Monday, December 20, 2010

Navigating that Love-Hate Relationship

The other day I walked into my living room and there were my two wonderful offspring discussing what kind of relationship they have with their father and me. Hubby turned out to be the “wise old sage.”  (WOS) I guess when you are gray haired and in your fifties to any teenager you are very very old. Heavens not sure what they think of my poor parents who are in their seventies. Knowing collegeman he probably has their funerals all planned. (He has it figured out that when one of the three dogs passes away that we will need to keep the pack whole and that we should plan on another dog right away. So figuring out a funeral for his "elderly" grandparent is not beyond his rational.) 

I remember when a teacher had lost their grandparent during his senior year in highschool and she had the temerity to be absent for a few days because of it, he was beside himself that she was upset about loosing her grandfather. After all she had a job and that was to be in school to teach him. He actually turned to her and said,

“What is the big deal? You put him in a box, put it in the ground and get on with your life.”

Needless to say, that very very very young teacher did not handle that situation really well, and threw him out of class. Luckily the director of special education met with her later that day to discuss the social issues surrounding aspergers.  It was a hurtful lesson for her, however, one that she will be able to take with her throughout her teaching career. After the incident, I joked that there was no need to worry that my passing would upset the boys. Collegeman would just stick me in a box, shove me in the ground and go on his merry way. I won’t have to worry at all that my passing will upset the balance of his life. (Since we worry so much about their inability to handle transitions you would worry that the death of a person in their lives would rock their boat. But apparently my transitioning out of the world won’t have any affect what so ever on him.)

Things of course have changed over the past few years. Collegeman is much more aware of other's feelings and is finally figuring out some more of the social conventions that are necessary to get along in the world. However, I am still not convinced that he would miss me all that much until he got hungry. Neither one of the boys can cook and truthfully I am loath to let either of them near fire just yet, however, collegeman has showed an interest in taking cooking classes. Though, HSB still has this thing about being waited upon. (I always say that in a past life he was either a Roman Senator or an Egyptian Pharaoh. Not only does he like to be waited upon but he enjoys reclining while he eats.) 

Meanwhile,  while dad is the “wise old sage” collegeman is not shy in telling me that as far as he is concerned we have a “love-hate” relationship. Now what that means for him I am not sure. I know I love him and I am pretty sure that quite often he hates me. But I think when he is not burdened with school and the anxiety it causes him he tends to take a much more kinder view of all that I do. Of course when he is in school, and he gets a poor grade, he begs the classroom coach to not tell me. Interestingly he doesn’t mind if the Wise Old Sage (WOS) knows, but me he doesn’t want to tell. I don’t think its because he needs my approval so much as he doesn’t want to make me mad. I remember a scene in the original Transformers movie, when the Shia LaBoeuf character was telling others about the one thing you don’t want to do is make my mother mad…”She has a really bad temper.” I laughed so hard, because it must be such a typical teenage boy issue when dealing with their mothers that they put that line in a blockbuster movie.

On the other hand, I do not yell at him. I do not scream at him. I try to help him figure out his mistakes and happen to be very supportive. I mean I got him the economics tutor, I send the support personnel, and I interact with the disability director on his behalf. Everything I do, I do so that he could have as smooth an educational experience as possible. Why would I yell? But what I do demand is that he tries his best. Honestly, that’s not even a problem for collegeman; you can’t do more than what collegeman does anyway. You really can’t study more or obsess more about schoolwork than what he does. In fact I would hesitate to say that he overdoes it to the point that the amount of work he puts into his studies becomes irrelevant.

