This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom ( of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chores and Dishes, Dishes and Chores

Chef is still working very hard at not doing dishes.

Chef is very capable of doing dishes. He has often done dishes and has often done a very good job at doing dishes in a reasonable amount of time. He’s even finished supper dishes in as little as 15-20 minutes on some occasions and done a good job of it!

As some of you know, he has struggled against chores his whole life. When he was younger, he was great at "helping" but if he "had to" do a "chore" then he wouldn't do it. If he decided to help with something, he did so happily and did a good job of it. If he decided he was going to be a "helper" and set the table, he did a great job at setting the table. If he was asked to set the table, that was a whole other story. When he had to clean up after himself (whether it was something akin to putting away his toothpaste/toothbrush, putting his shoes into the closet, or cleaning up inappropriately-placed feces), his verbal response was, "I can't believe you are making your baby boy do this!" I think it was grade four when Chef started telling me that he shouldn't have to do any chores because he has disabilities.

In our home, we embrace natural consequences. Chef has great difficulty learning from natural consequences; however, Chef has great difficulty learning overall when it comes to making good choices, and what has benefited him most is letting him live with his choices and supporting him while he deals with the consequences. This means that I stand by the consequence, and stand by the fact that appropriate behaviour is still expected when Chef realizes that his choice(s) don’t work for him. If you don't do your laundry, you eventually run out of clean clothes and have a problem. For Chef, this doesn’t seem to faze him until he runs up against the fact that he is not welcome to come for meals without clothes on.

As most of us have learned in our lifetime, if you don’t do dishes they don’t go anywhere. "Free time" does not happen until chores are done, and I’m not a mom who will go and clean up the kitchen after my child has gone to bed if it was his job to do dishes and he didn't do them. He will miss out on his free time and dishes will still be sitting there waiting for them the next day.

Sometimes it takes a few “next days” before the dishes get done.

Chef has spent many evenings working hard at not doing dishes. By that, I mean he sort of goes through the motions of doing dishes but is actually doing some major puttering and/or putting away dirty dishes. He will literally do this for hours when he doesn’t want to do dishes. When we were camping, he thought it was unfair that he had to do dishes and took an entire afternoon to wash two plates, two forks, and a pot; maybe there were two knives as well or maybe two spoons. Yesterday I realized that I can no longer be in another room while Chef is doing dishes. I discovered this when I found empty “hot pepper jelly” jars in the drawer and cupboard next to the sink. I’d forgotten about those. I thought I had taken care of “food-sneaking-from-the-cupboards-while-doing-dishes” possibilities when I removed the can opener from the kitchen when I found it under the sink with a can of peas (we almost never buy canned peas but had a tin left over from camping and Chef loves them) after finding a can of baked beans in a drawer on another occasion.

Today is Day #10 of our latest “dishes aren’t done” marathon. I am thankful to have friends who understand that the beginning of the school year, season changes, special occasions, etc., etc., etc., are usually fairly evident in our home.

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