Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Perfect Son

So the past few weeks with Noe have been autism-tastic.  He knows his life is being turned completely upside down and doesn't know how to handle the changes.  He sees his house morphing into a state of boxes and blank walls....a little more each day.  He knows his father is on the other coast and that we will soon join him.  Because he can't communicate enough to process all of these changes, they come out in less constructive ways --- trouble focusing and sleeping, some violent outbursts, serious OCD behaviors.  He will run from one side of the house to another if he senses a cabinet door might be ajar.  He is constantly putting away dishes and silverware left on the counter, even if they still need washed.  He must have his hands full of his "comfort items" (favorite fabrics, ribbon and balls) at all times.  He is easily angered and agitated.

The worse Noe's behavior becomes, the harder Asher pushes himself to be the perfect child.  It is difficult for Asher to watch me struggle.  Noe throws a tantrum at dinner?  Asher quickly and quietly puts away the dishes and sweeps the floor.  Noe refuses to go into the grocery store while we are out running errands?  Asher tickles his brother and says silly things to him until he forgets his protest.  The other day Noe was lobbing pencils and paper at me because he did not want to practice his handwriting.  Asher disappeared upstairs and practiced the piano for an hour straight.

Asher tells me he loves me and appreciates me at least once an hour.  He gets upset with himself for the smallest and silliest of missteps.  His little eight-year old self is desperately trying to be everything I need right now.

I constantly tell him, "You are not responsible for your brother.  You do not need to be perfect.  You need to work hard at school, have fun with your friends, and do the things you enjoy doing like soccer and writing and making cool stuff."

However, what I'm REALLY thinking....and at some subconscious level what I think he hears is...."Thank you for not giving me any headaches.  The better you behave and the more you help out the easier it is to deal with your brother.  I really NEED you to help me out right now while we get through this challenging time.  I DEPEND on you, so please don't let me down."

I have officially started a future therapy fund for this kid.

A few years back a friend with an autistic brother passed along an article about autism siblings.  The article suggested that autism siblings fall into one of two extremes.  Siblings either become the perfect child to overcompensate for their autistic brother or sister, or they experience anger and resentment toward their family situation and rebel.  Asher was only two years old when I read the article and I already had a good sense of which camp he would join.  I remember the icy wind of sadness, guilt and relief blowing through me as I had that epiphany.

So here we stand six years later, theory in full motion.  As a mom, I can only hope that both of my sons feel my ever-present love and know they are always enough.

Postscript:  Noe's behaviors have overall improved this week, and Asher is whining about getting his own room at our new house in Seattle, so some balance has been restored.