So, what is “Our Chaos,” other than a catchy name for a blog Cindy and I hope has so far both entertained and informed our audience, and will one day reach the masses? Everybody deals with chaos, you say. Why is your chaos special, you ask? No one lives a chaos-free live, you say. And that is true.
But even now, after 14 years of being Nolan’s father, I sometimes get a no-so-gentle reminder that the words “neat and tidy” have long since been expunged from my vocabulary. One moment we can be simply trying, and succeeding, to go about our day – like this morning, for example. The next moment I turn around to see Nolan has grabbed Cindy’s neck and his jamming his forehead into hers while I’m trying to steer him to the front door and the school bus that is waiting outside, all the while hoping the paraprofessional who rides said bus isn’t glancing inside our home and wishing she’d gone into a safer profession – perhaps taming lions.
As a disclaimer, what you are about to read does not play out in our house daily. We do have several calm – dare I say, even boring – days. Nolan goes to school, and three or four days to a week to a center that caters to youth and adults with disabilities, and does very well. Cindy goes to work. I go running, work from home when I have city government meetings to transcribe, and volunteer one day a week at a local elementary school. But as you’ve likely figured out by now, we have plenty of pandemonium in our lives – and that’s why you’re here, right?
This morning started out just fine. I woke up Nolan at 6:20. He walked calmly to the bathroom and peed. I let him have a few minutes of screen time, and I did so without cringing even when one of the videos he chose was Barney singing. He calmly returned to the bathroom when I told him it was time to take a bath. I helped him bathe and get dressed. He put on his deodorant and brushed his teeth. He was seemingly ready to get back into his weekly routine. Take that, Monday morning.
Then, he told me via the communication program on one of his iPads he wanted lunch meat for breakfast. The kid loves lunch meat. He’s consumed enough of it over the last year alone to feed half the population of Bolivia. But it’s high in fat, nitrates, and sodium – not exactly what you would call the Breakfast of Champions. There was some in the refrigerator, but I wasn’t going to let him eat any. He was going to have something that passes for breakfast food – say, this awesome muffin and a glass of orange juice.
Nolan took one bite of the muffin, stood up from the kitchen table, and let me know in no uncertain terms that was not what he wanted to eat. And as you’ve likely deduced by now, this is when the bedlam began.
Nolan bolted from the kitchen table, quite upset. He returned and reiterated on his iPad he wanted lunch meat. I instead offered him a granola bar, of which he took one bite and again became very angry. I told him in a firm voice I wanted him to sit and eat. He got up and let me know in an agitated tone, “That ain’t happening, old man.” I told him, in a now more forceful, angrier tone, he needed to sit down and eat something – even bread with ketchup, which isn’t much better than lunch meat, but I was desperate. He dragged Cindy, who by now was awake, down the hall to his bedroom. I realized that we had 10 minutes or less before the bus would pull up in front of our house. I asked Cindy where she had put his iPad mini, the one he uses the most. She told me she had put it in his backpack. I got it out and showed Nolan his Monday schedule (bus, school, music therapy). Cindy quickly made him a peanut butter sandwich that she put in his backpack in hopes that he would eat it at school. He worked his way to the couch, now starting to cry, and we helped him with his socks and shoes. The bus pulled up a little after 7. Nolan had Cindy in a semi-headlock. One our cats had scaled the Christmas tree, then descended to attack his terminally-ill brother, who was just trying to rest. I helped Nolan with his coat and opened the front door to discover the meteorologist had actually gotten the forecast right and there was an icy glaze on our front steps and walkway from the freezing drizzle that had fallen overnight. I turned back to Nolan, who by now had grabbed me by the neck and pulled me close to his forehead. I pried him loose while standing on the front step trying very hard not to slip, fall down the steps, and land on my head. I walked him, very carefully, out to the waiting bus. I told the paraprofessional he had had fun celebrating his birthday over the weekend, and that he had barely eaten. I walked back – without slipping, I’m very proud to say – to the house as the bus pulled away.
Try reading that last paragraph as quickly as you can. I guarantee it won’t match the rate at which my heart was beating. That’s OK, though – the ol’ cardiovascular system got a better workout during the morning routine than it did while I was attempting to run. I moved at a slow jog most of the time and had to break down and walk at others, but I stayed upright.
And that’s what it’s really about: keeping your balance on the difficult days. It’s chuckling and shaking my head over the fact the paraprofessional/substitute teacher/person I was unfamiliar with who brought Nolan out to me at the end of the school day told me he had done very well, but his daily sheet – “Nolan was pretty off [and] had a lot of self-injurious behaviors and aggression towards adults.” – said otherwise. It’s telling myself he did all right at his music therapy session – and he did – even though he spent nearly one-third of it taking a dump, and part of it letting his music therapist he wanted to leave. It’s realizing that tomorrow could bring more of the same, but it also could be much better.
I’m sure some of you had a tumultuous Monday for whatever reason – your car wouldn’t start, you had a fight with your spouse, your boss chewed your butt. I know there are a lot of people out there who deal with much more difficult situations than we face. I wish you well and hope things turn around for you soon.
Maybe our chaos isn’t special when you really think about it. But it sure is entertaining, isn’t it?