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Monday, January 5, 2015

The Red Chair

Here's an example of how one of my little darlings struggles with things that most of us seamlessly take for granted and do with ease. We have a beloved Red Chair in our family room. Alex and I bought it when we were just married, and it has been with our family for 14 years. The kids have grown up snuggling in that chair. Eating popcorn and watching movies in that chair. Falling asleep in Daddy or Mommy's arms in that chair. Jumping on the cushions, hurdling over its big arms, taking the cushions off and using it as a boat, putting piggy tails in a little girl's hair as she teeters on the back, sitting sideways and plopping legs over the side, spilling juice and fruit snacks on that chair.

That chair is in shreds at this point. It's embarrassing to have people over because the red chair is such an eye sore. When we look at the chair, we see a decade of loving children in that chair. But through other people's eyes, the chair is tattered and worn. Full of holes and rips. Worn thin.
So we decided it is time to get a replacement. We were still going to keep the chair, but put it in the basement where the boys play their video games. So it can be loved and spilled on even more, away from people's eyes who come to visit.

Yesterday was The Shopping Day To Replace The Red Chair. One of my darlings has been dreading this day as if it were his execution day. You see, this particular darling is slightly rigid in his ways. (I use the word "slightly" sarcastically.) He loves this Red Chair, and most days claims it as his own and kicks anyone else out of it. Literally. He's extremely territorial about this chair. Because he adores it and it is a small, comfy piece of Heaven for him in a frustrating, overwhelming world. Therefore, in his mind, the chair belongs solely to him.

We decided not to go to church yesterday, and have one last day of winter break to all sleep in and relax. I thought the day would go better that way. 

I was wrong. The entire morning, my one certain darling was "off." Very, very off. Swearing, fighting, kicking, crying, raging…pretty much like every other weekend day in our lives, only worse. I couldn't figure out what was going on, what the catalyst for this horrible behavior was. In a moment of desperation, anger, and exhaustion, I yelled at my darling that he couldn't come with us to buy a new chair. He was going to have to stay home because I couldn't bring him out in public with him acting the way he was. If he continued to act this way, he would have to stay home. To which my darling escalated even more.

*sigh* Sometimes I just want an Easy Button.

 I worked with my darling. I wheedled and cajoled and poured out my Mommy Magic on him to the point that he was able to explain that he did not want a replacement piece of furniture. This Red Chair is his favorite. His life. His comfort. Where was he going to sit to watch TV now? If we moved it to the basement, everyone else would want to sit on it and he would never again get the chance to hang out in it. We were getting rid of His Chair, and his life was over.

I kept explaining that we're not getting rid of the chair! We're just moving it to the basement! There will be something new and lovely and comfy for him to sit on to watch TV! No worries! 

But no, in my darling's mind, none of this was relevant to his tremendous concerns about this enormous change in our family. Finally I acquiesced. I had been holding out, trying not to make this certain concession, but I caved because nothing was consoling my darling. I told him, yes I did, that he could have the Red Chair in his room. Temporarily. Until he felt ready to have it moved to the basement.

But even THAT didn't make my darling's tears stop rolling down his forlorn cheeks! Whoa. This was serious. I told my darling that he could come with us to shop, but he was not in charge of making the decision about which piece of furniture we were going to bring home. Daddy and I had to make that decision. (Picture more tears and drama) I told my darling that if he could reign in his behavior and get himself under control, he could come with us. If, however, he had any behavior problems while shopping, we would move him into a private time out area. (More tears. More drama.) I told him if he became inappropriate out in public, we would take him to the car or a quiet area until he was able to get himself under control. (You know the drill. Tears. Drama.)

The rest of us got in the car. And waited for my darling. And waited. I finally came back in the house and bellowed "We're leaving NOW. If you're going to come with us, get in the car NOW." And then I saw what was taking my darling so long. In his hand, he held a small pink scissors. He was cutting a large hunk of string off the Red Chair. He put this tattered string in his pocket, put the scissors down, wiped his tears, and got in the car. 

Sometimes I forget how insightful he can be. He felt like the only way he was going to be able to get through this nightmare called shopping for a new chair, was to bring a piece of his old beloved Red Chair with him. To make sure the Chair knew that my darling was not abandoning it. To make sure my darling could put his icy fingers into his warm coat pocket and feel a piece of his Red Chair even while looking at new furniture. To calm himself down out in public while inside he was grieving.

Sometimes I forget that even on Raging Days, my darling can be so insightful and sensitive and intuitive and wise.

We were able to shop without incident. We found the perfect piece of furniture. It's going to be such a wonderful addition to our big family! It's going to be so cozy and comfy and great for snuggling in. My darling did not need a time out while we were shopping. He was even able to control his tears, once we got to the store. He even had a great time looking at recliners "for the elderly," as he says, that "eject" you out of the seat by raising you up really high.

It's hard to remember that something that is so fun and simple for most of the rest of us- something like shopping for new furniture- can be such a gut-wrenching, torturous experience for other people. I forget that things like this set my darling off. There are things I can count on that will set him off. Things like someone sitting in his Red Chair, for instance. Or having to take a shower. Or not being able to find something. Or having all his "squishy pants" be dirty so he has to wear jeans or khakis. But I did not think about how buying a new piece of furniture would set my darling off. 

Things like this are what make parenting kids with special needs pretty extreme. And very exhausting. I try to think through every possibility in every circumstance and figure out what I will need to adapt so that none of my darlings has a problem. On a car ride, for instance. Is the ride so long that we will need movies? What kind of movies will everyone agree on so that no one gets violent in the back seat? Will we need snacks? Drinks? What kind of snacks and drinks will each kid with SPD need so that they are not angry? So that they will be able to eat and drink and not be hungry or thirsty, because that makes them even more angry? Will we need electronics? Where are the electronics? What kind of electronics will everyone need so they don't go ballistic because they have the wrong kind of gaming thingy? Do we have enough earphones for everyone who will need earphones, or did the dog eat another pair? Do we have noise blocking headphones in case one kid gets so mad at the other kids for making noise that he gets out of control? Will anyone spill or pee in their pants? How much and what kind of extra clothes will we need? Will we be gone long enough to need to bring the next dose of meds for the kids who take meds? Do we have the Epi Pen and Benadryl? Do we have the right shoes- if kids' feet get wet they get irate. Do we have the appropriate weather gear so that each child's temperature is controlled? Because if they're too cold or too hot, they get angry…

Imagine doing this mental workout with every single experience that you have as a family. Completely exhausting. And, silly me, I didn't think that shopping for a new chair would require this kind of mental and physical and family preparation. When will I ever learn? EVERY experience requires this level of extreme preparation. Sometimes I also forget to prepare the kids ahead of time for changes, especially when the changes don't seem that monumental to me. I forget that any change at all is monumental to my darlings. 

Hmm, how nice would an Easy Button be? Just once in a while? 

The new furniture will arrive at the end of next week, and then the Red Chair will move to my darling's room. Which he never even spends time in, by the way, except for sleeping. We keep hoping that getting a computer will help the kids want to spend time in their rooms. Or putting up the Christmas lights they all demanded. Or the outrageously comfy bedding they all have. Or their teddy bears. Or their pet frog. But no. No one wants to hang out in their rooms much at our house. But at least my darling will know that the Red Chair is waiting for him in his room at the end of each day. Ready to welcome him with tattered, shabby, loving arms. At least my darling will have that.

1 comment:

Full Spectrum Mama said...

Seems to me no one spends time in their rooms because you and father are pretty durn wonderful ;)
LOVE the Easy Button idea. Considering our spectum-y and/or attachment disordered bunch is about to move, we need one pronto.
Love,