Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Asperger's Parenting: Managing the Meltdown

The Red Feather

“No it’s not that one, MINE was very fluffy and about this long.”

I wished Saturday evening that I had known about the red feather and all it had meant to kiddo after tolerating an afternoon at a kids party. I had to step out of the party with MacLeod to deliver a cake. When I got back, the kiddos seemed to be enjoying themselves and I didn’t hear anything about any problems.

We left the party and headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items to make for dinner. In the seafood section there was a bin with ice that had been used to hold raw shrimp. The kiddos immediately started to play in it. Ack! I yelled, “Ugh! Get your hands out of there that was holding raw fish!” There was a sanitizer pump, so we directed them to it. But I noticed that kiddo had a wet red feather… I could almost see the fishy bacteria growing on it. I told him to toss it and he glared at me and yelled “NO, I WON’T!” I told him to come over to me and said that it was in raw fish, he HAD to throw it out. He screamed in my face “NO!” MacLeod was not keen on his being disrespectful and told kiddo he needed to toss the feather and sanitize his hands. Kiddo screamed again, spiked the wet feather to the floor and started to stomp off. Yes, this was all in the seafood section of the grocery store and yes, people were looking. Silly, I had some strange idea that it would blow over and we could grab what we needed.

Kiddo was standing near the meat counter and I approached him, he started to tug at tuffs of his hair and hit himself in the head. Within moments he was on his back on the floor, kicking his shoes across the aisle. I knew that he was done. I picked him up off the floor as he bucked and put him inside the shopping cart. I said to MacLeod, “let’s move!” Grabbing one more item on the way, we headed straight to the checkout. Kiddo was sitting Indian-style in the cart, shoeless, tugging his hair. I leaned down to try to talk to him, putting my hand on his shoulder. He screamed “DON’T TOUCH ME!!!” Ok, too soon, I backed off. The rest of the trip, including the check out took us another 5 minutes, and he sat quietly while we went through the line.

Suddenly, as MacLeod was paying he looked up at me and said “mom, how do you know that stingrays are dangerous? Just because people have been injured doesn’t mean that they are really going to hurt you, they might be protecting themselves.” What?! His face was clear, tears gone, anger gone and a look of wonderment back in his eyes as he contemplative the nature of stingrays.

It’s just like that. One minute he is far away from me and I can’t reach him. Then he comes back.

Later that night I called my mom. She had been at the party early on, but left right before I had gotten back to it. I called to see how things were while I was gone. She said that when she arrived kiddo was having a meltdown. Lil Sis had taken his red feather and lost it and he needed to find it. He said he hates her and wanted to hit her if she didn’t. So my mom took kiddo inside and started hunting for it. He asked the server at the restaurant “Have you seen my feather?” They had not, only had a pile of some other feathers which were clearly NOT the same. As I had told my mom we try to do, she redirected him to playing with a ball with another child. He didn’t lose sight of his lost feather issue, but he wasn’t falling apart about it. Eventually he found the coveted feather and was right as rain.

Had I known the feather meant so much, I may have addressed the wet fishy feather issue a little differently. Sometimes you can change things that affect the outcome, sometimes it is just going to happen.
I know that people look at kiddo and think, “wow, look at that boy having a tantrum. His parents must spoil him to death or not discipline him at all.” Yeah. No that is about as far from the truth as can be. My child has Asperger’s. I am not a terrible mom and his life isn’t horrible. I know that when he has a meltdown, sometimes there is nothing that I can do. I have to be able to be ok with knowing that and work through it with him or simply wait. I also have to take ridicule from people who think that they are either a much better parent than me or know better how to handle the situation. That’s ok; I know my child and I love him. I know that I am doing the best that I can and he is going to be just fine. 

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