When There Are No Roadmaps

Parenting, no matter that it has been done since the dawn of man, really doesn't have any roadmaps at the individual level. Yes, there are more books than any one person could read and as many opinions as there are assholes, but that really doesn't help you when it's crunch time and you are in the MOMENT and need to manage a situation.

In the moment, well, it's hard to sit back and be objective and think about all the behavior shaping techniques that research shows work. It's hard to think fast enough of all the possible consequences, to be outside the moment looking in, judging how to handle the situation.

In the moment, time spools out without pause, and emotions heave. Calm, logical negotiation: yeah, right.

In the moment: this is where my son and oldest daughter live almost exclusively. I am almost never IN THE MOMENT. I am three steps past the moment. I am often everywhere but the moment. There is naturally a disconnect in our communication. I cannot fathom living in the moment without those anchors.

As Bobby has gotten older, become a man, we have had to renegotiate frequently the rules, the expectations, the level of autonomy, everything. He is a grown man and he deserves to make as many decisions about his life as he possibly can. At the same time, he is a member of the household with responsibilities.  There is occasional conflict. Go figure.

Is it fair to say that I think I suffer more from this conflict than Bobby does, that it weighs more on me than on him? Can I really know that? I don't know, and I don't think it's fair to assume. He's good at verbalizing what's on his mind--in fact his pattern is that he has to vocalize everything he's thinking. But what if he's gotten to where he doesn't always vocalize? What if he can hide some of his internal workings? What then?

No roadmaps here. None at all. We're both doing our best to negotiate boundaries and expectations on both sides. It means a different way of interacting on my part, though, and it's often wearying to find the balance between giving him the guidance and direction he needs and allowing autonomy (he needs verbal prompting to accomplish almost all tasks--the only task he does with regularity without prompting is getting his clothes on when he knows he has to go to Meals on Wheels). Everything else requires prompting. I try to make sure that portions of his days are his alone to dictate--who wants to be told what to do every moment of the day? And what would give me that right?

Still, as we progress into his adulthood, we really are without roadmaps. It's all uncharted territory and trying to do the best for him and the best for the family, all at the same time, is challenging. And it's not as if it's just Bobby. Lily and Rosie are right there, needing similar guidance and assistance, and each of them is different.

Autism in our family doesn't look the same. I suspect that it doesn't look the same anywhere, because we are all unique individuals with distinct strengths and challenges. Sometimes it's difficult to remember that what works with Bobby or didn't may have completely different results with each girl. They are all unique, fascinating, wonderful people who need individualized approaches and supports. And there are no roadmaps, just two parents, an extended family, and three awesome kids doing the best we can to create our own way in the wilderness. I reckon we can survive a little conflict if we keep respecting each other's right to feel and be ourselves.


usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Here it is...

Ben... drives... me... up...the...wall. There, I said it.
(The guilt, the guilt, it burns!)

I love him, but just yesterday I was thinking it would be nice to kick his butt out of the house when he gets all sassy. But you know your child still needs you. Although he's made it a million miles, he still has far to go.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

I know y'all think I'm nuts, but those FBA's and shit make it you versus child, or at least it was that way when I worked at Pinegrove. They NEVER took into account the single greatest tools you have in your parental arsenal...the ability to take away and guilt.

Mom and Dad giveth, mom and dad can taketh away. Never anything big or meaningful, something that correlates with the real world --like allowance. Or T.V. Honest to God, Kim...I can see Ben's little mind clicking up the cost/benefit analysis, ie, is it worth it? He pokes my nose because he knows it bothers the hell out of me. He has been known to pay $5 for the privilege. There are times when you can't take away. Your child will let you know. You'll just sense not to go there.

The last thing I did when I left Pinegrove was try to instill a sense of guilt for a kid who fought ABA and ALWAYS wanted to win the behavior game. I told him, "Honey, you know better than that." I was just so exasperated. He looked down, and said, "I know." and started crying. Those tears told me a lot.

I'm not making any sense. But I enjoy being Ben' mom, and I know you enjoy your children, too. Behaviorism is just so cold, and leaves out an important dynamic. Choice. Choice, and "give and take." These days, Ben takes me right to the edge, but never over. It has taken 18 years to get here, though. I almost think that one day I'll be ready to let him fly. He will be prepared. It scares me, but I can't let it, you know?

Your kids are flesh of your flesh, and you are remarkable. They will be, too, in their own way.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

What I'm trying to say is, shaping is too hard, too cerebral. Use your parental prerogatives. Sure, your kids may end up going to psych's in their twenties to try to undo the damage you've done, but we've ALL been there. They will forgive you one day.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

You don't have to publish my comments. I feel like I'm being preachy, and probably ticking you off. I just can't stand FBA.

K Wombles said...

I don't think you're being preachy at all. All our kids are different and motivated differently, and we need to use that, and sometimes that's taking away privileges and items. For Bob, it's taking away because once he outgrew his need for Pokemon cards, beyblades and bionicles, there's really not anything he wants badly enough--it's what he doesn't want to lose, and that's usually his electronics.

I'm just lucky that most of the time, he's really not trying to push my buttons, but it's that disconnect in our communication and in what we both think is important. He thinks his Saturday morning cartoons is, so even when I give him a directive that he can't watch tv because he didn't complete a task from the day before, he'll go straight to his room, turn on his tv and fold clothes, then look at you funny when you scold him. His thought was he's doing chores while he watches, so what's the big deal. Sigh.

I suppose none except it's counter to what I said.

I agree-if we do our best, show our love, our children one day will forgive us our mistakes. Perfection and complete objectivity is impossible, and I don't want to be outside the situation always trying to manipulate a variable.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Ben is so damn oppositional...well, not so much, as I learn ways to get around him. But you know, that little shit used to tell me, "I win!" when it was a knock down drag out "I'm the mom and you'll do it because I said so" battle. He would just wear... me... down. Then, I figured out I could charge him. I hold the keys to his savings account online. Mother's day, he used the f bomb, and freely gave me $5 because it was mother's day. Aw...gracious guilt. I won.

That would "tick" me off if Ben did the t.v./chore thing, too. I'd be all like " I sa-aid..." and he'd be getting in my face and arguing about it. In my mind I'm going "whap, whap, whap" against his 18 year old butt, if it weren't for the fact that I'm supposed to be an adult and smarter than him. I think we are both a little hot headed and too much alike.

I guess I rely on instinct a lot these days. And I am profoundly honest with him. We've been doing the floor and he always wants to do it "his" way, and I just yell louder. I never used to be like that, but he finally listens to me.

I don't know what it is about needing to "win" in our kids. They are like emotional prize-fighters.

Ben's second grade teacher put it best. She said, "He's not the kind of kid you can get under your thumb. Most kids you can shame into behaving."

Phew...thanks, I feel better. It's not that I don't love Ben, it's just that he is so g.d. challenging. It may have been hard to raise him, but it's never been boring!

Thanks. You are such a sweet thang to me! Ben loves you blue hair!

K Wombles said...

:-) I'm always glad when you stop by and visit with me.

Our kids are definitely never boring!