I don’t know that I’ve really stopped to give proper thanks and praise when it comes to pretty much the ONE thing in our lives that hasn’t been worrisome or catastrophic this year. In the midst of the various Sturm und Drang, we have one shining beacon of progress: Monkey. You remember Monkey, right? Short goofy kid with the dimples that’ll melt your heart? I don’t know if you know this, but he’s kind of awesome.
We were warned that autistic kids often come in to a whole new set of hurdles as they enter adolescence, but I have to say that—so far, at least (knocking on wood…)—balancing-on-the-precipice-of-puberty Monkey is delightful. He is calmer, more flexible, and happier than he’s been in a long time. I honestly expected months of issues following Chickie’s move, so bereft was he over her departure. Instead, for the first time in many months, there is space for him to just… unfurl, and be himself. He lights up when his sister calls, and I know he really misses her, but he’s really exceeding any expectation we had of how this time would go.
Hippie School remains not just a wonderful experience for him, but such a great experience for all of us, really. Merry always emails to let me know when Monkey’s done something funny or fabulous or if she thinks he’s struggling, and lately the emails have been overwhelmingly positive. Even the one that came a couple of days ago started out with good news.
Unfortunately, after the good news (excellent, appropriate behavior while visiting City Hall to meet the Mayor) there was a bit of not-so-great news: During their weekly visit to a local sports complex for the Hippie School version of gym (which cracks me up, anyway, as Hippie School means the kids are on their feet/outside roughly half the time, anyway—far more exercise than the kids ever got in public school), Monkey had had a small problem. It seems that when my adorable yet somewhat uncoordinated boy tried to utilize a jump rope, he ended up hitting himself in the face with it. This sparked a Monkey-Hulk reaction, and although such incidents are fewer and further between than they used to be, I still braced myself for the next sentence. Had he hurled insults at those nearby? Hit someone? Run screaming from the gym?
None of these, actually. Monkey’s response to the jump rope slapping him in the face was to throw the jump rope at the wall. No insults! No bodily harm! No running off! This, to me, sounded like HUGE progress. There was just one small problem: he broke the jump rope. Specifically, one of the handles broke.
Merry pointed out that this had happened at the end of their session, and she’d touched base with the manager but Monkey really needed to both apologize and offer restitution at our earliest convenience. Fair enough.
I asked Monkey what happened at the gym, and he told me. Calmly. He didn’t blame anyone else, he was remorseful over having lost his temper, and he said, “I’m going to go in and apologize and take money from my allowance to give to them to replace the jump rope I broke.” I was impressed.
“That’s right,” I said, trying not to sound as surprised as I felt at his matter-of-fact assessment of the situation. “Once you finish your science work for this week we’ll drive over there, okay?” He agreed.
That was Wednesday. Yesterday he did a bunch of work for his science class, and by mid-afternoon told me he only had one test left and would take it this morning. This morning he got up and took his test, did his chores, and asked if it was time to go. I’d called ahead to make sure the manager would be there, and off we went.
Monkey was singing silly songs and generally cutting up in the car on the way there, and I started to feel a little nervous. “Hey Monkey, do you want to pretend I’m the manager, and you can say to me what you need to say to him?”
“That’s weird,” he said. “You don’t look anything like him! And I’m not good at that sort of play-acting.”
“I just want to make sure you’re ready,” I said. “You have to remember things like making eye contact and being very respectful with both your words and your body language. You can’t make a joke out of this, buddy.”
“I know,” he said. “It’s serious and I’m going to handle it seriously.” We sat in silence for a few seconds. “Hey Mom, if I had a penny for every time I did something silly? I would be buried in pennies! And then I’d have a duck on my head! AND ANOTHER PENNY!” He dissolved into giggles while I said a quick, silent prayer that the manager would be an understanding sort.
When we arrived at the sports complex, the manager was meeting with someone else, so we waited for a couple of minutes outside his office. Monkey was a little antsy and I hoped once more that this wasn’t going to be a complete disaster. Eventually the other person left his office and he waved us in and told us to take a seat.
Monkey immediately stuck out his hand. “Hello, Mr. Manager. It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Monkey.” They shook hands and Monkey sat down and glanced over at me. I nodded in what I hoped was an encouraging way. “Well,” Monkey said, clearing his throat. “I just wanted to tell you that I am very sorry about breaking that jump rope this week. I lost my temper, and I made a mistake, and I hope you can forgive me. It won’t happen again. And I brought you these jump ropes to replace the broken one.” Monkey carefully placed the two jump ropes we’d brought with us onto the manager’s desk. Monkey glanced at me, again.
“But…” I prompted.
