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.


  1. txelz

    I know it wasn’t funny at the time, but I think it is hilarious that Monkey is convinced that you and Otto stay up at night and plan ways to be mean. That is such a kid thing to think. Wait, maybe my parents did the same thing? Hmmmm.

    He may not have had a backpack, but he would have know what time he arrived at …wherever he was going!

  2. Liza

    Oh my. What a weekend.

    Just to put it in a teeeny weeeny bit of perspective, my childhood BFF “ran away from home” at 10 also. She hid in my garage for an hour, and then gave up and started walking to her dad’s. (He lived several miles away, but closer than her mom.) I’d been sworn to secrecy but ratted her out at the first application of adult pressure.

    And at 19, she moved to London. Alone. Where she lived and worked for 3 or 4 years before going to college. In Scotland. Across an entire ocean from her parents. Now she lives and teaches college in Ireland.

  3. Randi

    LMAO – I know it’s not funny, but since my children haven’t yet threatened to run away, I do have to giggle. A bit :)

  4. Lisa

    My Matt ran away from home when he was either 6 or 7, also because a precious item was taken away from him in punishment for some sort of infraction. He ran away to his best friend’s house (about 3 blocks away)…the one place I was hoping he wouldn’t go because best friend had a crazy, mean-when-drunk mom. I will never know how the gossip among the moms at school went down after that incident, and I don’t want to know.
    Fortunately, it was best friend’s dad who called to let us know where Matt had gone and we had him back within a half hour. All in all, a mortifying experience.

  5. Mary

    I’m having flashbacks from when my brother would “run away” as a child. utility pole outside the house!!!

  6. Saskia

    I remember running away a couple times as a kid, and then getting stuck because I wasn’t allowed to cross the street..

  7. Rita

    My girls ran away from home once, because I was the meanest mom on the block who made them clean up their stuff! They took their basket of hair supplies, favorite stuffed animal, Bible and a couple of other toys. Two blocks out the door it started to rain. they wanted me to get them their umbrella. I said “no, sorry, I don’t get umbrellas for kids that are running away”. They decided to come home, eat lunch and then leave again when it stopped raining. I said “no, sorry, there’s no lunch for kids that are running away”. They decided that maybe running away wasn’t such a good idea. Then they cleaned up their stuff. We took pictures.

  8. Erin

    Mir, I just returned from a 5-day-long academic conference, full of scholars. These are folks who have tenure-track (or tenured!) positions at universities and colleges across the country. They have spouses and partners and children. They are successful (to varying degrees, but no one’s in the streets).

    And I looked around me all the time and thought, “I bet that guy’s an Aspie” and “That woman is definitely an Aspie,” etc. etc. I didn’t ask, because this isn’t the thing you ask advanced folks in the field when you’re a grad student. Or ever. Because it’s rude.

    But my point is this: there is a place for Monkey, and it just might be the academy. And even if it isn’t, he’ll figure out coping mechanisms and find his place and live a long, happy, stable, successful life for himself. I know this because I just came back from spending time among a very large contingent of Monkeys.

  9. ellbee

    I actually wrote a post about the time I ran away, and I think I might have Monkey beat in the “stupid things to pack” catagory. Using my bedspread as an impromptu “bag”, I packed 2 stuffed animals, my tape deck, a selection of tapes including Rainbow Brite, the entire Little House On The Prairie book set and–my personal favorite–my rollerskates. I didn’t WEAR them, I packed them. I made it to the park south of our neighborhood and set up camp in a copse of trees, where my parent’s neighbor found me an hour later (no doubt alerted to my presence by the sounds of Rainbow Brite.)
    Rest assured, I managed to grow up, go to college and live on my own with moderate success. There is hope!

  10. Aimee

    I don’t know if this will help with Monkey or make things worse, but my mom actually had a stock response that she used when one of us threatened to run away. What she told us was that we could leave if we wanted to, but we had to go she brought us into the world — naked, and with no possessions. Somehow we always decided home wasn’t so bad.

  11. TC

    Do you get through these things the same way I do, by saying over and over in my head, “This is going to make a GREAT post!”

    It did.

  12. Yan

    I had my run-away bag packed for whenever my parents got me angry enough. It contained a couple packs of Kool-Aid, a bag of sugar, toilet paper and underwear. Thankfully I never had opportunity to use it.

    I co-sign Erin, there is a place in the world for Monkey and as he grows older he will find/develop his own mechanisms that allow him to flourish in it.

