The Innocence Flowers.

One of the things that strikes me as a parent is the halo of innocence that surrounds my child.  That innocence is like all the beautiful spring flowers on a tree.  Each time something happens that causes a loss of that innocence, it is like a flower falls away from the tree.  Like the tree, my child learns and grows but the innocence flower is lost forever once it falls.

Recently, I pulled an innocence flower dangling off his tree. It started simply enough.  My son wanted to play Trios, building blocks, like Legos but bigger.  He’s had the Trios for over a year but hasn’t played with them since last summer.  That was around the time our bad nanny (BN) left.

I’ve talked about the BN before.  She started when our associate’s wife, the baby whisperer, left to have a baby.  The baby whisperer left on good terms.  She told my son she was going and that she loved him.  She prepared him for her departure.  He never had a problem when she left.

Then we got the BN.  BN was not always bad.  In fact, she and my son did tons of fun things together including playing with the Trios.  But there were weeks at a time that she would either call in sick or simply not show at all and I was left scrambling to reschedule depositions, court dates and deadlines to care for my son.

After 1.5 formative years with my son, last June, the BN quit with no notice.  My son had just received his autism diagnosis but we had not started behavioral therapy.  Before his diagnosis, from time to time, he would reach up slowly and sometimes slap the BN in the face.  It was never a serious injury.

When she put him in a high chair to eat his lunch, he would kick at her at times under his tray.  Again, she was not injured nor did she seem to think it was a big deal.  He wouldn’t engage in this behavior with me, only with her.  He would do it when I was not there.  To discourage the behavior which I was extremely upset about if I caught him in, she used to threaten by saying, “Do not hit me.  If you hit me again, I will leave and never come back.” or “I’m going to tell your mother.”  She would use the same threats about the kicking.

For nearly a year now, he has not mentioned her much.  During the recently, increasing times that he has mentioned her, we all have redirected him and avoided a discussion.  For me, I simply did not want to hurt him with the truth.  I wanted the flowers on his innocence tree to stay in full bloom.

BN hurt him very badly.  He loved her with pure adoration, dependence and innocence.  She spent 40 hours a week with him and played with him all day long, every day.  To suddenly be cut off from that with no ending and no explanation was unfair, to say the least.

But really?  What were we all doing?  I cannot believe we thought that by not talking about it, the issue would resolve itself.  My son has a strong memory.  He knows every single toy in his inventory.  He knows events that occurred months and years ago.  He can recall minute details about the most benign events.  Why on earth did I have the idea that by not talking about the BN’s departure, he would forget about it and move on?

He did not.

In the last few weeks, my son has been repeating these two sentences:  “Do not hit me” and  “Do not kick me.”  Again, the standard operating procedure around the office and at home- ignore it.  Finally, the other night, he reached out to me for some answers while playing Trios.

He said “(BN’s name)….”  Then, he stopped.  I looked up at him from the Trios.  He was making eye contact.  He said,  “BN is at the …”This was breaking my heart.  I could not ignore him.

“Where do you think she is?”  I asked him.  I was quite curious where he thought she’d been for nearly a year.

“She’s at the……”

“Where?”

“She’s at the hospital.  She is at the doctor’s.”  he said.

“No, no, no.  BN is not at the doctor or the hospital.  BN was not a nice person.  She left without telling us.  She was a bad person.”  I handled that horribly wrong.

He responded with, “I’m sorry, mommy.”

I said,  “No, you are good. She was bad!”

With increasing volume, he said, “I’m sorry, mommy!!”  Again, I reassured him that he had done nothing wrong that he was good.  I told him that sometimes people just go away and that she did not go away because he hit or kicked her.  At that point, I was uncertain where we were going and used redirection.  He accepted the change of subject and did not bring it up again.

It actually took me til the next morning to put the pieces together. My son believed that BN left because he hit and kicked her.  She said she would “leave and never come back” if he hit or kicked again.  He took her very literally.  He put together that the hitting and kicking had resulted in a trip to the doctor or the hospital from which she never returned because he was bad.

I felt awful.  For nearly a year, he’s been carrying this burden of believing that he caused BN to go away.  No wonder he’s been terrified of the doctor and hospital.  He thought we might never return like BN if we went there.  Poor little guy.

