Several times in the last few months, our boy has mentioned that he seems different from other kids his age. He feels they think in a different way than he does.
He isn’t wrong, since he’s on the Autism spectrum. If the DSM-V hadn’t changed everything (okay, not everything), he would be diagnosed as having Asperger’s. In fact, his earliest diagnosis listed him as an Aspie.
We have never told him, concerned that it might make him feel different, or that he might use it as an excuse. “Well, I just act that way because I have Autism.”
However, since he already feels “different,” we’ve been thinking that maybe we should tell him.
A couple weeks ago, the kids and I were watching Girl Meets World, a spinoff/sequel to my childhood favorite, Boy Meets World. In this particular episode, one of the characters had testing because the adults in his life suspected he might be on the spectrum. He was agitated and concerned over the idea that he might be Autistic. I didn’t really like the way they portrayed that part because the tone made a diagnosis sound a little scary. Test results showed the young man does not have Asperger’s and he seemed relieved. However, one of his close friends was disappointed because she is an Aspie and was hoping his diagnosis would make her feel less different. The show ended as the kids assured the girl that they all love her just the way she is.
Overall, the episode does a pretty good job of showing kids how to be inclusive. The portrayal of nervous tension about the testing, both for the parents and for the child, seems fairly accurate.
I wouldn’t really know, because we didn’t tell our boy we were getting him tested (yearly psychs are run of the mill here, so he didn’t even notice) and I was ECSTATIC to receive the diagnosis.
Still, I felt they could have done a better job of portraying the diagnosis as something less scary—or even cool, because truly, Spectrum Kids are gifted.
As the show closed, our boy stared me square in the eye and asked,
What do I have?
Not quite ready to have the conversation, I hedged. “What do you think you have?”
He thought for a minute, then said, “I think I have the illness of aaaaaaaaaaaa(thought he was going to say it)aaaaawesome!”
A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. – Billy Graham
Our girl is incredibly stubborn.
I realize that this quality will serve her well as she grows older and learns to use it in appropriate ways. For now, it’s just plain annoying.
If you’ve been reading Adoption = for any amount of time, you may have already noticed that I am also incredibly stubborn. I plan to win this daily show-down, but not for the sake of the bragging rights. Eyes on the prize…which is: Future Her, a successful, well-adjusted contributor to society.
We discussed, recently, how her current behavior would translate if she magically became an immediate adult.
Her take: “I’d probably end up in jail or homeless because I don’t want to do what anyone tells me, so I would get fired from my job and if I can’t pay for my house I’d have to sleep in a box and then I would have no money for food and I’d steal food and then finally they’d put me in jail for stealing so I’d be in jail for a long, long time.”
It took everything I had not to crack up at her catastrophizing. (Spell check does not like this word, but for the record, it exists. See here.) For those who do not while away your spare time with a leisurely reading of the DSM V, catastrophizing refers to a person’s tendency to view everything as much worse than it is in reality.
For instance: “I’m out of milk. Oh, no! What if a stray kitten shows up on my doorstep today? It will probably be too young to eat solids, and I won’t have anything to give it. The little kitten will die right here in my kitchen, mewling and piteous. I’m sure Nancy from next door will stop by just then, see the horribly starved kitten, call the animal police and then the Animal Planet channel and I will be carted off to jail for animal abuse, and Animal Planet will film the whole thing and everyone in the world will watch and think I’m just awful and I’ll rot in prison for something I didn’t even do!”
I’m aware that catastrophizing can be a symptom of depression, and as she’s on medication to help her focus (depression can be a side effect), I keep the proverbial ear pricked for any signs of real trouble. Yesterday, I worried.
For several months, her ability–rather, willingness–to wash and brush her hair has fluctuated wildly. It’s not for lack of education; I’ve showed her many times and even done it for her. When clean, her hair is beautiful, and she begged me to let her grow it out long. Our agreement: as long as she takes care of it, she can keep it long, If not, we’re cutting it off, because she is getting old enough to take care of it herself (and we’re getting to the pre-teen phase…I feel a little awkward helping her with a shower. She reminds me, “we’re both girls,” but still).
The last few weeks have been one battle after another. She acknowledges she just doesn’t want to listen. “I want to do what I want to do.” At least she’s honest.
Finally, I realized that the “your hair is a mess!” issue is just one more clash we don’t need. Threatening to do something about it had no effect; in fact, I’m pretty sure she was leaving soap in her hair on purpose, making her hair look greasy and stringy. So yesterday, we went for a haircut. I planned to have it cut just above her shoulders, thinking it would be enough of a change to let her know I wasn’t kidding, but not enough to derail her plans to grow it out.
As I paged through the “Family and Children” hairstyle example book, she asked what I was doing. “Looking for a hair length. It’s easier if the hairdresser has a picture of what you want.” Ever pushing to be in charge, she began pointing. “Not that one. Or that one. Or that.” I gently removed her hand and said, “Thanks, I’ll pick it this time. I’m looking for something you can handle, so keeping it nice won’t be so hard.” I continued flipping pages, and she again leaned across me. “THAT ONE!” She pointed to a boy-short pixie cut. Surprised, I agreed that it would look cute. The hairdresser walked around the corner just then, and our girl said, “I want this haircut.”
Shrugging, I handed the book to the lady. “If that’s what you want.” Much shorter than anything I would have chosen, but a whole lot less trouble.
We left the salon, holding hands across the parking lot (she really did look adorable). I said, “Your hair looks super cute. I’m surprised, though, that you wanted it that short. I was just going to have them cut it to your shoulders.” I was suddenly halted as she came to a stop, jerking my arm.
She glowered. “WHAT?”
I tugged her toward the truck. “What’s wrong?” Climbing in, she said, “You didn’t tell me you were only going to cut some of it.” I was confused. “Didn’t you see the pictures in the book? I was looking at medium length pictures. You said you want to grow it out, so I thought we could just cut off a few inches to make it more manageable, and hopefully by the time it got longer you’d be ready to take care of your hair.”
She huffed, clipping her seatbelt. “Well. I wish you’d told me before I picked this one. So I didn’t have to cut it this short?”
I pushed that giggle down, down deep as understanding came clear. Her desire to control the situation had just backfired badly, and she’d just realized what she’d done.
I still thought the haircut was super cute. “You didn’t give me a chance, and you said you wanted that particular haircut. In fact, you were so definite about it, I thought I’d just let you have what you wanted.” Under-breath-grumbling sounded from the backseat. I smiled. “Don’t worry. It’s cute. And you can still grow your hair out; it will just take longer.”
She grumped, “Well. I’m probably not going to be around for that.”
My radar pinged. “Around for what?”
“I’m not going to live that long, so I might as well just keep my hair short.”
Trying not to display the concern I felt, I asked, “Oh? What do you mean?”
She was silent for a few moments, then said, “Well, there’s that Bible verse about if you honor your father and mother, you’ll live a long life.” Ah. So the conversation last week about Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2 hadn’t fallen on completely deaf ears. Still, I didn’t want to dismiss the comment completely. “So, why do you think you won’t be around?”
She said, “Well, if the verse says you have to respect your parents to live a long life, I probably won’t live that long because I won’t listen to you. And if I had listened I would still have my hair.”
I nodded. “The good news is, since the promise is ‘respect equals a long life,’ all you have to do is make a decision to ‘honor your parents.’ Sounds pretty easy, don’t you think?”
She slouched further in her seat. “Nah.”
On a side note, I’m rewriting Psalm 23: “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Adolescence, I will fear no evil…”
Image from Google Images