  13. Alicia

    I would never recommend teaching him how to camp sans-RV. My husband knew how to and disappeared overnight when he was 8. I’m surpised he is still here because had he been mine I would have killed him in relief.

  14. Tracy

    I use to run away all the time…to the end of the driveway! It’s ok…when he does “eventually” move out, you’ll be wishing he’d stay.

  15. Wendy 2

    I ran away when I was around 10. I was mad because I wasn’t allowed to go to a friend’s house because Mom was mad at the way I acted at the mall. (yes I deserved it). I didn’t take anything with me, just walked to her house about a mile away. Then made her call my mom and tell her where I was :).

  16. elswhere

    FYI–My kid, who’s about the same age as Monkey and has no autism-spectrum issues that we know of (though she does have a hair-trigger temper), packed up and threatened to run away a few months ago. She agreed to put it off because we had promised to drive some friends of hers to some activity or other, and it wasn’t fair to them to cancel. Then, by the time we got home, she was too sleepy. And in the morning everything was fine. (Though a couple of weeks ago, when we were watching a Brady Bunch episode in which Bobby is planning to run away b/c no one understands him, she opined gravely, “It’s not as easy as he thinks.” “Hmm, you don’t say,” we said.)

    Point being that I don’t think it’s incredibly unusual, even among kids around 9 or 10.

  17. Katie in MA

    I wish I could wake up perfectly happy on such mornings-after. I bet you could do with a morning or two like that, too. This too shall pass (except…um…maybe not the moving out thing). Hugs!

  18. Lorraine

    When I ran away, I packed only underwear and stuffed it in one of those white fur bunny hats that were popular in the 1970s. My mom bravely watched me stomp out the front door, told me to come home as soon as I wanted to, and reassured me that the door was always open.

    And then she bit into the grilled cheese sandwich she’d just made, went “mmmmm,” and went back inside.

    I got about a block.

  19. Anna

    Mir, I do think it will be okay. Sure, 10yo Monkey isn’t prepared to meet the world, and many things about 20yo Monkey will be the same. But there are things that will change, too.

    A friend of mine had a son who fell from a balcony as a baby and has pretty moderate brain damage. They thought he’d never move out, and have planned all along to make room for him in their home. He’s on his own now, despite all predictions and expectations.

  20. Kim

    My brother did the same when he was 10, only he packed a large suitcase with only a stuffed Fozzi Bear and a homemade shirt that was made with fabric covered with red dogs.
    He’s a successful businessman today, so I’m sure Monkey will be fine!

  21. Becca

    Fellow aspie here. I have similar episodes of rigidity, whether they be lies or not. Part of it is also that every conversation requires thought, so the responses I have practiced often come out reflexively, not just because they are easier, but because it is either say them or be silent.

    My mother is trying to understand, and recently when we had a conversation where this happened, asked me if I wanted to talk about it later. Unfortunately, because I wanted to talk about it now, just couldn’t, I kept saying no, I want to talk now, because it was the literal answer to her question. A better question for me would have been, do you need a break so you can think about how you want to respond?

    Another thought I had was that with me, at least, when I get rigid it’s very hard to get past that verbally, but I can often do so if I’m typing or writing. It uses a different part of the brain or something. You might try something like that with Monkey, if he likes to write. Otherwise I would suggest that once you catch him in that lie, you tell him, but then give him a break where he can think about it without having to deal with the outside stimulus of you right there waiting for an answer.

  22. Debbie H

    Must have been the weekend, our ten year also was “Leaving Forever” because “nobody ever believes me”…good friends apparently were to be the happy caretakers of him. After I choked back a “put that note (saying he’s leaving) in the recycle bin” and a quick explaination as to why he wasn’t being believed, all was forgiven and life moved on. Fun times, huh?

  23. Megan

    Oh dear lord – you people PACKED?? Am I the only idiot who didn’t pack? I just spontaneously announced that I was running (literally) away and my Most Evil Mother in the World could just catch me if she could! Which… she totally did after half a block. Most humiliating day of my life. My dang mother out-ran me, and here I thought she was all old and that.

    Oh – and academia? WAITING for Monkey.

  24. Little Bird

    I’m afraid to post this. As I’ve mentioned before, I register as an Aspie too. And I currently live in an apartment that my parents pay for. Granted, it’s also my step-father’s office. The good news is, there have been recent MASSIVE steps in the growth and development areas. Things that I should have been able to do ten years ago I can do now. Some of those things were things I never thought I would be able to do. Monkey may be with you for awhile, but he won’t necessarily be with you forever. Knowing now that there may be issues means you can work on them NOW. Little parts of it at least. You can push some of the independence issues.
    Also, while he may have pushed aside those backpacks, give him a few years, and he’ll make leaps of logic that will ASTOUND you. He is able to see the world in a way that not everyone can, and see things that others might overlook.

