Which one?

By Mir
September 30, 2011

Yesterday everyone got home late and we had take-out for dinner and I was scrambling to put out everything we needed, and I opened the silverware drawer and stopped short. For some reason, the last time Otto unloaded the dishwasher, he decided that our silverware organizer was arranged incorrectly. For four and a half years it has been (left to right) knives, forks, big spoons, little spoons; what I looked in on as I was exhorting Monkey to pour milk and Chickadee to get out the napkins was big spoons, forks, little spoons, knives.

This halted the entire operation. “What did you DO?” I asked Otto, totally baffled by the drawer. He mumbled something about how he thought the new arrangement might make it easier to set the table (he and Chickie both often reverse the knives and forks). “But you can’t… just… do THAT!” I sputtered. “You can’t just CHANGE it without any WARNING! That’s not how it GOES!” By now both kids had come to marvel at the rearranged drawer, and Chickadee looked at it, then at me, and set to putting the drawer back to the way it had been. Monkey just looked horrified. I grabbed my son. “DO YOU SEE this little OCD acorn right here?” I demanded of Otto. “He didn’t fall far from THIS TREE”—indicating myself—“and that means you can’t just REARRANGE EVERYTHING I KNOW TO BE TRUE ABOUT SILVERWARE without TELLING ME.”

Chickadee finished setting the drawer to rights and turned around. “BAD OTTO,” she said. Then she patted me on the head and said, “It’s okay, Mom, I fixed it! It’s all better now!”

We all had a little laugh and went and had dinner.

It was funny because it was just silverware, but I was completely thrown for a loop by it, for real. For a minute before it was just kind of a joke, it was sort of like the earth tilted about 45 degrees and I felt sick and worried I might slide off the edge.

I wonder, at times like this, if that’s how Monkey feels all the time. If his world forever has the silverware in the wrong slots, and no one told him, and now he’s standing there trying to get a grip, when the people who were supposed to keep the silverware organized deliberately changed everything with no warning.

Me, I like the silverware where it belongs, because that’s something I can control. I like to know where I can find a fork, because lord knows I never know which Monkey I’m going to get.

Am I going to get the Monkey I had yesterday afternoon, when my dad called, and we chatted for a while, and then I put Monkey on the phone and he laughed with delight and said, “How are you, Grandpa? How’s Buddy?”

Or am I going to get the Monkey I had this morning, who went into what was supposed to be a brainstorming conference with us and his teachers at school and immediately wheeled his chair into the far corner, pulled his entire body inside of his sweatshirt, and started shrieking that we all hate him?

How about the Monkey we took out to a nearby diner, afterward, to make sure he was really okay for school after that exhausting almost-hour of him melting down over and over, who took the news that they were out of cocoa in stride, opted instead for chocolate milk, and then graciously shared it with me, carefully pouring some into my coffee so that I could have a “Monkey-made mocha” and then offering some to Otto, too?

Or maybe it’ll be the Monkey I just picked up from school, the one who had to leave the field trip today, because just hours after agreeing that it’s good and reasonable that he cannot use his body against others and he will not do it anymore, got into a fight with a kid over a stick (a fucking stick!) and punched him?

Now I’m stuck at home with the Monkey who sobbed himself to sleep, who spent the ride home first insisting that it wasn’t his fault, that he didn’t do anything, and finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I stood on the brakes (no, not my finest moment) and said, “DID. YOU. HIT. ANOTHER. CHILD?” And when he first cried about the sudden stop and then argued “But he—” I interrupted to boom, “YES OR NO?” Forced to answer that, he broke down, said we all hate him, and we should, because he does these terrible things over and over.

The Monkey who picks up his room and empties the dishwasher without being asked and feeds the dog and kisses her and asks me how my day was is the Monkey I see when I look into those big green eyes. But the Monkey I fear will never be able to hold a job or move out of our house unless it’s to go to jail is in there, too.

I don’t know which Monkey I’m getting, moment to moment. I fear which Monkey I’m getting, sometimes, moment to moment. I love him, all of him, but I don’t know how to help him. He’s sliding off the edge of a world constantly shifting on its axis, and my reach just isn’t quite enough.

So maybe it’s irrational—hell, I’m sure it’s irrational—but under the circumstances, I’m okay with insisting that the damn silverware stay where it belongs.


  1. Jean

    I would insist on the silverware too (((HUGS)))

  2. Niki

    I completely get needing to control what you can control – I live by that mantra, but was recently told by my OCD/anxiety-ridden child’s therapist that I was stressing her out with my need to control, and that I have to let go. I told her that if I let go, it would all fall apart. She said to let it. I’m not sure I can handle it, but I’m trying. I agree with your sentiment – my little acorn didn’t fall far either.

