Now what the hell is he getting into???
It happens frequently in our house. Cindy or I either are focusing on what needs to be done -- say, making our house look somewhat festive for Christmas -- or on actually accomplishing something -- like, for example, trying to fill the white space staring back at me from the computer screen with interesting prose the masses in blogland will want to read. Then, we remember we have a son with Autism. A son who has perhaps been left alone for too long in his room.
This is when bad things can, and do, happen. Things that will elicit a response from one of us -- in this case, Cindy -- at a volume that would impress AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson:
NOLAN, WHERE IS YOUR SHIRT??!?!?!?
Well, that was the kickstart I needed to start accomplishing something, because now I have something to write about. Cindy, on the other hand, had to deal with a kid who had pissed himself and needed a wardrobe change before going back to cat-proofing the cheap ornaments we're putting on our Christmas tree and putting a ribbon around it. It was very possible we'd still be working on our respective tasks for at least a couple more hours (The smart money is on Cindy -- she's faster than you'd think). It's nearly 8 o'clock Sunday evening as I write this, and Nolan is showing no signs of slowing down.
We tend to do a lot at our house -- work, bake, clean -- after the sun -- and our son -- has gone to bed. We really don't have a choice.
One of the most frustrating aspects -- or fascinating, if you're into dumpster fires -- of Nolan's Autism is his unpredictability and his penchant for giving us perpetual headaches from his actions. They can be as simple as him banging a water bottle -- in this case, my water bottle -- somewhere on his body -- most likely his head or mouth (He does keep a good beat). They can be somewhat humorous, like walking into the bathroom and discovering he's covered in liquid soap or shampoo (He does smell good, though, when that happens). They can be as frustrating as relieving himself in his pants even though his bedroom is about FIVE BLEEPING FEET from the bathroom (Hence, Cindy yelling and shaking me out of my writer's block daze). They can be as frightening as looking up from changing his sheets and seeing him standing on the next door neighbor's deck (Thank goodness I talked to her about Nolan when we moved in this past spring. I think she got it -- kind of, anyway).
Nolan turns 14 next Sunday. In the days before the Autism diagnosis, I figured we might have to get on him for things like playing music too loud, spending a little too much time playing video games, or putting sports before schoolwork. You can trust 14-year-olds to a certain point, but obviously you still keep a watchful eye. In our case, watching Nolan sometimes means needing to have the type of vigilance that would rival what George Orwell wrote about in "1984."
Cindy and I have learned to work together as well as a gold medal-winning Olympic relay team. I met them at the door Sunday when they returned from Big Lots and took Nolan to the bathroom so Cindy could put away what she had bought. In the now thankfully rare instances when Nolan either wakes up at an ungodly hour or stays awake far too long, we try to trade off watching him so one of us can get some sleep. If one of us really needs to accomplish something, like right now, the other will keep Nolan within ear and/or eyeshot.
Nolan has shown over the last couple of years he's capable of occupying himself. As much disdain as I have for YouTube Kids -- I never knew the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine had been sung in like 25 different languages -- it keeps Nolan entertained for a little while. And I've learned to time accomplishing chores (laundry, dishes) in between Nolan's bathroom breaks and yet another viewing of Barney singing "Old MacDonald" when I'm home alone with him. He's shown he can be trusted.
Still, our lives are very Forrest Gump-ish -- we never know what we're gonna get in that box of chocolates Nolan serves up.
It could be worse. We know a family with a son a year older than Nolan who also is on the Autism spectrum who has woken up in the middle of the night and attempted to leave their house. We installed an alarm system this past summer so we'll know if Nolan attempts to leave the house. But we still think back to the time at our old house when he went to the bathroom in our basement, turned on the hot water faucet and let it run until we had consumed something like 300-plus gallons of water before 7 a.m. He also helped himself to something in the fridge and left the door open (He still does that). It's one thing for him to enjoy his fourth helping of lunch meat when he was supposed to stop at three. It's another for him to get into something that could cause harm to himself and/or our home.
So we keep a close watch as we try to accomplish some of what we need to, and sometimes the bulk of it after he goes to bed, as he did about 20 minutes ago. Now Cindy can bake muffins, and I can really get rolling.
Or not. I just heard a bang and what sounded like a laugh coming from his bedroom. I just hope he's still dry and wearing his shirt.