Yesterday Didn’t End Well


January 12, 2010 by Marj Hatzell

It started out innocently enough.  I was happy to get the kids and husband up and out.  I started my Monday chores, ran my Monday errands, had lunch and took a nap.  I had extra kids (not unusual), picked up my crew at school and headed home to start dinner and homework. I had this overly ambitious dinner planned but a good one.  That’s about when it all fell apart.  That’s about the time I found out Mark McGwire used Steroids when he beat Maris’ record.  I WAS SO SHOCKED (N.O.T.)! I figured it could get much worse than that (I keeeeeed).

Normally, Bugaboo causes 99.9% of all chaos in my home. Having two extra kids in my house was sure to add a little extra noise and motion but honestly, they were fine. They played in the basement.  It was Bug Boy.  BUG BOY that caused most of the drama today.  Or all of it, one of the two.

See, sometimes I forget this kid has a diagnosis. Or two. Or three. OK,he has four or five, but who’s counting?    It doesn’t matter a hill of beans what you call it.  The point is, I forget.  He has come such a long way from being a late talker, repeatedly throwing himself into walls and literally hanging from the ceiling. He has come a loooooong way from kicking kids at school because they are wearing an offensive color or refusing to use the bathroom at school for SEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS and then wetting his pants on the bus.  If you walked into Bug Boy’s NORMAL classroom at his NORMAL school, he would not be the one you’d pick out as having issues.  He blends in now. Mostly.  He seems like every other hyper, little male third-grader.  He is one of twelve with a Star Wars shirt on, wears the same shoes as everyone else and needs a haircut just like the rest of them. You’d be hard-pressed to find him in there.

So what makes him different? Why does he HAVE a diagnosis? He has one (or five.  If you are picky) because of nights like last night.  Now, all kids have meltdowns. All kids refuse to do their homework. All kids scream at their parents, are defiant and get sent to their rooms.  All kids whine and complain that it’s too hard or too easy or too boring. I mean, I’m guessing. I don’t have those kids so I don’t really know.  Am I right?

What separates kids like Bug Boy is the fact that it is perseverative.  He obsesses over little details. When he gets anxious or distracted (OH MY GAAAAAH HE GETS DISTRACTED!) he stims, licks the back of his hands, picks his fingers, rubs his hands together until they get blisters.  It’s frightening.  And he has this little switch that is like Jekyll and Hyde, yo.  One minute he is teacher’s pet, eternally cheery and helpful student who is compassionate and enthusiastic about learning. They love him at school.  But the next minute he is ranting about it being 4:59 NOT 5:00!  And, there are three colors of pasta and he needs THREE FORKS TO EAT IT!  And separates it into THREE PILES, or else it cannot be eaten!  And, I CAAAAAN’T write my words THREE TIMES!  I mean, THAT’S FORTY FIVE WORDS!  AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!  Times tables? Even though I’ve had them memorized since I was three, I CAAAAAAN’T DOOOOOO ITTTTTTT!!!!

Then add in the fact that the mysterious humming of the lights distracts him. The color on the walls (white) distracts him.  The dog sleeping in the next room distracts him (because he is obsessing over feeding her in a few minutes). The kids playing in the basement?  Distracting.  Having to sharpen his pencil in the next millennium?  Potentially distracting so he is distracted by default.  My husband calling me THREE TIMES during homework time to tell me he is leaving soon/coming home in a few/what’s for dinner/wants to run an errand tonight?  Distracting!  (side note:  Please don’t call me from four until five.  kthxbai.)

Yeah. There was quite a bit of melting down last night. From both of us.  Sobbing, even.  Worse-Mommy-Ever stuff. But a lot of it was my fault.  I am not excusing his behavior, but as my friend pointed out when I vented to her, perhaps my expectations are too high?  I’m expecting him to act like a normal kid because sometimes he acts like a normal kid and he’s not a normal kid so isn’t that unfair?  Just because he isn’t as severely affected as Bugaboo (although he told me last night he was distracted because he was MENTALLY AFFECTED by autism, and therefore could not do his homework. I kid you not.) he still has his own issues to deal with. Perhaps I push him too hard, beyond what he is emotionally capable of doing, because he is so dang smart and intellectually capable.  And I mean SMAHT.  And I want him to succeed and be independent and amazing because Bugaboo just ain’t expected to do it, you know? I’m expecting normal and it ain’t normal.  Bad Mommy.

After many conversations, bartering and disagreements, the management has worked out a new ticket plan (our reinforcement plan for Bug Boy.  It fell by the wayside lately but now IT’S BAAAAACK!).  He’ll earn a ticket for each portion of his routine he completes with no more than TWO prompts.  That’s a total of 15 per day possible.  He can cash them in for tv, computer or video game time (5 tickets for each 20 minute increment) or save them up and cash them in for big prizes, like $20 at Borders or Target (100 tickets) or Chik Fil A (50 tickets).  He can also lose them for being a cheeky monkey (5 tickets lost) or not complying after two prompts (2 tickets lost for each reminder).  And, the big granddaddy fines are for lying or being hurtful (25 lost each time). Seems crazy to do this, but it has worked mahvelously in the past and Bug Boy literally asked to be put back on a more concrete system.  Can’t argue with that.

This morning he was off to an amazing start.  I am so relieved. Here’s hoping it works this afternoon because I don’t know if I can mentally hack this two days in a row.  Also? Indoor recess is the devil and if they have it AGAIN TODAY I will cry.  Silly state laws and their 32 degree thing!  BAH!  When I was their age I walked uphill both ways in four feet of snow in a polyester parochial school uniform and LIKED IT! These kids today are wimps!

4 thoughts on “Yesterday Didn’t End Well

  1. I wrote a comment earlier today, but it didn’t take so I’ll try again.

    The fact that your son is doing so well that you forget that he’s autistic shows how much time, energy, and care you’ve put into raising him. I have “normal” children, but I often beat myself up for my parenting or agonize when their behavior seems irrational.

    Over the years I’ve worked with several autistic children, and no matter how much a school invests in an autistic student, if it doesn’t come from home too, the child doesn’t thrive. You should be proud of yourself.

  2. Alicia says:

    Thanks for this post. I am so happy to have just found you. I have a son with autism and all three of my boys have special needs of some kind or another. I feel a lone in it all some times and feel like the worst mom ever on certain days. And homework time ugh……:)

  3. Indoor recess is the devil! My boys are 7 and 9. The 7 yr old is autistic and the 9 yr old we’ve just recently found has learning disabilities. I’m really enjoying reading your blog. Mine is dormant, but I’m thinking of heading back there tonight and reviving it. I’m finding I have more to say these days (can you imagine, I stopped blogging because my life was boring, never thought that would happen.)

  4. Pareidolius says:

    Found your blog through Respectful Insolence comments. Your writing is a marvel. We may fight the good fight against nonsense and pseudoscience, but we often forget it’s amazing kids like Bugaboo and Bugboy that we are fighting for. Thanks for the funny, touching and compassionate reminder.

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