Mae and Jay at the corner of the MLK statue
Lately, I’m reminded of how difficult and thankless a job is parenting. I should say before I go any further that I gave my share of fits as a child. I was unappreciative and stubborn at times. I didn’t like being told what to do. I talked a lot and I talked back. Somebody or somebodies put up with me. None of that vindicates the difficulty of raising the kids I have. When they are not being fun, loving and kind, they are being unreasonable, ungrateful, and plain unfair. I refuse to believe, and I’m not even going to ask my mother, that I was on this level. I’ve had to give so many reminders recently to say “May I” and “please” that it feels like we’re going backwards. The sarcasm of both the seven- and four-year old is so teenagerish that I have no idea what to expect five to ten years from now. Unless I’m in some kind of denial, I think the scale tips more on their cute/funny/clever/mannered side. However, I’m starting to think someone is messing with the scale. Or, maybe I’m not the drum major I thought I was.
This evening, Mae asked me if I liked her shirt or Jay’s shirt better. I said that I liked my own shirt best, thinking it was a quick (and clever) way to end the conversation. She then went on to say that it seems that I like Jay better. I said that wasn’t true. I should have stopped there. Noooo. I asked what made her think that. The only example she could think of was that he gets more things at Christmas, although, when I pressed, she couldn’t remember how many things she had gotten nor how many things he had gotten. Truth be told, she probably doesn’t remember what either of them received nor who gave it to them.
Since Saturday, Mae has asked me a few times whether I like her or Jay better. She has not been satisfied with my answer that they are both my favorite. Choosing her words carefully, she has been saying basically that I am nicer to Jay because “he does things better.” What she will not say is that she gets into trouble more than he does. She says instead that other people get her into trouble, even when she is not doing anything. We had a version of this conversation on Monday and Mae said that she “never” does anything wrong. I asked if all her choices are good choices, and she answered, “mostly.” I could tell by her voice and face that she wasn’t confident in that answer. She’s good at sticking with the story in her head.
On Tuesday night, she was super tired. It was a long day for her. She’d woken at 4:57 am complaining of both hunger and a stomach ache. I wasn’t surprised after a weekend of fast food and junk. I offered her a snack, gave her some medicine and sent her back to bed. However, she didn’t go back to sleep and that was one and a half hours of sleep lost. To her credit, she was amped about school and dressed herself before Hubby and I were done showering. It was the first day of school, the first day of the new aftercare program. By bath time, she was worn out and that precipitated a fight about getting off the computer and going upstairs. As she cried and screamed on the floor beside the bathtub, she could barely keep her eyes open. I don’t understand what is so wrong about feeling tired and going to bed. Why choose a fight over a hot shower and a soft pillow? I know that she is much more reasonable when she is not exhausted. I haven’t forgotten that. But, her unreasonable state is so intense that if a UFO had hovered outside the bathroom window and asked for her, I would have packed a suitcase and a snack. If she had asked me at that moment if I liked her or Jay better, I’m 95% sure that I would have yelled “JAYYYY!” She didn’t ask because she was in her “nobody likes me” mode. Usually, I think to myself and/or I say to her, I like you though sometimes I don’t like something that you said or did. Tuesday night, though, I had a shift. I didn’t like being a parent. It was more about my reaction than her behavior. As she was yelling and throwing her socks at me, I stood there thinking that that very morning, I’d gotten up at 4:57 am to get her water and grapes and give her a suppository (something that might have been sufficient birth control had I known it would be part of the job), and there she was, having a fit about not having enough time on the computer. Her behavior may have been typical for an exhausted seven-year 0ld or it may have been the inflexibility of Asperger’s. I didn’t know and I didn’t care, and I just wished that it wasn’t my job to deal with it right then.
I see that Jay is trying to make sense of Mae’s meltdowns and figure out how to respond. Sometimes, he makes a point to distinguish himself by saying that he is listening or being cooperative. Or, he’ll ask why Mae is crying so. Recently, he’ll say that he had cried at some time during the day or someone had been mean to him. These are things that he hears Mae talking to me and Hubby about and I fear that he sees those topics as attention-getters, even if the incidents are not very serious. So, now we have to work on nipping that.
Last night, Wednesday, was much better. Mae had lost computer time because of her behavior the night before, and she whined only for a second when I reminded her. She was cooperative at bath time, even with a new rule of TV off at 7:30. She and Jay played well together — not a single fight. She earned a couple of mickeys for being helpful to him. They gave me a break, a much-needed break.