One of the things that puberty has brought to the table is the typical raging hormones of an adolescent male. Monkey, has been going through the expected changes regarding his physical development, which with him not being potty trained it has been interesting to say the least. Excluding those less appealing topics there are the physiological changes that he has been experiencing that have brought on new attitudes and new aggression. He has always been a tough child to wrangle. Very determined on what he wants and demanding regardless of my taking the time to wait out the tantrums when you simply can’t let him have his way. From my experience you can employ all of the “proper” discipline tactics you would like, but with Monkey, they simply work when he decides. This has been true for myself as the parent as well as the professionals he works with through his school and so forth. This has all earned him the nickname around the house as little Napoleon.
Now that you have the background, his mother and I have always agreed to resist medications as much as possible over the years. Sadly, we have had to cave for his safety and quality of life as well as for some seizures that started when he was 9. We recently changed his meds due to his increased emotional activity and aggression, which we can only attribute to his hitting puberty. As a result it has been a nightmare of finding the new balance to where he isn’t doped up all day, but the meds are effective enough to keep him focused. As described in a previous post, the boy is moving from trying to sneak out the front door all day to literally climbing out of his bedroom window (which has been addressed; all safe and sound :). For him it has been a struggle too I am sure. He is trying to go through puberty with no real way to communicate what he feels or needs. As heart breaking as it is for me as his father I can only imagine how this messes with his head.
The struggle of these new meds if the side effects so far. He is back to being his happy self. Smiling most of the day with small spurts of aggression but nothing like it was getting to be before the meds were adjusted. That is where the problem lies. He is happy and that is great but now he is having side effects, that lets say, makes for his diaper changes to occur at much higher frequencies. What to do?! You have a kid that is happier but can’t quit going to the bathroom. In addition he still has tons of energy. Now this isn’t a lazy parent issue. It is a matter of safety. The boy simply wont slow down and focus to learn or maintain competencies he previously developed. Since the meds have changed he has went from someone that I can keep up with throughout the day (with a bad temper problem) to someone that has no temper and almost seems like he is totally happy to never listen… Which in many ways makes him a normal teenage boy. However this is where his happiness, safety, and progress need to be balanced. For now we aren’t rushing anything as parents. His mother and I are in separate households but we always work together with the kids, thankfully.
In the end we have to wait it out for now before leaping to more changes. It is stressful for the household as a unit. His brother, who is a totally normal boy, hasn’t been able to do much for fun over the summer because we have been tied up with Monkey’s new behavior issues and med changes. We can’t go very far without multiple changes of clothes and once we get somewhere we aren’t able to actually do much because Monkey has been so very busy. That is the missing factor that seems to get glazed over. Monkey is struggling through this, but so is his brother. Bike rides, trips to the park, family cookouts, vacations- These things all get altered and taken over during these times of change and aggression. His brother, Mater, is a sport about it. Never complains and always helps. Deep down I know he still wants to take a trip to ride go-karts or go to the park. Normal things for kids, that right now aren’t possible as a single dad with a special needs teenager and an 11 year old. Mater isn’t quite old enough to be a big help in those public settings and as a result our plans have been hindered this summer. I feel like that cartoon T-rex sometimes, with the short arms. I simply can’t get my hands around the problems this summer.
It is personally taxing as a father to balance the fact that his brother needs to understand that our family is different, and therefore we have to sacrifice at times to care for our loved ones, with the desire to take your son out for a fun day without having to focus on the long list of things we can’t do. What I don’t think gets fair credit is that you have to sacrifice all of these things for a person that doesn’t really ever appreciate the effort or care they require. There’s simply no understanding of accountability. I think topics like this get passed up because it sounds cruel to say, but when dealing with your personal frustration as a father, or brother, it is a real factor. Yes it isn’t Monkey’s fault, and yes we love him to the moon and back, but it doesn’t change the reality of situation. The reality that autism in a child creates the need for constant and continuous understanding with little positive motivation from the source of the frustration. Autism! Such a radiating effect it has on everyone involved. Something as routine as hitting puberty eliminated vacation ideas, daily activities, and the tension in the home for an entire summer. Some years are better, and some are worse.
The one thing I found over the years is that what you can’t do is look at these situations as anything more than a period or phase. A phase that will change and move on soon enough…. After this summer all three of us I am sure are looking for the next one to get here.
Love that child, love your brother, love for whatever they are to you because no matter how bad your day gets or how many plans fall through, it is nothing to the pain and anguish that a person with autism must experience.