A little up and a little down never killed anyone…

Our visit to the psych on Friday featured praise for J’s progress, suggestions regarding keeping him on the med for a whole year, and the possibility of on putting him on Metformin.  We don’t go back until July.

And then J decided to pepper our weekend with random moments of being obstreperous.  Such is life.

Dada had taken Monday and Tuesday off from work, and this caused J anxiety.  We went out of our way to clarify beyond any doubt that this was a “fun” time, and -regardless of how “un-fun” The Smurf movie was, we did our best to make sure J enjoyed those four days of Dada being home.

Well…

Menopause (or its vicinity) and Autism are not a good combo.  Sunday was Easter…Sunday was horrible.  I don’t know how Dada survived two extremely crabby human beings under one roof, but he survived.  J and I were both exhausted by the time we went to bed.

We managed in the end.  We had to reinforce the “fun” elements over and over, and remind J of the altered schedule, but we managed.

At one point during the weekend there was an epiphany, and our life is turned upside down (in a good way) because of it.  We actually, in hindsight, blame it on This Is Us.  If you haven’t watched this show, or if you do and are -like we were- savoring each episode and not bingeing (like one wants to do with the conclusion of each episode,) I won’t spoil it for you.  If you have watched the show, I’ll just blame it on William…you know what I mean.

Anyway…on Saturday morning, while we were getting dressed to take J to the inevitable Smurf movie, Dada just looked up and said he was done with his job, and -if it was ok with me- he was putting in his notice.

The only difficult part of saying “yes, a thousand times yes” was that I wasn’t fully dressed (I was trying to put on a skirt that I can never quite find the button on the waistband, and I had one foot up on the bed because I was (and this is dangerous at any age, but more so at ours) trying to put an espadrille on at the same time…

Once I regained my balance, I hopped on the bed (yet another precarious arrangement) and said a rather enthusiastic yes.  If I tell you that my husband suddenly looked a lot younger, a lot less stressed, and massive relieved you have to take my word for it…we are not “let me capture this moment for Instagram” people.

No, that didn’t really contribute to J’s anxiety…at least not completely.  I think he was more thrown off by the usual “you’re taking me to the doctor, right?  He’s only here when I’m going to the doctor…so that has to be it…come on, guys, I feel FINE!!!!  YOU!  The man with the goatee and the Subaru…go away…go to work…I don’t need to go anywhere where they will poke me, jab me, make me say AAAAH.”

This was, in part, a factor in Dada realizing just how immersed in work and work-related worries he has been.  J only associates Dada being here with going to the doctor, going shopping, or a weekend (which usually means shopping or errands.)  Dada used to be a person who took him for walks, who watched movies with him…Dada has become the person with the work ID around his neck, and being here on a weekday means “doctor.”

I know this is an extreme interpretation on J’s part.  I know Dada does more than that, but J has processed it that way, and it has had an effect.  We worked, quite assiduously, at reframing that image these past few days.  By the time J woke up yesterday, found Dada was not here, and started his regular routine, there was a different vibe.  We did our usual stuff, but Dada was missed…

On Tuesday I told Dada to take over Wednesday’s Lego…he and J sat down while I cooked dinner, and put it together. A day early (routine flies out window…film at eleven) and in a different room in the house (dining room,) but J was happy and relaxed, and he enjoyed the presence of the person he had come to identify as the family “ambulance.”

If J realized that Dada isn’t just here to hop in the car with us and take a vacation (always too brief, and always hectic,) or to take us to an appointment, or meet us at a doctor’s office, or simply to go to Target, Five Guys, Barnes and Noble, Kroger, Michael’s…Dada realized that he has spent way too much time working when he could have been here.

Mind you: the man will get a job, and he will have responsibilities and obligations, and a steady income…but…

Our plans to scale back, reframe, rethink, reassess are in full swing.  We are not disappointed by the lessons learned.  Yes, it is easy to take for granted certain things…that is clear.  Yes, work is important and necessary…but family comes first.  Always first.

We are doing our inventory, setting wheels in motion, creating a timeframe, organizing our materials, and setting this project in motion.  And it feels good.  My husband’s early morning sneezing attacks that would happen only on workdays, and which I would joke were an allergic reaction to his stressful work situation have, surprise surprise, ceased…he hasn’t sneezed once while getting ready to go to work in the morning.  Maybe they’ll start up again tomorrow…maybe…maybe they were just his way of letting out that he wasn’t happy with his job.

We face a new adventure.  We are, actually, quite thrilled and freaked out, and excited and hyper about this…  Our eight year-old selves are building a raft, stealing a sheet to make a sail, and gathering provisions…  Our fifty-something year-old selves are letting them take over while we do the grown-up stuff.

This is all bound to be chaotic, hectic, complicated, scary, exhilarating.

And away we go…

Oh, mother…how tedious art thou?

