Welcome To The Weekend

What am I going to do if my son is still having tantrums when he’s full grown?

Today he threw a suitcase into the air, hit himself repeatedly, screamed, whined, shook, knocked over chairs and basically destroyed our front room.

I screamed at the top of my lungs too and now my throat hurts.  And of course, I feel like a failure as a mother because I lost my cool and couldn’t stop his behavior.

He made a weekend schedule yesterday.  This morning, he couldn’t find it.  That was the cause of the tantrum.

He doesn’t care about the ease of scribbling out a new schedule.  He doesn’t care that he is able to tell you everything that he wants to do today.  He wants the paper he made.  He is devastated that it’s gone.

Devastated, yes.

The aggravation for me is that he won’t look for it.  He reduces to tears, then escalates to rage, be cause I can’t find it.

It makes absolutely no difference to him that I have never seen it.  I don’t know what color it is or how big it is, and I certainly have no idea where he last put it.  He is just beside himself with anger and grief because I can’t produce it the moment he asks.

I turned his room upside down, looked in the bathroom and sifted through the piles and piles of his papers downstairs.  All of that and nothing.  No schedule.  No end to his meltdown.

It’s only 7:20 a.m. and I am already exhausted.

How is your week going?

P.S.  This was our Tuesday:

♣♣

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.  🙂

♥♥

Right Back Where We Were

The little boy had a meltdown last night.

I didn’t plan our afternoon very well and we all paid for it.

I scheduled our contractor to come over around 4:00 to finish up the baseboards in the boy’s bathroom.

I knew he would probably call and say he was running late.  I was right.

Even when he told me he would get here at 5:00, I knew it might not be until 6:00 that the doorbell rang.

That’s just how home repairs go.  Everything takes longer than you think and if you’re the last stop of the day, you’re at the mercy of the delays in the job before you.

I get it, but none of it means anything to the little boy.  He just wanted to take his bath at the same time he always takes his bath.

But he couldn’t, because I wouldn’t let him go upstairs with the nails and broken boards and the man in there doing work.

I couldn’t let my kid strip to his birthday suit and take a steamy shower in the room where this guy was cutting and nailing and putting epoxy.

My son’s lips got twisty, his eyes filled with tears, and he started to knock things over.  First the little trampoline, then a foot locker in the front room.

Upstairs, the contractor was sweating away and probably hearing all of it, including my own deteriorating demeanor.

The whole situation kind of sucked.

Husband finally managed to get the boy interested in the bathtub in our room, but it was dusty and had to be cleaned because we never use it.

Once husband had wiped the whole thing out and filled it with clean soapy water, the little boy stepped in.

But he never sat down.  He had bubbles and water up to his knees, but the tears kept coming and he just didn’t enjoy the experience.

After a couple of minutes, he stepped back out and just stood there.  He was still very upset.

It was around 8:00 p.m. when our contractor finally left.  I walked him outside and apologized for what he witnessed as he worked.  He was gracious about it and even apologized right back for coming so late.

Back in the house, the little boy was finally settled into his evening computer time.  He was mostly over the disappointment of the bath issue, but his mood was volatile until time for bed.

I was already at the end of my emotional rope.  Today, I feel kind of numb from it all.  I went for a walk to clear my head this morning, but I really just muddied it further.

There is too much to do, no one to help me, and I am tired.

The boy’s upsets take everything out of me and leave me defeated sometimes, especially when there is anything else dragging me down.

My lovely Pasadena weekend seems like such a distant memory.

♣♣

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.

♥♥

Good Job and Some Music

My husband stopped at Home Depot on his way home last night.  He picked up a carton of fireplace logs and a deep pink potted miniature rose.

When he walked into the house, the little boy looked at him and said “A log!  A rose!  Good job!”  Considering where the day began, that made us chuckle.  Smart little boy.

He went to school this morning.  His initial protest was predictable and annoying, but he seemed to snap out of it when I told him I would take him to school in his pajamas if he didn’t put on his clothes.  I guess he figured I was serious.

Clearly, he has developed some sort of social anxiety about being in his jammies outside the house.  That part actually makes me a little sad.  He’s only eight.  Kids should feel comfortable being in their jammies, whatever the scenario.  But he doesn’t, and it’s no surprise.  It’s worth repeating, he’s not like other kids.

Tomorrow starts a four-day weekend.  My swollen eye and I can’t wait.  I need to stay in the house as much as possible.  We have a few things planned, but I can’t really handle the brightness of the sunny skies until my eye gets better.  It’s hard to drive, hard to walk, hard to do anything but just sit still.  My eye is more sensitive to light than usual and today’s chilly air is downright painful.

This afternoon, I was lucky enough to catch up with some friends for a long lunch in a dark restaurant.  Sitting there, with my back to the windows, was the best break my eye has had since the stupid balloon popped on Monday afternoon.  Thank you, friends!

The little boy is home from school and planted at the table with a book of mazes.

He is obsessed with mazes lately.  I spent $25 on three books full of them yesterday and he has already finished the little one.  I don’t quite know what I will do when he finishes the last of them.

He also makes me draw mazes for him.  It exhausts me.  You try it.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.  The maze has to be tricky, but not defeating.  My son is very crafty and sharp-eyed, but he’s still autistic and he frequently displays escalating and sometimes explosive frustration when he can’t figure out a solution to something.  Mazes are a challenge for us both.

There are plenty of mazes on the internet, but my printer doesn’t work right now and I’m not too keen on dropping all my toner on that anyway.  Mazes are sort of ink-laden.

What to do?  More books, I guess.

