The ink was not yet dry on the presses when I wrote about telling my son he would have to clean his own poopy mess, if he had an accident. I wrote how I left him with supplies, wipes and fresh clothes. I said how this gave him renewed energy to head to the toilet on his own. Well, that worked for three days.
Then, two separate times on Monday, he called me on my bluff. The first time, I folded. He “sharted”. I cleaned him. It was between therapy sessions in a half hour break while he was playing video games in the office. Just before his second ABA therapist arrived – the new therapist – the one who has been with us for one week.
He walked by my office saying, “I want to go to the toilet with Jessica and then play Pole Position,” Rewind. I called him back. I asked him to repeat himself. Why would he ask to go to the toilet with Jessica? Well, of course it was because I said I would not clean him, but Jessica did not say she would not clean him. And my kid is a baby lawyer, and a manipulative literalist.
Once I understood I heard him right, I knew he “had an accident”. I took him to the toilet. I cleaned him. I sent him to therapy.
We got home. I asked if he needed to use the bathroom. He said yes. He peed. After that, he went to the bedroom and I put his pull-up on for the night. I was suspicious that he was not complete with his earlier “accident” and I didn’t want to spend half my evening cleaning more underwear.
He laid around, talking to himself, playing PacMan and then tried to go on the bed to lay down. “What’s wrong?” I asked. He said he had to use the toilet. He asked me to come. This time, I told him he was on his own. I knew he had another “accident”.
He looked so abandoned. He stared at me, pouty lip, big eyes. I looked away. He headed to the bathroom alone. “Don’t come back until you’ve changed and cleaned yourself,” I said. My heart was breaking. Was I being too hard on him? Is this terrible of me? Or am I teaching him to do something on his own – something it seems – most of the autistic children his same age probably already knew too?
I told him not to come back until he’d pooped, changed and cleaned himself. I was quite terrified of what I would see when I finally entered the bathroom, but determined to let him sort it out on his own. About 45 seconds passed. I heard the toilet flush. He ran back into the room naked from the waist down and triumphantly announced, “You did it!” all smiles, head held high.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“You pooped!” he announced, proudly.
“Did you throw away your pull-up?” I asked. He ran away to the bathroom. “No!” he yelled back. He was hurrying back to throw away the pull up which he said, he left on the floor.
Next, he came running back in and announced, “You threw it away!”
“That’s very good, “ I told him. “Did you wipe?”
And yes, that’s where it all went bad. He did no such thing. And thus, the bluff broke down. Let’s just put it this way. I had to flush the toilet about five times to clean the mess. Then, wash the boy’s hands to clean the rest of the mess. And wash my hands, like Lady Macbeth.
Then, I told him to find a new pull-up, put it on and put on his shorts.
He pulled apart the pull-up and came to me with it deconstructed.
I got him another and let him put it on and put on his shorts.
Throughout this whole escapade, except for the wiping portions, he was proud as a peacock of all the steps he accomplished on his own. Three seconds after being fully dressed, the wiping was forgotten, the pride remained and he was busy racing Ferraris on his Wii.
Daddy came home. He went to play outside with his dad. He came back in. He tried to get daddy to go to the toilet with him. Nope. He went on his own. Again. He came out half naked again. I sent him to get undies this time. He dressed himself.
You see, that’s the thing around our house. We don’t see much in the way of shy, embarrassed or shame. We do see manipulation, accomplishment and pride.
So, my form of “punishment” in having to clean and dress himself, turned into believing in himself, growing up a tiny bit, finding the happy and forgetting the ugly wiping part. He seemed to outsmart me at this game.
I’m just not strong enough yet to sit through watching him accomplish the wiping on his own – at least not so close to dinner time…
This is – as all posts – a snapshot in time. Tomorrow, he could melt down or have twenty accidents or none. There are no guarantees. Just, for now, in this moment, a little boy grew up a tiny little bit yesterday. And, around here, a tiny bit is a big deal.