May 28, 2010


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged at 9:29 am by autismmommytherapist

We’ve started a new ritual chez McCafferty, a routine which I hope will promote a greater bond between my boys. This newfound ritual occurs at the end of the day, after meals have been consumed, the invariable video has been watched, and not enough toys have been put away. For me, this is my favorite time with both of my children. It is that rare occurrence when requests for juice, toys, food and an innate need for every second of my attention tend to be ameliorated by a greater need to take a bath together, and in the case of my oldest son who is generally struggling to remain conscious by this time, is also coupled with a desire for sleep. We’re not so fortunate with our second child, who employs so many diversional tactics to stave off bedtime that I’m certain he’d be an excellent military figure, but perhaps one day that too will change. I’ll have to wait and see.

My husband and I used to separate the boys for their respective bedtime agendas, in part because for the longest time they craved unconsciousness at different junctures, but mostly because I thought Justin would become upset if he had to share me. For years sleep preparation duty for my oldest has generally been my domain, and I admit in some ways I didn’t want to conduct that time with anyone else. Justin is perhaps at his happiest in the evening, filled with impromptu hugs, kisses, and languorous stares I don’t often receive when I’m competing for his attention from one of his various toy laptops. At nighttime, however, he is snuggly, and he loves his mama. Since I’m huggy for a WASP, I confess I adore this time too.

In an attempt to promote “brotherly love” however we have altered our regimen slightly, and introduced shared bathtime to the boys, an event I wasn’t certain would be met with a great deal of enthusiasm by either party. In many ways Justin is a slave to his rituals, and Zachary is an attention hound, so changing any routine or inventing one in which my youngest is not the star attraction can be dicey. After several consecutive nights in which I used too much hot water for Justin and relegated my youngest child to a tepid bath we finally decided to go for it, and make cleaning those two little boy-bodies an ensemble effort. It turned out to be a wonderful idea.

Zachary, who relates every experience to an encounter with a car or a train, quickly deemed Justin to be the engineer in this nighttime play, which of course rendered his lordship to be the loyal caboose. He takes great joy in bossing his older brother around, telling him to move up, sit down, or be still for the end of bath task where I shoot saline repeatedly up my son’s nose to stave off recurrent sinus infections (nothing says love from an autistic child like letting his mother employ a netti-pot). Zach gleefully pours sudsy water down Justin’s always unsuspecting back (and sometimes his head), and takes great pride in pronouncing that due to his efforts, his eldest sibling is now “clean and sparkling”, a phrase whose origin I am still trying desperately to discern. Justin, ever tolerant of the vagaries of his youngest sibling’s affections, always sits there, and takes it. On occasion I have even witnessed the merest glimmer of a smile as Zachary produced yet another tremendous splash, a geyser of water that invariably soaked his mother’s carefully constructed outfit on one of those rare nights she was committed to getting out of the house before she was actually committed.

Perhaps my favorite portion of our new nighttime ritual occurs at the bitter end of the evening, after skin has been scrubbed, potions applied, teeth rendered clean and healthy. Most evenings, as Justin has settled into his glider with me, somehow arranging his elongated form into a semblance of order that no matter his age always seems to mesh with mine, Zachary will make his entrance. There is no hesitation, no equivocation on his part. He has a duty to fulfill, and like almost everything he does, he will make certain he performs it. This latest job involves bidding his brother a good night, and sealing the commandment with a hug and a kiss. The first few times we attempted this scenario we had to prevent Justin from pushing the unsolicited affection away, had to “fake” an embrace by stretching my oldest’s arms just briefly around his younger brother so he would not feel rebuffed.

Not everything has changed as the weeks have gone by, and perhaps if you didn’t know Justin, you’d never notice the slight nuances of reciprocation over time, how he now looks for his nighttime benediction, indeed stares at the doorway from my embrace as if summoning his sibling. He still requires physical prompting for the hug, but there is a definitive smile on his lips when Zach enters Justin’s previously sacred arena, and continuous eye contact while his younger brother enacts his now-preferred ritual. It’s not the interaction I’d envisioned in my pre-baby days (of course in that scenario I envisioned two daughters two years apart, guess I missed out on that boat). It’s not even close to the richness of a relationship I’d hoped for when my husband and I planned to have two children, a plan conceived in part because that meant eventually I’d no longer have to engage in the terrifying boredom of continuous imaginative play with young children. I know my limitations.

No, it’s not what I thought they’d have, but it makes them happy, and by extension, pleases me as well. For now, it’s just good enough.



  1. Kerri said,

    I love it. I am so happy that Justin is letting Zachary into his life and sharing you. It is great to hear this. I’m sure as time goes on you will see more smiles and acts of brotherly love.

    Don’t feel to bad about it not being the way you picture. My sister and I are “typical” and I don’t think we have ever shown as much affection toward each other as Zach and Justin are. I had my kids 16 months apart hoping this would help produce siblings that were close and affectionate toward each other. It is working right now but the fighting has begun. So we will see where the future takes all of us.

  2. LZ said,

    Your writings always evoke so many memories and emotions for me, and you always touch on something I can identify with…

    This one reminds me that although things did not turn out the way I had taken for granted that they would, my son brings me a number of gifts that I would not otherwise have received. Not the least of which is to see the beauty in what others might see as the smallest, most insignificant of things. To me, they are wonderfully huge, and I treasure each and every one of them in my youngest. more so than I would have in my older, TD children. He has altered, and broadened, my perspective, and made me truly appreciate those things that I had simpy come to “expect.”

  3. misifusa said,

    Beautiful Kimi. You had me in tears…xo

  4. Mom said,

    Can’t wait to have my grandmom turn at putting the boys to bed! Since Justin and I have always had a special ritual at this time, I am eager to see if he will alter our routine as well. How wonderful this new nighttime ritual is–how sweet and loving. Fits right in with a recent Blog of yours regarding the future for both of them. I know in my heart that they will always love each other, and Zachary will take good care of Justin. Love you all.

  5. Cindy said,

    What a fabulous time to help them both make a deeper connection. Nicely done Kim.

  6. jess said,

    You had me at ‘i’m huggy for a WASP’


    • Thanks Jess, nice to hear from you. I really enjoy your blog, you’re a great writer. Thanks for posting!


  7. Anita said,

    I hope their brotherly love lasts! As an eternal optimist I will keep the faith but man oh man, how my kids pick on each other lately is so discouraging! But such is life…enjoy each piece while it lasts!

  8. Kathy Milmore said,

    I love the bond that those boys have!

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