Monkey nodded and turned back to the manager. “But if these jump ropes aren’t okay, I will give you some money from my allowance, instead, to buy the kind you’d rather have. I just want to make it right.”
The manager cocked his head at my son, just slightly, and said, “I think these will be fine, thank you. But tell me: were you just having a bad day?”
Monkey thought about this for a moment. “Well, that’s kind of the problem with me, because lots of time I don’t realize when I’m having a bad day.” I muffled a chuckle. “Having Asperger’s isn’t an excuse, but it is part of the explanation. Sometimes I get mad really fast, especially if I get hurt, like when the jump rope hit me. I’m sorry.”
The manager nodded. “Well, I appreciate you coming to me. Tell me, do you like coming here?”
“Actually I do,” Monkey said. “Even though I’m terrible at most sports. I seem to get hit in the head with the ball a lot.”
“Hmmmm,” the manager murmured (trying, I thought, to squelch a laugh). “What do you like to do? What are you good at? I bet you’re really good at math.”
Monkey smiled, pleased. “Actually I AM really good at math, how did you know?”
“Lucky guess. But do you know WHY you’re good at math?”
“I… don’t know. I just am, I guess.”
“Well,” the manager said, “I’d be willing to bet that a big part of the reason you’re good at math is because you LIKE it, and also because you do it a LOT. You think?”
Monkey nodded. “That makes sense. Would you like to hear 60 digits of Pi?”
I put a hand on his knee and interrupted. “That’s not necessary, Son.”
“I’m just bringing that up because I want you to know that if you think you’re not good at sports here, it could be just that you haven’t done them enough yet. If you can find an activity here you kind of like—even if you’re not very good at it—and you practice it a lot? You’ll GET good at it. And then maybe it won’t be so frustrating. Can you remember that? Because I want you to like coming here.”
“I do like coming here, even when I’m bad at stuff. But I’ll try to remember that. Thank you.”
They smiled at each other. “Very good,” said the manager.
“You know, you’re a very nice person!” said my darling son, with a hint of surprise in his voice and a wide open smile, completely unaware that this could seem like an odd comment in polite conversation. My spine stiffened just a little, worried that the pleasantries up to this point had just hit a proverbial needle-screeching-across-the-record halt.
But the manager just smiled right back at him. “I think you’re a very nice person, too, Monkey. Thank you for coming to talk to me.”
They shook hands again, and we headed outside.
“High five, dude,” I said to Monkey, as we walked out to the car. He reached up his not-that-much-shorter-than-mine arm and gave me a good solid smack.
“Yay!” he said, skipping around in a small victory circle. “I’m a very nice person!”
I laughed. “You definitely are.”
It hurts my heart a little, sometimes, to think about how long it took for me to make my peace with meeting Monkey where he is, rather than constantly trying to usher him to where he was “supposed” to be. It turns out that he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, and now that I can see that, he just keeps on growing and advancing and saying exactly what’s on his mind, and it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.
Fabulous. Just reading that – a single-page chronicle of an amazing journey. Thank Monkey – he’s not only a nice person, he’s a remarkable one.
Oh that just about made me cry! I love how he thought for himself and explained Asp wasn’t an excuse, etc. What a fantastic kid!
What a wonderful story! And so familiar to me on so many levels! I love it! :) Some day I will have to tell you about the time I hit myself in the head with my purse throwing a fit at the airport… or I guess I kind of just did. Anyway, it was a turning point. ;)
This was awesome covered in awesome sauce. :) Loved it. I think I would have to echo Monkey and the manager — they both seem to be very nice people!
Happy tears for you, mama.
Monkey never fails to make my day brighter….what a blessing you have. :)
I know I’ve asked before if you watch “Parenthood,” but I thought of Monkey again after a recent episode, when Max said, “Sometimes Asperger’s makes me a better person.” That made me cry, too.
That last paragraph, there, brought on the waterworks for me. Homeschooling our ADHD, gifted 8 year old son and our larger-than-life 3 year old daughter, I’ve found myself trying to let go of much of what I think they’re “supposed to be”. Instead, I hope to gently guide them to who God has planned for them to be… letting go seems like it would lower the stress level, but the how-do-I-do-that learning curve in and of itself has been pretty stressful. Thank you for so eloquently writing exactly what I want to accomplish. xoxo
I had happy tears in my eyes until I go to the line “…I seem to get hit in the head with the ball a lot.â€ Then I just cracked up laughing! You go, Monkey!!!
I heart the awesomeness that is Monkey. A very nice person, indeed.
Go Monkey! Well done.
And you too Mir! You’ve done so well by both your kids – it’s nice when you get such a wonderful payout.
