sixteen we bought him a suit, shirts, ties, shoes at Men’s Wearhouse.  They weren’t cheap.  He also had a video camera; he was going to be…wait for it…a filmmaker.

When he knocked up the first girl we were supportive.  Disappointed at his lack of precaution, but supportive.  We made an overture, and his child would come visit.  Then he hooked up with another girl, and away went every illusion that school was a priority.  And then came the second kid.  And now he’s married.

In the interim we’ve bought tires for the car, a bumper, paid handsomely for chores that I could have done myself for free, filled his freezer, and so on and so forth.  When I called him out for saying something callous about my mother, that was the end of it for him.  How dare I misinterpret something that he, and I SHOULD KNOW THIS, didn’t mean that way!!!!

Yeah, you know…I probably overreacted.  My mother is old and frail, and -at my relentlessly advancing age- I am struggling with the understanding that being parentless is not too far in the future.  That I will lose whatever link there is to my childhood, to understanding why my mother never quite “took to me” is not easy.

On top of that, my friends, my body’s aging is causing mild-to-moderate health issues.  And I have to, in the midst of this, prepare for the next stage in our lives, and deal with being J’s primary caregiver 24/7.  I could have been a little less angry, but non-apologies and arrogance are something I have very little patience for these days, especially when they come from someone who flatly refuses to meet us halfway.

In light of that, we have decided to embrace our status as bad parents, and we are baffled, but we are accepting.  We know there will be whispers, and gossip. The world thrives on that, and we could address them directly and call out our son in all the public forums he has made his own, but we don’t have the energy for that.  We have places to go, and things to do.  We won’t drag J into it…J doesn’t deserve that sort of shit.

“Stay wild.  Stay true.  Stay you” he posted.  We hope they are happy.  Life can be long, or short, but it will always -inevitably, mercilessly, relentlessly- be full of surprises, and wicked turns.  We have done all we can, and we will take this stinging sensation elsewhere, and there we will recover.  And we will find  a new way of being proper selves because WE have always been wild, true and very much us.  Unrecognizable to our son, who has led a life of privilege without even realizing it, but wild, true and very much us nonetheless.

When I married the absolutely inappropriate man the first time around, my parents were present.  They were not thrilled, but they were there.  They looked mildly horrified and resigned, but they were there.  So were our friends and family.  I made my declaration of independence, my grabbing-life-by-the-balls very public.  Every choice was bold and misguided, but I was proud of the fact that I was fucking up in my own terms.  When Dada chose to marry me, he did so boldly, proudly, even in the face of people thinking “what is he doing?  He’s marrying a woman with a child who has Autism???  What a moron!!!”  We had witnesses; we were thrilled at the community spirit of our declaration of boldly going into the great unknown together.

We managed, somehow, to raise someone who declares his independence through Facebook and text message.  Ah…this generation.  Selfies, but no self-assuredness.  Go figure!  “I take thee, and we become we…we must change our Facebook relationship status.  Take THAT, bourgeois parents!!!!  We are wild, free, true…”  Whatever…  Sigh….

Wild middle-aged parents of the world, UNITE!  We did our best.  It’s time to move on.  🙂

Oh, a little better and a little worse…

In a week we have gone from senseless SIB to a more moderate approach.  We actually had one full SIB-less day.  It was short, but it was also truly lovely.

This is all, we suppose, anxiety over some unnamed event, incident, feeling, concern, fear, perception that J cannot express clearly.  That’s what the amount of band-aids J has been using tells us.  He made over 20 packets (half of them the green with the seven strips, two of which go to his forehead, and half of them the red that only has five for thumb and fingers…) and he’s down to about three.  This is since Sunday…that is a lot of bandaids.  On Monday I ordered a ridiculous amount of bandages from an online medical supply outlet, and they were delivered yesterday.  The logic behind this (aside from making people wonder what the heck goes on in our household) is that if we have more than we need, we will need less.  The same logic that applies when one keeps the ER-ready bag with extra blankets, clothes, etc….if you’re packed, you won’t go.  If you don’t pack, the kid will be so sick that you will have to reupholster your car.  J opened the box of boxes of bandages and his reaction was similar to the happiest child on Christmas morning.  Go figure!

