Moments of connection

14 Apr

Last night I had a hot date with the vacuum cleaner.  The boys had come home with a frightening amount of sand in their shoes, which had of course ended up on the carpet.  When I walked into my living room, I had a moment of severe dislocation.  Had I accidentally wandered onto a beach?  The sand was actually getting between my toes and making them all gritty.  Hence the unscheduled quality time with the vacuum cleaner.

I was moving at speed, like a crazed woman.  Before I could vacuum, I had to ensure that toys were picked up and put away, that there were no socks or other items of clothing littering the floor, that there were no cups lying around (my family uses an inordinate amount of cups, most of which get left under beds, beside the couch, or at random points on the floor).  I was barking out orders to the kids to tidy up their things, and they were so startled by this flurry of activity that they actually did what I asked.  Things were picked up, vacuuming was done, linen was laundered and replaced.  While all of this was happening, Gerard was in the kitchen cooking a very nice dinner.  I have to say, it’s great having a man who can cook!

Finally the work was done.  The floor was clean, the sheets were fresh, the vacuum cleaner was unplugged and put away.  Then George caught sight of a tub of Playdough high up on a shelf and wanted it.  I told him he couldn’t use the Playdough on the grounds that I was in no mood to have bits of Playdough ground into my freshly cleaned carpet.  I should mention at this point that I was somewhat cranky last night.  I hadn’t slept the previous night and I was beyond exhausted.  I was afraid that I would not cope with the idea of getting down on hands and knees to dig Playdough out of the carpet.  Besides, it was so close to the kids’ bedtime and it would have been a bad idea to allow George to start a new activity.

But George was not taking no for an answer.  One thing about autistic kids is that they can be very focused on what they want.  We once endured a four-hour tantrum because George was trying to spell a sentence with his fridge magnets and ran out of the letter “a”.  So I was a little worried about the possibility of the Playdough issue escalating.  George kept repeating, over and over, “I want Playdough, please.  I want Playdough, please.” His use of the word “please” was tearing at my heartstrings.  It sounded so plaintive, so imploring.  It made me feel like I was being mean to my child.

Then George, who is nothing if not resourceful, dragged over the little red plastic kiddies’ table.  The table has a gammy leg that keeps coming off – not to be deterred, George reattached the leg, stood on the table and tried to reach the Playdough.  Needing a quick diversion, I decided to turn this into a game.  I ran to him as he stretched up and grabbed him off the table.  I ran with him through the house and dumped him on my bed.  George, it must be said, was quite surprised and momentarily startled.  Then he saw the laughter in my eyes and started giggling.  “Tickle,” he ordered.  I obliged, and was rewarded with the sound of his laughter.  It is the best sound in the world, that laugh.  George has one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard.

Next thing I knew, he was off the bed and pulling my hand.  He dragged me all the way to the kitchen, him giggling so much he was almost out of breath, me feigning reluctance.  In the kitchen, he pushed me right up against the counter, then he slowly backed away, making sure I was staying put.  Then he turned around and ran away!  I chased him through the house, following the sound of the giggles, and finally caught him on the couch.  I was tickling him, hugging him, and giving him lots of the deep pressure sensory input that he craves.  Then James joined the fray and we were all tickling each other until we collapsed in a breathless, giggling heap.

As I lay on the couch with my two boys, I glanced up at the shelf and noticed that the Playdough had disappeared.  Gerard, taking the opportunity provided by the distraction, had removed it and put it out of sight.  The Playdough was forgotten, a possible crisis had been averted, and my boys went to bed smiling.

This is why parenting is the best thing in the whole world.  All of the stress in the world dissolves during those moments of connection.

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