In a recent discussion with some of my “Autism” friends, the topic of impulsive actions by our unique children arose. A friend of mine called them, “Naughty blessings!” These are the times when our children make decisions that are naughty or that are wrong, but we as observers look at them as a positive thing because they take complex planning or mischievous thought. We may even chuckle quietly while reprimanding the act.
This happens so often in our life with Christopher. Many times they fuel us and give us hope because these are the times that show growth in his thought process, and many times a little bit of “normal” teen behavior in our not so normal life. I love it when Christopher does something that makes him shine or shows us his great sense of humor. He will often surprise us with something that I know took a little planning on his part or something that comes out of him that is carried over from another time sometimes from the distant past. For any other child, these stories may not be remembered or significant. For another parent, it may be an annoyance or just another day. For us, though, it is a blessing to know that our child is learning, is aware, and remembers everything. Just when we think that Christopher is oblivious to what is going on, he will show us a moment of true focus that says that he is present and aware of the situation. It is significant and it is a true blessing!
When we go to visit Maggie at her college, we always stay at a hotel that has a pool with a water slide. It is not a huge Wisconsin Dells sort of place, but just a small pool that happens to have one water slide going into it. When we first went there, a maintenance man-made the mistake of telling the kids where the emergency shut off switch was. Christopher was there and saw it, but we didn’t think anything of it. Things were going fine until Christopher got to the top of the slide, took a step like he was going to slide down, but then leaped over and pushed the button. The gushing water stopped abruptly and everything was suddenly silent in the pool room except for Christopher’s loud guffawing. We apologized to the maintenance man who turned the slide back on. We knew that he would try to do it again because he was still laughing uncontrollably, so we made either Maggie or Michael go up the stairs first and stand in front of the button. Even with these preventative measures, it was Christopher’s mission to push that button. He would go up and slide down a couple of times waiting for his sibling to start to think that he wasn’t going to try anymore, but the moment they had their guard down, he would lunge past them and push the button. This has now been an ongoing joke for three years. No matter how hard we try to guard that switch, he can usually get to it 2-3 times each visit. It isn’t that big of a deal, really, and long ago the hotel staff showed me how to reset the slide, but Christopher still loves figuring out ways to push that switch no matter what we do to try to stop him. Naughty blessings!
Recently, I was discouraged because Christopher was not pooping regularly after his surgery and even had a bowel movement during the night while in his bed. I was thinking that Christopher totally regressed since this has not happened for years. At the time, I didn’t realize that he was truly constipated due to his sedation medication. I decided to bribe Christopher. We went to the store and picked out some very fancy cupcakes with brightly colored frosting. I told him that if he went to the bathroom on the toilet, he could have a cupcake. Surely, this would get him to poop on the toilet! I had no luck the first couple of days despite the enticing bribe. He really tried, but after sitting on the toilet for 45 minutes each evening there was nothing. Christopher knew the cupcakes were in the refrigerator. He observed me putting them away. Three days after we bought the cupcakes, Christopher couldn’t take it anymore. I was in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher. All of the sudden I heard the crinkling of plastic, and then caught a glimpse of him as he ran into the next room to hide in the corner.That rascal stuffed a whole cupcake in his mouth , liner and all! As I caught up to him, he spit out the paper liner along with a bunch of crumbs while laughing. Thankfully, we have a golden retriever who is always nearby when there is a spill or a trail of cupcake crumbs leading to wherever Christopher is stuffing his face! Christopher is a planner, he is sneaky, he is hilarious. Naughty blessings!
When Christopher was about 10, we stopped at Mammoth Cave on our way to Florida for vacation. While there we chose a tour of the cave that we thought Christopher could handle. There are a lot of steps, and it might have been tricky for a kid with low tone and poor balance, but he handled it well. Christopher walked between Eric and I so that if he decided to become impulsive, we would be close. He was probably wondering why we were walking in a dark, damp place and sometimes when there is no meaning for him, things happen. He becomes naughty. At the midpoint of the tour the guide had us all find a seat. There were rows and rows of chairs where the 50 or so people on the tour could sit while the tour guide talked. This was the part of the tour we were most anxious about because we were worried that Christopher would get bored while the guide talked. He actually surprised us, however, and was quiet for the short speech. Maybe it was because it was such a novel experience being in a cave. Anyway, the tour guide warned us that they were going to turn out the lights now so we could experience the silence and the darkness of the cave. He said we might hear critters, and it would be darker than dark. We both had a tight grip on Christopher as he sat in between us. The lights were shut off, and we were shrouded in complete darkness!
Now, before we go on, I must explain to you that at home, whenever we would walk into a dark space, to be silly, we always made ghost sounds. It is just something Eric and I did when the kids were young so that the children thought it was funny and not scary to be in the dark. As the kids grew older, they would all pitch in with their own ghost noises except for Christopher who would just grin and laugh. Well, when the lights were turned off in the cave and the 50 or so people were listening for critters, they all heard a high-pitched, “Whoooo, whooo!” For the first time, Christopher was making ghost sounds! Then Christopher burst out laughing followed by a roar of laughter from the tour group. Christopher showed us that he could carry over a behavior from home, that he is a thinker, and once again, that he has a wonderful sense of humor. Naughty Blessings!
This last story may be a little more “naughty” than a naughty blessing but it is too funny not to share. Christopher was about six or seven and at the time. He hated to shop but it was rare that we didn’t have to take him along. On this day we were clothes shopping – every little boy’s favorite! We were taking him to Sam’s Club and usually took our time there, so we strapped Christopher into a special stroller / wheelchair that we have for him
Christopher was definitely agitated and did not want to be there, but we ignored his fussiness. In the middle of the store were tables of clothing. I was trying to find sizes, and Christopher was sitting there arching his back against the straps and whining. We were asking for trouble but chose to ignore it. Big mistake! There were other shoppers around, but we always try to maneuver Christopher around them to keep them out of reach. Sometimes, however, this is impossible. On this particular afternoon, a woman moved too close to Christopher. I heard some commotion and turned and saw a woman with her sweat pants pulled down around her ankles, by my son, exposing pretty much everything. She was wearing a thong. I apologized profusely noticing that Eric was standing 25 feet away just laughing. In the end, Christopher got what he wanted – we left the store. At the time, I did not see the humor in the whole incident but by the time we got home we were all laughing. Christopher can strategize, he can communicate what he wants, and he can be so naughty.
Christopher is older now and hasn’t pulled anyone’s pants down recently, but we still have to watch him at Sam’s as we walk through the aisles. Every once in a while he will see an emergency exit and run and push the bar. He doesn’t do this to go out. He likes to set the alarm off and watch all of the employees come running. So if you are at Sam’s and you hear the alarm go off, look for a 6’4” young man standing there laughing uncontrollably while his parents try to calm the store staff. Naughty blessings!
Of course we don’t want Christopher to be naughty and we work continuously on appropriate behavior with him. In retrospect, however, to go through life without relieving the stress of these situations with humor and hidden blessings would make for an overwhelmingly difficult life. So we laugh, often and hard, count our blessings, and life goes on.