Back Again

There were words missing from the word search in the little boy’s homework packet this week.

The words were listed on the bottom of the sheet, but they didn’t appear in the grid of letters above.  And the word “built” was backwards.

My son couldn’t handle that.  “No backwards!  No backwards built!”

He gasped that out through lumpy-throated, head-shaking moans.  Then he flew into a raging tantrum like I haven’t seen in a long time.

He ripped the paper into six pieces, wadded up the bits and threw them to the floor with a scream.

Next, he reached for the pencil bucket.

He used both hands to send bunches of sharpened projectiles into the air over his head.

Most of them rained down on the china hutch and computers behind him.  His scissors and the hole punch landed halfway up the stairs.

I snapped at him to pick up immediately.  He didn’t.

Instead, he up-ended a basket of his school papers and sent them sliding to the floor too.

I was mad and I yelled.  Nine years, and I still instantly feel like such a rookie in the face of his upsets.

I fought for calm and grabbed a piece of paper.  I drew a scale – one to ten – and tried to make him understand that the missing words on the homework sheet were just a “level 2 frustration” and not the “level 10 mad” he had just displayed.

He stared at me, a little catatonic, but with a spark of understanding.  I actually think he knew what I meant.  He watched in stillness as I taped the word search back together.

I talked to him quietly about his homework.  I told him we would put it away for now and try again tomorrow – maybe even make our own word search.  He seemed okay or, at least, distracted from his rage.

I stood up and I told him I was going to make dinner for daddy.  He had started drawing, so I left him at the table.

In the kitchen, I put on gloves to peel and slice some garlic.  I should have predicted it wasn’t the best night to do that.  He interrupted me on the third of ten cloves.

“I want to take a bath.”

It was a routine, even-tempered, and perfectly articulated announcement, but it was much earlier than usual and I wasn’t ready to go upstairs with him.

I showed him my gloves and knife and the cutting board too.  I even told him to smell the garlic, so he would know my fingers were too stinky to touch the shower curtain or the faucet, much less the shampoo bottle or his hair.

I reminded him that last night we talked about what a big nine-year-old boy he is and how he can take a shower by himself now.

He looked at me and started to shake.

Clearly, this was not the time to begin a new independence.  I cut the garlic faster and told him to wait a few minutes.  He couldn’t.

He started looking around for something to throw.  He used his arm to clear a binder and some loose papers off of the new glass topped dresser in the kitchen.  He looked at me and then turned back to the dresser and tried to push it over and the glass off too.

That was the final straw for me.

I yelled at him to stop, I pulled off my garlicky gloves and I followed him out of the room.  I was defeated and he had begun whining, slapping himself and flailing his arms back and forth.

He wanted me to come with him upstairs, but he was so mad and I was too.

I am embarrassed to confess that I lectured him all the way to the tub.  It really didn’t help or make either of us feel any better.  I am an ogre.

He got in, turned on the water and yanked the curtain shut.  I left the bathroom and went back downstairs to cry and finish the damned garlic.

I knew I had only ten minutes until he emerged from the shower, failed to dry off, and came dripping downstairs, expecting me to get pajamas for him.

That time limit made me cry even harder and chop even faster.

Sure enough, he came into the kitchen, naked and damp, just as expected.  I kept chopping.

He said nothing and left the room.  I heard the laundry doors open and could hear his little whisper voice talking about something in the hall.

I was weighted by his tantrum and couldn’t even muster a smile, but I had finished the garlic, so I washed my hands and went to get him the pajamas.

Much to my surprise, he was already in them!

Miracle.

He was even wearing a pair of shorts that he typically rejects.  He did it himself and he made a compromise too.  I was speechless.  Something sunk in…and it kind of melted me.

In the day’s sea of frustration and tears, my smart little boy extracted some useful tidbit and took a step toward more independence.

It may seem like a teeny step, but it’s big enough for me.

Happy Tuesday, indeed.

Good little boy.  😀

God, I’m tired.

Sigh.

P.S.  Look at the new hibiscus now…so pretty.  Thanks, husband.  🙂

♥♥

Tiramisu, OCD, Pennies & Pasadena

Sweets for me and my sweets

There’s tiramisu in the fridge again.  (Insert contented happy dance here.)

It’s such a mess to make, but so worth the effort and the cocoa dusted counter tops.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate grout?

It’s everywhere in my home and nowhere in my dreams.

And this evening, my grout is cocoa powder brown.  😐

But like I said, there’s tiramisu in the fridge again.

