I run to the car and quickly start up the engine. The electric garage door is taking too long. Damn, damn, damn! I’m going to be late again! I cannot believe this. Actually, I can. When I write/blog, time runs away with me. JC is never going to forgive me for this.
I scream into the school car park. He is not waiting. Phew, I may have gotten away with it. I rest my head back and close my eyes. The car door opens. “You’re late.”
“Oh hi my love. How was your day?”
I want to get belligerent, tell him that so what, so I’m late. But I know that isn’t right. “I know, but only by a few minutes.”
“It’s red rooster day today.”
“No, that’s Thursday.”
“No, it’s today, remember we changed it.”
Damn, he’s right. We did change it. I know I have no money in my purse. “I don’t have any money I’m afraid, darling.” I feel like Mrs Dursley in Harry Potter appeasing that awful child of hers, Dudley. I quickly regroup. “We’ll have to do it on Thursday.”
JC slinks down in the chair, turns his music up loud and looks out of the side window. He is shutting me off. I ruffle his hair. Touching him is risky, but as a mum I can’t help it. He jerks his head away, but doesn’t yell at me. That is a good sign. I start to speak to him. “How was your day at school?”
He pulls the ear phone out of his ear. “What?”
“I said, how was your day at school?”
“What did you do?”
“Well, you must have done something.”
Monosyllabic talk is routine with people with autism, but especially so with teenagers with autism. “Did you get caught in the rain at all today?”
“Mum, I don’t want to talk anymore.”
“Well, I want to talk. I miss our talks.”
“Well, talk to yourself.” In goes the ear phone.
I pull out the ear phone. “There’s a new rule in the car.”
“No iPods. Only talking.”
“Nope. I’m breaking the rule.” In goes the ear phone.
His comfort zone, that thing he likes to call music. Am I right for wanting to fight it for his attention? I drift off in my thoughts when Dee phones.
“Hi. How has your day been?”
“Yeah, good,” I say. “I wish JC would talk to me more though.”
JC must have turned down his music slightly because I catch him rolling his eyes out of the corner of my eye.
Dee and I talk a little longer and then ring off. “I’ll pay for Red Rooster, but you have to go after you drop me off at home.”
“I beg your pardon,” I say.
“I’ll pay, but you go and get me Red Rooster – as pay back.”
“Pay back?” I ask.
“Yes, for being late this morning and for this afternoon. And I have to have fanta as my drink.”
I recognise a manipulation when I see one. JC is not normally allowed Fanta, or anything with orange food colouring in it. The orange food colouring in particular tends to affect his moods, and not in a good way. Scientific research does not back this up, but my personal experience does and as such we avoid it like the plague.
I realise I am being offered conditional forgiveness. The question is, do I take it? Of course, the parent of a normal child would say no Fanta and no Red Rooster with some lesson about respect, and coping with life’s ups and downs being offered by way of explanation. But JC is not a normal child. He has autism and what he has presented to me is, in fact, quite remarkable.
His routine dictates that he has Red Rooster on a Tuesday. It is the only day in the week he is allowed junk food (unless I cook it!). Today has been a shambles of a day for him (and for me, as his carer) – I got him up late, picked him up late and forgot money for his weekly treat. He thought about it and came up with a solution that would not only maintain the equilibrium of his world, but would also afford me forgiveness for the many transgressions of the day. It would also get him the forbidden elixir. It doesn’t take me long to decide to take it and wear the consequences. I am proud of the problem solving skills he showed today.
I smile at him and immediately he knows that I have agreed. “Wait here,” he says, and runs into the house. He brings me his wallet and throws it onto the passenger seat. “Don’t forget the Fanta.”
I drive to Red Rooster. It is bucketing down outside. I could walk over really, but it is busy with cars, and they have yet to build a proper pedestrian walk way, if indeed they ever will. I return ten minutes later with his meal. “Have you got the fanta?” The dreaded elixir.
“Yes, it is here. But if you so much as twitch with anger…”
“I promise I won’t.” It is an empty promise. I have no right to even ask it of him. He has no control over it, the chemical that affects him so negatively. He grabs the drink and food from my hands and slumps into his bedroom. His world has been restored. He is in his bed, in the dark, with nothing but his boxer shorts on, reading Naruto Fan Fiction whilst eating Red Rooster and drinking fanta. I would say that this is JC’s version of heaven.
I decide to busy myself with blogging. I like blogging. It is my own heaven, my own elixir. So here we are, two people in the house, each alone, each in their own little world, but happy. One has had his world restored and the other has been forgiven for upsetting that world. It doesn’t really get much better than that, does it?