“It’s all your fault and I never want to speak to you again,” DS1 wailed.
“Oh, it’s my fault that you stubbed your toe, is it?” I queried. “But I wasn’t even in the same room as you.”
It was all too apparent that DS1’s equilibrium was still not quite level; a fact that was confirmed later by the discovery of a lump of cucumber floating in the downstairs toilet.
I had thought it strange that he’d walked downstairs to go to the toilet, when there was a perfectly good one next door to his room, where he had been eating his lunch at the time. Even weirder, although it didn’t really register at the time, was that he had been clutching a piece of pepper and cucumber en route.
Clearly, the pepper had flushed away nicely, but the cucumber was proving a tad more stubborn.
“If you didn’t want the cucumber, you could have just left it on your plate… or even put it in the bin,” I suggested.
This sage piece of advice clearly struck home… I later discovered a mini sausage floating in the upstairs loo, and his plate, complete with leftovers and discarded packaging, languishing on the chair in my study.
Going off with a bang
Still, it was the town fireworks display that evening. We normally go with his friend Joanne and her parents; sitting in a park adjacent to the main field where all the shenanigans takes place, from where we can watch the display away from the crowds.
This year we’d invited his best friend Henry and family along as well.
“But they don’t come to the fireworks,” DS1 said. “It’s just me and Joanne.”
This change from the norm, even though it was – I would have thought– a good one, threw him completely.
For a while he was in a bit of a two and eight, but, over the course of the day, he gradually came around to the idea.
Come six o’clock we were all set to go, when news came through that the fireworks had been cancelled due to a gas leak. Probably for the best, I thought, gas and gunpowder not being the best of mixes.
Having made up about 24 hot dogs and lashings of hot chocolate it seemed a waste to let this go to, er, waste, so (without thinking of the possible consequences) invited everyone back to ours to consume them.
To begin with everything went with a bang, apart from the fireworks obviously. The kids entertained themselves, sparklers were, er, sparkled, food was eaten, hot chocolate drunk and rum consumed (by the adults, not the kids).
But, fun over, and as everybody started to disperse, DS1’s mood changed.
With the front door not even closed on the last of our guests, he snatched the iPad and rushed up to his room.
It being past his bedtime, and with the rules we have over screen time late at night, I politely requested that he handed the iPad back because it was too late to play video games (are they still called ‘video’ games?).
“I need the iPad,” he volumised.
“No, you don’t need the iPad, you want it. Two different things,” I said. “Plus, it’s bedtime and we don’t have screen time after 7 o’clock do we, because it makes your head too busy.”
“But I need the iPad.”
“No.” I confirmed, before removing it from his possession and placing it on top of a kitchen cupboard out of harm’s way.
Or maybe not…
He fetched his stool and tried to scale the heights to reach the tablet – but it remained agonisingly out of reach (as far as he was concerned).
“Give me the iPad now,” he demanded. “I deserve it!”
“Why exactly do you deserve it?” I wondered.
“Because I do.”
Ask a silly question.
I was not for turning, however.
“You stupid, stupid idiot. You suck, you lame poo,” he hollered.
The wife tried to intervene. I could tell there was some form of compromise forming on her lips, as realisation dawned that this wasn’t just belligerence on his part, he was seeking some chill-out time after the ‘trauma’ of having so many people in the house.
I would argue the iPad was not the way to go, but I understood the thinking.
But he wasn’t prepared to listen to what she had to say, he was having the iPad and he was having it now.
He launched into a prolonged physical attack – flailing arms, kicking out, pulling hair and screaming his demands.
Any thought of us changing our mind had just evaprorated.
“If you’d have let me speak I was going to suggest to Dad that, as a one-off, because we had so many people in the house, you could have the iPad for five minutes. But because of your behaviour I can’t do that now.”
Seemed fair. But not as far as he was concerned, obviously.
The gift of hindsight
As is the way with these things, we rode out the storm and he calmed. As he started to relax, having had his blow out, he sought cuddles.
We retired to his room – hugging while lying on the stairs not being the best place for reconciliation.
He got ready for bed and we talked it through.
DS1 said he didn’t mind all the people being in the house, but after they had gone he had needed some quiet time and that is why he had wanted the iPad.
“I needed it to calm because there were so many people in the house,” he said, confirming that fact.
It was perfectly reasonable, and very astute of him to realise that. He just hadn’t gone about conveying his reasoning in quite the right way.
None of us had, to be fair – the grey area of bad behaviour and autistic behaviour once again clouding the issue.
Hindsight is brilliant for providing clarity – if only I had the gift of pre-sight.
Even when we do recognise his behaviour as being autism induced, we have to be so careful not to set a precedent. Allowing him the iPad on this occasion could spark issues further down the line, along the lines of, ‘Well, you let me have it late at night last time’. Cue another battle of wills.
Sometimes, though, you just have to accept the meltdown as the only way out.
As we lay on his bed, or rather the bed under his bed, I explained to him that it would have been better if he had told me at the outset how he was feeling.
But, I also acknowledged that I should have realised what was going on.
He seemed to agree with that statement as well.
No matter, we resolved, if a similar situation happened again, I would know how to react and he would know to articulate the issue in a more appropriate manner – and, maybe, he could have the iPad for five minutes next time so that he could reset his brain.
He grinned. “Can I have the iPad now, then?”
His sense of humour never deserts him.