Saturday, February 8, 2014

Well, To Be Precise...

Being at home with a newborn (and in particular one who likes to nurse a LOT during the day) means I've had time to catch up on one of my all-time favorite shows, Parenthood. I've mentioned the show here before. While all of the characters and storylines are gripping and seem true to life, I have a soft spot for Max, the teenage character on the show who has Asperger's.

When I first discovered the show Ethan was just 2 1/2 and I had a hard time comparing his toddler-self to an older boy on the spectrum who seemed very high functioning. But as time goes by, more and more I see shades of Ethan in Max (whose character, I believe, was modeled after the son of the show's creator). The other day I was watching and in the episode the dad said something like, "So you stayed at the store until 2:30" and Max replied, "No, it was 2:37 and I stayed for 1 hour and 9 minutes."

There, I thought, is Ethan. For him it's all about about living out this balance of being precise, blunt, and black and white.

The other morning he woke up early. Again. This seems to be the trend if he goes to bed too late. So, to preserve a little of my sanity, I told him he had to stay in his room until 6:30. He came bouncing down the stairs at 6:28.

"Hey, it's not 6:30 quite yet," I warned, figuring he was once again trying to test my limits.

"But daddy said if it's 6:28 it's like being 6:30," he protested. I realized immediately what he meant. In the past if someone asked what time it was, and it was, say 3:01 and you answered 3 o'clock, Ethan would immediately correct you. "No it's not, it's 3:01" he'd say smugly yet a little confused. Or you couldn't call 6:59 seven o'clock because Ethan would be there to tell you that it wasn't seven yet. I could see that while Dan had helped clear up one issue, we now had another. Busted.

"Well, when we're talking about what time it is it's okay to be a few minutes off," I said, stumbling. "But if I say go to your room I mean stay until the exact minute." Even I knew how lame I sounded. Darn these rules I didn't know existed.

When I'm nursing the baby, I'll tell him "the baby's eating now." It gets him every time. "No she's not, she's drinking," he corrects me. And as always I think, well, yes, technically...

In the car, we've switched Ethan to the other side of the back seat, which means he now has full view of the gauges on the dashboard. In addition to his reminders about how full my gas tank is, I also now have an official radar detector in the back of the car.

"Mom, you're going 70. The speed limit here is 65." Or, "Are you going 15? That's the speed limit here in the parking lot." I finally told him the other day that police officers won't stop you if you're going just a few miles over the speed limit. That wasn't evil, was it? I mean, I think I heard that somewhere. It's why I don't feel too bad about cruising at 70 on the highway but try not to go over that. I felt like I had to find a solution to what promised to be incessant nagging. Yeah, I know. I could just, you know, actually slow down.

Then there's the bluntness, so much like Max. We're going to need to work on the bluntness. This is especially hard for me because if anything I err on the side of never telling it like it is. Don't ask me if you look fat, if your idea is a bad one, if your story is good. I hate to lie but I also hate, really hate, hurting people's feelings. I know there's some kind of mature balance and I need to move a little closer to the honesty side. For now, Ethan's got that covered.

"Your breath smells bad," he will announce in the morning, if he gets close to other members of the family. I've also been told many times that dinner smells bad, and of course, already, that Chloe smells bad.

Not long ago he started telling me about a classmate who was talking about her grandmother.

"She said her grandmother was 85," Ethan was saying. Oh no, I thought, as soon as I heard that. No, he didn't.

Ethan has this thing about people getting old. It's part of the list of imagined rules he carries in his head. When you reach your eighties, you're basically a goner.

"Ethan," I said in a small voice. "You didn't tell her that means her grandmother is going to die soon, did you?"

"Yup," he answered matter-of-factly. Darn it.

"What did she do?" I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

"Nothing," he replied. But I wondered. I wondered if a little girl went home crying to her parents that night.

I know in time as Ethan grows these types of quirks seem less cute and more rude. I know that he has the potential to be a "Max:" honest to a fault; not fully understanding the impact of his words on others. I know social skills groups can't solve everything, but I know that we have seen flashes of empathy from Ethan, and that in time he is slowly learning to gain others' perspective.

I also know I don't want to erase away every bit of the way he is. There is something refreshing, actually, about someone who tells it likes it is (within reason), and who calls us out on the sometimes contradicting and often confusing rules we live by without even realizing it. Ethan would be able to tell someone they didn't look so great in a certain dress. I'd like just a tiny dose of that.

1 comment:

chris szarek said...

I like to think I helped prepare you for this :)