Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Does the Fun Start?

We had a fun Saturday planned.  My son, James, and I were going to his special needs karate class that morning and then we were going to see Star Wars in 3D.  James, who is usually ambivalent about karate, couldn’t wait to get out the door and he was even more excited about the movie.

When class finished, I went over to ask the instructor a quick question.  James doesn’t like it when my husband, Donald, and I talk to other adults when we are out.
While I was chatting, James was saying, “Why are you talking to him?”

“Hold on James, I am asking him a question.” 
“But why are you talking to him?”

“I need to ask him a question.”
James was agitated.  And then he said it…

“Mommy, you’re such a pig.”
Suddenly, there was a hush in the gym.  The special needs parents, God bless them, turned away like they didn’t hear it and started fussing to help their kids put on their shoes and coats.  In the silence, I could feel their pain for me.

I felt like I needed to respond but I didn’t know exactly how.
“What did you say?” I asked sternly (wrong question because James took the question literally and answered).

“I said you’re a pig.”
The instructor was standing next to me.  For a moment, he lost his Zen-like calm and looked mad and then he quickly composed himself.

“Hey James,” he said, “Do you want to see something really cool?

He pointed to me.  “Your mom.  She’s the coolest thing you have.”
James didn’t answer. 

“James, put on your sneakers,” I said with no emotion.  “Get your coat.” 
While I was grateful that James didn’t say this while we were at a family affair when the silence would have screamed, “See, he’s not autistic!  She just babies him!” I still walked out of the gym in shame.

The odd thing is that even though I felt so defeated, it didn’t immediately occur to me to tell James we weren’t going to the movies. 
As we were walking out, I was vacillating over whether he understood what he said and how hurtful and humiliating it was.  Was he just repeating some TV talk and he didn’t know what it meant?   He couldn’t have meant to disrespect me, could he?  He has autism…. 
I called my husband, Donald, who is usually a bigger mush than me and told him what happened. and ask him what he thought.  "F*** no!  He’s not going to the movies!”  (Well when you put it like that…)

I told James the final verdict and I won’t describe the histrionics on the way home. 
But through the ranting, I thought about how this wasn’t the first time James has mouthed off to us or thrown things lately and how we’ve made excuses.  He doesn’t understand.  He’s just using words from a superhero show.  He doesn’t have friends and he needs to know we love him and are there for him. 

I realized that after a disastrous school year, we finally have James in a special needs school and things are going much better.  We’ve been basking in the fact that we haven’t gotten “the call.” 
We’re glad he holds it together at school and have made allowances for him “letting loose” at home.  But now he was letting loose in public.
Could it be our relatives would have a point?  (We can’t have that!)

We got home and laid down the consequences for bad language and behavior.  Did he understand that he can’t be mean or is his only motivation his desire to play Beyblades?  It doesn’t matter.  
We’ve done James and ourselves a disservice by kicking back and not holding him to a higher standard.  James is sad that we’re mad and that he didn’t get to see his movie.  I didn’t get my mom/son movie day and I was hurt and embarrassed.  We’re all miserable. 

Autism or not, we all deserve better and, hopefully, if we stand by our new rules the fun can start for all of us again.

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