December 9, 2010
Pins and Needles
We made it to one of our local bowling alleys this week with time to spare (remember, I only promised to avoid the “striking out” jokes, so no complaints), with Justin simply thrilled to be going anywhere, even if he was confused as to why “Miss M” was accompanying us. I was in the throes of my thrice yearly bout of bronchitis (I am fond of saying I will one day drown in my own fluids), so was particularly grateful to have help accompany me on this outing. I wasn’t really up to dragging my sixty-plus pound boy around a bowling alley, and I was certain part of this adventure would become physical. Even six months of P90X is not adequate preparation when confronted with my child’s desire to leave the premises.
After a short drive in which I managed neither to get lost nor cut off by any of my Jersey comrades, we finally pulled into the almost vacant parking lot. “Miss M” commented on the fact that we’d probably have the place to ourselves, so no matter how Justin reacted to our plan, it wouldn’t matter. I gently assured her that even if it was a full house and it took both of us sitting on him to make him stay longer than ten minutes, I was game. I’ve long since gotten past the “staring” that occasionally occurs when we’re out in public, generally return the looks with a smile I find more times than not is eventually mirrored. I feel there is so much hanging in the balance here, as I’d like to continue doing things together as a family outside of our home for more than half an hour, and I could care less who witnesses what we have to do to achieve this goal.
Hell, whether or not you have a child with any type of disability, try to give yourself the present of not giving a damn what other people think. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving.
“Miss M” and I break into a run as Justin briefly slips my grasp in the parking lot and rushes toward the door, and we smile at each other in the knowledge that at least Justin is initially eager to try this activity, knowing that attitude will help this scenario immeasurably. After a brief skirmish in which we convince my eldest child that he does indeed have to wear his fancy bowling shoes, we are soon set up in our very own bumpered lane, and outfitted with a ball commensurate with Justin’s hand size and weight. We have come prepared with a timer and rewards, snacks, videos, and a DVD player that (in theory) should be extremely reinforcing to him seeing as how they’ve been withheld for days (a time period which seemed to his mother to last for decades). I am confident that after a mere few frames, no matter how successfully conducted, my boy will be eager to raid the vending machines and leave. Hopefully, these enticing items will encourage him to stay and finish one entire game of bowling without a full-out tantrum.
“Miss M” drops our gear and digs right in, taking Justin firmly by the hand and leading him to his waiting purple sphere, encouraging him to put his entire body into the two-handed push that sends his ball spiraling on its intended collision course. I notice my boy is smiling, has perhaps recalled his one prior attempt at this game, and is at this moment happily enmeshed in the semi-novelty of the experience. He watches quizzically as his mother and this relative stranger dance up and down gleefully when he knocks out three pins, and is fairly compliant when our BCBA du jour reroutes him from an attempted escape and returns him to the machine preparing to regurgitate his equipment. We’re only seven minutes in. I figure I have about ten left before this turns ugly.
As I thought, I am correct.
Three frames in (one more than I predicted, perhaps I’ve made some headway with him this fall after all), his majesty is clearly finished with this activity. He grabs my hand while simultaneously attempting to balance on one foot and shed his velcroed footwear, then heads for the exit, grabbing his trusty “goody bag” on the way to freedom. Out of the corner of my eye I see “Miss M” swoop in, grab my child and bag and redeposit him and each item in their prior positions, then place my son’s extremely reluctant hands back on his waiting orb to attempt frame four.
This time after releasing his ball to its destiny our BCBA diverts him back to the table with its promise of food and film, and Justin is momentarily diverted from his desire to leave (although OF COURSE his favorite DVD decides to mutiny on me). “Miss M” offers him the snack he’d usually trample me to gain access to, which of course he refuses, and I’m guessing it’s because he’s already seen the snack machines with their seductive allure of virgin carbohydrate territory. Instead, he’s somewhat placated by a second tier movie, and our autism expert also makes sure he sees the timer with its red block of unspent minutes, ascertains that Justin marks its passage as it winnows down to white.
When we reach zero, we three move forward to another frame, and continue this dance until we make it through to ten. “Miss M” is unfailingly cheerful until the bitter end, through my son’s verbal protests (just because he can’t talk does NOT mean he can’t show us how pissed he is), his artful escape attempts (he made one move any NBA player would be proud to adopt), and his all-around general crankiness. At the conclusion of our game she remains full of energy, positive in the progress we made as we reward our boy with his coveted assault on the snack machines.
I, while mentally encouraged, find my body silently begging for Nyquil.
After Justin inhales his snacks (yes, we treated him to two, he lasted forty-five minutes somewhere outside of his home, it’s his equivalent of a parade), we show him the colorless timer once more, tell him it’s time to leave, and escort him to the door. Through my congested haze I’m hopeful on the short trip home, willing to entertain the thought that perhaps we can teach my boy to remain places for longer times, condition him to enjoy more events. Achieving this goal is crucial to me, the same way encouraging him to sleep through the night (Amen!), ride in a car without protest, and use his communicative device rather than his fingernails to get his needs met, have all been of significant importance in the past. With the holidays looming I know we’ll have ample opportunity to try out our behavior plan, particularly at Christmas when we invade my sister-in-law’s home and take turns monitoring Justin. Perhaps this year we’ll make it through the appetizers (and only one glass of wine for mommy), and actually enjoy ourselves. I’ll keep you informed as to how it goes.
I’m just glad that prior to giving birth, I didn’t know that having fun with my kid would be so much work.