In the middle of all this head-hitting I’ve noticed that J shakes his head as if to stimulate himself.  It’s not a strong shake, nor is it consistently there…it just, once in a while, happens when he’s done hitting himself.  I was telling Dada that, as a child, I used to do that if I felt a bit of a headache.  I wanted to see if it REALLY hurt.  (Hey, no judging…I was a weird child, and this has been firmly established over the time I’ve been writing this blog!)  It’s almost as if he wants to make sure he has hit himself hard enough.  He doesn’t say it hurts, but when I’ve offered him liquid acetaminophen, he’s accepted the dose.

It could be, maybe, that his wisdom teeth are coming in.  It could be that he is just overindulging in the self-stimulation that is all too common in people with ASD.  It could be that he is upset.  We just can’t seem to figure out EXACTLY what the root of this is.

Right now, as I type this, I can hear him giggling as he listens to music and looks at the cute little spider that is frozen on his TV screen.  Last night we finally got his helper to stay with him for a while.  We had hoped to do this on Saturday, but he was too over-stimulated for us to feel comfortable leaving her alone with him.  Instead we stayed home and focused on him, and he slowly leveled off nicely.  Yesterday he was happy to see her, eager to see us leave, and was deemed only “slightly obstinate” in a text message response to my query about how he was doing.  He was happy to see us come home, and there were no demands for extra pay, and she didn’t run to her car as if in fear of being followed.  Of course, she might have been playing cool.

So…definite semi-progress.  We are trying our best.  And we have acquired what we refer to as Def-Con J boards from the lovely people at Amazon.com.  Of course, these are really Autism Supplies And Developments PECS Feelings Boards, but it’s more apropos of the absurdity that is our day-to-day life if we alter them to have mustaches, goatees, and full (ok…somewhat sparse) heads of hair to help him recognize himself, and we call them Def-Con J boards.  What can be more effective, when out on errands, to get a text from the helper saying DF5?  You will leave your cart in the middle of the store and run out while yelling beat to quarters, and you might be black-listed at that particular store, but you will know what to expect as you pull up to your driveway.

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Now, of course, I’m working on getting J to understand that he doesn’t ALWAYS have to be HAPPY.  SAD, FRUSTRATED, MAD are totally acceptable feelings if they are expressed and we are allowed to help him work through them.  I know, I know…too abstract a concept?  Maybe?  Well…it has to be taught.  J shouldn’t feel pressured to ALWAYS be happy.  J should know that we love him no matter what, and we want to help him through whatever is bothering him, and being upset is totally fine.

There you go…

Thursday…

We plod on…

with the occasional bounce inserted for good measure…

The patience of J…

I have to say, my friends, that we are impressed with our son.  He has, somehow, managed to learn how to patiently wait while one or another of his parents runs endless errands.  Yesterday it was my grand tour of doctors’ offices, and J spent the morning with Dada, running errands and getting a treat by having a sit-down breakfast at a diner, and going to the library.  The rest of the morning was rather dull; it included going to pay taxes, and stopping by Dada’s office.  It was almost noon when we arrived at my last appointment.  J waited patiently, and Dada dozed off next to him.

The morning, after a brief eruption involving J’s confusion about when his sitters will be coming over to cook dinner for him, went smoothly.  We understand that J wants to hang out with people closer to him in age, but insisting on seeing them Tuesday when they can come on Wednesday isn’t going to make things easier for anyone.  So we had a brief, and intense, back and forth about this, but we managed to make it through unscathed.  (And my blood pressure was actually quite nice when measured at the first doctor’s office, and positively picture-worthy at the second.)

The rest of the day went by quietly.  Dada returned to work, J relaxed in his TV room, and I fell asleep on the couch until J gently nudged me because his ESP (or his hypersensitive hearing) told him the timer for his afternoon snack had arrived.  The only out-of-the-ordinary activity was his desire to get his band-aids on, but I know that was because a) he’d been upset about the sitters being scheduled for the next night, and b) it had been a long morning.

Today he is happy.  He was up very early yesterday (because he knew we were going to the doctors,) but today he was up a little later and happily went back to bed when I said “we’re just going to have coffee so Dada can go to work.”  Big smile, thumbs up, lights out…  He didn’t emerge until nearly eight.

Of course, after having enough blood drawn to alarm the biggest chicken shit that ever lived (namely me!,) the doctor ran all sorts of tests from every angle possible.  The conclusion?  Ah, my friends…it’s fibromyalgia.  Thank goodness it’s not SLE, or MS, or MG, or RA, or ALS…not that the pain I’m often in isn’t an absolute mess for me, but I can deal with this.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a “pill” person.  It’s not that I don’t love medical science.  Au contraire, my friends…I trust doctors.  Some doctors, of course, are better than others, and they actually take the time to listen to what is going on, and why you’re concerned.  Other doctors are a little less invested, and it’s harder to communicate with them.  I got lucky this time around, and they are being very exhaustive about everything they’re checking.

For starters, the iron level in my blood is quite alarming.  Or it WAS before I started taking iron supplements twice a day.  When I say “alarming” I mean “the specialist called the clinic so my PCP would see me immediately!”  They’re poking me everywhere.  No stone is being left unturned…no part of my body is being ignored.  The anemia was bad enough that they have to rule out internal bleeding so they’re doing every test imaginable to determine if that’s a problem.  By mid-October we will know if there are any major issues that should be surgically addressed.

In the meantime, we keep going.  I take the iron.  I eat well.  I exercise, and I go about my business.  I’ve been told, quite kindly by a doctor closer to me in age, that I need to be nicer to myself.  I could tell she wasn’t scolding me.  I could tell she knows.  She knows about J.  She told me that fibromyalgia is not uncommon among primary caregivers for elderly parents, sick spouses, disabled children.  She told me that we often put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, and our bodies seem to hyper-react to this.  There are pills, she said, but you don’t look like a pill person, and I think you want to work on making it better through other means.

She’s right.  This thing (that, thankfully, now has a name) will stick around for a very long time, and I have to learn how to deal with it as best suits our situation rather than try to hide it behind a pill.  Maybe, somewhere down the line, that will change, but for now this is the way it goes.

I will get my exercise when J gets his exercise, and I will take my breaks while J relaxes.  I will stop doing EVERYTHING as quickly as I can, and I will focus on doing what I can when it’s reasonable.  I will take walks, read, do the chores, work with J on the things that J needs to work on, and let J do what he wants to do independently.  Dada and I want to get old.  We are no longer young, but we are not “old” yet…and we want to make sure we transition into being elderly in the best way possible.

Oh, it’s not going to be easy.  I don’t think I’m wired for concerted idleness.  I grew up among women who would sit quietly doing other chores as one of them read the paper out loud.  The household of my childhood was a household of productivity that, to the hustle and bustle of the outside world, looked slow and dull.  I don’t have to move a mountain a day, but I am used to constant activity that yields significant results without creating a whirlwind of noise and chaos.

I will try to be better.  I have promised myself this.  I want to feel better.  I really do.

So…here we go.  Let’s be nicer to ourselves.  We DO do a lot.  And J, who has learned patience, can maybe help me learn that I have to be patient with myself when I cannot do all I would like to…

I wouldn’t say “like clockwork…”

Once in a while (actually, once a week,) J gets anxious and has a “moment.”  It doesn’t last very long, but it is exhausting.  The PECS board is involved, and there is a rather dramatic insistence on scheduling things until he is satisfied that I (we) have paid attention to what he wants when he wants it.

J times this perfectly.  The moment that I am busy, rushing about, hands full of things, attention focused on something that requires me 100%, THAT is when J will want to go over the board in minute detail.

