Saturday, April 14, 2007

Moments of clarity...

It's Saturday of Spring Break week &, by Brendan's reckoning, one more day left until he's back to school. (Brendan never counts the present day into his reckoning, which is usually very handy, because on Thursday morning he feels there's only one more school day left to the week- I'm not going to quibble with this one!) Charlie's off work today, although he went in early for a couple of hours as usual to do paperwork, & after breakfast he took Brendan to the science museum for the morning. We tend to avoid kid-magnets like the science museum or toy museum during break weeks, since noise & confusion are not comfortable for Brendan, but I believe the logic this morning was that everyone would have maxxed-out over the week, leaving Saturday morning less crowded. :)

This has been a much-needed rest week for me, after the past 2 weekends of events (Brendan's birthday & Easter). I've managed to sleep-in a couple of mornings, with Brendan happily watching movies (everything from the Marx Brothers to Harry Potter) until I'm up for breakfast. I feel as though I'm at the bottom of one incline looking up at another, although this one is not sharply defined with the next project, task, or deadline ahead. It's fuzzier, which means there's the possibility of some wallowing uncertainty- what to do next? On Thursday afternoon Brendan visited a school friend for a couple of hours & I was quite disciplined about this precious gap of time. I planned 3 activities that I really wanted to do, all requiring my undivided atention- start a pair of lace socks from a new knitting book, find & draft the twill patterns for a new set of handwoven dish towels, &... I forget the 3rd thing. There was also the possibility of doing some sewing, but I decided that this was not the best use of free-brain-cell time, since the projects were already cut & ready to sew. Thanks to the planning, I actually did all 3 (I know I did the 3rd, too! -whatever it was), which means that I have been able to move on to the actual knitting of the socks (reading the pattern & planning the project takes much more brain-cell activity that the actual knitting), & that I can move on to the next phase of the weaving project when I next have a chunk of time & free brain cells.

I'm particularly pleased about working on the weaving. In the 3 years since Brendan developed OCD I haven't had much success with weaving & it intermittently makes me sad. Weaving takes a lot of thought. After Brendan started having serious difficulty with day-to-day functioning I found that the parts of my mind that used to effortlessly count threads were far too preoccupied to do so any more, adding a level of frustration to the weaving that I'd never had before. After wrestling with project after project, I finally realised that I needed to refocus, weaving-wise. I came to the conclusion that the loom wasn't going anywhere & that I can re-learn anything I lose, knowledge-wise, from disuse. So for the past couple of years I've been keeping my hand in by doing weaving projects with classes at school (on a small loom) & teaching Brendan to weave. We wove a blanket together last summer & it was not only fun & satisfying, but I learned that he's a wonderful help when it comes to warping (a sometimes difficult part of the process)- who'd have known? :)

It's only been over the past couple of months that I've been feeling like "really" weaving again, mostly inspired by a sudden surplus of handspun (by me) cotton threads. These threads had been a years-long project that was supposed to end-up as handwoven curtains for the dining-room. I'd been spinning thousands & thousands of yards of fine, organically grown cotton (in various natural colurs of brown, taupe, & green) by hand on a support spindle really enjoying the process... but the closer I got to my yardage goal, the more I realised that I didn't want to cover the dining room windows with curtains. I blogged the solution here, & ended-up with thousands of yards of destinationless handspun cotton in various colours... which made me think of dishtowels (what else?). And twill patterns that would show off the colours to nice advantage. And so I've found myself wanting to take the plunge again, into the possibly dangerous territory of 400+ thread projects, with their snarling & counting & other unknowns. But I keep thinking of how beautiful those patterns will look... So, here's one possible project for the incline ahead.

An on-going project that I seem to tackle far too often, with varying results these days, was also a big part of our break week. Depending on who's observing or experiencing it, it could be known as "Mom & Brendan butting heads again" although it's meant to be "Making Brendan aware of social nuances". It can begin when we're having a conversation &, out of nowhere, Brendan's tone of voice becomes belligerent for no apparent reason. Other times it's the result of Brendan experiencing frustration & getting stuck in being mad & rejecting all attempts to coach him through it. What I'm observing (& Charlie, too) is that Brendan is not aware of the messages his tone of voice can send & is not always choosing appropriately to the situation. He's a great mimic & picks up tones & sounds & loves to experiment. He's also starting to run an "attitude", which has sensitised me to the whole thing, since I get tired of being "barked" at. I am worried that Brendan will unknowingly use inappropriate ways of speaking to others, or not have enough info to choose wisely. I don't want him to get in trouble & not know why. I know that part of the issue is adolescence, Brendan's particular variety of it, & it's here to stay for a while, so I've been thinking a lot about how I'm part of the "solution" & how I'm part of the "problem". I'm part of the problem when I try to bring "teaching moments" into situations when he's upset already- this just escalates things. Sigh. I'm trying to learn to shut up at these times. Other times, when the voice thing seems truly random, I think I have a chance of getting the message across, & we had one fo these moments yesterday morning.

