Well, my son does have allergies and asthma. It is spring. When he started sniffling a couple of days ago, I tried to fool myself into believing that was just a little flare of allergies. Fooling being the key word. Of course, on Friday morning, he woke up rubbing his eyes, coughing, hacking, sneezing and nose fully loaded and dripping. He said to me, “Are you feeling okay?” which, translated means “I’m sick.” Yes, the virus is back.
So, we stayed home together today, just the two of us. I cancelled therapies, checked on the parents by phone and tended to my son. We had a fairly uneventful, calm day. But while he played, and ran back and forth between rooms, and I was wiping his nose, I noticed something. There are some strange words going on in our house.
Here they are: “I’m sorry, mommy! I’m sorry!”
He’s been saying this quite often lately. Whenever, there is the slightest transgression, he has been apologizing. He’s not doing it just with me. He’s apologizing to his dad, Jessica, and his therapists. I have no idea where this all began. But it is interesting.
He does not just randomly say it like he is scripting. He thinks about his actions, sometimes he reads our faces and makes a conscious, albeit rapid, decision to apologize. I’m thinking he sees it as a way to get out of trouble.
He knows the words to say when he has done something “wrong.” Thus, another level of reasoning is involved. He knows certain actions are forbidden. (Don’t flick the door handle 500 times, don’t hit or swat at people). He will do it knowing it’s wrong and then run over and say the words immediately, making eye contact and trying to steal kisses. This is the formula he uses:
“I’m sorry, mommy! I’m sorry! Kisses! Kiss mommy! Cookies!”
Cookies? I have no idea how they got thrown in there although a good cookie is a nice apology. Then, he will press his lips to mine and hug me. Most of the time, I just want to laugh. I have to keep it together for a couple of reasons. First, I have to figure out why he is apologizing. Has he dumped bleach on my clothes? Did he try and flush some foreign object down the toilet? Has he spilled red paint on the carpet? Second, I want to make sure that whatever it is, he knows that I’m mad or sad about it so he understands the emotion that goes with whatever wrong was committed.
As he was running from room to room and coming back to apologize, I could not figure out why he thought he was doing anything wrong. Late in the afternoon, I finally got some information out of him. He was going into the living room and staring at his baby picture. I have no idea why. He took me out there and showed me that he had moved his picture sideways on the table. For some reason, he thought this was not a good thing.
I reassured him that it was fine and that we could turn the picture facing back the way it was and all would be fine with the world. He seemed okay with this. Foolishly, I went back to trying to cook dinner. Then, I thought I heard a distant squeal and some childlike cussing. So, I went to the other end of the house.
It turns out he had peed himself and it was everywhere. He had torn a tiny piece of baby wipe out of a dispenser and was trying to clean it off the floor while screaming, “Clean! Clean! Take off the pants!” Again, I had to keep from laughing. He does not have many peeing accidents these days but this was a good one. I stripped him and bathed him, cleaned off the floor and got him dressed in his pajamas. As he was getting dressed, he slapped me. He only got me lightly on the shoulder but it was – on purpose.
I haven’t talked too much about this behavior because it is rare. I know many people in the blogosphere have children whose autism causes them to hit and bite and hurt their parents physically and my heart bleeds for these parents. I know they are strong and do whatever they need to make their children understand the consequences of that behavior. But this is not my experience.
My son is not violent with me. He has never ever physically caused me any pain on purpose. He has slapped and struck out on a handful of occasions throughout his life. I know I’m very lucky that way. As soon as he did it, the string of apologies began and he started to cry.
I don’t know where this came from. One minute he was getting dressed. The next he stood on the bed and slapped at me. He yelled he was sorry and cried immediately. Nevertheless, I do not want him to get even the slightest inkling that this behavior is okay. I make it clear that I will not tolerate it. I do not and did not ignore it. I confronted it.
He had a time out, sitting in a child’s chair facing a blank wall. There was crying and yelling sorry over and over. Scripting numbers. Screaming about kisses and cookies. And it was hard to keep my back turned for the entire five minutes. It seemed to take forever. At times, I wanted to let him out and times I wanted to laugh when he yelled, “Kisses! Cookies!” When it was over, it was not over. There was crying and sniffling in addition to the sniffling from the virus for another 20 minutes.
In the end, he sat down on the floor next to me and played with a marble racer for about a half hour, telling me I should make chicken soup in a portion of his racer that, he said, looked like a bowl. (I’ve never made chicken soup). Finally, he got up to ask me to rock in the rocking chair with him. We did. It always reminds me of what a tiny screaming bundle of joy he was then too. He fell asleep shortly afterward.
Just another average day with autism.
Night night, my little bundle of joy. I’m sorry too. Sometimes, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.