Today, Simon is about five feet tall, a fact I can attest to because, if I’m barefoot and he’s wearing flip flops, he can look me directly in the eye.
Today, Simon went to his second to last day of the 6th grade, an “early release” day that meant he got home at little after 12:15 instead of 3:30.
Today, Simon had a few massive meltdowns.
Now, I kind of expected that last one. The end of the school year and days on different schedules always make things harder on Simon. But today, he got off the bus happy and told me it was “good.”
It didn’t last.
The first meltdown happened when he realized that while today was his birthday, and while he was having a Chuck E Cheese birthday party on Sunday, we were not actually going to Chuck E Cheese today.
I tried all my usual bag of tricks to calm him down. Nothing helped.
I thought about a quote that I’d seen on Facebook earlier – the question of whether or not this was a hill worth dying on. Was this really the battle I wanted to fight? Was it worth it?
I was just going to go with it.
We went to see the rat. We even walked in while Chuck E Cheese was standing at the front, having just done his song and dance (literally), so Simon got to high five him.
Everything was right with the world again.
If Simon had been thinking it was a normal day, then he’d been home long enough that Dad should have been home waiting for us by then. Of course, it was early release, so it wasn’t even close to time.
Thus begun the half hour of full-lunged screaming and crying. Right into my ears. Right in my face.
We went through the weighted blanket. Singing. Tickling. Writing out what was going on. All the usual fixes. None lasted longer than one or two minutes.
Until I asked if he wanted to go outside on the swings and wait for Dad there.
Simon was semi-calmed down. Not super loud screaming anymore. But still lots of repetition. I’m not sure what the neighbors thought of my obvious inability to produce Dad on demand, but after a while, he enjoyed the swing set enough to calm down. Mostly.
And once Dad got home, things definitely calmed down.
Now, I’m not trying to make this sound like it was a horrible, no good, awful day.
Simon had a great time a Chuck E Cheese. He picked out Dora the Explorer cupcakes that he wanted to share with our friends’ kids. He opened presents, including a last-minute emergency gift (long story, possibly coming later) of a ukulele, two “magic pen” books, and two super soft, heavy stars that are meant as sensory toys. He loved the gifts, and laid on the floor with the stars on his back while he colored in one of the books. It was a good day, in the end, with just a rough patch in the afternoon.
But what a rough patch.
My head still hurts.
So maybe don’t think it was a bad day. But I do still have a headache from all the screaming, and I wouldn’t say no to a Starbucks card or two. 🙂
First, he’s going to be 13. Thirteen. A teenager. Oh dear god.
Second, we like to give him a good party because he likes it. While he doesn’t always seem to “get” birthdays (he will still tell you he’s 10 when you ask him how old he is), he likes to get presents. So planning a party – and setting up a quick Amazon wish list for him – is something that’s good to get done in advance.
Third, and final, he asked.
That’s the weirdest – and most important – part of it. Simon often starts focusing on the future, but it’s normally not a good kind of focus. It winds up being more like an obsession. He repeats it, he lets it upset him, he can’t let it go.
But in this case, he brought it up, saying that he wanted his birthday party. I asked him where he wanted it, and he told me, “Chuck E Cheese.” Because, as he has learned from all the commercials, Chuck E Cheese is where a kid can be a kid. So he loves going there, even if he doesn’t actually play most of the games. He much prefers to run in circles, see Chuck E when he comes out, and choose a prize.
Ah, prizes. When Simons hit the prize counter, we normally have anywhere from 500 to 1,500 tickets. Sometimes even more. Why? Because we will play the games and win the tickets (hey, it’s fun!), but then Simon looks at the prizes and picks something that costs 20 tickets, like a small orange spider. Then all those tickets roll over. Every once in a while, he picks something big, like a ball (anywhere from 200 to 1,000 tickets) or even a slinky (60 to 500 points).
Back to the topic at hand, though.
Simon asked for the party, and while he wanted to go to Chuck E Cheese since then, he hasn’t focused on it just being for a party. He hasn’t decided that he needs a party now now now.
That’s success for us. And him.
So we’ll be planning the party, and I’ll be setting up his Amazon wish list, and we’ll see (some of) you in June!
I think that all parents, sooner or later, believe they are the worst parents in the world. Or sometimes, perhaps, they think that they are perceived as the worst parents in the world. And, I have to say, sometimes they really *are* the worst parents in the world…but normally those who feel that way are anything but the worst – because to truly be the worst, they would have to see nothing wrong with their parenting, right? See how that works?
Image this scenario, though: a family of three (mother, father, son) goes to an ice cream shop. The mother and father order bowls of ice cream. They get nothing for their son. The woman behind the counter asks if he wants anything, and the parents say, “No, he doesn’t like ice cream.”
Now imagine this scenario: the same family goes to a toy store. They wander the aisles, repeatedly asking their son, “Do you want this? Do you want this?” He says “no” every time, and if they attempt to put something in their cart, he forcibly removes it and returns it to the shelf. When they check out, the only thing they have purchased is something for the parents. The cashier asks, “Does he like [fill in toy name here]?” The parents say, “Uh, no, that’s for us.”
This is what it’s like whenever we take our son out. He does not like ice cream. Honest. We’ve tried to get him to eat it repeatedly, and even if we can get him to try it, he refuses it the minute he lets it touch his lips. The basic rule is that if you need a spoon to eat it, he won’t like it or be willing to try/eat it. He also never wants things when we go out. We will walk through Target, through Toys R Us, through any place you can think of, and each time we ask him if he wants something, he says no. If we think he may like it and try to buy it – or if we try to buy something for ourselves that he thinks is for him – he will reach in the cart and return it to the shelf, over our protests.
It feels pretty horrible to constantly be told that you cannot buy anything for your child. By your child.
But that’s also why, when he asks for something, we buy it for him. It’s so few and far between that we’re always shocked when it happens, but we never waste any time in getting it for him. Admittedly, he often gets the toy home and then ignores it, never to touch it again. That’s okay, though, because at least we got to buy him something that he wanted and gave him a gift that he liked, even if it’s only for a little while.
So the other day, we were at the dollar store. He had rejected everything we had offered – he loves their paper/drawing pads, and we always stock up on those, but he hates their crayons because they’re not Crayola. He’s a massive Crayola snob. But this time, he didn’t even want paper. Everything was met with a “no.” Until we got into the line. Then he wandered over to the quarter machines at the front of the store and started trying to make the one with glittery stickers work. He got the idea – you shove the little metal thing into it – but he didn’t have any quarters, so clearly nothing was coming out. I dug through my wallet, found two quarters, and handed them over. He slide the slid, and wham, out came a set of what had to be pretty much the ugliest stickers of dogs in the world. Super ugly stickers. And he was thrilled.
Now, Simon has a very clear idea of what to do with a sticker. He puts it on his arm. I have no idea why this is. But every time he has a sticker, he peels it off the backing, slaps it on his arm, and keeps it there for most of a day. He does it when he gets them at the doctor’s office or when he gets one at the grocery store at the check-out. And he did it with these. The ugly little glittery dog stayed on his arm for most of the day, only to come off when it was bath and bed time.
I’m not sure if we’re really the worst parents in the world or not, but I think that letting him wear that ugly dog sticker might rank us pretty high up there.
Posted by Katherine Sanger in Uncategorized Tags: autism, bad parents, buying presents, children, eating ice cream, feeling like bad parents, kids are weird, your children grow up in spite of you not because of you