I am often guilty of catastrophizing when it comes to the children. More specifically, I am guilty of catastrophizing when it comes to Monkey. I mean, I’m more or less at peace with Chickadee’s sociopathic tendencies; I feel confident that she’ll outgrow most of them and become an adult who won’t make us consider changing the locks here at the house. Her trajectory is familiar to me. I was once a little
shit embellisher self-centered fanciful, myself, and think I’ve evolved into a fairly productive, compassionate member of society. She will, too. I plan to beat her until she does.
But Monkey. Dear, sweet Monkey. I know I have a long time before it’s a logical thing to worry about, but I can’t help it. I often despair over whether he’ll be able to hack it in middle school, or high school. And Otto and I often turn to one another and say, “He’s never moving out.” It’s just hard—impossible, sometimes—to picture him able to cope out in the big, bad world without us.
And every now and then he makes me think I’m just overprotective and overly worrisome. But then every now and then he makes me realize I may not even be acknowledging the half of it, yet.
This weekend Monkey and I had a disagreement. And by “had a disagreement” I mean that “he clearly did something of which I found irrefutable evidence, and then he lied about it when confronted.”
Now. When Chickadee lies, it’s because lying is super-awesome fun and her birthright because parents are mean and horrible. Lying is sport, for her. This is not the case for Monkey, however. Lying for Monkey falls into one of two categories:
1) Lying out of panic, and
2) lying out of rigidity.
Lying out of panic happens very rarely, but when it does, it generally looks like this: Monkey is asked about something he’s done wrong, and in a moment of wide-eyed realization he makes up some sort of ridiculous cover story, and after I laugh and say, “Want to try that again?” he sighs and tells the truth.
Lying out of rigidity is more common but a lot harder to unravel. I don’t pretend to understand what goes on in my child’s mind, but I do know that Monkey, like most Aspies, lives in a world of blacks and whites. There are no grays where Monkey dwells; there is right and there is wrong and there is fact and there is fiction. Nothing inbetween. That brings with it an entire realm of ritual and habit and rules; generally, if the rule is “do this thing,” he follows it because it causes more cognitive dissonance if he doesn’t. (The exception is putting things away, because leaving a trail of books and socks and scraps of paper behind him is apparently perfectly okay on account of maybe someday he’ll need to find his way back to his room using only a garbage detector. Or something.) ANYWAY, what I refer to as “lying out of rigidity” is something like when Monkey hasn’t done something he USUALLY does, and when asked about it, he insists that actually he did, because in his mind, he ALWAYS does that thing, so OF COURSE he did it.
He’s not lying on purpose. He’s employing whatever algorithm of TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE MONKEY WAY he normally lives by and arriving at an answer which is incorrect. And most of the time, I believe he truly doesn’t understand that he may be wrong.
So, back to this weekend: Monkey did something wrong, I confronted him, and he lied out of rigidity. He always does the thing he forgot to do this one time—who knows why—and although there was ample evidence that he was not telling the truth, he clung to his assertion like a drowning man clings to a piece of driftwood. I was WRONG. And MEAN. And WHY DOESN’T ANYONE BELIEVE HIM? And HE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH.
Maybe I should’ve just let it go. But I calmly pointed out the evidence. I even mentioned that I was sure he THOUGHT he’d done this thing he forgot to do, but that I wanted him to understand that that wasn’t what happened. And he got angrier and angrier, and then he swore at me.
[This was not our first encounter with Monkey Uses The F Word. You may recall that he first trotted it out at school one day, much to the delight of all involved. Ahem.]
At that point I took possession of one of his treasured items and told him the conversation was over. We don’t speak that way in our house, young man.
Well. By then, he was whipped into a frothy lather. He was POSITIVE he was being unfairly maligned, and now he was in trouble for saying something that I had clearly FORCED him to say, what with my horrible horribleness, and as you can imagine, he was pretty angry at the current state of affairs.
So he decided to run away. Now, my kids never threatened this when they were little and it would’ve been adorable. So I am inexperienced in how to handle such things, really, and when Monkey came downstairs with a wadded-up blanket cradled in his arms and informed us that he was “LEAVING FOREVER!” I may have, um, laughed. Which probably didn’t help.
Here is why I often feel mild concern that my son will never move out of the house: He is ten years old, and he prepared for his life on the road by taking a blanket and wrapping it around his stuffed puppy, an empty canteen, a watch, three Animorphs books, and $4. This blanket, by the way, required shoving two backpacks aside to extract from his closet. I’M SAYING.
Chickadee followed him downstairs to fill us in on everything he’d told her while he was upstairs “packing;” namely that Otto and I love to be mean to him, and we stay up late at night thinking up NEW ways to be mean, and that’s why we’re always so grumpy. Also, when she asked him what he planned to do with his empty canteen, he informed her that he would simply walk to his friend TheZ’s house and fill it up there. Nevermind that he doesn’t even know which direction his house is in.
We did manage to stop him from leaving by suggesting that he sleep on it and see if everything still seemed awful in the morning, but this is not the sort of thing that makes it easier to picture him living on his own someday.
The bad news is that he’s going to have to live here forever. But the good news is that he woke up perfectly happy the next morning. So there’s that, at least.