Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Keep it real

He makes a great fashion guru. Even tho he wears his gym shorts with button down plaids and we have to plead with him to change his clothes after a day or two of using his shirts for napkins and his track pants for pajamas. Despite his tendency to forsake the obvious when it comes to his own personal dress code, he is always bluntly honest when I ask him how I look.
   I may not be like other women in that I hate pat answers. I'd rather know that I look good when I leave the house than have my ego stroked when I ask if I look fat in my sundress. Ian will tell me I look fat and save me the embarrassment. It's never embarrassing for me when it is Ian issueing the criticism. I learned long ago to not personalize the sentiments that flow from Ian's literal lips. When he is angry, he goes straight for the bone marrow in a direct and honest way that stings. It is best not to dwell. I am usually honest enough with myself that I already know my shortcomings. When they are pointed out to me I generally admit them. If I'm not in the mood I question why they are being pointed out to me. Period.
   Tuesday morning I explained to my therapist that the whole "time and place" issue was still causing conflict at home. Working with Ian on basic social cues seems to be taking up more and more of my time. I don't know if it is the feeling that I am running out of time before he is on his own that pressures me or if it is that he is just harder to explain to other people now that he is older. Hormones have added an entirely new dimension to our relationship. There are many people in our lives that think Ian is just undisciplined. Even the school likes to call his shut downs "behavior issues" rather than address them quite simply as what they are: typical for a kid his age with Aspergers Syndrome.
   A couple weeks ago, Laura and I address Ian's refusals to go on family outtings with us. She personalizes it to a much greater extent than I do. Seth is angry that he has enough respect for me as his mother that he still attends picnics and fishing trips, etc, but that Ian will not. He sees it as a basic issue of right and wrong. Ian can argue relentlessly and hold a grudge for weeks or months. He will not communicate and that makes it hard to understand why much of the time he seems isolated from us. Our therapist said that one of her clients with Aspergers said to her that being put in social situations, like family parties and other groups was like being forced to "chew ground glass". This time, when I brought up the fact that it was difficult to explain to him that there is a time to argue your point and a time to be silent, a time to follow someone around talking and a time to give them space, a time to work and a time to rest....she told me that Ian was never going to follow that kind of "social protocol". You know, those little white lies we raise our kids to tell? "I'm fine", "it's good to see you", "I love you"...the things we don't say to people even, the omissions..."You look so fat in that outfit", "those are really ugly shoes" or "wow, it must really suck to be married to him"; Ian will never understand the need to tell those lies and therefore he will never do it. The best I can do for Ian is teach him that when he does tell one of those blunt truths to someone he should be prepared for anything. They may sob. They may yell. They may stop speaking to him. Any number of things could happen. Or nothing could happen.
   I tried this with Ian just a couple weeks ago and it seems to make sense. He was so angry with me that our day out together did not happen. There was a very good reason that it did not happen but Ian was focused on his disappointment.
   When Ian is angry, he feels that any action is vindicated. Revenge, in ian's mind, is absolutely necessary if someone has hurt you. He may not violently react but he can be very passive aggressive. He started telling me how godawful I was right away. Then he began to try to negotiate a compromise that was not going to work. When it did not work out the way he wanted, he got angrier. Finally I said to Ian, without personalizing the situation, "Ian, I was very disappointed that we didn't hang out today. I was really looking forward to spending time with you. I was still planning something special and hoping to do it soon. But the meaner you get, the less I want to hang out with you. Right now, I just want to read in my room where I cannot hear this."
   I could tell he was thinking about that. He knew this was not getting him where he wanted to be. I had to be very blunt about it. He has to be taught, in the same way you teach a child rote math or grammar, what it means to live in a social world. He may never understand why you have to shower and dress everyday unless he is given a practical, solidly logical reason why that is necessary. How does it affect him? He has to know.
   This week, Seth and Riley went to see their Dad and I spent time watching Ian and trying new ways of working with him. I discoved that he was far more clever than I had given him credit for. He has a very intense wit. His humor is very intellectual and sometimes just dark and...interesting! And when we were camping last night, he was the one rowing us all around the pond and bringing drinks. He is often playing the role of butler.
   I'm so glad there are people who have answers. Life here can be frustrating and...scary. I worry about my kids. I worry about their futures and I worry about what goes on with them now, too, all those pressures that I do not see at home but exist in their lives nonetheless. I think the biggest thing they have going is knowing I have their back. I think that is what makes all the difference here. They know I believe in them. And I won't lose my faith.