The truth of the matter is that I think your brain, no matter whose brain it is, just stops after awhile and can’t take in anymore information than what it already has. That muscle too needs a break. It’s like when you exercise. Trainers tell us that you shouldn’t exercise the same muscle group every day. You need to switch off between different muscle groups in order to let the muscles rest and restore themselves. I would think the same would be for the brain. You need to do different things with your brain in order to let the different lobes, rest and regroup, so that you are maximizing your brain effort.  I think in many ways, its even more necessary for the autistic brain. Assuming that the autistic brain is compromised in some way in the first place, then the “working” lobes are overtaxed to begin with, with compensating for the imbalance. So their autistic brain will require more periods of rest than in a typical brain. I suppose you can extrapolate that to be one of the reasons our children need to have more and longer breaks, move around much more and have even a shorter attention span at times. Their brain muscle needs to restore more often than a typical student. (So when creating the support program for your child don’t forget to have the school include those breaks…they may not like my reasoning and wherefores for the need, but the need still remains.)

Anyway, so this love-hate relationship that I have with collegeman is very interesting. There are times like now that he is so interested in something new, like his World of Warcraft that he loves to share it with me. He is thrilled, just adores it, the graphics and the gameplay. Then of course there are times that I am told flat out “It’s my life, I will do what I want. I don’t tell you how to live your life.” It depends totally on the day, the moment, and the hour even the minute or second, as to whether it’s the love part of the relationship or the hate. That is just fine with me. Don’t mind it at all. Something’s are what they are at the moment and the dynamics can change just as fast. (It’s not unusual for a typical child to have issues at this age with their parents either).

Now as for HSB, he described our relationship as a respect-hate relationship.  I didn’t push it at the time. Didn’t really think much of it. I paid no attention to what he said and decided to go on my merry way. Of course, within the next few minutes HSB was hungry and wanted something to eat. He decided to ask me to make him tortellini. I suppose he respected me enough at that moment to ask for food, as opposed to hating me when I try to figure out what he is doing instead of his homework.

The interesting thing that I came across is that both boys do not like when I tell them to do anything. I am aware that they need to be independent, but if it wasn’t for me pushing collegeman out of the house every morning he would never get to school and the same with HSB. They don’t like that I make them do a check when they leave the house…wallet, keys, phone, homework, books, gym clothes, etc. But on quite a number of occasions they have had to return home for what they left behind. Wise Old Sage  (WOS) does tell them to stop gripping, that if it weren’t for me pushing them in the morning they would never get a move on. I think at that point he isn’t WOS anymore but PITA (aka, pain in the ass) same as me. But that doesn’t last very long either, meaning the annoyance with their father doesn’t last very long, not their annoyance with me.

In fact when HSB needs to study or needs help with a project or paper it is the WOS to whom he turns. Will not allow me to help, even rejects help from his female teachers at school. Nope, I don’t think it’s a misogyny thing. If you ask HSB about men who think that women are inferior, he will be all over their butt and rightly put a boot right where the sun don’t shine. I think it’s an independence thing. He has been told what to do on a daily basis by women practically for his entire academic career. Only once or twice did he have male teachers and you know what, those were his best years. In fact so far this year, the majority of his teachers are male, and guess what- best year in a long time.  Is it identification with other males? Is it a different style of teaching (men and women after all do everything differently, why not teach differently)? Whatever the reason this has been the pattern for all of HSB’s education. I am hoping that next year in college, he ends up with mostly male professors and a male advisor.

So anyway, this morning as I woke HSB up for school I asked him about this respect-hate relationship that we have.

“Do you mean you don’t love me at all?” I asked.

“Well maybe I love you a little,” he said groggily. Still awakening out of his sleepy stupor.

“Can I have a hug?”

“I’m not a hugging kind of guy.”

“Even a little one.”

“Not a hugging kind of guy.”

OK so you can’t have everything. At least he loves me, maybe a little bit, at least at that very moment, at that very day, at that very hour, at that very minute at that very second. He also really loved me when he had a nose bleed later that morning and needed a new shirt brought to school, even bought him a choice of two shirts so he could choose what to wear. Boy was there no hate in the relationship when I showed up at the nurses then. I even got a big smile in welcome.

Until next time,