J and I are once more at an impasse of sorts.  Our developmental stages are at odds.  He is asserting his adolescent angst and rejecting my maternal fawning.  I am resenting his independence and empowerment and he’s unwilling to give an inch.  We haven’t physically butted heads yet, but judging by the way we seem to circle each other (sniffing the air and snarling occasionally,) it could still happen.

I have delegated the task of filling the daily snack box to Dada.  That is, I have lingered in bed long enough each morning that by the time I reach the kitchen level to have my coffee the task is done.  I don’t question Dada’s skill, wisdom, ability or judgment, and by now it’s clear that J knows the box is what there is for snacking and that’s that, so I don’t really censor his reaching for the box as much as when he packs the snacks himself.  Yesterday, by 4 PM, the box was empty…tumbleweeds would’ve rolled around inside if that had been at all possible.  There would have been an echo, that’s how empty it was.  At 6 PM, in the midst of getting dinner ready, J requested a snack and was told the box was empty…

COOKIE/NO, COOKIE/NO, COOKIE/NO was punctuated with sharp, repeated raps of J’s fist on J’s forehead.  This went on long enough, and insistently enough for me to relent.  Cookies were counted in J’s presence, handed to him and a firm YOU ARE FINISHED was issued by me.  Dada went off to grill our chicken pieces and I stayed behind, hiding the remaining cookies.  As I walked through the basement-level living room , J was looking rather smug and savoring his snack with his legs folded on the couch.  He grinned at me.

Ah…the unmitigated gall!

I stopped and stood in front of him.  A sudden realization swept over him.  Monster Mama wasn’t quite done.  I AM ANGRY, J.  YOU WERE RUDE.  THE BOX WAS EMPTY AND YOU ASKED FOR MORE.  I GAVE YOU COOKIES.  NO MORE.  NO HITTING.  I AM ANGRY.

I walked away from an O-shaped mouth and big round eyes.  Dinner made it to the table on time, and J ate with gusto.  We were still working our way through our meal when J started signing and saying WASH.  I told him, quite calmly, that we were still eating and to please wait.  Once more…WASH.  No, J, not now.  We are eating.  We will wash when we’re done. Again…WASH.  More insistently and more firmly, he kept asking.  And I stood up, looked him in the eye and said J, YOU WANT TO WASH, WASH!  WE ARE EATING.  J’s hand motioned to the sink so I went, rolled his sleeves up and, looking directly at him, said WASH!

How do I teach J that you don’t make up for what you’ve done to upset others by forcing the issue?  How does one teach finesse to a person with Autism?  That is what he was doing, you know.  He was trying to make up for having thrown a tantrum over cookies; he was trying to make me happy because I’d said he’d made me angry.  That he was insistent on interrupting the meal to do something good was his version of a solution, and -yes- it worked…but it did interrupt our meal.

When the chore and the meal were done, I thanked J for his help and I praised his skill at helping in the kitchen.  To fend off any interruptions of anything else I needed to do, I asked him to help me fold laundry and we got that chore done quickly.  I can tell that, while my good humor is important to J, he is more interested in appeasing me than in keeping me happy all the time.  That is: he is a teenager.  At one point or another, our kids learn that staving off mom’s anger is an important skill to learn…and that moment has come for J.  His only problem is that he lacks the sophistication that most children develop hand-in-hand with the “making mom happy” strategies…so, technically, J drags me towards a better mood by any means he can think of…and this can be irritating.

A summit meeting regarding the snack box was held after dinner.  Dada admitted that he had been scanty with his selection lately, and I told him that would explain why snacks were quickly consumed and moodiness ensued.  We negotiated a much better breakfast, and a wider selection of foods to fill the box with in the afternoon.  Apparently, J was getting only a 90-calorie brownie, a small amount of cheese crackers, a small soda and a packet of noodles.  This will not do…especially since he seems to be eating less at school than usual, and is ravenous by the time he gets home in the afternoon.  Dinner is always a healthful affair…grilled meats and a small amount of carbs with some veggies camouflaged in any way I can think of that particular evening.  J is obviously losing weight and has gone happily back to using the Wii every evening.

Once more I asked my husband about J’s relationship with me.  He seems, I said, happier with you and TGG than he does with me.  Well, my husband said kindly, you are his mom and it’ll take him a while to go back to fully appreciating you.  I sometimes ask my husband about his mom, but I do it gingerly because she passed away several years ago and it is painful for him to think of her illness.  Did YOU feel that way about your mom when you were seventeen,? I said.  Yes, I did, he told me, and he smiled his little bashful smile.  Hindsight, Dada said, is 20/20, and he wishes he had been able to foresee the loss he would eventually experience when his mom passed.  J doesn’t have the luxury of foresight, he told me, but he also doesn’t have the guilt that the same foresight would provoke.

Sheldon Cooper said it best: I believe the appropriate metaphor here involves a river of excrement and a Native American water vessel without any means of propulsion.  For the time being, J and I will alternate: some days his autism/adolescence will be the rocks in shit’s creek and my peri-menopause will be the canoe; other days, I will be the rocks in shit’s creek and he will be the canoe…

The trick, I believe, is to keep paddling.