And it’s the good kind.

The almond kind.  

It’s not the rum kind.

It’s this kind.  🙂

OCD and then some

The little boy is going through an increased phase of obsessive compulsive behaviors again.

He has some of these behaviors all the time, but every month or so they intensify for a while.

It makes us tired.  And frustrated.  And teary.  And sometimes really, really mad.

He will insist we do things for him that we haven’t done since he was a baby, or ever.

Tonight, for instance, he called me to come into the bathroom as he was finishing his shower.

“Mama, pull the plug?”

I’ve really never pulled the plug for him after his bath time, but suddenly, he is desperate for me to do it.

When I refuse and explain that it’s his responsibility to pull the plug, he starts a tantrum.

I leave the room.  😐

He has also started asking us to push him or carry him everywhere again.

THAT makes me lose my mind.

I sit at the dining table with my cereal and he wants me up so that I can carry him three feet, from the kitchen to the couch.

I ask if his legs are broken.

Sometimes, he gets the point.

Sometimes, not so much.

And just now, he was standing in the kitchen with me.

He was waving a cloth napkin in his hand.

“Mama put the napkin down?”

He wanted me to take it from him so that I could put it on the counter.

Um…

no.

You get the picture.

Exhausting.  Exhausted.

Penny for your thoughts.  And your patience, please.

Before we weened ourselves away from the little boy’s private psychologist, we got one last piece of great advice.

She suggested we offer him a penny every time he waits patiently at a red light.

Until we started doing that, he would absolutely freak out in the car.

He doesn’t like to wait.

He doesn’t like things he can’t control.

Traffic + his being in the backseat with a limited view = intersection of all anxiety, mine and his.

I’ve written before about being pelted in the head with McDonald’s toys, having my seat kicked, having my ear drums pained by sudden blood-curdling screams, and having papers and magazines torn to pieces.

All because of red lights.  Or pedestrians.  Or bicycles.  Or buses.

Being in the car pretty much sends my kid into the deepest recesses of his autism.

Or at least it did, until we started the pennies.

Now, things are usually okay.

And this week we took the pennies to Vons and threw them into a CoinMaster machine.

$16.00.

Unreal.

He bought another nightlight.  😀

Pasadena Partners

In the wake of some marital strife – no, you don’t get details – I have concluded that the husband needs a fabulous weekend like I had in Pasadena.

I suggested it today and though we do have a lot on the calendar in the next several weeks, I think it will work with some creative planning.

So, husband, start thinking about all the guy stuff you wanna do.

I will help with reservations.  🙂

And that’s all she wrote.

Happy Thursday.

♥♥

Choosing Battles

The little boy came out of his room three times last night.  Husband dealt with the first request, but he was out of earshot for the next two.

After the afternoon we had, I was pretty much emotionally incapable of interacting with my kid, so I started up the stairs in a fury both times.

He wanted a cup of water.  Why he couldn’t pick up the cup on his bathroom counter, turn on the faucet and get it himself, I don’t know.  I suspect that it was just a means to a desired end.  The end being Mama upstairs.

I was annoyed with him and I’m ashamed to admit how little patience I had for his post bedtime shenanigans.  I was snapping at him.  As an outsider looking in, I might have thought my mood unrecoverable.  I might have claimed an ogre sighting.  😡

But there was this turning point, you know?  Just like there always is.  You moms know what I’m talking about.

I was so mad at him, so tired, so stressed out, so desperate for a break, and then suddenly, I looked at him and he seemed so very little.  And sweet.  And vulnerable.  And just as tired and stressed out and desperate as I was.

All he wanted was for me to lie on the bed with him and whisper how much I love him and how good he is and how lucky I feel to be his mommy.  And I do.

He wanted me to rub his little head, brush his too-long hair out of his face, and squeeze his little hands.

So I did all of that and told him goodnight.  He asked me to stay for one minute longer.  And when that minute was up, he asked for another.  And another.  And another.

When we’ve had such an awful time together, I have to fight really hard to hold back tears in the quieter moments.  I have to fight really hard to hold back guilt and depression and self-criticism too.  None of that does either of us any good.  Especially when the boy is falling asleep and needing me so much.

As I turned in the hallway to close his door, he asked me to blow him a kiss.  It’s part of our routine and I had almost forgotten it.

I guess I get to say the night ended well, but as usual, I am in a fog the day after.

Can’t even think what else to write about.

It’s almost time to pick him up from school.

If he wants some kind of cup today, I’m just going to get it for him.

