I’m trying to think of how to describe our evening yesterday with Aaron. Was it…..interesting……entertaining…….frustrating…….funny…….or all of the above? I would have to say it was all of the above, certainly – and that using the word “frustrating” for some of the evening is actually putting it mildly. He came home in a very happy, chatty mood – anxious to talk to me about his day. He hadn’t been very happy that morning so I wondered how his day had progressed, and was relieved to hear that he had gone to the mall and seemed to enjoy it.
When I had dropped him off to meet Cody, Aaron had marched into Quik Trip first thing to get a snack. Cody was in charge at that point, so I left……….and as Aaron talked to me when he got home, I asked him what he had gotten at Quik Trip. He answered, “Nuts.”
“What kind did you get?” I asked him.
He replied, “The normal kind.” I supposed that I was expected to know what the normal kind is………..and I later heard him say he had eaten peanuts, so now this new information was locked away in my brain. Normal nuts are peanuts.
Aaron continued talking. “Katie asked what kind of clock I got for my birthday. I said that new and improved. Isn’t that right? It’s that new and improved.”
I smiled at his description. Yes, I guess you could say that your clock is new and improved, Aaron. It certainly is bigger and nicer than your old clock……….and I guess that qualifies for being new and improved. I felt like we were filming a commercial!
It wasn’t long before Aaron asked if he could have his keyboard. We remove it every night in order to prevent conflict the next morning about getting off whatever game he is playing. I took a breath and calmly told him that he could not have his keyboard because that morning he had been grouchy and had refused to take a shower. No shower – no keyboard. He was calm as he continued to ask me about it, hoping that either he had heard me wrong or that I would change my mind. Soon, though, reality set in………especially when Gary got home and confirmed my decision. Things quickly went downhill from there, with Aaron becoming more and more angry. He would come downstairs to plead his case, and then stomp back upstairs to try to watch a video.
And naturally, on the worst night ever, his DVD kept freezing. Gary worked on it and couldn’t fix it, which certainly did not help Aaron’s mood. All of this misfortune was our fault. Aaron wanted this and wanted that………we were awful parents…………he had the most dreadful life in the world……….we didn’t care……..etc., etc., and etc. Gary and I were firm but never raised our voices. Finally, after Aaron had followed me up the stairs and continued to talk angrily, he went in defeat to his room and once again turned on his second-choice DVD.
I had told him that we could play Skip-Bo, and as he watched his DVD I heard his usual, “I’m coming!” He says that over and over when I tell him that we can play Skip-Bo or whatever, as he waits for a point where he is willing to leave his game or his movie. “I’m coming, Mom!” And I knew it would be awhile before I heard him turn it off and thump down the stairs. “Coming!”
But amazingly enough, I then heard him say, “I’m sorry!” I wondered if I had heard correctly, but soon there it was again, “I’m coming! I’m sorry!” Gary had come upstairs to check on things and was as surprised as I was. “Did he just say he was sorry?!” Gary asked. “What happened?” And I had to say that I didn’t know. Just all of a sudden, Aaron was sorry……….and we were cautiously optimistic that the worst of his angry outburst was over.
He thumped happily down the stairs as I shuffled our Skip-Bo cards, and he proceeded to get his Chex Mix snack and his bowl in which he puts the little Chex Mix Melba toast pieces that he refuses to eat…….plus his paper towels and his regular towel that he carries around. I was breathing easier, more convinced now that he was really over his defiance.
He still had a lot to tell me about his day at the mall as we started our game. “Mom, I started to pick a leaf in a big plant in the mall.” I am not surprised by this. Aaron always wants to pick leaves from plants, both outside and inside of buildings. I told him that he wasn’t supposed to pick the leaves from the mall plants, and he asked, “You mean the mall would make me in trouble?”
No, Aaron, you would make yourself in trouble………….which you do quite well.
He went on…..”Mom, I wanted to buy you some make-up today.” As I questioned him I realized that he was in a nice store with some of the staff, a pretty store, and he said, “They said I could buy some make-up, but it was too expensive. So can I have a sword from the sword section?”
No, Aaron, you cannot have a sword. They have a sword section?
Then he told me about the client who wanted to hug him as they were getting in the van. “I had to move her arm away from me. I told her she’s not my mom!!”
And I thought how sweet it is that he associates hugs with Mom, especially after the way our evening had just gone. He’s still so innocent in many ways……….still so much like a little boy.
He then said something that I found to be very insightful. He loves his day group, Paradigm, and they love him. We have no doubt of that, so it was interesting to hear him say, “Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m welcome at Paradigm.” I was surprised and asked him why. He said, “It’s because of those things I do.” So we talked about those things………..behaviors such as hitting, or being too loud – even in fun……….and then I asked him why he did those things. And he answered, “Because I don’t think before I act.”
He’s right about this, but it was very surprising to hear him say it. He has the typical autistic traits of being impulsive……….of not being able to control his outbursts and his rages………of being unaware of social cues, and do’s and don’ts that we take for granted…………and then later being sorry – maybe. It’s both sad and encouraging to hear him voice his thoughts and his struggles. We talked about it as we played our final game of Skip-Bo before bed, and I was thankful for his new calmness and hoping that some of what we talked about would take root and show up in more mature behavior.
This morning he was very happy, very obedient, and very clean after his nice shower. After awhile, I thought it was very quiet. I looked out the window and saw him sitting under the tree, playing in the mulch. This is his way to relax and to process…………to wind down and think his thoughts. There he sat, in what he calls his “silver” jacket……..content and relaxed.
And I thought of this “new and improved” Aaron from the night before. He was so mellow today, so calm and compliant. However, just as God loves me in all of my ups and downs, my good and my bad…………..so we love Aaron. We love him when he’s the “new and improved” and we love him when he’s the “old and impaired.”
Isn’t this just like the old nature and the new nature that Paul talked about? Sometimes the old crops up when we least expect it or when we’re not being careful. But God is patient with us……….and so we try to be patient with Aaron. We never know what to expect from one day to the next, sometimes one hour to the next. But he’s our boy and we love him.
I think I’ll see if he’ll let me hug him today when he comes home.