Eyes full of tears… what a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing!
What a wonderful way for that situation to play out. I am in complete awe of you and your family, day in and day out, on how gracefully you all seem to handle the ups and downs given to you.
I think we all could benefit by having a bit more of Monkey’s honesty and blossoming self-awareness, and the world in general needs more people like the manager.
Not that it’s the internet’s place, but I’m so honored and proud to watch Monkey grow and flourish, and to see what a wonderful family unit your children exist within. Kudos to you, Otto, and your ex for being there for your kids. All the ponies for you Mir!! (Or leftover Halloween candy, your pick)
Just so wonderful, Mir. It took years to get to this great place you are with him. It’s coming for Chickie, too. In time. But it’s a real bitch in the meantime, I know.
I just simultaneously teared up and chuckled. Yay for Monkey. Yay for you. And here’s to him not getting hit in the head by anymore skipping ropes or flying balls.
I love love love this post!
Especially the last paragraph!
I too was told that puberty would hit hard for my Aspie… but instead of a raging wad of hormones and angst, he became mellow and confident and genuinely a great guy!
I think it’s exactly because of the last paragraph! He was not expected to live up to some expectation that he could never live up to. Instead, he was allowed to be himself, and what came of that surpassed any expectations I could have had for any child! He never had reason to be angsty because he was never set up to fail! He was given the freedom to find his genius!
Thanks for sharing! It only reinforces what I know to be true!
By the way, you are an amazing Mom!
that’s awesome :)
I don’t cry very often, but this gone got me. I’m still stuck in “supposed to be” land more often than I should be. But I’m getting better, I think. Thank you for sharing. It’s like you’re throwing the ladder down to show me the way.
I’m betting that you watch Parenthood, and teared up last week (like I did) when Max gave his speech for Student Council President. Though I know the character is not an exact example of Aspies (because they’re all different), I think they do a good job trying to show and explain, and it’s been cool watching Max “grow up” through it all – like Monkey! I know you were so proud of him at that moment!
I know when our oldest left for college, our youngest was first happy about finally being an only child, then very depressed and missing her sister. Big Sis just came back for a year after being gone 3 years, and it took about a month before youngest was ready for her to be gone. She’s really appreciating her “only child” status this last year of high school, though she will admit freely to missing her sister’s wardrobe, she doesn’t miss her sister borrowing her things!
I seem to get hit in the head with the ball a lot too. Not the best thing to have in common with someone but when it’s someone as spectacular as Monkey, I’ll take what I can get.
This just made me dissolve into tears. My bigger one is having difficulties in school that we’re starting to believe are a result of a “real” problem (as opposed to her being a slightly-more-distracted-than-average kid) – I am looking forward to the day that I can get to that place of acceptance and peace, and meet her where she is. Thanks for eloquently showing me what that might look like.
I think I have a new outlook on the pitfalls of life. “I get hit in the head with a ball a lot”. Monkey’s got such a great outlook on his life! And he’s helping me see a lot about mine!
Give that boy a hug :)
This is so awesome :)
Awww! That is just so awesome!! Go Monkey! And that manager is also pretty awesome!
Wow! Tearing up and laughing. What a blessing to see Monkey grow and thrive.
I have a son with Down syndrome and when I stopped and let him be who he is supppose to be, life blossomed. . I know this feeling. It is called Peace….and it is good!
from Rick Braggâ€™s The Prince of Frogtown
“The little boy started to fade, just like we left him in the sun too long. â€¦ He had been a ragamuffin, hurled into space by the seat of his pants. Suddenly, he shopped for shirts, and worried about his hair. He got too heavy to throw. … He turned twelve, then thirteen, and then the little boy just disappeared.
Just when you start to get used to it, to not minding it so much, it all vanishes, and the little boy you launched in the air stands at your shoulders like a man, and when you turn to say something you find yourself looking right into his eyes.
He is not helpless, not needy.
He is everything I rushed him to be.”
oh, YAY!!! Monkey is awesome, and this just warmed the cockles of my heart. Which, frankly needed warming.
Glad to hear that he’s being your “little ray of sunshine!”
I love the manager’s response about liking a thing, and getting good at other things and liking them too. My kind of guy.
Go Monkey~!!! Congrats, Mir.
This is delightful! Hooray for the nicest, most adorable Monkey. :)
Damn, this actually made me tear up a little. I’ll just blame it one the PMS and not how much the last paragraph is pretty much the sum of everything I need to know about parenting my son with autism.
No fair making me cry at my desk, dude.
I freakin’ love that kid.
This would have been a perfect Love Thursday post! I miss Love Thursdays. Although, now that I think about it, Love Friday works, too!
