From: Happy Aspies
“I wish I didn’t have a brother.” I have heard those words out of both my kids mouths countless times. This really isn’t an Asperger’s thing. I think it is pretty typical for siblings to feel angst-y about one another. I have two sisters, one of which I am pretty close in age to and we fought a lot. We fought about silly stuff. Her being in my space, her wanting to copy me, her sitting too close to me in the car or eating too loudly. The list could go on and on.
Adding Asperger’s to the equation makes it more challenging. Since Wolfie has Asperger’s and he is the oldest, in many ways there is some role reversal between him and five year old Hammy. Hammy has his own spectrum- like issues too. He gets excited about something and perseverates on it until he has it mastered. Last Christmas we got a Wii. We also got Guitar Hero. Hammy played it every chance he got and then some. It’s all he wanted to do. He played it until he could play expert level. I worried his arm would fall off or he would develop carpal tunnel or he would go cross eyed. None of those things happened. He just played it until he mastered it and hasn’t picked it up since. Literally, it has been months since the last time he played.
Going back even farther, when he was three, he became obsessed with Gwen Stefani. Yes, blonde bombshell Gwen. See, he loves music and I wanted to expose him to all kinds and so we listened to my ipod together a lot. There are pictures on the ipod and so began the love affair. He began wearing his shirts off the shoulder style and developed a lot of attitude. It sounds like it was inappropriate, but it wasn’t. It’s just what he was into.
Now Hammy is five. And for the first time in his walking, talking life he doesn’t have an obsession. I have noticed that it is hard for him to play on his own. He just flits from thing to thing like he is searching for something. He plays piano and he plays his guitar, but nothing holds his interest. He wants to play with Wolfie too and that almost always ends badly. I find myself wondering about Hammy. I wonder if the behavior I am seeing is a product of having an Asperger’s brother. Maybe he is emulating things he sees Wolfie do that he gets attention for. Or is he an Aspie too? How do you know for sure?
I struggle with how to parent him these days. I expect more from him. He thrives at school and displays none of the negative behaviors that we see at home. This makes it easy for me to settle on the idea that he doesn’t have Asperger’s, but is emulating behavior. But what about all the obsessive interests that fade away completely with almost no warning? What about the emotional blow ups at home? I feel so sad for him because it must be so hard to be Wolfie’s brother. I feel that, in many ways, he has to be the big brother. That seems unfair to me.
Lately, he has had an extreme attachment to Eliot. He wants to spend time with him every chance he gets and becomes really sad and sometimes angry when he can’t. Eliot works a lot these days, and his office is in our basement, so you can imagine the constant trips to the basement that I try to prevent on a regular basis. Sadly, I think he has come to associate me with being the person who tries to prevent him from seeing Daddy.
“I wish you weren’t my Mom!” He screamed this in my face last night. I had taken the snow cone he was eating away because he had hit me. ”I wish I didn’t have a Mom at all. I just want Daddy.” He was flailing himself around on the floor, limbs kicking wildly. He stopped long enough to stare at me in the face while he yelled those words at me.
I can think of nothing that hurts more than to have your child say something like that. Rationally, I know that he doesn’t really mean what he is saying. He is hurt and sad. Confused and angry. But he is not hateful. I think it stung particularly bad because earlier in the day I had to put him on a break for talking back to me. I had told him he couldn’t have something he wanted and he started mouthing off and relentlessly negotiating. I had enough, and told him to take a ten minute break. He was very upset and about two minutes after I walked out of the room he announced that he’d pee’d on the floor.
He has the worlds smallest bladder so I naturally thought he’d wet his pants. I got a towel and went into the room to clean him and the floor. He was sitting on the couch and all the pillows were piled up on the floor. His pants were dry. He was calm.
The pee was under all the pillows on the floor. He had pee’d there intentionally. “I wanted to make you sad,” he said.
I know in my mind why he is lashing out at me in this way. I do. Life is hard for him right now and he is struggling with that. I am the constant in his life who provides love and encouragement. I also provide limits and set expectations and facilitate discipline when necessary. Eliot does these things too, but to a much lesser degree because he works. And when he spends time with the boys he isn’t also doing laundry and making grocery lists and whatever else. He is present in the moment and ready to just play.
All of those logical things are present in my mind. I know them. However, last night, all that logic was hard to find. I felt like the breath had been sucked out of me when he said he wished I wasn’t his mom. He was really angry, but like so many other times, he calmed down fairly quickly and asked me to read him stories. He actually continued to ask for Eliot, but ended up being happy with me.
I was glad we could end our day on a good note. After we read books he snuggled into me really close. He kissed my cheek and told me he was sorry that he’d said those awful things. He was worried that I’d not saved his snow cone. I told him that his snow cone was safe in the freezer and then he fell asleep.
It occurs to me that it doesn’t matter if Hammy is on the spectrum. He needs something he isn’t getting and it is my job to figure it out. I think it is a mixture of what all children need. Love, patience, kindness, independence, limits, and a lot of other stuff. It’s all about balance and that isn’t something we will arrive to one day. It is something that we will strive toward constantly because what we all need at any given time isn’t constant. I remember that even on the most isolating of days, our family isn’t alone in this struggle for balance. That helps a lot.