  25. Lori N

    When my daughter announced at 3 that she was running away, I did what my mom did when I made that announcement — I helped her pack! She got as far as the stairs before deciding the suitcase was too heavy & she’d rather stay home. :) Sometimes mom’s need to be a little devious. ;)

  26. Lisa

    Wow, Becca’s advice is really good. I’m going to use that with my own rigid, easily angered 9 year old.

    Hope next weekend is less dramatic, Mir!

  27. Ellen

    I teach middle school in a Northern VA school district. The majority of kids are from unsupportive households, in that we never see the parents. I have 7 kids with Asp… and you would be amazed…. given the proper attidude of the teachers, no one picks on the Aspies, in fact they look up to them as usually they are deep wells of factual information. Even in my school, rife with bullies and (yes) gang members, the kids leave the aspies alone. Now, the climate has to be there, set by the teachers, but it can work, so if it isn’t working in your school, change schools if you have to…

  28. lizneust

    I’m seconding/thirding/whatevering the idea that 9 through 11 is the “run away from home” age. I did it constantly for about 3 years, and rarely made it further than the neighbor’s yard. I only scared my parents once. They had hired a new babysitter who was kind of a bully, and I ran away until I was sure she was gone. Which turned out to be 9 at night. They never asked the girl back to babysit, though. Good luck – sounds like you are doing all the right things. (By the way, the run away stuff tends to be followed closely by the “I’ll get cancer and die and THEN you’ll all be sorry” phase. Consider this fair warning.)

  29. Heidi

    For some reason, this reminds me of the sweet, sweet photo taken from behind of Monkey and your Dad, walking hand in hand…

  30. Flea

    I just hope he doesn’t get cancer and die. :)

    Mir, you’re doing a great job as mom. You know that, right?

  31. Kris

    My oldest decided to run away once … I asked him if he needed help packing. He grumbled, but never came back downstairs. Now he’s 20 (going to college, but still living at home) and I ask him all the time, “Don’t you want to run away from home?”

  32. Jenny

    Oh man. My son loves to stomp outside with nothing and stand just outside our gate. He’s never made it to the end of the driveway, but he acts like he’s proving some sort of major point while he sulks on our walkway.

    He’s never leaving home either. You can even ask him.

  33. DixieChick

    I’m sorry Mir. I haven’t read through the other comments yet (mainly because it’s advisement time and there could be a student at my door at ANY moment), so I might be repeating what everyone else has already said, but it will really be OK. As the evil stepmother of a now 16-year old with Asperger, I am in fact confident that it will. Our oldest had the hardest, and I mean the hardest time in elementary and middle school. He struggled to adjust to each new social environment, he didn’t listen, he lied to avoid cognitive dissonance, he argued, he became a very moody and extremely rigid teenager, and went through a whole phase we now refer to as the “bad year”. But, upon entering high school, we have seen a new child emerge from the ashes. Sure, he still has to remember to look at people when they talk to him, and making small talk is probably never going to be his forte, but he is making it! He is remembering to do his homework, saying very sensible things about college (instead of rattling on and on and on about a $40k private school on the other side of the country he HAD to go to), and we see leaps and bounds of improvement still today.
    Like you, we had days, weeks, months, when we KNEW it was NEVER EVER going to be OK. He was going to live at home FOREVER. But we were wrong, I think (I hope). And I think (and hope) you are too :)

  34. Anna Marie

    When I was 10 I kept a bag packed and hidden in my closet until I felt the time was “just right” to run away…I think it is a totally typical thing for that age. Also – the “bag” I packed? My baby blanket tied on a stick like a hobo. I had a touch of the Romantic then, all mixed in with a big helping of the Keeping My Lovie For Comfort. =)

  35. Rini

    Yeah… I never ran away as a kid, but in college? I got all moved in and set up in my new apartment, then realized I had zero silverware.

    Until you’ve lived on your own, you just have NO CLUE what it takes to live on your own. ;)

  36. mamaspeak

    My BIL ran away around this same age. His dad LOVES to tell the story of how he packed a suitcase, announced he was never coming back to the “meanest parents in the world” and walked about two blocks. He then came back knocked on the door and asked if they happen to have a room open for a 9YO boy. His father said, “Yes, we do have a very recent opening, if you’d be interested.”

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