I love my kids. I really do. But sometimes they can work a nerve so bad that even the most patient parents would lose it- and I am not one of those parents. This morning, my parental nerves got a workout they've never experienced before. Why?
Because my son is on his way to becoming thirteen, and he has Aspergers. This is not a good combination!
Aspergers is a form of autism that affects each child differently, so there is no 'one way' to handle it. Basically you need a lot of patience (something I don't have), and the willingness to explain things a thousand times without going completely mad (Sometimes I can do this, but for only so long before my lips become numb).
Aspergers affects the neurons in the brain, making them not truly understand the subtle structures of socially accepted behaviors. But it makes up for it by making the brain super absorbent concerning math, science or music. Many of our great inventors could have had Aspergers, now that some historians look back into their history.
I've been reading this great book called Parenting Your Asperger Child , and I've found out some interesting things. My son, whom I thought was a Rule Boy, is actually a Logic Boy. He is fantasy oriented and has OCD tendencies.
You think with all that interesting stuff, he might be more inclined to clean his room. But Nooooo! You see, if he was a Rule Boy, there would be no issue- I would tell him that he needed to clean his room, and he would, because it was a Rule. But Logic Boys have the infinite power of reason, so they don't need the rules as much- but they need a plethora (that means a lot) of reasons to do anything they don't like, before they decide to do it. And if my reasons aren't good enough, well, it just won't get done.
"Because I said So" doesn't cut it anymore.
"Because if you don't, you won't have ice cream" is better, but he'll also settle for some other type of sweet snack if he really doesn't want to do something. He also takes things literally, so anything said must be weighed and measured carefully, otherwise (in his mind) it will be written in stone, and I couldn't change his mind unless God Himself came down off of Heaven to tell him differently.
I've asked God to do that very thing, but He just chuckles at me. God has a weird sense of humor- that's why he came up with the platypus- just to let us know we don't know everything, and that life should be laughed at sometimes. And that moms really need to watch what they say to their kids.
And now my darling child is entering teenagerism, when kids tend to think they know everything anyway, but he now has a double dose of 'Know-It-All-itis'. One day he might be a great inventor, or a scientist- if he makes it to adulthood. And right now his future is a little shaky.
I believe he would make a good lawyer, but only for those tough cases that can't find any legal loopholes. I'm telling you, this kid can find a loophole in the most solid of rules. He's a 'think outside the box' kind of child. He's brilliant. But he's also a big pain in the butt sometimes. A lovable one, but still.
The room isn't the only war zone in the house. He argues about what I ask him to wear, what chores need to be done, how they should be done, why they should be done, and in what order they should be done. The same goes for cleaning up a room. I told him to 'straighten up the living room' and he took it as 'pick up everything off the floor and dump it onto the couch'. After a ten minute explanation as to why that isn't considered straightening up the living room, he argued that what he put onto the couch was neatened, and took up a lot less space than it being all over the floor.
So in his mind, He did exactly as I told him.
I looked at the dirty socks and wrappers from a late Halloween snack and conceded that it all did seem quite neat- the socks were folded and the wrappers were smoothed and flattened, held by a pumpkin head trick-or-treat bucket. But that wasn't my point. Straightening to me was cleaning up and clearing out. But tell that to a twelve year-old with an 'I'm always right' complex. To him it was straightened, and no matter what I said, I was dead wrong.
Then we had The Great Debate concerning school clothes.
ME: (seeing him dressed in the wrong shirt) Please change your shirt- it's not the right one for school.
HIM: (huffs and puffs) Mooooom! It's dark blue! (coming close to show me, even though he is the one who's colorblind)
ME: (calmly) Yes, it's the right color, but you need to have a collar.
HIM: Mooooom! It's fine!
ME: I'm sure you can tell that to the principal when you get there.
HIM: (storms upstairs to change as I smile in triumph)
(At this point I think I've won- until he comes down in a navy turtleneck)
ME: Honey, that's not the right shirt for school.
HIM: (stomping of one foot, and a that snarky head toss teens give when the parental unit in question is particularly dense) It's the right color, and it has a collar!
ME: (trying not to lose my temper and duct tape his butt to the wall) Yes, it does, but not the right one. You need-
HIM: I know!
ME: You need a polo shir-
HIM: I Know!
ME: (has had it and uses the 'Mom' voice) Get upstairs RIGHT NOW and get on the proper shirt! And do NOT interrupt me again!
ME: No buts! No arguing, no more telling me what the rules are- Go DO it- NOW!
HIM: (Stomps upstairs and takes his sweet time getting ready)
(fifteen minutes pass)
ME: (calls upstairs) Time to go! Are you ready?
HIM: (yelling from behind his closed bedroom door) I'm doing what you told me to do!
ME: How long does it take to change a shirt? It took you less than a minute the last time...
HIM: I know! I'm looking for a clean one!
ME: I just sent up a ton of clean shirts! You can't find one?
HIM: I thought they were dirty so I put them in the hamper!
ME: So get them out of the hamper!
HIM: NO! They're mixed in the with the dirty clothes now! I can't- Oh wait- I found one!
ME: (Thanking God for small favors) Hurry up then- It's almost time to go!
HIM: I know!
(three more minutes pass- on the verge of missing his bus)
ME: Come on honey! The bus will be here any minute! (HATES being late)
HIM: I know!
ME: (sees the school bus coming down the road) Now! The bus is here!
HIM: I know!
(sounding like a overweight elephant, he thunders down the stairs- we run out the door with him barely able to get on his coat and backpack as we run towards the corner)
(we get there just as the bus arrives, me wheezing like an asphyxiated moose)
HIM: (with a sweet smile, gives me a kiss on the cheek) I love you mom!
ME: (just gapes at him in surprise as he gets on the bus) Ah...bye Honey! Have a good day!
(five minutes later I'm walking my daughter to elementary school, glad to have the exercise to calm my nerves)
The relaxing morning I was hoping for was dashed to bits, lying amongst the debris of my living room floor. You see, the couch never was cleared off. The cats had found the wrappers and were busy playing with them as I was out with my daughter. I came home to shredded silver all over the rug, and two very happy cats. Then I sat down and started working on this post.
It isn't easy being a mom, and it sure isn't easy learning how to handle a child with Aspergers. I'm going to continue to read the book, and see if there's something else in there to help us communicate better. One thing I have to admire about him though is his tenacity- no one will ever stop him from doing what he wants to do- I just have to make sure he's on the right track when he does it!