No lessons.

No struggle to modify behavior.

No battles.

None of that today.

I’m tired.

Happy Tuesday.

P.S.  He just walked to the pantry and selected a cup without hesitation.  I have no idea why he was not able to do this yesterday.  I am exhausted from pondering it.

P.P.S.  Cheese.

♥♥

 

Autism Regression

The little boy is playing happily on the computer next to me.  Things are calm now.

Two hours ago, we were screaming at each other.  At the top of our lungs.  Really screaming.  Not just yelling.

I don’t feel like a good mom today.  And lately, my son has been an extra challenging child.

His math and reading skills have improved significantly.  He enjoys homework.  He is talking more, making better eye contact, and cooperating with rigid routines.

Even socially, we have seen major development from him.  He craves interaction and camaraderie from his peers.  He knows their names and he spontaneously greets them every morning when they arrive at school.

Progress.

But, behaviorally, things kind of suck right now.

The boy has become obsessive compulsive in ways we never knew possible.  And he wants us to do everything for him.  He demands that we do everything for him.

Our refusals, whether sugary sweet and thoroughly pleasant or a little snippier from exasperation and fatigue, they all land on him the same way.  He loses his mind.  He starts yelling.  His most frequently uttered sentence (and by uttered, I mean yelled) is “No saying no!!”  He shakes back and forth and he screws up his face in frustration and anger.

He’s also slapping and pushing and pulling and hitting again.  And today he grabbed my wrist, twisted my skin and drew blood with his sharp little fingernails.  That’s when I screamed too – first in pain and surprise and then again in anger.  And, I admit, twice more, just to get it out of me.  This has been a very stressful month.

Last night I went to my mom’s for a family dinner.  My older brother turns 51 this month, so mom made food and we all gathered to sing and eat cake.  I love my brother, but I probably shouldn’t have gone.  I was at the end of my emotional rope yesterday and it was a long drive, a big dinner, a frustrating conversation about a treadmill (don’t ask), and then a long drive home.

After exiting the freeway, I was so keyed up from the weekend and that final drive, that I had to stop at the local Trader Joe’s and walk two speedy laps around the parking lot to blow off steam before I went home.  I knew I couldn’t deal with my child without exercising first.  The troops selling Girl Scout Cookies in front of Henry’s Market looked at me with suspicious eyes when I whipped past them the second time.  Oh well.  Had to do it.

And then today.  I was okay today until I brought the boy home.  And then the screaming.  My throat hurts from my part.  I imagine his throat hurts too.  He was LOUD.

What kills me about this afternoon is the amazing good mood he was in when I picked him up from school.  He was laughing and skipping and so excited about everything he saw.  I should have known it would spiral out of control the minute we walked into the house.

But really, how AM I to know that?  I know my son so well and I still don’t know that.  I don’t know what will set him off.  Certainly, I have a long list of potentials in my head, things I avoid when possible, but I can’t predict it all and I grow weary trying to anticipate it.

This month, for example, after he uses the toilet, he wants one of us to take the lid and seat from his hand and lower it for him.  Even if he is upstairs and we are downstairs, he will scream at us to do this.  We don’t, but it makes him crazy.

And he wants us to carry him from the couch to the kitchen or from the kitchen to the stairs or the couch to the toilet or the toilet to the chair.  We say “no” and employ one of a dozen psychological tactics to get him to accept our answer, but he just gets madder.

He has to walk back and forth three or more times in the same spot before he can go forward and do something.  Today, he wanted a cup.  The cup was right in front of him in the pantry, two feet away, but he wanted me to get it.  I was across the room and I told him “no.”  Then I stood and watched in sadness and some disbelief as he tried to go forward to get it himself, but instead went in every direction but toward it.  He went sideways and backwards and he spun in circles, but he couldn’t get that cup.  It made us both crazy.  Yesterday he chose a cup from the same location with no problem at all.  I don’t know what was different about today.

And the snack in his hand? Pocky.  He couldn’t eat it anymore.  Once he came to the understanding that he couldn’t get the cup, he was no longer capable of holding the snack.  He crushed it, almost involuntarily, and he seemed miserably sad about it.  I told him to throw it away.  He did, but it was physically challenging for him.  And then, of course, he wanted me to take the trash can lid from his hand and lower it.  I didn’t.  More upset.

I am fatigued by writing about this.

I have to wrap this up.

If you made it this far, you are a good friend.

Maybe you could babysit for us some time.

Happy Monday.

♥♥