Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Choosing your battles

I hear this a LOT, in relation to behavioral issues with Jaymes. Pick your battle, don't nag nag nag about everything. Ok, the blankie is on the floor. Not the end of the world. He's not using his fork quite right, he's on the counter, he's hitting Sierra, he's messing with the TV remote. So many things that happen all at once, and leave me slightly twitchy.

I try and choose my battles wisely. If Jaymes wants to play with the cans, it's fine by me. I don't care if he makes a mess of the room he is playing in, because I'll make him help clean it up later. I don't expect perfect obedience, nor do I expect Jaymes to be able to handle situations just because we want him to. For example, months ago, we had some extra cash and decided to go to the KFC all you can eat buffet. Jason loves KFC, and I like them ok too. Sierra is a chicken fiend. But when we got inside, the problem became pretty clear, at least to me.

There was a huge line. Strike one for Jaymes. He does not handle standing in cramped crowded lines. We're working on it, because in the real world it's just a hard reality. You have to stand in line, and doing so politely and quietly is the end goal. If it had only been the line, I'd have made him muddle through it. The restaurant was tiny, they only have like 6 tables all cramped together. About the size of my dining room/kitchen. Strike two for Jaymes. He gets uncomfortable in small, crowded areas. Add in the line, and it was a miracle Jaymes was ok. At this point, I noticed his subtle (some not so subtle as well) cues to leave. He was squirming and moaning quietly, trying to make me let go of his hand and his eyes were getting that "all hell is about to break loose if mommy doesn't help me" look. Jason was getting irritated with him, and people were turning to look at him. Strike 3 for Jaymes, by way of people making mommy very uncomfortable. He can tell when I'm getting nervous, and it sets him off big time. So I told Jason that Jaymes was not going to be able to handle himself in this situation, and honestly could not blame him. Jason was upset, and had the very valid point that we as parents should not be ruled by our offspring, should not bend to Jaymes' will all the time. In a way, I agree. But this wasn't a "I don't wanna" type situation. I made the decision to leave, not based on Jaymes behavior or demands, but because I could see how anxious and stressed out he was becoming in that 2 or 3 minutes in line.

There is a fine line between picking your battles, and letting your child run your life. On the flip side, there is an equally thin line between forcing a child with a disability to do something that he isn't able to handle and teaching him to handle something. I'm not saying let the boy do whatever he wants, if he screams his head off for candy at the supermarket, there is no pity from me.

I guess it all comes down to really knowing your child. I know Jaymes well enough, I know the signs and cues he gives when he doesn't feel "ok" with something. Jason saw the KFC incident as Jaymes being a brat and ruing his favorite meal, because I don't think he can understand that there is a difference between bratty Jaymes and genuinely uncomfortable Jaymes. He needs to understand that Jaymes doesn't do things to ruin them for Jason. That's not in Jaymes' agenda. He doesn't have that sort of thought process yet. He doesn't do anything to hurt us, or ruin things for us, or to irritate us. He'll do things that he realizes will cause an amusing reaction, like poking Sierra to giggle at her annoyed little squeals. He does it because it's a game, and it's funny to him. We stop the behavior, but I never take it to heart. he isn't doing that because he enojys Sierra's unhappiness, he just likes the angry noises she makes! The KFC situation, however, was not like that. He was genuine in his discomfort, and I take that very seriously.

It gets so exhausting trying to decide which behaviors to "fight" over and which are really harmless and can be allowed to continue. I'll continue to let Jaymes play with his cans, because while it is annoying and I have no clue what is in any of those cans anymore, it's good play. The cans are satisfyingly heavy for Jaymes, they stack nicely, and they're shiny. Jason does not want me to allow this, but hopefully in time he'll understand. Having decided that the cans were not a worthwhile battle, I added a few rules to the cans to keep our sanity and make him aware of boundaries. He can only have the cans if he asks me using either "I want cans" "want cans" or simply "cans". He can only play with the bunch without labels, if it has a label, it's off limits. If the cans cause a fight between the kids, they go away. No throwing the cans. Basic stuff like that.

His diaper hoarding behavior was one that we could not allow. Yes, it's fun for him, but diapers are expensive and we go through a lot of them. They aren't toys. I put a lock on the diaper cabinet, and we're good so long as I remember to lock it every time.

The current issue is one I haven't decided about yet. To me, it's not worth the incredible explosion that will come of denying him his fun. He's got a plastic box of Thomas the Train tracks, and he pours the whole mess out onto the couch and floor, and either snuggles with it on the couch or builds long tracks all over the house. The mess is a minor thing for me, kids play areas should be messy while play is going on, I think. It's the obsessive nature of it that I'm not sure about. I don't know that we want to encourage hours of repetitive play like this. But he is so happy, quiet, and serene while he builds his track. it's something that really soothes him.

The problem comes in with Sierra. She sees all this train, and wants to play. Jaymes uses her toys, no reason she shouldn't be able to have one piece of train to play with. He doesn't even use the trains, just builds track. But when Sierra takes a train, he chases her down if I'm not there to stop it right away. He goes hysterical, screaming, hitting, kicking and pushing Sierra. To her credit, Si-Si has some fast little legs! I have not found a way to let Sierra play without this huge fight between them. Jaymes views it as "this is MY stuff, back the hell off" and Sierra views it as "Well you're wearing MY pink blanket and stealing toys from MY room, why can't I play?"
It isn't fair to Sierra that she can't touch the trains. Jaymes makes everything his, but the trains are sacred. Tried getting Sierra her own, doesn't matter. I can see Jaymes' side of it too. In his mind those are his, and he likes them lined up just so. Her messing up his lines and patterns is extremely upsetting to Jaymes.

So the question is, do I get rid of the train? Jaymes would be devastated. Do I hide it and only let him play at certain times, like at Sierra's nap time? Do I leave it alone and continue to just try to manage the fights as they occur? Jason wants to just toss the trains, and I don't feel like that's fair. Jaymes loves those things, and so little keeps his attention the way these do.

Sometimes it's so easy. At Walmart, Jaymes can sit in the cart or stand. I would prefer he sit rather than stand, but standing is a better alternative than him shrieking and throwing himself out of said cart. Not a hard choice to make there.

Meal time is a battle worth fighting, and thanks to that mindset, Jaymes eats very well. It's still hard to get him to sit though. Rather than ruin mealtimes altogether by forcing him to sit in his chair and cause an uproar, I let him sit on the floor or on my lap, as long as he's sitting quietly and eating.

In many ways yes, we do bend our lives to suit Jaymes. I respect him and when he "tells" me that he can't handle something, or that something is THAT important to him, I listen. He deserves respect, his needs and desires and fears are serious and he should not be expected to conform perfectly to what we as parents want. After we left KFC that day, we went to CiCi's Pizza, another buffet. The place is huge, lots of space between the buffet and the tables. It's quiet, and cooler inside than KFC. It's pizza, Jaymes #1 food. The difference in that child's posture and behavior when we walked in was incredible. He was calm, not tense and nervous. He was chattering in gibberish happily, and holding my hand. Not trying to cover his ears or escape, not whimpering.

It's all about compromise, I guess. None of us should have to bend to our mother/father/child/weird cousin from Texas. Respect vs absolute obedience, I suppose. We give a little, take a little and someplace in that in-between, we all find comfort and happiness.

No comments: