I have a lo-vely bunch of band-aids

For the past two months we have been contributing amply to Johnson & Johnson’s bottom line.  J will buy bandages from generic brands, but his first choice will always be Johnson & Johnson.  I’m telling you this because it is a far better indicator of Johnson & Johnson’s steady performance than any broker could give you.

You’re welcome.

If I told you that J wears a total of 12 unnecessary bandages, you’d think it’s excessive.  It is.  Trust me: one bandage is one too many.  They are covering nothing but totally healthy flesh.  Well…no.  Right now they are actually covering flesh that is traumatized by the light of the sun.  Nicole Kidman and her on-screen kids in The Others had a better relationship with sunlight than J’s hand does.

The timers have been trotted out to make sure that he takes the bandages and thumb immobilizer off for increasingly longer periods of time.  Insistence on his part only makes me more determined to make him wait.  We have had a couple of face-offs about this, but I have managed to prevail.  At school he doesn’t bother with bandages at all…he gets there and is so busy that he doesn’t give it a second thought.  I have seriously considered some sort of Sisyphus-like tasks to keep him from pointing at his hand and repeating “band aid” until my head starts spinning and I give in to his demand.

Yes, yes, I know.  I should be able to easily resist, but…autism…repetition…obsessive-compulsiveness?????  There are days when it’s easier than others.

A few nights ago we had a small disagreement regarding the band-aids, and by the time someone told me “well, I just put them on him after his bath, but I didn’t put them the way he wanted them” things had become testy.  On top of having had to stay home with a cold, J was seeking comfort from this part of his routine.  Someone (not naming any names…cough…Dada…cough) had gone off-book, and that had caused a problem.

The problem wasn’t so much that the band-aids were in the “wrong” placement.  The problem was that no explanation was offered for the change.

This is what I have learned about J over years of parenting him: if you talk to him, even if it doesn’t seem like he’s listening, he will take into account that you’re putting an effort.  You might not convince him that what you’re doing is a good thing.  You might not persuade him to do things your way, but he will factor in that you’re trying to tell him something.  Furthermore, he understands a heck of a lot more than we sometimes give him credit for, and he likes it when we explain things to him.

Dada’s reasoning had been that J’s skin was dry, and he wanted it to heal a little by letting it breathe and putting lotion on, but he didn’t explain this to J.  He unilaterally made the decision and expected J to instantly accept it.  J, who can be tremendously polite when he’s so inclined, accepted his dictum until it was bedtime, and then he tried to negotiate fresh band-aids with me.  There is absolutely nothing worse in the field of parenting than a lack of communication compounded with insufficient information.  Dada told me “no, I just put those on an hour ago,” but he didn’t tell me he hadn’t told J WHY.

J got scolded.  J got upset.  J asked again.  J was informed that there were no more bandages to be had that night.  J threw a tantrum.  Mother (not proud of this) was intransigent and said an unequivocal NO that made matters worse.  J pounded the bed with his fist.  Mother (not proud of this either) told him to stop being such an asshole, pulled of the “stocking” that keeps the bandages in place to show him how he had NOTHING to complain about…

And then Mother turned around to face Dada and asked (as calmly as was possible at nearly midnight after a miniature version of an autistic meltdown) “what did you do????”

“Me?????????  He’s the one having a meltdown!!!!”  Oh, that’s mature.  “Well, his hand has a dry spot there and I was going to let it breathe!!!!!!”  Did you tell him that?  “WHAT????”  Ahem.  Did you explain to J why you were doing what you were doing?

….

….

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I apologized to J for having overreacted without knowing why he was asking for more bandages.  I applied lotion to the offending spot, reapplied his bandages, put his “sock” back on, and gave him his thumb immobilizer (which, by the way, has about a week of life left in it…it’s falling apart.)  I then kissed him goodnight, left TGG to read Mouse Soup (a story that we all groan when it’s our turn to read and it gets picked,) and pointed Dada in the general direction of our bedroom.

I confess we were both pretty agitated by then, and the conversation about why J needs to know what we’re doing and why was a lot more animated than we would have liked. It’s not unusual (or, at least, I don’t think so) for couples raising an autistic individual to sometimes take stock of the percentage of responsibility they each shoulder at one point or another.  Dada immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was telling him HE doesn’t do enough simply because I told him “you don’t COMMUNICATE enough with J.”

Dada will tell you that 95% of our arguments as a couple are based on semantics.  Like I explained to him about J: listening is necessary.  J responds to what we say, and to how we say it, and we need to make sure that we take that into consideration.  What I mean by communication, I told Dada, is to not take for granted that he doesn’t understand us.  Dada admitted that this is sometimes hard to achieve, and I told him “why do you think I always look like I’m talking to myself???”

So we have a huge inventory of bandages, and J navigates the supply closet quite well.  Dada is now more adept at remembering to say what he’s going to do, even if J seems to be looking off in the distance at some very entertaining thought he’s turning over in his mind.

Next month we’ll go back to the psych, discuss the med, talk about the many “crutches” J is carrying around, and we’ll refocus our perspective.  If I can’t get rid of the abundance of bandages, I guess I’ll have to crochet an extra large mitten for his right hand…

C’est la vie!

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