There is a lot of deep breathing involved.  There is a lot of me reminding myself that this, too, shall pass.  There is a lot of holding a PECS card up to my face, tapping it repeatedly and quickly with one finger, and expecting me to stay calm.  I do my best.  I don’t deny that there are times when I bark and say “yes, yes” because I have either something on the stove, or am slicing something, or am trying to get to the bathroom.

If J doesn’t get the EXACT quality of attention that he requires (because he has his standards and they are on a sliding scale that is unavailable for perusal from the rest of us,) he gets angry.  That’s when the chin-flicking comes in.  Once in a while there is light stomping.  Today we had soft fists hitting the chin on both sides.

My strategy was to say “yes, J…we will go to -insert place here- on -insert whatever day he was pointing at-.”  I said it many times.  J was either unconvinced, or the number of times he had to ask, point, demand attention was higher than on other days.  I said yes, yes, my dear…as you wish.  (Oh, Westley…it didn’t work for you, but eventually Buttercup did figure it out, didn’t she?)  I didn’t really have a problem with this insistence because a) I’m used to it, b) it’s pointless to have a problem with it, and c) I knew it would pass…eventually.

After ten minutes of chin-flicking and chin-hitting I decided to say, rather firmly, “ok, well…I understand that you are pissed off and want things your way, but I don’t think this is productive.”  I went to the balcony, and closed the screen door.  J decided that he should take this opportunity to become even more vocal about what he wanted.  I came back inside and he came up to me, quite close, and repeated the tapping of the PECS card, the chin-flicking, and the chin-hitting.

I don’t tell J he’s being bad.  Even when he’s being a brat, I try to say he’s being rude rather than bad.  Rude is an attitude; bad is character flaw.  So I said “J, you are being rude.  I understand that you want something, but we cannot get on with your breakfast and everything else until you stop this.”  He was shocked that I would take that tack so he got closer, flicked harder and tapped more insistently.

I grabbed the keys, took the security bar with me, and stepped out on the porch.  I grabbed the keys in case J decided to lock the door.  Ditto for the security bar.  I could see him because the door has a window, and I know he could see me.  I locked the door, and stood there looking at the tomato plants on the driveway.

I was more irritated than angry.  I know my son has difficulties communicating how he’s feeling, and I know he can get tremendously anxious, but (as I said to him while he was stomping around the kitchen protesting against life and its hiccups) we are stuck together and all the chin-flicking and PECS-tapping doesn’t help.  “I will help you, but you have to listen when I say whatever it is I’m saying.”  On the way down the hallway towards the door I said “I will come in when you’re ready to listen.”

J’s silhouette filled the window.  He was still standing in the kitchen, his snack portions ready to put in the box, the packages ready to go back to the pantry.  I gazed at the tomatoes and took a deep breath.  I counted to 100.  While I did this, I could hear J walking back and forth between kitchen and garage as he put away the snacks, and then stored the box on top of the fridge.  When I got to 100 I opened the door, replaced the security bar, and hung my keys.  J was standing in the kitchen with his binder, and he was obviously done being upset.

I asked him what he wanted for breakfast, and he showed me the breakfast burritos.  I told him to get the things ready, and stood back in case he needed help.  With very little intervention on my part, he made and ate his breakfast.  He kept looking at me between bites, and I smiled at him in a conciliatory manner.

After that we tidied up the kitchen, made beds, gathered laundry and headed to the basement to do whatever it is we do in the mornings.  Every time I stepped into the TV room, or he came out to the sitting room, he told me he loves me.

At 10:30 we did a few more chores, and then I asked him if he wanted to exercise.  He chose The Sound of Music for his workout movie, and climbed on the elliptical machine.  By the time intermission rolled around, I told him it was lunchtime, and he was happy and ready to eat.  We made lunch, and then he asked for his bath.  After his bath he wanted a shave, and after that he wanted his band-aids and wrist brace.

It is an anxious day.  I know that.  He has been “off,” but he has worked his way through it.  We didn’t start very well, but we figured it out.  Maybe it’s the weather.  Maybe it’s just the excessive togetherness of two adults in the house together all the time.  Maybe he’s just needing the reassurance that he has a say on what he wants to do, and when.

