Thursday, June 2, 2011

Waffling Emotions

John has a morning routine. This includes taking a shower, stripping and washing his sheets (he wets), starting laundry, turning off lights, taking medicine and breakfast prep. It took years to get him used to taking a shower in the morning. He would scream "no!" fume and stomp around the house upwards of an hour each morning, but somehow we made it through and now you couldn't block him with an armed tank from taking his morning shower.

Other parts of the routine however, are a little less, um, routine. He's mastered most of it and it runs very smoothly except the breakfast prep. We aren't talking about a hard job. He usually is supposed to unload clean dishes from the dishwasher or set the table or whatever odd job that I might deem helpful on a certain morning. He's been a little slow in the mornings so he hasn't had time to help. Unfortunately, on days when he does, he is insistent that he should not help, does not have to, and certainly could not do any work.

Like most of John's chores, if I give him a break, it is extremely hard to get him started again. It is not received as a favor. So this week, after strong resistance the other morning I've been saving little jobs for him to do before breakfast.

This morning, I let him sleep in a little. (Favor which is not received as a favor.) When he got in his shower, I started making waffles, homemade-from-scratch-gluten-free waffles. I also made some hot tea, which he loves.

I could already tell he was a little agitated from the first moment. I'm not sure what set him off, but I was about to set him off more. I greeted him and spoke sweetly and calmly. I reminded him to finish his routine and he went about it. Just before he sat down, I mentioned that the dishwasher wasn't very full so it would be easy for him to unload.

You would have thought I had offered to cut off a limb. He screamed no and ran out of the kitchen banging into two walls in his hurry to get away. He kicked a box of picnic supplies and started screaming and yelling.

I've learned when he's like that, just to a wait a few minutes instead of chasing him or yelling. That only escalates it and makes me more angry than a parent should be. So I continued mixing and cooking. I almost unloaded the dishwasher three times but reminded myself he needed to do his job.

He calmed in a couple of minutes and returned to the kitchen and he acted as if nothing was unusual. I mentioned breakfast was getting close to ready and he could get the dishwasher done pretty quickly. Then the barrage of insults and complaints began.

"You just want me to be your slave."
"I can't put the dishes away. I hate that job."
"You never do anything for me."
"I hate waffles."
"You just want me to do this stuff because you are too lazy to do it yourself. You have plenty of time to do it while you cook.... but noooooo, you are saving it for meeeee..."

These were all flung out in nearly incomprehensible bursts. My frustration and anger were mounting as I tried to remind myself that he isn't doing any of this to be a jerk. And trust me, we've been through the gamut of behavioral discipline techniques but through time I've learned some things about Aspergers and some things about John. I waited. I continued cooking. Hannah and Cote and I enjoyed our breakfast amid claims that I was cruelly starving the poor boy.

Five minutes into breakfast, he quietly got up and started unloading the dishwasher. He was still working as I got up and started to clean the kitchen. Since he had calmed, I had the time to point out how hurtful he had been to me and how I was already doing some of his after-meal chores. He sweetly said "Thank you mom for all you do for me." He asked if I could warm his waffles up and I did. He said they were yummy as he snuck a taste from the plate on the counter. Before that he had claimed he didn't like my nasty old waffles anyway.

I pointed out that he seemed agitated this morning and he told me he wasn't sure what was wrong but that he couldn't sit still so much. It is important to note that he was standing at the time and was milling about the kitchen and I hadn't told him to stop. I offered him a hug and he hung on for dear life, which is pretty intense from a 5'2" tall boy. I also took the opportunity to remind him he can ask for a hug instead of waiting for me to offer one. He nodded and was humble, sweet, kind, even remorseful.

I feel like sometimes when he is like that, that I should DO SOMETHING to make him behave. I know I would never have talked to my mother that way. I know I've done everything to him that my mother did to me and it hasn't worked. But yet, I feel like people are always looking over my shoulder shocked that I'd allow him to "get away with" these things. I used to consequence everything and we even implemented "home jail" with the blessing of his therapist. But those things never served any purpose except to make everyone more angry and John to become more disrespectful and disobedient than before.

But when I start to second guess like I did this morning, I find the Biblical parable of the two sons coming to mind. The father asks the first son to work for him and that son says no. But later changes his mind and works anyway. The father asks the second son who says yes but doesn't end up doing it. Jesus asks which one did the will of the father. Obviously, it was the one who first said no but did the job anyway. It comforts me that maybe we aren't failing as much as it feels at the moment.

Aspergers Vocabulary Word of the Day: Wait.

Ask and wait. Observe and wait. Instruct and Wait. Don't react, wait.

I'll need to practice this one frequently, to get it through my thick skull.

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