I have been working with a student who is on the autism spectrum, on joining in activities and following the schedule in his classroom. Mostly I kind of make him mad as I try to use my bags of tricks to encourage/cajole/entice him to build some blocks with other children or sit with the class for snack time. I’ve only worked with him for a handful of weeks and even though I’ve tried to have fun and use humor with him, it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. As I told him that today was my last day coming and that I have really enjoyed playing with him, he quickly said, without looking at me, “Don’t go.” Then he ran and gave me something that reminded me, not so much of a hug, but more like when people don Velcro suits and launch themselves to stick briefly to a Velcro wall. I felt pretty darn lucky to receive that Velcro hug today…
Have you ever plucked a strand of spaghetti out of the boiling water and flung it at the ceiling to see if it would stick? I love to do that. And if it sticks then it’s done, or if it falls it’s done or if it sticks and then falls it’s done, or something like that. Well my parenting style is kind of like that. I just keep flinging my parental pearls of wisdom at my children and hope that some of them stick. For example:
1. One day, years ago, while driving my 3 year old to preschool, he suddenly pipes up from his car seat in the back to ask me how water turns to steam. My budding scientist! I start in on a long-winded explanation about molecules getting cold and moving slow and turning to a solid and then heating up and moving faster to form a liquid and heating up a lot and moving fast, turning to steam. I don’t know if this is actually a sound scientific explanation but I figured it was good enough for my 3 year old. Then silence from the back seat; crickets in fact. And then, “Mom, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The spaghetti fell
2. My boys are fighting…again. “He said _____! He touched my ______! He looked at my _______!” I talk to them about what being brothers means and how lucky they are to have each other. How they need to treat each other nicely and how we don’t whack each other in this family, for the millionth time!
When they are 12 and 15, my older son has a group of friends over. One of them goes upstairs to play Xbox with my younger son. He comes back down awhile later and says to the big boys laughing, “I made your brother cry.” My older son looks at him briefly and says, “Not cool dude.” He stuck up for his brother, in front of his friends! Yes!
The spaghetti stuck
So, I guess I’ll just keep winging all of that stuff out there about kindness, compassion, safe sex, healthy eating, education, responsibility, blah, blah, blah, and just hope that some of it sticks!
- They prefer to stay up all night and sleep all day
- Although we go through boxes of cereal and gallons of milk, I never actually see them eating
- Their rooms are always smelly and dark
- Daylight seems to bother them when we do make them join society once in awhile
- They prefer dark hoodies as their main fashion statement
- They are constantly closing the curtains, supposedly because the sun makes it hard to see the TV, computer etc.
- They hate the Twilight movies because of their unrealistic portrayal of vampires. Apparently real vampires do not sparkle.
- They are moodily short on small talk
- They avoid mirrors at all costs
I sit on this beautiful beach but instead of enjoying the incredible view of lake, mountains and clouds, and the sound of wind and waves, I am thinking:
My husband has been laid off today.
A black, wet dog nose touches my arm and the eyes express the hopeful message, “Hey, could you please throw my ball? Huh, could you?”
I’ve just started my own business. What if I have to give it up?
Wet furry dog shakes on me, soaking my notebook. “Did you just see me go swimming after that ball? That was so amazing!”
What if we have to move someplace I hate?
Cold dog nose again, “Is this the best day ever or what?”
What if my kids have to change schools?
Black furry chin on my knee and eyes gazing at mine, “Do you know I adore you?”
What about health insurance?
Wet dog shake all over everything once again. “Feel free to throw the ball some more. Joy. Joy. Joy.”
Wet dog lies next to me on warm rocks. “I’m so happy to be with you today.”
I’m so happy to be with you today too my sweet, furry, wet, stinky girl.
More dog shakes. I laugh and throw her ball. Then I join her, swimming and jumping in the waves.
Take one breath. Then another…
I have just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and am thinking about a conversation between the two young main characters.
“Grown-ups and monsters aren’t scared of things.”
“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters. And as for grown-ups…” She stopped talking, rubbed her freckled nose with a finger. Then, “I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
This is so true. Even though I have 2 teenage boys, a husband, a house, pets and bills, on the inside I feel about 14 years old. I am in a bright yellow one-piece bathing suit visiting the Thousand Islands with my best friend. I feel the hot sun on my skin as we “lay-out” on the cement dock, listening to “Blister in the Sun” and having an animated conversation, hoping that the cute boys are noticing us. Even better, I am hoping one of them will come and throw me off the dock into the water as I have seen them do to some of the other girls, picking me up and spinning me around effortlessly as I scream in protest, secretly enjoying the attention.