Monday, July 01, 2013

The Rookie

“I feel sorry for you, Mom,” said Aidan, my 11 year-old typical son. He shook his head, a rueful smile passing across his face.

“Feel sorry for me? Why do you feel sorry for me?“ I asked as I tossed items around our cubby room. How do we have so much STUFF?!

“Having to deal with Conor all the time,” he continued. “I feel sorry for you.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me,“ I said sharply. A little too sharply, I suppose. Forgive me. “Don’t feel sorry for me, Aidan. Conor is my son.”

“And Dad,” he continued, as if he hadn't heard me at all. “Dad just can’t ever get a break. I feel sorry for him, too.”

“Yes,” I sighed, resigned now. “I suppose that’s true.” It’s true, it is. I can leave Conor with my husband, he can handle it alone if Conor has a tantrum. Me, not so much.

I stared at the back of Aidan’s head as he walked away, his copper hair reflecting the sunlight from the window. How can he be just 11 years old?

God knows, it had been a tough week with Conor. For all of us. I won't admit to self-pity, but I will cop to practically buckling under the strain.

See, one Sunday, Conor decided to buy himself some shorts from his beloved Black Dog online store. I let him, it fit within his budget and protocol, after all, and it IS his money. Problem was, the next day his earned outing was to the National Aquarium, downtown. Silly me, I thought the outing was about visiting the sharks, the fish, a stingray or two. Ride the elevator, the walking escalators, carefully spin through the revolving door. Get some bagels after.

Rookie mistake #1. Always remember: it’s about the shopping. 

I should know better. In Conor reality, the outing was about the gift shop. T-shirts were $28.00, you see, and he simply did not have enough money left in his budget after buying those coveted Black Dog shorts. Oh, there was plenty to buy for less coin, but he had his heart set on that t-shirt. He has no need for the Aquarium shot glass, you see. (Me, of course, I could put that to good use.)

Conor darted wildly through the gift shop; stomping, screaming, crying, red-faced. I’ll spare you the details; it was all very public. My husband and Brian, Conor’s 1:1 in-home aid that day, muscled him out. Aidan hung his head.

Later, after a half-hearted speed tour of the Aquarium, Aidan and I took a cab home. The cabbie overcharged us. I didn’t care. I just wanted home.

Rookie mistake #2. Always take two cars, even if it's just the four of us. 

Conor didn’t have a tantrum that day. He came close. He didn’t have a tantrum the next day. He came close. Nothing made him happy. You get the picture. He rode the edge hard, pushing the limit each day. Chapped, I would say, with no salve. He would not be soothed.

Dig nails in, pinch,
pull, then twist.
Quite effective.
Finally, a week later, it happened. He threw a basketball into the yard. I told him to put it back in the rack with the others. He refused. I looked at his other in-home aid, Paisley.

“Am I doing something wrong?” I asked her.

She shrugged. He'd been close to the edge so often that week, it was hard to know what was going on with him. Since I had told him to do it, I had to follow the behavioral protocol. Three steps—repeat the demand, model the behavior, hand-over-hand. He did it.

Then he blew. It was unexpected, and ugly. Difficult. He’s getting bigger, you know. At 14 years-old, he already outweighs me by fifteen pounds. I wasn’t much help to Paisley, I'm embarrassed to say. The next day we agreed; we were both very sore.

Rookie mistake #3. Don’t tell him to do something unless you’re prepared to follow through. 

Maybe someday I'll stop making all these rookie mistakes. God knows I've had enough practice. We've been at this for twelve years now, so clearly I'm not a quick learner. I don't know, it seems like there's so much to keep track of, so much to do that time gets squashed, and he's just so hard to get a grasp on some days. I mean, I can't find the manual to Conor anywhere.

What I do know is this. We asked Conor's psychiatrist to increase his medication. (While it's not unusual for him to get worked up, being that worked up for so many consecutive days is unusual.) We tweaked his behavior protocol a smidge as well, and I'm going to start working out more often.

Exercise. Sigh. Sure I will.  Right after I have this glass of wine.

See?  Easy-peasy. Two birds with one stone.
Plus, you can drink red wine AND it helps your muscles!
It says so right here, so it must be true.

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