Brendan was making what he calls a "cappucino" for breakfast, which is microwave-heated lactaid with Ghirardelli mocha in it. He's learned how to do the steps, how long to nuke the milk (so it doesn't form a "skin" which he detests), how many spoons of mocha, but he's still working on the details, like how full the mug should be... (He was furious the one time that he got a "skin" on top even though he'd 'waved it at the scientifically-arrived-at number of seconds, but then we discovered that he'd only filled the mug half-way...) Yesterday, when he took the mug out of the microwave it sploshed all over, starting a chain-reaction in my son. I was mildly problem-solving with him, & he'd started calming down, but his responses were inordinately surly, so I pointed out the incongruity. He responded that "all I ever do is wrong" & I decided to tackle it right there.
"Yeah, it sure seems that way sometimes, doesn't it? I'm sorry- I don't want you to feel that way, but sometimes I really want to give you feedback on how you sound when you say things. Sometimes your voice over-reacts & I want to be sure you know it. I'm afraid that you'll do this with someone else & they'll misunderstand, & then they won't like how you spoke to them, & you won't understand why."
Brendan sipped his cappuchino... & then he sat down on the floor next to me & started chatting away about the food chain & friends & how to know who's really your friend. I was really surprised. Not only did he not escalate things, but he really wanted to talk about this stuff. He told me that there's a big barrier between the boys & girls at school & that he doesn't like feeling like he has to choose. I explained that this is partly developmental, that the boys do stuff at this age that the girls think is stupid, so they keep to themselves more, but that it changes, too, as the girls start noticing how cute some of the boys are. He reminisced about kindergarten & how hard it was to make friends with the other boys (I affirmed his perception- that was one of the unpleasantest groups of boys I'd ever met, & it always made me sad that so many families seemed to be "ruining" perfectly good kids...) & how he'd really just wanted to play with the girls because they were nicer. It seems that things are playing-out similarly right now, although the girls have a "food chain" of their own. We discussed how it was just fine if he preferred to eat lunch at the "girls' table" & avoid the hijinks perpetrated by some of the boys. He does have friends among the boys, too, but doesn't always like how they act in the presence of some of the ringleaders... Then the talk turned to how adolescence makes kids do weird, unpredictable things. That it's hard to depend on friends during this time, since everyone is at the mercy of their changing bodies. I mentioned that this is a time when being autistic is not a helpful thing, since he's not as quick on the uptake when it comes to social cues. I suggested he might want to talk to his (college-age) friend Ck about this when he sees him again, since he's been through it (& is also autistic). I also mentioned that he might want to think of his social interactions as play-acting, to observe them from that perspective, & even pre-programme some responses so that he isn't caught off-guard. He has the advantage of having role-played social interactions quite a bit, so this may help him get through. Brendan took a lot of this in very thoughtfully. I told him that the good thing is that there are a lot of people around who have gotten through this phase of life just fine, & that I know he will too :)

It was a pretty amazing/fun/affirming conversation. For a little while we were just people, sharing experiences & perspectives. I never cease to be amazed by my kid, his perceptions, his wit, his caring for others. It made for a very mellow day for us, too. We went to visit Grammie (& her cats) at her new apartment & even found a new japanese restaurant right near Grammie's to try out. Brendan also tried out Marx Brothers routines on us (scary, how well he nails each one...) to rave reviews. I may be worried about his mastery & use of vocal tones, but I have a feeling that his ability to (appropriately) match Grouch quips to specific situation more than compensates... heaven help us all!


At 4:01 PM, Blogger kristina said...

Brendan perceptive is to remarked upon----guess both of our boys have discovered the pluses and perils of the microwave.

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Bonnie Ventura said...

I have the same problem with my voice sounding loud or "surly" when in fact I am just overtired or mildly frustrated and didn't mean to raise my voice.

My husband gets upset sometimes because he thinks I am yelling or complaining. I've explained to him that I can't modulate my voice very well when I am tired and that he shouldn't take it personally, but sometimes he still gets irritated. I'm not sure what, if anything, I can do about that... any suggestions?

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

The thing about the microwave- there are always unexpected surprises, no matter how often you've cooked the same thing...

Bonnie, I appreciate your comment. I try to take Brendan's state of mind/body into account, particularly when deciding whether or not to comment (part of my being "part of the solution" strategy...). To be honest, I am known to get snappish toward evening or when I'm tired, & my husband seems to understand that. We're all human & I'm usually the first to model "human" behaviour :)


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