Thursday, June 16, 2011
This past weekend was wonderful.
I needed to rent a car for an appointment (and when you rent for a Friday or Monday, it costs less to rent for the entire weekend on the weekend special than to rent for just the one day), so took a friend up on an invitation for a day of touring artists' studios up along the lake on Saturday. It was an altogether wonderful day.
On Friday, I told Chef that we'd be renting a car and going places on the weekend but wasn't sure exactly where yet, aside from running errands on Friday evening. He also knew his oldest niece was spending Friday evening with us which always is always a positive note.
On Saturday, Chef read and slept in the car, occasionally glancing out the window and commenting on a place where he'd been. When we stopped to pick up water, I let him run into the store on his own because I could park the car where I could see him, and reminded him to bring the receipt. He was back in short order and very excitedly reported that there were fresh samosas in the store. I gave him enough for two and he came back with his little paper bag, eager to eat them right away. Chef wandered throughout the various studios with my friend and me through the day, commenting on what he liked, and easily went off to talk with folks if he asked me a question and was redirected to ask the artist. Occasionally he moved into what I know as the beginning of his "baby'ish mode" which usually only happens when he is either with someone brand new (doesn't always happen with new folks, but when it does happen it is often around new folks) or happens in combination with something he is wanting; ice-cream, for example! Chef also has no qualms about asking people for something he wants when it comes to things like ice-cream or other items in the "treat" category, so sometimes there's a combination of outright asking and baby'ish mode. All in all, he definitely seemed to enjoy his day. There were the studios with all their colours, textures, pictures, shapes, etc., a lovely dog to pet, instruments to see and Viking horns to blow, chilli fries, ice-cream, the beach, the other beach. Oh yes, the beach. Chef remembered being at a stretch of beach further down the highway than where we were on Saturday, and very much wanted to go there to collect shells, evidenced by the questions/comments about the other beach and the great amount of shells there compared to the beaches we visited. Once he settled into just enjoying where he was, however, it didn't take long before Chef rolled up his pant legs and waded in, collected clay and stones and - yes! An occasional shell!
On Sunday, Chef got up and...well, I don't remember who made brunch nor what we had. But after brunch, Chef did dishes and put in his laundry and put his younger niece into time out for not listening to him about leaving the bottles in the door of the fridge. My daughter and I were quite surprised by this turn of events and were not completely unamused as we quietly watched Chef perfectly replicate all the timeout steps he has seen his sister and me use with his niece. A bit later, I went upstairs and left Chef to himself for a few minutes while he finished up in the kitchen then went out on the deck to play with his niece til we left for my sisters' place. When I came back downstairs, I sadly discovered that my backpack had been looted. There it is. That ol' "he's been doing so well with not stealing" misdirected radar. Chef does well for awhile with not stealing when I'm with him then I'm lulled into a sense that I can let down support in that area once in awhile and BAM! Stealing. I went into the kitchen to see if I could find where the money had been stashed and chatted with my daughter about how it sure didn't work when I left my backpack downstairs with an unsupervised Chef - and there it was! A $20 bill sitting on top of the fridge, nudged near the back. That still left some smaller money unaccounted for, but at least the 20 was found. Chef seemed to have a great time at my sisters' place. He had two mounding plates of supper followed by dessert (and showed his "poor me" expression when reminded that was enough), and spent the bulk of the visit otherwise playing video games with my niece and using her scooter outside (very nice, especially considering it wasn't that long ago when Chef would stay in his room when folks came to visit, and would refuse to do anything to get ready to come along when we were going to someone else's place, even family). When we came home, I told Chef he still needed to deal with his stealing. He made his confused look/scoffing sound and started with, "I didn't.." but stopped when I shook my head. He then went into "poor me" mode. I reminded him that he could either deal with it now or we would be continuing this discussion first thing in the morning and that's no way to start a day. "I took the money." "The whole story." "I took money from your backpack. It's on the fridge." "The rest of the money?" "I only took what's on the fridge." Since Chef has not been doing his regular chores consistently, nevermind doing any extra chores to earn money, he will lose his free time as well as his opportunity to earn money this week in order to pay back for the act of stealing. Now, the tricky part here is that one of Chef's goals in life has often/usually been to just be by himself in his room and to get out of chores. What I've found, however, is that if this is used routinely enough and Chef loses times with his niece in the evening, etc., it does make some degree of difference to him. There have been times when Chef purposely does something in hopes of being sent to his room for at-home respite, but it has a bit of a different impact if it is implemented otherwise. It's my opinion that Chef is growing in this area. It's a very slow growth and there are times when "one step forward, two steps back" is all too true, but it's almost like a life-dance - trying different steps, moving back to his comfort zone, finding his comfort zone being used differently and having to rethink that, finding comfort in moments outside his comfort zone, and slowly realizing that it does actually feel good to grow and experience dignity.
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 (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) 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.