What better way to spend Mother’s Day than doing something for your children? I don’t just mean cooking (which, by the way, I’ve been on a roll lately and getting rave reviews,) but also clipping toe nails and trying to persuade J’s ears to expel the ball of wax he seems to carry around with him. Persuade, cajole…whatever. Either way it was unsuccessful.
Many years ago, J had a teacher who -as a solution to J’s hypersensitive hearing- suggested earplugs. They were bright neon colored plugs, malleable and easy to put in and out without causing anyone any grief. Until the day they did.
Being the saps that we are, we never got a clear explanation of HOW the earplugs ended up all the way in J’s ear canal. There was panicky call saying that J was very upset and fussy, and that he needed to be taken to the doctor because he seemed to have something in his ear. Wilma Rudolph would’ve looked like she was casually jogging compared to what I must’ve looked like dashing out of our apartment and burning the sidewalk all the way to the school (a couple of blocks away.) When I got there, breathless and with my heart pounding in my ears, I was too engrossed in helping J (who wasn’t as fussy or upset as they said, but certainly seemed uncomfortable and anxious) with his ears. A peek at the neon orange substance that seemed to be blocking his ear canal was all I needed to grab the kid, dash out the door and head home to call an ENT. A chorus of “it wasn’t me,” “we break the earplugs in half, see,” “it’s never happened before,” “will you take him to the doctor?” was quickly dismissed as I herded the poor child home.
J was about six or seven years old at the time, and he was not only skinny and short, but you wouldn’t have thought he had it in him to gather enough strength to push a full-grown ENT, a medical assistant and his mother across the room when they removed those earplugs at the doctor’s office. Oh, yeah…it was in BOTH ears. They took ONE earplug, broke it in half and managed to wedge it into each ear canal to the point that an ENT had to use long, curved tweezers to remove them. And J bled. And threw us across the room. And never has forgiven me for putting him through that…and I don’t blame him.
Ever since then, the child who used to only cover his ears when noise was overwhelming to him, now covers his ears whenever he sees ANYTHING near them. This could be a hand, a hairbrush, an otoscope, headphones, ear drops. He has learned, through patience and self-control, to allow the nurses and doctors to view the magnificent wax stalactites and stalagmites that occupy his ear canals. We regularly hear “you really should have his ears cleaned. Do you think he’ll let us?,” and we look at each other, smile and say “oh, do go ahead and try. Have at it! We’ll be right here!”
Shrieks, blood-curling screams, quick movements that not even a ninja could manage without someone detecting them, and the fastest shoulder-to-ear reaction ever witnessed by man quickly ensue. The word “relax” used in the context of ear inspection, ear cleaning, ear anything has the absolute opposite effect. Never has a neck been more tense; a mighty oak would seem fragile compared to the column that holds J’s head up…you try to get him to relax his neck and what you get is a whole body, as straight and unbending as a steel rod, leaning to the side while issuing anxious WAH-WAAAHS.
I looked in his ears yesterday. It took some persuading. I showed him that the little flashlight was innocuous and that I was holding nothing else in my hands. After fifteen minutes of proving my honorable intentions, I was allowed to visit the Great Caves of Waxdonia… Another hour of high-stakes negotiation allowed me to put no more than three drops in each ear, and to gently place a cotton ball to prevent them from seeping out. This was all done while J continued his incessant and soft WAH-WAAAHs throughout. The box with the drops indicated that “several minutes” were needed for the liquid to take effect and loosen the wax.
J scared the liquid out of his ears. No matter how long we let his ears soak, the most we got out of the Great Caves of Waxdonia was insufficient to produce the desired effect. J, however, was happy that it was over. And since he had, with gritted teeth and a heavy heart, allowed me to have my way on Mother’s Day, he was satisfied that we were DONE with the ears. Fingers on ears, he used his elbow to motion towards the nail clippers and lifted his feet, landing them on my lap. He knows he gets a foot rub out of this particular part of his ablutions. He had his bath, got his shave, used his after-shave balm, looked at himself lovingly in the mirror and was happy. This was at around 3 P.M.
I spent the rest of the evening trying to see if anything was seeping out of his ears. I wasn’t allowed to come close. If I was going to approach J, I had to do it face-to-face, not from the side. Every kiss on the cheek was accompanied by a hand strategically placed to block my view. I tried giving him unrestricted access to my ears. He wasn’t buying it, and I don’t blame him; the trauma of being intervened with when one doesn’t want to be is even more overwhelming for a person with Autism. In hindsight, I should’ve made heads roll when the initial incident took place, but…how would that have helped???
This morning, as he was getting ready for school, J turned his head from side to side to show me his ears. He let me take a cotton ball to wipe the outside of them. That’s as good as it gets…
The Great Caves of Waxdonia are safe from human hands for now…but -eventually- something WILL have to be done. I’m just glad it won’t be me. I couldn’t sleep at night if I thought I had to face the mighty J to go spelunking there. It’s just too overwhelming for him.
On second thought, I would STILL like to make heads roll…even if it doesn’t help!