I understand what little I can figure out about all this.  I make sure that I am as fair as I can be, and that -because he was worried about me not being around the day of my surgery- I stay where he can see me if I have to “step outside.”  It is the same dynamic, but it has changed.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s the way it seems.  New and improved?  Same formula and new packaging?  I don’t know how this would be marketed…

All I know is we’re trying to make it work.  It’s not quite running like clockwork, but if you’ve ever looked at a clock’s mechanism (not a digital one, of course) you know it’s quite complex and beautiful.  It takes years to become a master clockmaker.  It takes effort, and attention to detail.  It takes patience and skill.  It takes vision and an understanding of the way pieces work together.

We’re working on it….

 

 

The not-so-lost art of negotiation…

Today we had a few errands to run.  Well, technically, we had three errands at two different places, but this still required negotiating with J.  If you have been reading about J for a while, you know we’ve come a long way in this area.  We’ve progressed from adamance to hesitation to outright quid pro quo to two-way-street meet-in-the-middle negotiation.  It is very comforting to not be dealing with someone who will cling to a doorframe with nails and teeth.

Of course, this has not been an easy thing to achieve.  J does know when he wants to be open to something, and when he is simply and irrevocably against it.  There was a time when I felt that winning the argument was necessary, but now I’m more concerned on trying to learn how to get to where we want to be.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that I am willing to cave in, but it also doesn’t mean that I won’t.

Every single day we negotiate something.  Some things are minor (no, you’re not having your pepperoni and cheese snack today; you can have it tomorrow,) and some things are major (no, I am NOT going to walk around without my glasses just because you don’t want me to see what you did in the laundry room!)  We negotiate anyway.  We negotiate whether we’re going to check the mail at 11:00, or if we want to wait until 4.  We negotiate whether we’re running with the Wii, or using the elliptical.  We negotiate whether we are going to take a bath at 3:30, or if we’re doing it before bedtime.  Timers are negotiated.  Snacks are negotiated.  Bedtimes are negotiated.  We have figured out that if J wants something he will be willing to find a way to let us know, and we will find a way to get him to wait for it.

For the most part it works.  J has attempted to throw a tantrum, but the close proximity in which we function these days has taught him that I know we can’t just succumb to hyperbolic behavior.  Last Thursday J was spectacularly angry, threw a significant tantrum, and then apologized and did his Wii run while arm-in-arm with me.  All because I said “I will accept that you’re pissed off, but I will not accept that you’re being an asshole about it.”  The whole incident lasted ten minutes; the apology was heartfelt and extended for an hour.  We were friends for the rest of the weekend.

Yesterday evening, after J made it clear that it was entirely too hot to leave the house all day, I explained that I had a doctor’s appointment today, and that he and Dada would be going to the DMV to get his ID done.   He looked anxious, but he trusted that I was telling him the truth.  We had to repeat ourselves twenty times over before bedtime, and twenty times over on the ride between here and the hospital (2.5 miles away,) but J accepted the scheduled activities.  I went into my appointment and, for the very first time, sent J off to do something long, boring, and public with just Dada.

You know how DMVs are on a Monday morning.  The line was long, Dada said.  The wait was boring, Dada said.  J was only upset when they took his old ID away from him, but the clerk allowed him to keep it after invalidating it.  An hour later (yes, I know…a minor miracle) they were on their way to meet me, and we headed out to J’s destination of choice: Target.

This is what I have learned about my son over the past two months: he is good company, but he likes his space and time to be under his control.  He is kind and charming.  He is funny and helpful.  He likes being around me, but he also likes being by himself.  The biggest lesson, however, has been that I’m perfectly OK with that.

We have good days.  We have days that, in hindsight, could have been better.  We have days that are definite scrap-pile material.  We try.  Today we succeeded.  In small increments, but we succeeded.  There’s not much else we can aspire to on a day-to-day basis.

We’re fine with that.