I guess the moral of the story is that you must be very careful with an ASD child in trying to shield them.  My son took things literally, grouped together concepts of injury with the doctor, hospital and never seeing someone again.  It’s going to take some time to straighten out these jumbled thoughts of his that I allowed to get so out of control by failing to give him truth.

I guess honesty is the best policy.  Sometimes a good trim on a little tree where the flower grows is exactly what it needs to stay healthy.  I guess I will learn to appreciate the new growth where the flower used to be.  If I can remove the flower of innocence, without damaging the tree, it will grow bigger and bloom in many other directions.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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19 Responses to The Innocence Flowers.

  1. Wow. That’s a tough lesson to learn. Especially with all the recent trips to the hospital for your mom.

    But maybe you can build on that positive experience? Show Tootles that grandma went to the hospital and now she is back and that she loves him just as much as ever?

    Hugs to you, my friend. Here’s to hoping that the rest of those innocence flowers stay on the tree for a bit longer 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Yes, Karla. I was thinking that my mom returning home may have brought up what my son has had in the back of his mind. Why is grandma home but BN is still gone? And then reasoned that it was because of something he did that was bad. What a mess! I will work on the positive with him. I think he will understand in the end but I’m sorry to take away that piece of trust from him. Thanks for your suggestions.

  2. Flannery says:

    Poor baby! I feel so sad for him. I hope bad nanny gets a bad case of the ‘roids after this damage.

    And I really like your analogies. I can’t ever think of things like that. Trees and flowers and such. Very sweet.

  3. Julie says:

    What a terrible thing for a caregiver to do! Please don’t beat yourself up. You did what you thought was best at the time. We all want to protect our kids from hurt. However, our kids do deserve honesty and as hard as it is to do, we must give it to them in as kind and age appropriate ways as possible.

    {{{hugs}}}

  4. Lizbeth says:

    Bad Nanny was just that–bad. Hindsight is 20/20, don’t beat yourself up over this. I have found honesty is the best with my son but I limit incoming information and tell people to mean what they say or zip it.

    Do you think he may be processing what’s going on with your mom too and putting it all together? Sigh. It’s never easy, is it???

    • solodialogue says:

      Yes, I will be telling people to zip it a lot more these days! And I totally think it has to do with my mom and putting it all together. I will have to untangle those crossed wires. Sometimes, it can be easy – just not right now. 🙂

  5. Broot says:

    Awww ***hugs*** and boo to the BN. I’m glad you’re talking about it with him now though.

  6. TMBMT says:

    Aww this had to be a really hard conversation. Hopefully it won’t take too much to help him understand now… though that kind of betrayal from someone you love (the nanny leaving like that) is the kind of thing that can stick around for a very long time.

    This type of misunderstanding is why I react so strongly when I find people trying to justify lying to their kids. Even just avoiding subjects can leave kids very confused, outright lying can do damage in ways you won’t know for years to come, or may never know.

    Beautiful analogy with the tree, btw 🙂

  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself- you were clearly doing what you thought was best for him at the time. It’s so hard to know what they do and don’t understand, isn’t it?

    I’m sorry for both of you that happened. I really can’t believe someone could work that closely with your family and then just disappear- that’s horrible.

  8. Brian says:

    Another good post. Our sons are so alike it’s weird. People try to tell him what he’s going to do later. Yeah. Tell him his favorite thing is coming in 2 hours. Then let me pick up the pieces. Very literal. I’m done venting.

  9. The last line is something to live and learn by, in this and many other kinds of situations. I’m still too fuzzy-headed to find the words to really respond to the rest of it, but….. ::hugs::

  10. eof737 says:

    Interesting and I like that you caught on when you were over-reaching. It must be difficult to address all of the issues around BN leaving… Take it one step at a time.
    Eliz

  11. jnettlee says:

    It’s amazing that he remembers this so well, as has worried about it all this time.
    Yes, I’d say addressing issues as they arise are certainly best. In whatever manner they can understand at the time. Open honest answers. Evading the issues have consequences. Bless his little heart.

    Thank you for sharing this. A good lesson for ALL of us to keep in mind from here on out !

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