Saturday, April 2, 2011

SNSS: Cat Dancing

Today, April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. My post for this went up yesterday, because today is also Saturday, which means it's time for Special Needs Sibling Saturdays here at The Squashed Bologna. (New here? For the origin of this recently launched guest post series, read this.)

But enough about that. You’re here for this...

Today: a post from the fabulous Jill, otherwise known as Jillsmo who blogs at Yeah. Good Times. Like me, she has one son who is on the autism spectrum and one son who is not.

Jill often blogs on the snarky/humor side of things, which is awesome since laughter is as cathartic as tears. And more fun.

Also, she is often foul-mouthed (a girl after my own heart, but don’t click on the links if you don’t like to read the word “fuck”) and, when truly pissed off, can rock a rant like nobody’s business. She is honest, irreverent and side splittingly funny, but also capable of rending the heart, too, when the occasion calls for that sort of thing.

Also?  Her love for her children shines through in everything she says and does. 


Cat Dancing - by Jill

My two boys cannot be more different from each other.

Jacob, my 9 year old with autism, is sweet and mellow and prefers to be alone most of the time. He’s kind of like a cat, actually: happy on his own, rejects the company of other people, but sometimes he’ll decide it’s time to hang out with you and then he’ll just come and sit on you.

And when he does, you’re so honored. And then when he’s done, he’ll get up and leave. It all has to be on his terms, though.

Ben, my 5 year old uber-NT (neuro-typical) child, is exactly the opposite. He’s extremely outgoing and social, hates to be by himself, is constantly demanding that I accompany him to the bathroom or to the kitchen to get water, etc.

He spends very little time on his own and when he does it’s because he’s engrossed in something and doesn’t notice right away, but when he does notice, he’ll immediately get up and come looking for me.

It’s an interesting dance these two do with each other. Ben craves the affection and attention of his brother while Jake, for the most part, rejects him. And then there are the rare, magical “cat-like” moments when Jake suddenly decides that Ben is worthy of his time, and they will chase each other and play games and laugh and shriek like siblings are supposed to.

But then it will end, suddenly; Jake will decide that playtime is over and he’ll leave Ben to himself. Just like a cat.

There’s only one rule in my house and that is that you need to be a nice person, other than that the kids pretty much have free reign. I don’t believe in what I call “forced sharing;” if a toy belongs to one kid, he doesn’t have to share if he doesn’t want to. If it’s a communal toy, they need to take turns, but if it’s his and the other kid wants it, I’m not going to make him hand it over.

There are frequent turf wars over toy possession and they will always come to me for mediation, and when that happens I make them work it out between themselves. Unless somebody is about to get hurt, or if somebody isn’t being nice, I’m not going to intervene. I usually just shrug my shoulders and say “Don’t tell me, tell him.”

I think it’s good for both of them to learn how to navigate these social matters on their own; and doing it at home, with your brother, with your mom watching, is a safe place to learn.

The same goes for socially interacting with each other. Ben always wants Jake’s attention and Jake almost always wants Ben to leave him alone, but I’m not going to make Jake interact with Ben if he doesn’t want to (as long as he’s nice). I will make him tell Ben this, though, when he turns to me and asks if I’ll “tell Ben to leave me alone.”

If he wants to be left alone, that’s okay, but he needs to be the one to break the news. As long as he’s nice (he always is).

The other night Jake was upset about something. As is typical for our house, I had no idea why and he couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me.  Jake and I were in his room when Ben appears in the doorway asking what’s going on.

I tell him not to worry about it, which is what I say often, and he says “I just want to give Jacob a hug.” That’s very sweet. But Jake immediately says “NO, NO, I don’t want you to give me a hug!” and he practically ran in the other direction to get away from Ben.

Oh. The look of disappointment on Ben’s face was so heartbreaking. He was just trying to help, and giving somebody a hug is the nice thing to do when they’re upset, but he asked and Jake said no, and we all have to honor that. I could feel his pain, though; the pain of rejection. The cat didn’t want to snuggle and even if it’s not personal, it still hurts a lot.

Later when Jake was in bed I went into Ben’s room and thanked him for being such a nice brother. I said I was sorry that Jake didn’t want to hug him but the offer was such a nice thing to do and I was really proud of him for offering. I could tell that he immediately felt better.

I hope he doesn’t give up on Jake. A person can only tolerate the sting of rejection so many times before they stop trying. You have to: to protect yourself.

Like I said, it’s an interesting dance we do here. Sometimes toes are stepped on, but I hope that in the end they become graceful, beautiful dancers because of it.


So now that you have read this post, you want to read more Jill, right? Good for you, you will so not be disappointed. She’s got such a strong, unique voice. 

Try: Musings on Autism, or how about: Autism Contradictions, or this one, about visiting her son's classroom: The Talk

You can also follow Jill on Twitter, where she has figured out how to be funny and snarky in 140 characters or less.  So, do!

And? Because it is MY blog? I’m putting my comment right HERE, on the bottom of the post itself. So I get to claim “firsties” because I can, OK?

Jill, the thing is? I have a cat who is actually more like your Ben. She follows us around the house meowing for attention. The moment anyone sits down, she is right in their lap. She’s a disgrace to the cat world and she doesn’t care. She just wants people, people, people, 24/7.

She even puts up with my autistic son Jacob’s complete obsession with and un-gentle treatment of her. She will let him push her ears down, pull her tail, and lay his face on her back, just to have a human right next to her. She is pretty amazing, and we feel really lucky to have her.

Except when she lays on top of my computer and won’t budge because my petting to typing ratio had dropped below the required levels. So she moved from my lap onto the keyboard to notify me that it’s time to type one handed and pony up some cat stroking.

Hmmmm, if I had just used a different word for my kitty? That last sentence would have sounded awfully NSFW and brought some very WTF head scratching to the folks who landed at this blog via searching a certain, um, phrase.  Love Ya. ;-)

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