  3. Pam

    I so get this.

    And I so needed to read this today.


  4. Janet

    Nothing to say except we all love you. <3

  5. parodie

    Oh Mir. I’m sorry it’s so big, hard, overwhelming and scary. I wish I could fix it for you, too.

  6. Beth R

    Ditto Janet’s comment. Hugs and cocoa for everyone in the Mir household!

  7. MamaChristy

    He is a smart, wonderful, sweet child in a pre-adolesent state.

    Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    Don’t worry about a some-day job. And know that we are all in your corner, praying and hoping for the best for you all.

  8. Leandra

    I was all prepared to chime in about the silverware! It’s all wrong! But then you punched me right in the gut. I feel you. I really do. I wish I had answers but don’t. What I *think* though, is that as he gets older, Monkey WILL get better at being able to control himself. He’s just got a confusing mix of Asperger’s issues and the beginnings of puberty that have got him reeling.


  9. Beverly

    I hear you.

  10. Amy

    Dear Mir, you are a wonderful person and an even more wonderful parent. That is all.

  11. Chuck

    Ugh. I agree, control what you can and do the best on things that aren’t always controllable…and I know it’s a long journey, but I think Monkey will turn out fine at the end of it.

  12. ben

    Hugs. I feel you.

    I have three Monkeys of my own, and I made things much worse by moving the silverware to a different drawer altogether.

    One day at a time, that’s all we can do. Sometimes just the next ten minutes will have to do. Can I borrow a spoon?

  13. Jen B

    Oh, Asperger’s… how I loathe thee… how I love thee at the same time. I feel your pain, Mir – and send virtual hugs across the miles, and lots of cocoa. <3

  14. Em

    I am glad other people have some good words to offer because I don’t. I’m just sorry such a nice family has to have such a rough time. I’m sorry the world is topsy turvy and people change silverware all the damn time (actual and figurative). I hope stability and predictablity find you and Monkey and brings with it peace of mind and calm. And I hope you sleep soundly tonight knowing there is at least one mother in this world who loses her shit for much less, on a much more frequent basis.

  15. Birchsprite

    Sending a virtual hug… Wish it was more

  16. My Kids Mom

    Oh Mir- you make the interwebs want to all show up at your home and give you a big Kumbaya hug.

    Remember that Monkey is getting so pumped up on teenage hormones already that he’s going to be unpredictable anyway. He’s going to be a different sort of teen than Chickadee and you KNOW she”s unpredictable! But, when it all comes out in the wash… in (cough, cough) another ten years or so (I tried to sneak that in with small print but couldn’t figure out how to do it) I think you’ll be happy.

  17. Lara

    Hugs Mir. I had my overwhelmed day two days ago so I get it. Tomorrow or maybe in a few hours, you will find the strength to carry on helping Monkey be the best he can be. And for what it’s worth, I think you are doing a great job. I wish it wasn’t so hard though – break out th

  18. Lara

    Oops! The chocolate is what I was going to say. Break out the chocolate!

  19. Heather

    Ah, Mir. sending so many hugs and kind thoughts and so much love your guys’ way <3

  20. dad

    A long way around to justify the need for percieved order.
    How do you deal with: One man’s clutter is another man’s genius?

    You need some ice cream…and wine.

  21. Gaylin

    Decades ago I went to set the table for dinner and found to my horror that my mother had bought new silverware. No warning at all. And the new stuff was wrong, just wrong. We all had a fit over it and my mother sat there looking at us like her children had grown horns and fangs. Truthfully, I never really got over it. I managed to find the one spoon that she missed and to this day have it in my silverware drawer.

    My silverware is arranged left to right, knives, forks, small spoons, big spoons. There will be NO rearranging.

    I understand. There there now. Silly Otto.

  22. Sheila

    EVERYBODY knows it’s knives, forks, big spoons, little spoons. Clearly.

    Maybe Otto changed things to give you an object lesson in world view? (Smart guy, that Otto.)

    Smart Mir, for recognizing it and turning it into a lesson for all of us, and helping us see the forest for the sliverware– er, trees. Thank you for helping us to see the Monkey you see (all of them) and for moving us all toward understanding the Monkeys in our own lives.

  23. Karen R.

    Aw, Mir. It really, really does get better. As Monkey feels safer and safer in Wonder School, these events will happen less and less. Honestly. BTDT, have the scars to prove it. In the meantime, I second your Dad’s suggestion, with the addition of chocolate. (And I first read that wine as whine, which would also be appropriate.)

