Apologies.

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.

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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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21 Responses to Apologies.

  1. Big Daddy says:

    “Cookies” and “kisses” should be a part of every apology.

    My son uses “I love you” to get out of trouble. Nine times out of ten when he says it, something bad just happened. However, the other 10% of the time, it’s just awesome. hearing him say that.

  2. Melody@ LTS says:

    (((((hugs)))) to you my dear. It is such a trying experience to tease out the triggers for whatever behaviors or verbage come about with our kiddos. I am with ya. Although my son is not on the autism spectrum there are some parallels with the spectrum of behaviors under the Bipolar mood disorder umbrella. I am glad to be getting to know you and your dear little guy here in the blogosphere. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • solodialogue says:

      I feel the same Melody! Thanks for the hugs. I think the issues are similar as well. I know several kids on the spectrum who also are considered bipolar as well. We’re all mamas struggling to understand our kids the best we can and that’s a beautiful thing!

  3. Teresa says:

    The wheels are turning and sometimes at such a pace… If only we could see inside.
    Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at reading my son’s expressions. But still there are times I don’t know what he wants me to know.
    When Matthew was young one thing that always happened was that after a really bad day he would become sick. Always. I expect he wasn’t feeling well but couldn’t let me know so was just crabby. But until the fever, cough, ear problem, stomach problem, etc. became significant I didn’t necessarily see the signs. Hindsight…
    Of course, sometimes Matthew would come downstairs with an obvious fake cough and a pillow, thinking he could fool me into letting him lie on the couch and watch tv all day. Such trickery didn’t often slip by this mom.
    We do hope your allergies improve. Here in Arizona, we are also suffering. The season is shorter for us though as soon things will dry up and blow away. Unfortunately, then it’s summer in AZ.

    • solodialogue says:

      Interesting how Matthew would get sick after a really bad day. I wonder which came first – the bad day or illness… It’s good to know I’m not the only one who does not instantly “get” the signs of illness. Also, again – the fallacy that our kids don’t lie – is shown to be not true. Faking sickness to get out of school? How NT is that?! Summer in Arizona actually sounds good to me – 100+ degrees? I so want that right now! (I will retreat when they actually arrive!)

  4. Grace says:

    My son does this too! He will say “I’m so sorry!” before I even realize what he’s done.

    Sounds like you handled it all really well. I hope Tootles feels better. And make that child some chicken soup for goodness sake.

  5. Lizbeth says:

    Well, he has an understanding of what’s wrong and saying I’m sorry. Sounds like he’s aware of what he’s doing and that there are ramifications or consequences with some of his actions. That’s something to celebrate in my book—he’s making the association. Now granted he’s sick and all out of sorts but he’s getting it!!! YAY!

    Good for you for sticking to your guns. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. 😉

  6. Broot says:

    Maybe he’s sorry he got sick and he’s acting out to have a reason to say sorry because he can’t figure out the connection otherwise? Working out if it’s okay to be sorry he’s sick?

    • solodialogue says:

      You’re giving him too much credit. Each moment of his existence he is getting into something that requires an apology! I think he’s just trying to catch up! 😉

  7. Kelly says:

    Hey Karen – like Griffin, Ted uses, “I love you, Mommy” as an all purpose Get Out of Jail FREE card. It doesn’t work, but OMG – hearing those words. I melt a little every time. Then I move on to the punishment phase, but still…

  8. solodialogue says:

    Ted and Griffin have those “I love yous” down! Too bad for Ted, mama ain’t buyin’! 😉 (I’m pretty sure I’d be a pushover for Ted’s antics – at least for the first 15 minutes…)

  9. Jen says:

    Sometimes I think ALL kids have issues with impulse control. Ben will hit me (not hard) for NO reason sometimes. There is that immediate apology after. Who knows. They totally do use I’m Sorry to try and get out of things, like saying it magically makes whatever they did OK. ha. At least that is the thought process of my children.

  10. solodialogue says:

    Yes. That’s the thought process. They do know that things are wrong and that we are not pleased. I’m pretty sure that “I’m sorry mommy. Kisses. Cookies” means “Erase what I just did from your memory mom.” 😉

  11. eof737 says:

    Karen, I doff my hat to you… I admire you for staying firm when you must and being the dotting mom too.
    Kudos,
    Eliz

  12. jnettlee says:

    So sweet. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? 😦

  13. We have a really hard time in this area with Kaia too. I’ve been told that it’s developmentally appropriate for preschool-aged children to hit and/or physically lash out when they’re otherwise unable to express emotions but gosh darn… it’s a really crummy behavior pattern and so difficult to get rid of!

    With the little miss, I usually also try to make her understand that mommy is sad because she’s been attacked and we ask her to say “I’m sorry.” But unlike Tootles, I do not think little miss has gotten to the point of understanding the whole sequence (hitting mommy = sad mommy = don’t do it) — simply because she has not come to the remorse/apology conclusion by herself.

    Speaking of “sorry,” I am sorry to hear that Tootles is sick again and we’re thinking lots of healing chicken-soup-filled hugs your way!

  14. Tam says:

    I wonder if the thing with his baby picture was him remembering something he did when he was younger, or something from the last time he was sick. It could be that he’s just recently made the connection that his misbehaving upsets you/causes you pain, and he’s trying to go back and apologize for the past but doesn’t know how to communicate it. Perhaps he’s trying to show you the things he remembers having done before so that he can apologize for them?

    • solodialogue says:

      Wow, Tam, you could be onto something there. There’s always a lot of misbehaving (lol!) but knowing his memory and the picture yeah. You make a lot of sense. I only wish I knew what it was. I will bring it up with him. 🙂

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