Here’s the deal. I am an optimist. I really do believe that everything works out somehow. I have my moments of negativity like anyone else, but I try not to live there. Lately, I’ve been living there. Today has to be the day it turns around. I have one big thing standing in my way.
My seven and three-quarters-year-old son.
He is going through this “I am going to challenge and attempt to negotiate everything that my Mom says” thing. Sure, he has always been a negotiator and he has always challenged convention. He has Asperger’s. That’s par for the course. The difference lately is that he is doing it with a very nasty attitude, a mean look on his face, and with a will of iron. I am exhausted. I am tense. And I am finding myself being really inflexible and drill sergeant-like, not because I consciously want to behave that way, but because I am so worn out. I just want him to back off the attitude. Be nice. Agree sometimes.
I know what this is about. We started ABA therapy at the end of August and the honeymoon period is over. He loves Miss N, his therapist, but he doesn’t love when she leaves and I expect the same things that she does. He doesn’t love that I am using the same techniques and language that she does. He keeps saying that he doesn’t love me.
Now, I know better than to allow myself to sink into self-pity and wallow in the idea that my son doesn’t love me anymore. Logically, I know that he is acting out, trying to gain some control. The thing is that he was controlling the house before Miss N. His meltdowns would sometimes last an hour and who was paying attention to Hammy while we were absorbed in Wolfie’s meltdown? No one. It had to change. We had to find some balance.
Life in our house is better in so many ways since we started ABA. Hammy is happier, he is getting more attention and he isn’t mimicking Wolfie’s challenging behavior in an attempt to get our attention. Eliot and I are parenting on the same page for the most part. We are leaving our own emotions out of it and helping Wolfie turn his behavior around on his own. Wolfie is accomplishing so many things that are positive. If it weren’t for that pesky negativity, life would be pretty great.
I signed up to volunteer in Wolfie’s classroom this year. He and I talked about how I would be coming to school and he said he was excited for me to come. When I got there, he was incredibly rude to me. He refused to cooperate with anything I was asking him to do, which by the way, was simply to come and sit down at the reading table with me and two other kids. Not a huge request. And not something that should be difficult for him. Once he did finally sit down he hit me on the arm and growled at me because I agreed to let another child begin the reading. I did this because I couldn’t reward his behavior thus far, and I explained that this little girl had been waiting patiently to start while Wolfie was refusing to join.
I tried so many times to change the negative to positive. At the end of the reading group, which he left early because he didn’t feel like sitting next to me, I went over to his desk and told him I loved him. I asked him why he was so angry. He didn’t like that I was bossing him around, he said. I asked him if he wanted to share anything with me in his desk before I left. I told him we could have a few minutes where he could decide what to share with me. He told me that everything in his desk was for school and it was P-R-I-V-A-T-E (he actually spelled it out) for him and not for Mom. That hurt.
I left. As I was walking out the kids had gone to lunch recess and his teacher was walking down the hall toward me. She clearly felt bad about how Wolfie was treating me. I am sure it was sad to watch. She told me that he had never acted like that in class before toward her. Ouch.
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that he has never acted that way toward her. I am glad that he saves his best behavior for school. I am just sad that he isn’t happier when I am there. I know he wants me there, but he is confused when school and home cross paths. It makes him uncomfortable. Just like ABA makes him uncomfortable when Miss N isn’t around.
I know that all of this will work itself out. We have been through this before and it was hard, and then somehow it became easier. It will get better. We will find a way back to the positive. That is my mantra for today.