  24. Aimee


    I'm so sorry that things are so hard for Monkey, and for you. I wish there were something I could do to help, besides just saying that I think you're awesome. Because you are, and I know that somehow you're going to figure this out for Monkey, and for yourself.

  25. Stimey

    That unknown is so damn scary. Hugs and love to you, friend.

  26. Jane

    I’m sending my bestest good vibes in your direction.

  27. Cheryl

    Silverware, linen closet, and the most disturbing (even to me) is my obsession with eating M&Ms in ROYGBIV order. I know it’s to control something, anything, in my world, and I know that if I eat a red and then a blue the world won’t actually end (but I’m not taking any chances) but it’s comforting to control one damn thing in my world.

  28. Lynda M O

    Feeling for you, Mir, knowing that you will figure out what to do each day for your young man. It’s unfathomable to me to have a brain function like theirs so I have no practical advice-just hugs and compliments… nice shoes ?

  29. liv

    grab whatever you can and hang on tight, mir. if your world axis is stable, you can more effectively attempt to help monkey stabilize his. count me as part of the kumbaya cyber hug. :)

  30. Varda (SquashedMom)

    Oh, Mir, That is so hard about the 2 Monkeys. I know those fears, know them so well. I hope you get through this time with the least pain possible, and that Monkey finds his calm, happy place.

  31. Tracy B

    Oh Mir, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this…daily. But I think that the good Lord gave you the silverware episode as a reminder of how Monkey must feel most of the time. Try and remember that he’s just as angry about these episodes as you are if not more. It’s something as adults that’s hard to understand, it was must a living hell for him. I’ll continue to pray for you and Monkey and in the meantime, eat some chocolate…it always makes me feel better, I’m hoping it’ll make you feel better, too!

  32. Jen

    Yeah. Just…yeah.

  33. Kathy

    A-f*ing-MEN! To ALL of it!!

    (((hugs))) to you … today and every day!


  34. Scottsdale Girl

    Hmm. I lost my shit yesterday over the fact that no one puts things away WHERE THEY BELONG. How do we know where it is? We play the OPEN EVERY FUCKING CABINET AND DRAWER TIL THE FOOD IS BURNED game? *visions of strangling peeps*

    Anyway, whew. HUGS! and woman? You rock everything, and are very pretty.

  35. Little Bird

    I may have to make my mother read this one, so she sees that it’s not just me. I may not be the most organized person on the planet but there ARE things that have to be done a specific way in my world. My knife drawer for instance (before that sounds creepy, remember– I cook) must be organized in a certain order. My stepfather simply refuses to put the knives away properly. He doesn’t even use the correct DRAWER!!! IT DRIVES ME BATTY!!!!

  36. Amy

    You are amazing. I’m sure you don’t go around all day articulating brilliant insight in all the little mundane bits of life, but when you DO do that, it’s really powerful.

  37. Pat

    I agree with your dad…Ice Cream & Wine for Everyone!!

  38. Midj

    Yes. Laundry is my silverware drawer. My mother did mine once, just after my 22 year old daughter was born. Never again.

    My heart goes out to you, Mir. I’m know Monkey is lucky to have you around to see all the good that he doesn’t see in himself. And you are lucky to have Chickie and Otto, who understand that the silverware needs to be back in its rightful place. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a big spoon under your pillow, however… ;-)

  39. Christine

    Aw, hugs for the hard day. I rearranged the silverware drawer the other day and it went over fairly well, but not without remark. While I was doing it my heart jumped into my throat for a minute–wait! Am I allowed to do this? Is it morally OK to rearrange the silverware drawer without consulting the family? We all stood around it later that evening and I had to do a little presentation explaining why things had been put where they were and reassuring the fam that it could all get put back the old way, easy peasy…

  40. Mom24@4evermom

    (((hugs))) That’s all I’ve got. Not trite words of wisdom, but lots of caring from someone who’s gotten to know you and Monkey vicariously and wish you both the best.

  41. Daisy

    And I thought my teen was picky about the silverware because he’s blind. Deep sigh. Those meltdowns are exhausting – for the kiddo and for mom.

  42. Chana L

    My parents just got new silverware.. you know after 40 years or so. Its so WRONG. Wrong shape, wrong size…

    Do you use the techniques in “Conscious Discipline”? Sometimes it sounds like you do in your best moments- or that in your worst moments you’d probably find it helpful. If my child turns out to be like your multiple Monkeys (there is that possibility) I know I’m going to need it more than I do now. I just began a class on this parenting method/philosophy because that’s what they do around here, and I can see how helpful it is already. Yeah, I found something worth mentioning from rural ohio)
    Best of luck with Monkey!

