Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Rules, Revisted

Ethan got into the car glumly one day last week. He was having friend troubles with one of his two close buddies in class. We'll call him "Jake."

"We were trying to do Eeenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo, and Jake is doing it wrong," Ethan announced.

"Oh yeah?"

"He's saying that I have to say 'and you shall BE it' instead of 'you shall NOT be it,'" he continued. "I tried to tell him."

"Sometimes people learn those little sayings differently," I replied. "You could do it his way, too. Both ways are okay."

"No, I tried to tell him that," Ethan said. "I said maybe we could do it both ways." I was glad to see him using some compromising tactics from the social skills group. "He said no. It had to be HIS way."

Sigh. And this is what happens when you teach kids with autism social "rules," but other typical kids act like, well, kids, and come off as just as inflexible as the person on the spectrum.

"Then during Chutes & Ladders, he said we had to go down the ladders and up the slides." This clearly was not to be viewed as a goofy approach to the game, but an insult. "And when he went down a slide, he knocked me off and said I had to get knocked to the bottom with him."

I asked him what happened next. Apparently Ethan complained to the teacher, who told them to play the right way, and before the conflict could continue, they were saved by the bell, so to speak. Indoor recess had thankfully drawn to a close.

We just can't get away from talking about the rules around here. This is what happens when you have a child who needs to put everything into neat categories, into specific boxes, in order to better understand his world.

The rules have of course oozed into Ethan's understanding of football. I can't emphasize how much the kid likes football: the scores flashing on the bottom of the screen, the clock, the different teams' records. Of course, all of these numbers stick in his mind like glue, so he's likely to come out with something like, "Remember when the Patriots beat the Browns 30-27 when there were two seconds left in the game?" And I sit there thinking, We played the Browns this year?

Ethan's self-devised football rule a month or so ago was that the team with the better record will always beat the team with a worse record. This all got blown to pieces when he started really paying attention. "Why did the Dolphins beat the Patriots?" he asked, confused, back in December. "The Patriots are better than them!" Then we had a talk about sometimes the worse team winning, and that being called the "underdog" and one of the things that make sports exciting.

So of course that explains why I heard Ethan, the apparent kindergarten expert on the Patriots, talking authoritatively to a friend on Friday.

"Denver is a little bit better than Tom Brady," he said, pontificating about Sunday's game. "But you never know. The Patriots could win. Anything can happen."

Side note: I guess it's a blessing the Patriots lost, because we've been watching way too much football around here. Or maybe we just need to mute the commercials. All I know is, Ethan announced during dinner the other night, "Did you know that Bud is the official sponsor of the NFL?" Not good.

And then there are the rules that lead to insipid arguments. Most siblings have them. You know those "did not!" "did to!" tiffs that seem neverending and leave you wanting to scream? The argument in our house involves seasons. Yes, seasons.

So Ethan started learning in school about when the different seasons begin, and it was easy for him to say, go over to the calendar, find the month of June and see the indication on June 21 that THAT was the first day of summer.

Only Anna has this thing about her birthday (June 18) and summer. She REALLY wants to have a summer birthday. So she's taken to claiming her birthday is in summer. To make her case, she quotes local weather guy Joe Furey, who's always talking about "meteorological" summer or winter or whatever season. In weather-speak, meteorological summer would be June-September, while true summer is of course approximately June 21-September 21.

Meteorological summer doesn't go over very well with Ethan. He will continue to stand on a chair, gripping the calendar page, and claiming, "Anna, your birthday is in spring. It says right here -- first day of summer, June 21." While Anna yells and puts her fingers in her ears and says "I can't hear you!" This happens at least once a day.

We won't even talk about the mix-up in Ethan learning what happens with daylight in the summer vs. winter.

"In the winter, the days are getting shorter and colder, and in summer the days are getting longer and warmer," he announced proudly one day, after reading a book about it in school.

A part of me wanted to start in with the whole, Yes, but technically... argument that once summer starts, you're actually losing sunlight. And vice versa. But I didn't have the energy. Sometimes, when it comes to the endless list of rules and regulations that make up Ethan's world, you just can't go there.

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