Thursday, September 22, 2011

Birthday, Bah Humbug

It's John's birthday. He has high expectations. He's cognizant enough to have been counting down to this day for weeks. Because of that, at 9:30 am, I'm already writing about how miserable everyone in the house is.

I got up this morning and had a delightful run. My thoughts were preoccupied with a blog post about how I didn't even know John was being born twelve years ago, but I was already being prepared to be his mother in very important ways. I was going to reveal what a blessing it is to know and love John and how he has stretched me and challenged me in ways no one else on this planet has. He has helped to uncover parts of my character I'd rather not address and might not have recognized without him. He has shown me strength and faith I didn't know I had. He needled his way straight into my heart the first moment I laid eyes on his impish smile and his little bald toddler head.

But then the day went a completely different direction. I popped back in the house with a smile in my heart and plans to pour out affection and sweet words on my son. But he was edgy. He was rude to his grandmother. I could hear agitation in her voice. And she's normally very understanding and patient with him. He refused to do his normal morning routine and he had also thrown a spoon at his sister. He absolutely would not apologize because he didn't hit her, the spoon did.

I put on my understanding, Aspie-talking hat and went to nip it in the bud. I'm not exactly sure why his typical antics flew all over me this morning. It may have been because he was so utterly rigid in the face of something so simple and necessary as a little consideration. (Yeah, I know, I wasn't thinking Aspie, right there.) It may have been that I had built the day up a little too much in my own head.

I screamed and I cried. I bawled for the loss of that lacy-edged vignette I had enjoyed during my run. I cried out to God. I had myself a neuro-typical meltdown. I kind of understand the release it brings. I furiously texted two wonderful, godly friends who helped me think it through.

John had been Disneylanded.

When he was younger, Theo used to say that John was allergic to fun. If he found out we were going to do something fun, he seemed to do everything in his power to sabotage the experience, even though it was something he wanted to do. Disneyland is a supreme disappointment to him. He builds it up in his mind and wants it to be utterly perfect, expects it to be so.

Then he is devastated when the temperature is hot. There are lines. The music on the rides is loud. The food vendors don't all automatically serve everything magically gluten free. And there are lots of people EVERYWHERE. Sights. Smells. Sounds. Disneyland (without proper planning) is a recipe for overstimulation and the let down of reality in what claims to be "The happiest place on earth."

I thought I had prepared properly for this birthday. I prepared him to expect a normal school day to maintain a routine, but I had gotten that motherly twinkle of excitement and decided to let him pick all three meals for today and planned to have some fun projects and make school just a little bit special with a video during history and some board games during math.

In the meantime, he had some birthday twinkling of his own. I think he planned on this being the "Happiest day on earth." I believe he imagined no responsibilities, delicious food, the freedom to choose his own everything, everyone would be nice to him, he wouldn't get in trouble, he would be showered with affection and his little sister would not dare to do anything annoying.

Reality wasn't nearly so awesome. I knew to expect this to a certain extent. That's why I tried so hard to find a way to make it fun while not taking him out of routine too much. That's where I went wrong. I should have done everything in my power to make it as mundane as possible while still acknowledging it is his birthday. Since his brain was already at Disneyland, I needed to make his real world more like a rainy day, curled up with a good book.

I learned a long time ago (and have to relearn from time to time) that John is the worst predictor of what will bring him happiness. It was too much pressure to have him choose three meals. The truth is that I would have picked something similar with him in mind but it would have caused him less stress. After the day is done, he'll still be mulling over how the day might have been better had he chosen grilled cheese rather than cheesy bbq fries for lunch. I should have spent less time planning special projects and more time reassuring him that things would be the same despite it being his birthday. I should have given him a written list of what to expect and what was expected of him.

After my tantrum, John seemed relieved instead of appalled. I guess I expressed outwardly what was going on inside of him. We aren't playing Yahtzee during math, he's doing a set of electronic worksheets and I hear him humming, relaxed. I'm giving him some space so he can work in peace. And the girls are taking a lovely bubble bath and behaving like it's a special day in his stead.

I'll read him this blog post later while I tear up. He'll listen raptly and rub his face and say something like, "I love you, Mom. Sorry you got upset. Can I have some grapes?"

I'll say "Yes, you can eat the whole bag. I bought it just for you."

He'll be thrilled! And then he'll complain how it was really just a small bag of grapes so he's still hungry. And then I'll know we're back to normal and I can stop freaking out about the fact I had a meltdown earlier.

Happy Birthday, John. I love you so much. Now, get back to work.

No comments:

Post a Comment