I remember liking mazes and other brain teasers myself when I was his age.  I wonder how my parents kept my supplies well stocked.  I don’t remember ever doing without them.  Hmmm.

The husband and I are constantly working on crossword puzzles at the dining table.  I guess that’s our grown-up equivalent of what the boy likes.  Maybe there is hope for his interest in reading.  Language is a maze too, isn’t it?

Anyhoo, not sure how much writing I’ll get done over the long weekend, so I’ll catch you back here in a few days.

Happy Thursday!

P.S.  Evil husband tried to plant bad 80’s pop music in my head as we were drifting off to sleep last night.  I countered with Hank Williams and some Donny and Marie.  He sang some Rush and Scorpions and I responded with a Partridge Family tune.  We both got stumped trying to remember the Billy Joel song from Bosom Buddies and then were equally tortured as it seemed the theme to The Greatest American Hero would never escape our addled brains.  Luckily, I remembered this Elvin Bishop song, one of my all time teenage favorites.  I happily drifted off with it spinning in my mind.  (Enjoy that video – there wasn’t anything official, so I figured I’d choose something a little off the wall for you.  😀 )

♥♥

Routine No, Tantrum Yes

At the peak of a tantrum, the little boy slapped my husband across the face this morning.  Not good.  He hasn’t hit either of us like that in quite a while.  One step forward, two steps back.

Our routine is upset this month.  Valentine’s Day, my illness and injured eye, changes at school, pressures at husband’s work, personal finance issues, all of that has left us on edge.

Our son is craving structure that just isn’t there.  We’re all craving structure that just isn’t there.

Amazingly, the little boy did actually go to school today.  We got there late and we should have joined the line of tardy students waiting outside the office for admission slips, but we didn’t.

My kid can’t handle waiting in a line, so I took him straight to the classroom.  I opened the door, kissed him goodbye and pretty much just shoved him inside.

They had already started music time, so naturally he began his school day with yet another tantrum.  I watched through the window as he flailed his arms and made it perfectly clear he was mad at anybody and everybody who would listen or look.  I walked away.

I took a big load of guilt with me and paraded it in front of my friend as we had breakfast, shopped a bit and sat for coffee this afternoon.  My friend was very sympathetic – about the boy, about my puffy red eye, about all of it.

Now I’m home for a few minutes before I have to go get the boy again and my body is caving in to the pressure of the melancholia I’ve been fighting since 8:00 a.m.  I dread whatever the aide will surely tell me about my son today.  It can’t be good.

At least there’s only one more day before we get a long weekend.  We need that time to put some order into our house, our routine, our laundry, our dishes, and maybe even our diets.  All of it needs an overhaul.  Good old fashioned spring cleaning, that’s what’s we need, for our closets and our psyches.

I’ll let you know if we manage to do it.

Happy Wednesday.

P.S.  Husband got a new car.  We’re a completely Nissan family now.  No more Mazda lemons on our tree and that is a very good thing.

♥♥

Bad Morning

I just told my kid to shut up.

Parenting fail.

I think I’m in shock.

There was a tantrum brewing.

But I needed to eat.  I still need to eat.

We’ve had a very bad morning and I actually told my autistic, precious, frustrated son to “just shut up.”

I said that to my best friend once too.

The look on her pretty face is burned in my memory.  She was disappointed, utterly defeated by the challenge of communicating with me.

I haven’t seen her face in eight years, but I remember how it looked that day.

She would probably be angry with me now if she knew how easily I summoned that specific image of her to shame myself.

She wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.

She would have wanted me to get over it, forgive myself, be calmer and kinder – to myself, to the boy, to her memory.

So yeah, feeling like a pretty crappy mom person right now.

The little boy said “noooo shut up.”

He knew what I meant.

I am mortified.

Will he repeat that at school?  In the store?  At Grandma’s?

Will everyone know I told my son to “shut up?”

I’m typing it here.

It doesn’t matter who else knows, because I know.

I am an ogre in this moment.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre ruins a pound of positive parenting.

I feel stupid, obvious and far too large in my motherhood this morning, like a bull in a china shop.

I should eat.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre taints the taste of breakfast too.

Reality check…

my son is autistic.

He is a challenging little boy.

When he sets his mind to something, there is no veering off to the left.  Or to the right.

All surrounding souls must be singularly focused on the boy’s immediate goal, or all hell breaks loose.

I know this.  I do.

And the little boy is in the habit of making demands.

And the grown-ups are in the habit of complying whenever possible, practical, and sensible.

Life is more peaceful that way.

But sometimes, like this morning, the demands are too much, too desperate, and too rigid.

So I can’t comply.  Not completely.  Not immediately.

I have to assert my free will, so I know I still have it.

I have to confirm that I am still a grown-up, capable, on some level, of determining my own fate.

For the sake of my sanity, I did this stupid thing and now the analysis of it will rob me of the sanity I was trying to protect.

It sounds so dumb.

And no matter how hard this is for me, it’s harder for him.

But my sweet little boy is now upstairs, laughing, and I am here dissecting myself to tiny bits.

How is it that he recovers so much more quickly from the ogre sighting?

Is it easier to face the ogre than to be the ogre?

It must be.

Thank God my mom is babysitting today.

I need a break.

I wish I could leave my ogre somewhere for a while too.

Sigh.

Happy Sunday.

P.S.  Husband has somehow talked me into seeing TRON: Legacy today.  I have low expectations.  Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.  And I can get through two hours of just about anything with the promise of Filippi’s afterward.  I love you, Filippi’s.  🙂  It has been too long.  Far too long.

♥♥