  43. Lucinda

    Those challenges that seem unending wear you down after awhile. I’m sorry. I hope you can take a moment to cry it out, relieve the stress a bit, and then move forward. You continue to be in my prayers.

  44. RuthWells

    One foot in front of the other. {hugs}

    You are doing better than you realize; I am happy to keep reminding you.

    May I make you a mojito?

  45. Chris

    I love that kid. I am fairly fond of you, too.

  46. addy

    HUGS and Love and lots of chocolate.

  47. Jackie

    I’m so sorry. Wish I could give you a hug and make it all better but, I know that is not possible. Pray thing will be better.


  48. Leanner

    Well, there’s nothing like extremes, mine is four & I agree it is scary not knowing who you’re going to get at any given moment. I too worry about him living outside our home and jobs and all that big stuff. However, when he’ll let me, I look into his giant brown eyes and think all is calm. Somehow I just have to believe that he will make it and that God put him into this world to do something extraordinary. I just have to survive long enough to see it.

  49. Edd Fear

    I so hear you. You don’t know which Monkey you’ll get. But you know you’ll get Monkey, either way. And I’m amazed by your insight into him. It helps the rest of us deal with our Monkeys (or Eggs, in our case).

  50. Amanda

    I’ve often wondered what came first, the autism or the OCD? I used to be carefree and easy going (I think). Oh, you rearranged the silverware drawer? Not really a big deal. But now? I need the drawer organized or I can’t function. With all of the uncertainty autism brings to my household day to day, I’ve found that I have more and more of a need to control what I can because there’s so much that I can’t.

  51. Valerie

    Thanks, Mir, for understanding this and writing about it. It doesn’t really seem to have a name. This …. one minute totally neuro-typical and the next …. so terribly not. I just chalk it up to “high-functioning” but that doesn’t seem to explain it well enough to others that don’t live with it.

  52. Chris

    I am so sorry. This road is hard but it is a road and our jobs as moms is to keep looking ahead and doing the best we can to get down it no matter how bumpy.

    Hugs (and I second the wine after a long walk)

  53. Liza


    Wow that sounds rough. I wish I could help.

  54. Paula / Hamburg

    I read in Wiki the other day that aspies tend to live according to the laws as adults, become artists or specialists in their fields of interest because of their need of order, justice and regularity. So, don’t worry, he will be fine in the end.

  55. Kelly

    Oh sweetie…. sending cyber hugs. The not knowing is so hard.

  56. Otto

    For the record, this morning I tried to eat my cereal with a knife … some of us adjusted too fast to the new order, I guess. I’ll adjust back in a few days …


  57. dad

    Otto, I’m sorry I missed that.

  58. Katie in MA

    There’s nothing wrong with needing something – anything – to be what stands between you and a little sanity. We get that, we do. Everyone who loves you is okay with that. And if tomorrow you don’t care if there’s any order in the drawer at all, then that’s okay too. Just vent it all out and keep venting for as long as you need to. There will be plenty of time for deep breaths and rational thought and the rest of this mothering business later.

  59. Jovigirlem

    I found it so immensely hilarious that you post that about silverware, and on the top right hand side is an ad for Oneida. Was that intentional?? :)

  60. Kirsty

    Unsurprisingly, I have nothing constructive to say other than that I’m sending you warm, summery hugs from the south of France.
    But what I really wanted to say is this: I spent 14 years with my now-ex and his complaining that my take on the cutlery drawer was (is!) illogical. My cutlery is, from left to right, knives, forks, big spoons, little spoons. Sound familiar? You cannot imagine how happy it has made me this morning to see my organisation vindicated! I very much dislike talking to my ex but I’m tempted to actually phone him this morning to tell him about this…!
    You are, of course, absolutely right to insist on your (totally logical, utterly fabulous) organisation of the cutlery drawer…
    Fight on, fight on!

  61. Karen

    LOL… Well. I am married to a control freak who would absolutely do the same thing…have a mini melt over a rearranged untensil drawer. Right now I can only imagine your frustration at the lack of control over Monkey’s situation. I also know Otto’s internal cringe as the silverware was shuffled back into the previous order.

    I may have told you a while back of an Aspie who attended my daughters college. He was brilliant, and successful. As a youngster he had challenges like Monkey, but after that lovely pubescent stage, things mellowed and he became a very happy and productive young man. I think Monkey is entering that age where the hormones begin to mess with everything else. A pre-teen without his challenges can be miserable. Because he is on the autism spectrum, perhaps it’s amplified.

  62. Rebecca

    Is it irrational that I covered my mouth with both hands and started ugly-crying halfway through this post?

    You don’t know how much it helps me to read these posts about Monkey. It’s not. Just. Us. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

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