My boy and me, what have we not been through together?
It's anxiety week around here:
- My parents (Gong Gong = maternal grandfather; PoPo = maternal grandmother, in Cantonese) arrived last night.
- I'm going to Greece with a group of students on Thursday.
Just a few little changes, you know, and it was apparent that Charlie was working himself through them when, on Monday morning, he flat out did not get out of bed for quite awhile. Till, it was too late for us to arrive 'gracefully' late for the start of school. Till, we were getting something more than late late.
Till, I had one of those moments when, the timer having not worked after several rounds, and just 'letting be' and sitting back seemed to be producing the result of no results---when I said words to the effect of the green shirt needing to go. Within about a nanosecond I regretted the words that had come out of my mouth, but it was too late: Charlie became altogether upset and started calling 'Barney! Barney!'
That is, he was calling for the stuffed purple toy that had to be 'let go of' about 7 years ago because, somehow, head-banging and watching Barney videos and playing with Barney seemed---puzzlingly (maybe something was 'over-stimulating' Charlie?) and sadly---to go together.
A parent knows why, or thinks she knows why (in the heat of the moment), she does the painful things (seemingly illogical and unnecessary, perhaps, to some) she has to do. I've reflected a lot about getting rid of Barney those 7 years ago but, when you're trying to figure out how to deal with something like self-injurious behavior, you take the measures you feel you must. It has taken years, but Jim and I have slowly learned that Charlie has a great deal of trouble managing how he feels, and how he responds, to things and people and place he likes a great deal, be they Barney, his grandparents, or his beloved ocean. In Charlie there seems to be a kind of calculus of pleasure and pain about the things he loves, but his working out of the calculations always seems to occur in a rather messy way, with many eraser smudgings.
Soon after my unfortunate words and Charlie's aggrieved response, he got up, got dressed, grabbed his iPad and got into the car. The tears stopped and Charlie was clearly intent to get to school.
He turned on the Kinks and An Idea came into my mind.
'A poster,' I said. 'We could get a poster.' Charlie has one of Jimi Hendrix on the wall and a Beatles one too, and Jim has been searching for one of the Kinks. Why not one of good ol' Barney?
'How about a Barney poster?' I said.
'Barney poster,' said Charlie. 'Barney poster. Barney poster!'
We talked about this novel item all the way to the Big Autism Center. I said we'd look on the internet and Charlie could choose whichever poster he pleased.
We didn't get around to doing that after school, but we will. Most of all, I couldn't help thinking about how quietly Charlie's anxiety had defused---even a year ago, it would have led to something much more difficult.
In the evening, as the hour to pick up Gong Gong and Po Po from the airport approached, Charlie's anxiety-o-meter shot up again. When Jim got his jacket and shoes on, Charlie told him,
And tried to pull them off.
Jim kept his jacket and shoes on and Charlie went in the car and told me to stay home ('bye Mom,' car door slams). He said 'no Gong Gong no Po Po' over and over on the ride to the airport, Jim told me, and then was instant smiles soon as he saw my parents.
'No,' that is, can mean something like 'yikes I'm not ready I don't know if I want to see them or do that but I do but, I feel all sorts of things all mixed up.....'; can be a sign of Charlie's trying to work through lots of feelings, and he tends to use the word 'no' to express them all. There have been many efforts (and ongoing ones) to teach him more words to say such things but 'no' is his self-initiated, default way of expressing all this.
As for Monday morning's layabout-ing---it was one of those moments when I felt like, well, here I am 'The Mom' and here Charlie is 'The Teenager' and then there was the tug o' war. And then came a parental guilt-trip that was followed by a (surprisingly) satisfying resolution, the promise of a Barney poster.
(Alongside Jim's Dad-picked Kinks one.)