Wonderful! Go Monkey!
I love your family.
You rock, Monkey! You acted so maturely. I know your mom’s proud, and so am I.
Love, love, love this.
Both sniffling and smiling over here. But mostly smiling.
That IS the greatest thing ever. I am so happy that Monkey is in a good place. I tell you, he handled that better than anyone in my family would have. Kudos to your little dude!
Unfurl. What a beautiful word.
Oh Mir, this made my heart sing to read. What a little ray of the brightest sunshine in the midst of everything else. So proud of Monkey and how far he’s come. So proud of his mama for all her work in helping him arrive :)
It is so wonderful to see how Monkey has grown. This was a pretty big amaing thing to do for a kid of Monkey’s age, even without Apergers. Any chance he can go to Hippie School full time?
[Mir here: He’s been doing so well this year, we’ve actually been invited to go back to 5-day enrollment! But he’s really loving doing Virtual School at home, too, so we’re going to stick with the current schedule. It seems to be striking a good balance.]
This was a very good day:)
What a good heart he has. Nice work, you!
I’m happy for progress! I’m proud of you for seeing progress in you as well as progress in Monkey! And let’s hear it for managers who are decent people!
stop making me cry. :P
That’s totally awesome! What progress! And, best of all, he feels good about himself and in control of the situation.
Great job Monkey!
Yep – I’m joining the criers and going for the tissues. :) Thanks for sharing the joy.
This made me cry. Happy for you, happy for Monkey.
What an awesome job you BOTH did. Major props, Mama!
That’s awesome. You’re all very nice people. *sniff*
Great story, Mir. Thanks for sharing. Good to know that Monkey is doing well. Hippie school sounds like it’s worked out even better than you thought it would.
“Would you like to hear 60 digits of Pi?â€ I love this young man.
How awesome!! I love how well Monkey handled the situation. :)
sometimes the curves that life throws us turns us straight into a different grace. Enjoy the surprise and thank you for sharing it with us. For me, it is a needed and appreciated reminder, thanks
This is wonderful! I don’t know many kids even older than Monkey who would act with such aplomb and maturity in such a situation, so you definitely have an amazing kid on your hands (as if you didn’t know that!) ;~)
What a bright, shining spot of sunshine for 2012. :-D
“Would you like to hear 60 digits of Pi?” Feel free to let Monkey know that this line just made my night.
What a pleasant surprise and wonderful outcome for both the manager and for you two. I can see the day coming when he has to reach Down to high five you, mama. Best to Chickadee, too.
This is awesome. :)
Ahhh sweet Monkey, he’s a really nice person!
Made me feel pretty happy tonight.
So wonderful, and inspiring for mee, too. Same experience with my son, who has never been diagnosed with anything like ADHD or Asperger’s or whatever, but had a lot of problems behaving like he was supposed to. The more I appreciate what he can do and appreciate it, the more awsomely he behaves.
Love it, love it, love it! What a great story!
I am completely verklempt, oh my. Such a beautiful thing. And Monkey’s maturity in this is just astounding. So glad there is the awesome in your life to counterbalance the outrageous other stuff.
What a wonderful moment for a mom. Go Monkey!
It’s a beautiful thing :-)
Amidst all the (COMPLETELY) well-deserved kudos for Monkey, I just wanna mention what a lovely job that manager did. I could easily imagine someone – especially a stereotypical thick-necked jock – being a total arse in this situation. This guy seemed to approach this situation like an educator and an all-around lovely human being. It’s really, really nice to hear. (see? read?) I’m so glad for all of you!
You’re a much better mom at this aspie stuff than I am. I am green with envy! Well done, Monkey … And you!!
If everybody would just meet everybody where they are instead of where they think they should be, the world would be a better place. Thanks for putting this thought in my head. I will remember it. It could be life changing.
How come your posts choke me up, no matter what your kids are doing? They’re awesome!
Hi fives all around! Go, Monkey!
Such a cool, cool story. And that manager sounds like a great guy, as is Monkey.
Excellent story! Monkey did really well and frankly came across as more mature than a lot of kids his age. Glad Mr. Manager was a good guy too.
Love. Yay, Monkey!
Yay for Monkey. He has come such a long way and its just great he is finding things less difficult. Great to hear.
beyond awesome, mir. :)
Does Monkey have a pretty nice allowance? Cuz he owes me a hankie.
Wonderful kid……which means wonderful parents. Well done, Mir. REALLY well done.
I’m going to be the 75th person to say “Awesome.” I needed to read this today. :)
Great, now you made me cry again.
That’s the best thing I ever read. Period. What a fabulous boy! I feel as proud as I would of my Monkey,