A Whole Other Animal

I could make a list, and it would be long, of the differences between my sons. The way they play with toys. The books they like to read. Their orientation to tasks. Their love/indifference toward taking out the trash. What their talking sounds like. When their talking started. Art preferences (crayons vs. paper, scissors, and glue). Musically speaking, J likes a heavy beat. G goes for guitars.

That said, they are both bold creatures, each according to his custom. Intense, band-aid loving, climbing fall-guys with more than a bruise or two (G’s still tend toward the head; J’s congregate on the hips and legs). They adore their father. They love to wrestle. They are obsessed with Greenies.

I am still astonished, and must watch my reactions toward, the way Jonah explores the world. Yesterday, while I was giving him instructions for a “job” (as in, “Mom, do you have a job for me?”) I wanted him to do, he slowly climbed the stairs, licking the iron railing as he travelled. I immediately admonished him with a “Don’t lick the railing!” but soon after asked him why he was licking the railing. “Because I like it mom.” “Why do you like it?” “Because it tastes good on my tongue.” Iron deficiency or tactile preference? I’m leaning toward the latter. He does it because he likes it. Maybe it’s giving some kind of input. It’s his body, he has a say. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly socially appropriate, but then again, it’s not like we’re in the mall and he’s got his tongue on the escalator handrail.

Which brings me to Gabriel. Today I was struck by his otherness, especially when compared to my experiences with Jonah. Our morning was a chain of shouted NO’s! I’d offer him a toy. NO! Then he’d pick it up and throw it. Hard. (At this point it becomes very clear to me that he has my temper.) This happened enough times that I gave the simmer down chair a try. The simmer down chair is a place we all go from time to time to collect ourselves. Sometimes we’re put there forcibly. Okay, just the boys are put their forcibly. It’s a little something we picked up from J’s Charlie and Lola heydays. I don’t think G’s really old enough to understand what I mean, and I probably picked the wrong chair. It’s huge and throne-like. He had a matchbox car in his hand and just started zoom-zooming all over it. He did stop throwing toys though. And I made him sit there until he was ready to gently put away the last toy he had thusly offended. Or maybe I was the offended one.

As the morning progressed, it occurred to me that what Gabriel really wanted was my presence. I had been earlier distracted, trying to finish a job for Eighth Day when he started pitching and shouting. Later we had a great time at the tiny kitchen and starting laundry. We were in it together, and he knew it. In the midst of writing this post, I discovered that yesterday was Autistics Speaking Day. Click HERE to read more about how it got started. Or HERE to read autistics speaking for themselves. Today, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism posted a great article called Advocacy Begins with “No”. Getting what you need and saying what you mean can be complicated, even painful. Long-standing habits of being get in the way. I struggle to speak honestly without lashing out. G and J, I’m mostly glad to say, seem to have a good start down that road. Now to stay (mostly) out of their way.

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