Monday, December 14, 2009


There are days when your kids holler through most of dinner. And there are days when you get poop on your sleeve. And there are days when you're sure your kid exchanged his soul with some sort of cartoon devil character. And then there are days when all three of those things happen within about 90 minutes.

Of course, every parent goes through trials of patience. I'm sure more than half the stuff Martin pulled this evening had to do with being five as opposed to anything else. But even if his autism doesn't prompt bad behavior, it certainly makes dealing with it more difficult. He is still learning what consequences are. Sometimes, he gets it right. When he takes his full plate out to the kitchen, we hear him say, "If you do not eat your dinner, then you get no snack later." He's right about that.

But at other moments, crucial disciplinary moments when he has - perhaps - just hit someone in the eye, he doesn't seem to get it. Tonight, he hit my eye while horsing around. When I said "ouch" and grabbed at my face, Martin simply laughed. When my husband gave him a timeout for his insensitivity, Martin seemed both annoyed and oblivious to the reason he was punished, despite my husband's clear and brief explanation. Other times, Martin simply mixes the consequences up. Frustrated about something, he might say, "If you kick the door, then I get chocolate ice cream." I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

I can put up with ruined dinners. If I couldn't, I'd have gone to the funny farm about two years ago. And I can deal with poop on my sleeve. I have quite the streamlined laundry station in my basement. And I can handle mischief. But I struggle in a situation where our efforts at discipline fail again and again. And the failure comes not from lack of consistency (although no parents have perfect records) or real effort to guide our child's behavior. But there are just so many moments where Martin has no idea that his actions or words hurt others. He seems completely surprised that at dinnertime - like hundreds of previous dinnertimes - he must wait to eat until we pray and he can't blow out the candles until the meal is over.

I'll take the poop on the sleeve any day over this.

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