After almost three days of outstanding behavior, I had high expectations for today with T. The past few Fridays we’ve had huge success with outings, so today when the Clingy Monster reared his head, I reacted with irritation and disappointment. His behavior change baffled me.
We started our outing to the mall with the usual complaints and requests to stay home, but with the aid of gummy letters we made it into the car and out of the driveway. At almost every outing, we push over this hump.
Once we get past the prelude of protests, obsessive questions, and general mischief, our outings become fun and pleasant. Tyoma’s anxiety threshold varies, so each outing I am prepared to brave a certain amount of bellyaching to reach the payoff. Today, he complained more than usual and reward of fun seemed rather far off.
I had trouble adjusting to Tyoma’s inattentiveness and persistent disapproval of my suggestions. The inquisition in the car over digital and analogue clocks frazzled me as I drove through dense traffic.
I took deep breaths at the mall, working hard to ignore the looks from the mothers of the Calm Children. During one of those breaths, I noticed Tyoma was more relaxed at the mall than last week, when he seemed wild-eyed.
He glided over to his favorite mosaic of tiles, happily pointing out north, south, east and west (the mosaic is a snazzy octogram), smiling and seeking me for approval.
The walk to Chick-fila stimulated us. T pointed out sale numbers in store windows and eventually became so captivated I needed to scoot him along. He trotted after me obligingly and even waited patiently as I ordered our meals. Seated overlooking the big mall clock, we inhaled our respective meals. He gobbled up all of his chicken and fruit cheerfully.
We negotiated a trip to the bathroom—no small feat considering how motorized hand-driers roar at jet-airplane volume. In our bathroom stall he loudly asked if he could flush away my pee. I chuckled and said “Sure, flush away.” I could have been embarrassed, but some part of my brain collapsed ten minutes earlier and I okay with it. Next, we dropped by GAP Kids to pick up spring/summer t-shirts.
GAP Kids is a great store. Their shirts are soft and tagless with generous neck openings. Oh! And their dressing rooms feature two-foot tall numbers on them. A trip in the store is a treat for T. Unless, of course, the music is set to “stupefy.” Once inside, he dashed about, touching everything. Was his secret plan to mortify me into taking him out of the too-loud store? I knew this routine all too well.
At my request, the sales lady turned off the music and Tyoma recovered enough for me to nab a few shirts. It took two gummy rewards for patience, but he assented to the purchase of four shirts. He also asked for a frilly yellow skirt. I replied that he can choose frilly things in high school, but for now he wears boy clothes. My syrupy delivery elicited a smile form our cashier. As an additional treat, T picked out two pairs of skull socks for mastering the art of putting on his socks. I briefly considered looking for pants but discounted the idea, whizzing out of the store for escalator and elevator rides.
After enough elevator rides to confuse me as to which floor we were actually on, we left the mall. Tyoma pleaded for a Toys R Us visit, but I feared over-stimulation. We dropped into the nearby Barnes and Noble and had a snack in the quiet Starbucks cafe area. Other patrons winced as we selected our seats. I remained brave, reminded T to use his “Number 2 Voice” and saw everyone relax. Our snack was lovely and refreshing. T was calm and introspective. We talked quietly and ate briskly.
Since Tyoma still wanted to look at toys, we dropped by the Toy Spot, which is closing in a week. I should have gone straight home, but foolishly I went. All had gone so well, that I forgot our initial high complaint level. The store had been re-organized and was populated by manic kindergartners and their bargain hunting mothers. Still, I stayed. D’oh.
There was an inevitable meltdown over a “100″ poster, which I would have gotten if not for the demanding way he asked for it. He was just too overloaded. Maybe me, too. We took a break, bought a “make your own board game” and went home.
T was cheery in the car and we set up a pretend race between us and papa (who was coming home early today) to see who got home first. Our evening was unremarkable except for a bedtime meltdown. Tyoma is rarely tearful at night, so I felt guilty for overwhelming him during the day.
I don’t know when to push and when to pull back. On another day, our outing would have been fun and energizing, just not today. I began to beat myself up, agonizing over my decisions and fretting that I made the evening difficult for the whole household. Seriously, I can’t be perfect all the time, but I will be more mindful of T’s stress level.
Is it odd that I expect perfection? A perfect day without meltdown or conflicts? Look at my home–as perfect as I can make it–almost white glove clean. Our home is as organized as a home can be without being The Official House of OCD (I say this with the caveat that I think continuously of how to make our home more orderly).
I long to be flexible and forgiving to myself , but as I berate, I analyze and build an understanding, a way of coping with a behavior. I don’t have a person-sense like other professionals–Ashley, Heather, or Jerri. Is something not quite right with me? Why can’t I tell what’s going on with other people as situations unfold? Why do I rely on the data I keep, filed away and categorized for specific situations and not intuition? Maybe I am not too far from the autism spectrum myself.