So my parents are here for a visit. That’s completely awesome because they are fun people, and also because our favorite collective hobby appears to be eating. I mean, sure, yes, we also talk a lot and go do stuff and watching Monkey grow in frustration that Grandpa’s sole mission on this trip isn’t actually to play Legos with him 12+ hours/day, but the main reason we all get together is so that we can order approximately twenty different things from our local Chinese restaurant and then sit at the table talking about how we really overdid it, this time, and we have WAY too much food, yes, and could you pass that one down, I haven’t tried that one yet, and yes, there’s dessert later if anyone wants ice cream….
You get the idea.
(Ha! You thought we only made food the central vacationing activity while on a cruise, but it turns out that we are gifted in the eating-excuses department, and can even make food the main attraction without ever leaving the house. Viva la oink!)
Anyway, when we are not eating, we are often discussing how much the kids have grown and how
aggravating adorable they are. As one does.
When we talk about Monkey, it’s often to discuss areas of challenge for him, which ones we feel like we have a pretty good handle on and which ones are still baffling and frustrating. The thing about Monkey is that even when he’s being completely infuriating, he doesn’t MEAN to, and also his relaxed/comfortable state is very much like having a puppy on your lap—he’s happy and playful and loves you VERY MUCH and responds well to pretty much any attention paid in his direction.
So when we were talking about him I mentioned something about how I find myself readjusting, constantly, to his needs, and that a lot of what he says and does is just kind of foreign to me, because he’s so different than I was as a kid. And my dad asked if I had any idea if my ex behaved similarly as a kid, had he or anyone in his family ever volunteered that information to me, and then Otto and I needed to take a break from the conversation to finish laughing.
Because, first of all: I am so persona non grata with my ex’s family, I cannot imagine any of them saying anything to me on purpose at this point unless it started with “Any last words?” Although before we divorced, his siblings DELIGHTED in reporting to me every last bizarre childhood behavior of his, many of which sounded EXACTLY like something Monkey either does or we could totally see him doing.
And second of all: I can’t remember if I ever shared the conversation my ex and I had when we got Monkey’s test results and he was pronounced well and officially Asperger-y, but it went a little something like this:
Him: Well, I just think this isn’t very scientific.
Me: Why not?
Him: It’s a lot of behavioral observations. It’s just not very objective.
Me: Um, there are also objective tests. But this is largely a behavioral issue.
Him: Well I just don’t know that I believe this.
Me: They’re TRAINED PROFESSIONALS. This is what they DO. What don’t you believe?
Him: Well according to these criteria, I think I would be classified as having Asperger’s.
Me: I agree.
Him: And that’s ridiculous.
Him: I mean, really.
Him: Because obviously I don’t.
Him: OF COURSE NOT.
Me: Well you were never diagnosed…
Him: BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE IT.
Me: … because that wasn’t really done, back when we were kids, but don’t you think…?
Him: No. Ridiculous.
Me: I think it’s something you might want to explore.
Him: Come on.
Me: YOU come on. You don’t have any pervasive social difficulties? Sensory sensitivities? Any of this sound familiar?
Him: We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about Monkey.
So. In terms of having a resource who might have some insight into my quirky little guy, well, that’s complicated. Because quite honestly I do think my ex may understand some facets of Monkey’s behavior better than I ever will, but I also think his unwillingness to explore WHY he gets him also becomes a barrier to being helpful.
[In case you were wondering, there is little more heartbreaking than having your Aspie ask you, “Mom, do you think Dad has Asperger’s?” and after very carefully explaining that you think it’s very likely but he has never been diagnosed, then being asked, “Well but does he not think he does because he thinks it’s something bad?” There are a hundred reasons I wish my ex would explore this, and reasons 1-98 are because I think it would be hugely beneficial to Monkey, with reasons 99 and 100 being because I think he would ultimately find it helpful for HIMSELF. So.]
So when we talk nature/nurture with Monkey, sure, I think there are some genetics at play, but in terms of our day-to-day stuff, I have to just… do the best I can and continually work at understanding him.
With Chickadee, though, although I already acknowledge some similarities between her and me, all it takes is my father sitting across the kitchen table and LAUGHING AT ME to remind me just how similar we really are. And even as I make my argument for SOMETIMES GIRLS HAVE HORMONE POISONING I have to admit that yeah, a lot of this is a little too familiar.
And the part that kills me is that I had long assumed that many of my… less-than-savory behavior as a tween/teen were because of my environment. Our home was… ummm… let’s just say things were pretty tense a lot of the time. So once I grew to adulthood and looked back at what a complete jerk I was as a kid, I assumed it was because I was unhappy due to situational factors. But when I look at Chickadee’s behavior I see many of the same sorts of MY LIFE IS SO TRAGIC AND EVERYTHING IS AWFUL ALL THE TIME kinds of things, even though HER home is a whole lot happier than mine was.
And that’s about where my father suggested that maybe some of it is just plain genetics. And then I may have said that that’s SO NOT FAIR and MY LIFE IS TERRIBLE and also SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR ICE CREAM.
It’s really a wonder they don’t come to visit more often.