Steve-O was watching Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus on the SyFy channel with Morgan; they were having rip-roaring laughs over the ludicrousy of a very silly movie. The Kid earned some computer time from Mom for maturely declaring of this ridiculous movie, “This is inappropriate for me Mom, can I go on Noggin dot com and play a reading game?” Which left me with the rare moment in which I was able to retreat into my bedroom to read. Now, I could have used this opportunity to do laundry, clean the basement, pick up toys, finish several projects, but I did not. I chose to read while everyone was still awake! And, they let me! I’m obviously in shock about it, still.
I picked up the latest issue of Brain, Child magazine at Barnes & Noble before The Kid got his haircut yesterday. I intended to read it while waiting for him to be done, but the Universe would laugh at me for being so silly. Because he did not go willingly into the chair. Remember, he has sensory integration dysfunction along with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and an extremely stubborn disposition!!? Well, haircuts are his absolute least favorite sensation. He HATES haircuts. They are truly torture for him! And, for me.
But, I had hope that he was outgrowing his hair-cut hatred.
Last year, we discovered Kid’s Cut, which is a chain devoted to cutting kids hair, as their name suggests. They have TVs at every station and they play Scooby Doo for their tiny clientele. They also have suckers, and stickers, and they sell toys (of course) and all the other clients are Kids. It doesn’t matter that it’s $16.50 for a cut. I will pay this sum if the staff is friendly and able to handle my nervous and freaking out kid with a sense of humor. He actually liked the place. We’ve gone there ever since. But, yesterday, he wasn’t into it. His hair had grown long over the summer so there was a lot to cut. He sat in the chair, shoulders scrunched to his neck, eyes squeezed tight, nose wrinkled. He demanded a different Scooby Doo than what was playing. He yelled “ouch” every time the stylist touched his neck with the comb. When he did open his eyes he stared in the mirror and watched her every move. She tried to get him to talk about school, Scooby Doo, the Fair, and he would have none of it. Halfway through he declared he was done and tried to escape. I had even bought him a haircut companion, a tiny stuffed Husky dog, he named “Wolfie.” Wolfie was clutched in his fists under his smock. I did all I could to get him to relax, but nothing worked. When he was younger he would do all this and scream too. At least he doesn’t scream anymore. We survived the haircut, and when it was over, as we were getting into the car, he said, “Mom, this wasn’t a very fun thing to do on a ‘Mom & me’ day.” I agree. If his hair wasn’t hanging in his eyes, I wouldn’t care one hoot about it being long, but it doesn’t grow out in a way that is workable. We usually only cut it once every 3 months.
The tagline for Brain, Child is “the magazine for thinking mothers.” Steve-O and I have had a few discussions about the exclusion of fathers in modern-day parenting literature, including this particular tagline. This is a magazine that I like to read a lot, so it’s come up a lot. Steve-O, in addition to being the resident artist, music expert, and full-time student, has also spent a great portion of the last 6 and a half years as a Stay-At-Home-Dad (SAHD).
HOWEVER, there are tons of books aimed at modern-day dads in 2009. When Steve-O goes to the bookstore he looks for these things, in this order: records, art books, and graphic novels. In the 7 years that we have had a child together, he has bought one book on fatherhood, and that was when I was pregnant, and it was for CAMP value (it was very outdated, from the early 80s, I think).
In any case, he leaves the buying of parenting books and child-rearing resource guides up to me. But, he reads what I buy, usually and then he has minor tirades and sometimes fits of mocking about fathers being left out. Hmmm? Methinks Big Daddy dost prostest too much.
I am not really into parenting advice books, here. Mostly stories. Anthologies, magazines, and blogs are where I learn about and relate to other parents/mothers. This issue of Brain, Child has an article called “The Other Mother” (nice nod to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline) by Stacy Lewis about coming to another mom’s aid in public without judgement when it clearly seems as though that mom is about to self-destruct all over herself and/or her kid. As a mom who has had to pick her screaming child up off the floor of a store (or a barber shop) and haul him out without buying what we came for on several occassions, I can relate.
Sometimes, you just need a reminder (without judgement) that it’ll be ok. Because it’s easy to judge when you’re not in it, but sometimes the gentle interferance of a stranger can be just the thing. Other times, it’s exactly what you don’t need. People giving you unsolicited advice, can eff off. But, when a mom or a dad says, “Oh, man, have I been there.” It’s a helpful reminder. I’ve experienced both situations. Out in public is where the majority of The Kid’s issues present themselves. A mom at his school during reading night last year said to me, “He’s not bothering ME at all,” when I was trying to get The Kid to sit down and listen and stop jumping up and down. This bothered me slightly. I know she was just trying to tell me that he wasn’t being disruptive. But, he truly was. Everyone in the room was sitting down and listening to a storyteller and here he was, next to me, jumping up and down.
As a mom who deals with this every minute of every day I almost don’t notice it anymore, but one major issue with kids with ASD is the social one. Social cues are important to know for a million reasons, and kids who struggle knowing them will have difficulty getting along in many ways. They need reminders until they can remind themselves. At six, they need reminders. And, maybe I was exhibiting frustration that made her uncomfortable, I don’t remember feeling all that frustrated by his behavior at that point, I just wanted him to sit down so he could hear the story too. And, so other people wouldn’t be bugged by the jumping. He was naturally very excited to be at school after hours with his and everyone else’s parents. There was a book fair and lemonade and cookies. Cookies!!!
They call this “stimming.” Kids with ASD frequently rock back and forth, jump and down, or worse, hit their heads against the wall, when they are seeking sensory input. My Kid will rock in his car seat or on the couch if he’s agitated, but jumping and toe-walking are his favorite methods of seeking input. In any case, it’s hard to concentrate when the little dude is jumping up. For him, it’s fine. That’s how his brain is wired. I have read a lot about having a schedule of sensory input throughout the day. They call it a “sensory diet.” If the kid gets a lot of running around outside time there are almost no issues, but if he’s watched too much TV, or has been cooped up, forget it.
Advice books can be sketchy. I do have some advice books which have been totally useful and that I would recommend for our particular issues: The Everything Parent’s Guide to Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and Lost Child In The Woods by Richard Louv, are two great books, that I reference all the time. No matter what, no book will be tailored exactly to your kid (or your partner–I’m looking at you Steve) but there are some useful suggestions.
I have been looking at meet up groups for parents with kids with autism and just moms and general. I have tons of very cool friends (hi!) but a lot of them don’t have kids. And, the ones who do all live in different cities. Anyway, I am not sure the meet up groups are totally right for me. But, it would be great to meet actual people who are going through the same things as a parent instead of just reading about them.