Last Monday, Aaron had a rough and grouchy day at his day group. Sometimes we can pinpoint the cause and other times we just can’t. I’m so thankful for the understanding staff at Paradigm. I don’t know how they do what they do on some days, but I do know that they don’t get paid enough for all they endure on those days. I love their philosophy: Tomorrow is a new day and we start all over.
As I said goodnight to Aaron at the end of his rough day and gave him a hug, Aaron said, “Mom, tomorrow I’ll go happy!”
So on the next day, the new day in which we were starting all over, Aaron was indeed happy. His attitude was entirely different than the no good very bad yesterday. And on this better day we also got some wonderful news from our daughter in Houston. She has a break between jobs and was coming home for a visit!!!! Not only Andrea was coming, but also her boyfriend Kyle!!!! Not only Andrea and Kyle were coming, but also Andrea’s two dogs and Kyle’s dog!!!!!
Can you tell I was excited? You bet! Aaron was excited, too. He loves and misses his sister. He’s getting to know Kyle and to realize that Kyle is a new part of our family. But oh, I know Aaron and I know that having a house full of people and pets can be challenging for him. We face this issue any time that we have extra people around…..extra noise……extra routine disruptions……extra attention grabbers away from our usual main attention grabber.
We work to prepare Aaron for those disruptions before they occur. I went over several things with him, like how he would use Gary’s and my bathroom while Andrea and Kyle were here. We talked about the dogs and how we need to act with having four dogs in the house. I tried to cover all the bases with Aaron, but Aaron brings out new bases quite often……based on what’s happening around him at the time…..things we just can’t predict.
I let Aaron stay home from Paradigm on the two Paradigm days that Andrea and Kyle were here. Aaron was SO happy with that idea!! He loved going with us to eat lunch at Freddy’s.
He loved going for a walk in Swanson Park.
He loved being here with us and the doggies.
He loved us watching Independence Day Resurgence with him while he ate snacks and snacks and snacks.
He loved trying to sneak snacks and snacks and snacks to the doggies.
He loved talking to all of us, especially to Andrea and Kyle, about all his favorite topics. And this is where we usually start seeing some issues with Aaron, because Aaron doesn’t know when to stop talking. Sharing the stage is hard for Aaron. He truly wants to be included in our conversations as we sit around the dinner table, for instance. We do listen to him and try to include him, but Aaron isn’t going to talk about the subjects that we talk about.
Here is a sample conversation: We may be talking about Andrea’s new job or talking about Kyle’s summer at sea. Then Aaron will loudly call one of our names.
“Andrea!!” he says. When she responds to him, we often hear this from Aaron: “Ummm. Ummm. Ummm.” We wait. “Ummm. Did you know what the Queen Alien on Independence Day Resurgence looks like?!”
“No, Aaron, I don’t know what she looks like,” Andrea answers.
“Well, she looks like a…..I don’t know. Mom, what do you think she looks like?” Aaron asks.
So I try to answer but I don’t really know how to describe the Alien Queen because it’s been awhile since I saw that movie….and I don’t really care what the Alien Queen looks like…..and in trying to muster some enthusiasm and interest in this question that I’ve heard a hundred times, Aaron can sense a shift in my emotions. As much as Aaron struggles with social norms, he is very adept at picking up the subtle cues that we are not as animated about Alien Queens as we are about Andrea’s job or Kyle’s schooling.
He views our world from afar, wanting so much to enter in, but never knowing how. But he does express his frustration by comments that we later hear.
“Mom, you didn’t want to talk to me. You just wanted to talk to Andrea or Kyle,” he will say.
I try to explain that we do want to talk to him but that we haven’t seen Andrea or Kyle in so long…..and we want to catch up with them on their lives…..but to Aaron that doesn’t make sense. Round and round we go, and where we land nobody knows. Or when we land.
Which happened on Friday during supper. Andrea’s friend, Sarah, had come over to see Andrea and Kyle. They sat in the family room visiting and talking and laughing. Aaron was up in his room, then down in the family room…..up in his room, down again. He wanted to be a part and he was in many ways. He just can’t be the whole part and so conversation would swirl around him. Kyle was talking and laughing at one point, and Aaron whacked Kyle’s leg with a book. I heard it but didn’t see it. It was a sign of things to come. Aaron was frustrated now, truly frustrated, and when that happens he picks a target. Lucky Kyle.
I don’t remember all the details of what happened at supper. I was up from the table getting slices of cheesecake ready to serve. Aaron was at a boiling point and we didn’t realize it. His system was on overload…..his pressure gauge was maxed out…..and he erupted. He leaned forward and yelled at Kyle.
Aaron left the table. We apologized to Kyle. He was understanding and patient. Aaron came down later and apologized. We watched the movie later and Aaron was very happy, as if nothing ever happened.
Why do I tell you this story, one you’ve heard before if you’ve read this blog for very long? Because this scenario is just a very real picture of how Aaron processes…..or doesn’t exactly process…..the world around him. Our world is ticking along like normal, but Aaron’s isn’t. He is so impacted by nuances that we don’t even notice. Sounds…..loud laughter that he doesn’t understand…..hilarity……silliness…..his routine changing…. All these things greatly affect him, more than we can begin to know.
So he reacts, usually loudly and hurtfully. Then he’s sorry. It takes great understanding, as I’ve said, to deal with this about Aaron. He doesn’t think like we do or process as we do or react over time as we do.
But he truly wants to.
Andrea and Kyle left to go back to Houston the next day. Aaron was with us in the driveway, entering into things, when Andrea asked for a hug. Aaron ducked his head and walked away, through the garage and into the house as he muttered to himself. A hug in front of everyone? Are you kidding me?! We know this about Aaron and it makes us smile. He can yell, but spontaneous hugs are very, very difficult.
One of the first things I did after they left was to get Aaron’s things put back in his bathroom. “Us kid’s bathroom,” he calls it. We got his cup with his toothbrush and toothpaste put back on the counter. We got his body wash and wash cloth back in the shower. We hung his towel on the towel rack.
Aaron then noticed that his razor attachments were not in the correct place. He rearranged them the way he wanted them. He stood back and observed the counter for a few seconds.
Then he said, “OK. It’s looking good.”
That night at supper, Aaron asked the blessing. He nearly always says two things when he prays. He doesn’t say the same thing with each prayer, but he says two things. On that night he said, “Lord, thank you for the food. And thank you that Kyle and Andrea got to come.”
Yes, it was looking good now for Aaron. He was happy that Andrea and Kyle were here, along with Darcy and Oakley and Aries and our own Jackson. He will be very happy when everyone comes for Christmas.
Aaron will have every intention of saying, “I’ll go happy!”
He’ll go happy into our family time, but it will be a time of upheaval for him and of struggle as well. It’s up to us to understand that and to allow that for Aaron, all the while trying to help him know how to take time to decompress and not to blow up.
Only when things are back to normal…..Aaron’s normal…..will he be able to step back and say, “OK. It’s looking good.”
And it’s very important for us to be able to look at Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes, and still be able to say, “OK, Aaron. It’s looking good.”
Let’s go happy! It’s sometimes the hard choice, but always the best choice.