It’s very interesting, as we live this life with Aaron, how we see all the ups and downs that go along with autism and Epilepsy and developmental delays. We not only see the ups and downs, but we deeply experience their effects on him personally and on us as well. Certainly anything that affects Aaron impacts Gary and I, too, and what a ride it can be!
Aaron really wants to enjoy happiness, but he wants it on his terms. Sometimes that’s just not possible. There are occasions where Gary and I walk a fine line as we attempt to provide a happy environment for Aaron without giving in to his every whim. It’s like being on a boat. We can be trolling along, happy and peaceful, and then all of a sudden we run upon choppy seas that threaten to overturn us. Some days we can see the storm coming with Aaron as we read his mood. Other days the storm swirls in out of the blue, unexpected, catching us off guard and then demanding all of our skills that we hoped we’ve learned over the years of parenting Aaron.
This past Sunday night, Aaron and I were in the kitchen after playing Skip-Bo. He was thinking of the next day as he said, “Mom, tomorrow’s Paradigm. Let’s not let me go!”
I laughed at the funny way he phrased his comment, and then he laughed, and all was well. The next day he was more adamant about not wanting to go. Aaron loves Paradigm, but his dream life would be to stay home every day playing on the computer or watching movies. That’s not going to happen and he knows it, but he still tries to test those waters. He did go to Paradigm, but he did slam the van door and so I prayed as I drove away that somehow he would have a good day. Barb said he was VERY grouchy when he came in but then settled down and had a really great day. Yay! Not yay for VERY grouchy, but yay that the rest of the day was great.
Aaron pushed my buttons when he got home, blaming me for ruining his dream life and other ills as well. Supper didn’t suit him, so Gary and I actually enjoyed a nice meal alone with uninterrupted conversation. May as well see the silver lining in the cloud.
Later, Aaron and I had a talk, where I got firm and Aaron saw the light. He was nice the rest of the evening…..almost. Then came bedtime. Why do so many things happen at bedtime?! For instance, a couple weeks ago it was time for bed and Aaron knew it was time for bed. If anyone knows anything about time, it’s Aaron! But he was watching a movie, not wanting to quit until he was at some magic point, and so I did all the bedtime chores I do for him….and still he sat at his desk, engrossed in the movie.
So I said goodnight, with some aggravation in my voice, and went to my bedroom. I locked the door because I figured I would be followed. Sure enough, I soon heard Aaron’s heavy steps coming up the hall. He knocked loudly on the bedroom door and then said, “Mom! I want to say goodnight in my room!” You see, I hadn’t said our goodnights in the proper Aaron way. I sighed and opened the door, where Aaron repeated what he had said about saying goodnight in his room.
“Come on!” he commanded as he walked briskly up the hall toward his room, before I could object. But I did. “Aaron,” I protested. “I already said goodnight.”
“But you weren’t happy,” he explained. How perceptive, I thought. So, very tired and just wanting sleep, I followed him to his room. He went into his room, turned toward me, and reached out for a hug. I complied with an obligatory hug, not a heartfelt one. I was still aggravated….and Aaron knew it. I even said goodnight, but Aaron stared hard at me and then said, “You’re still not happy!”
So out went his arms again and this time I had to smile, more inside than out, as I gave him another hug. I tried to make this hug more sincere, and I even did smile an outside smile as he stared at me again.
“Are you happy?” he cautiously asked. And I assured him that I was happy, so that he would be happy, and I finally was released to go to bed…..at last! His insistence on going to bed happy really was the right thing to do, much as I didn’t want to participate at that point, and his perceptions were also pretty amazing.
Back to Monday night. On Monday night I found myself wishing with all my might that Aaron wanted to be happy. You see, Gary and I are getting ready to paint Aaron’s bedroom. Gary has patched Aaron’s walls, but on Monday night Aaron wanted to show Gary a huge mark on his otherwise repaired wall. Gary was shocked to see the mark. We both think that Aaron made that mark on Monday morning when he was mad at me, but Aaron wouldn’t own up to that at all. In fact, when Gary asked Aaron when he had made the gouge in the wall, Aaron hit the roof. Boy, did he ever react!!
Aaron accused Gary of accusing him of making the mark. “Well,” Gary replied, “who else could have made it?” Aaron was beyond furious. He became livid. Gary and I both ended up in Aaron’s room, where Aaron erupted over and over. He was in a full meltdown, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s actually very amazing to see the progression of his thought processes when he’s out of control like that. I’m just thankful that we don’t see this scene very often. He never owned up to making the mark, but he sure did fling out all sorts of insults and angry comments. I told Gary to go on to bed, and I sat with Aaron for awhile. He was mad at me, too, at this point. He watched a movie for a few minutes and then commanded me to leave his room.
What happened to happy? It was totally gone at that point! I went to our bedroom, where Aaron followed and barged in, yelling some more and refusing to leave. He did finally leave and he did stay in his room. He went to bed around 12:30. I’m sure he wrote down the precise time in his journal.
He went to Paradigm the next morning. I praised him for his maturity. When he returned home that afternoon, I could tell that he was still struggling with some anger. Yet when Gary got home, Aaron was fine. We had supper and a pleasant evening, which was so welcome after the awful anger of the night before. Aaron asked me to tell Gary what I had told him about being mature, so I told Gary how mature Aaron was to go to Paradigm without a fight. Aaron stood there rubbing his hands together as I praised him to Gary, so happy at those words…..at last!
Yesterday after supper, Gary and Aaron took a walk out in our back yard with Jackson. I looked outside and felt warmed by the sight of the two of them walking together. What a picture of reconciliation! The restoring of relationship is something we do fairly often with Aaron. We must….because we love him and because it’s right. All of us have these family moments and life moments where we have to come together again with those who have angered or hurt us. Gary and I have to be the adults in these situations with Aaron.
But I guess that’s not always true, is it? Didn’t I just tell about how Aaron came to get me when he knew I wasn’t happy? How he insisted on being happy before we went to bed? So I know that there are times when Aaron can and does get it right…..and I have it wrong.
Our boat is once again sailing calmly. He knows that tomorrow is Friday and that I’ve agreed with his request of a Papa Murphy’s pizza for supper. Yet I know that the winds can change direction at any time, and another storm can blow upon us. I know that I will once again, at some point, be asking what happened to happy. Let’s pray that happy hugs are all it takes next time to bring the ship upright and make it steady again.
Let’s hear it for happy!
And hugs! Lots of happy hugs!