The amount of ups and downs that come with an autistic child is something you accept early on as a parent. It’s the expectation you keep at the forefront of your thoughts when you hit the rough patches of behaviors and frustrations. Throughout the years each difficult situation was eventually met with change, and we would move on to the next new thing that would cause a meltdown, or otherwise disturb the home. It’s not to sound negative, it’s just accurate to what we’ve experienced as a family. So long as you keep your sights on the idea that all meltdown triggers eventually come to an end, then you have something to look forward to. That’s the process. That’s what you do. The new problem arrives and you simply try to help them through it until it passes.
When Monkey turned four his mother and I started experiencing his wildly unpredictable reasons for throwing massive tantrums. It all started when we couldn’t leave the house using the side door. Despite being the door closest to the driveway it was known, that if you wanted to leave the house, you exit through the front door and walk around to the car. If you didn’t do this an incredible amount of rage would spew from a typically sweet little boy. At the time he was more manageable due to being toddler sized, but the rage and tantrum would last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Much like today (some ten years later).
When this first happened we really didn’t know how to take it. We weren’t sure what he could and couldn’t understand because he was only four. At this point we couldn’t be certain that he was even autistic. The only delays at that point were walking and talking, but not by that much when all things were considered. At that point we’re still listening to the folklore about what age Einstein was when he first spoke, and how Punky Brewster didn’t speak at a young age. There’s still that big “maybe” keeping things from being what they really are in your head. Nonetheless, he would throw a massive fit no matter what bribe or distraction was presented. This went on for months and months. Then one day…. I slipped. I dared forget, and went out the side door. Wouldn’t you know it, Monkey didn’t care. He suddenly didn’t care!? Where’s Rod Serling?
The lesson and/or takeaway was that we wouldn’t know why he was so upset about something like which door people used. We wouldn’t know what triggered it to start any more than we would know what made it stop. This has went on for years. For a while it was getting him new shoes as he grew. Found that one out in the middle of Famous Footwear, and in the process we basically scared away the locals. Then… nothing… all better. I am once again “allowed” to buy him shoes.
Then it was socks, pants vs. pajama bottoms, moving furniture in the house, changing bed sheets, you name it. If there is a way to be upset about something, Monkey has found it one way or another. Granted it is charming that he consistently surprises me with how he is going to bust my chops from month to month, but the flattery drops off when he gets so large that he may be a harm to himself and others. When you begin to realize that you really can’t handle him like you used to.
Showers have been reigning supreme as the one thing he is not going to be a part of. The boy hates sprinklers, showers, hoses, and basically any form of water that is spraying from anywhere but the clouds (still loves the rain:). Monkey hates this stuff to the point that he can’t even enjoy a water park, despite his love for slides and swimming pools, because there will undoubtedly be sprinklers and sprayers. He simply can’t look past it, and that one, I don’t think he ever will. However, we could always get him in the tub; just no shower head.
That all being said, the most recent new aggression was over his new desire to cage fight before every bath. We moved, and therefore had a new bathroom. Over the years I have learned to connect the dots pretty well with Monkey, so it was a pretty easy guess that he wasn’t sure of the new bathroom, and therefore didn’t like taking a bath. Regardless of the why, it had become a one hour battle every night to give him a bath. One of his favorite activities has become more difficult than the worst hair cutting session or trip to the doctors. His mother (separate home) got to the point where she couldn’t get him in the bath because he’s bigger than her now, and can pretty much kick her butt. So that made it hard to think it was still the new bathroom. After all, mom didn’t get a new house, so what’s the beef?
Now we have a real monkey on our hands that will soon have ticks if no solution is found. Now I’m a loving dad, but I’ll be damned if I’m wiping his butt all day only to finish it off by picking fleas off his back like we’re in the jungle. Not this white-boy.
So, two months go by, and just as sudden as it started he stopped making me corral him for an hour, and just got in the tub. He simply got undressed and hopped right in the tub. At this point I should be grateful, but I’ll admit that there is a slight feeling of being punked when you get your butt kicked by a teenager for two months, for simply wanting to care for them … and then what? They suddenly decide your punishment is complete? That they’ve kicked your ass enough?? All I know is there’s a good ten seconds of “screw you too, buddy” that you feel before you can even appreciate that the fight is apparently over.
In this case I wish I could figure out what the triggers were to make it stop, or start for that matter. The new house seems viable, but that doesn’t answer why he was playing Godzilla with his mother at her house. The sudden stop was awkward too. No slow breakdown resulting from my many approaches to coax him into the tub. All of which led to me ultimately having to pick him up while he was flailing around. This is despite using all the patience in the world to try to get him to do it himself. It simply stopped. He just got in the tub.
So what next? I’m guessing it will be attached to his new-found love for wearing one shoe around the house. It’s weird so far becuase I just keep finding one shoe… like the rest of the body is missing or something. What I can be certain of is that the next one is coming, and we, as a family, better enjoy the down cycle of this roller coaster while it lasts. The only thing I can hope is that Monkey takes the time to enjoy it too.