May 18, 2009

"Monday Moan"

"It Is Done"

It’s funny how three little words can make a person feel like their heart’s been ripped from their chest. My husband just sent me a text.

“It is done.”

I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes trying to control my tears and explain to my heart that we’ve done the right thing, but nothing seems to take away the ache.

To many, this story is going to seem silly, and maybe in a few days I will be able to look back and think the same thing, but right now I feel like I’ve destroyed my son’s world. Even though we knew this day was coming, we'd put it off for so long.

Joshua turned fifteen in February, and for those of you who don’t know him, he has autism. He also has OCD and an anxiety disorder, so when he obsesses about something it can get pretty hairy. Ever since he was a little boy, he’s chosen plastic toys in the form of living things to be his obsession. He’s collected plastic snakes, insects, reptiles, dinosaurs, farm animals, jungle animals, ocean animals, and any other kind of living thing that has been made of plastic. When he learned how to read, he was fascinated with the animal encyclopedias. He would spend hours matching the plastic animals to the pictures and learning everything about them. I’d heard of children with autism becoming savants and if he were ever to become an expert on something, I truly believe it would be that. He can tell you everything there is to know about them; where they live, what they eat, if they are poisonous—everything.

As he got older, the toys became a bit of a crutch. He couldn’t go anywhere without taking a box or a bag or even a little fanny pack filled with them. It also became a problem. He has a nasty habit of putting the little things, especially the tiny snakes, in everything. He put them down the heater vents, down the sink and tub drains, flushed them down the toilet and fed them through the cracks and knot holes in the deck. I can’t remember how many times my husband has had the toilet off, trying to get toys out of the trap. We’ve had Roto Rooter out several times to unclog the drains and last fall when we had the septic tank pumped out, the man said the toys clogged his pipe.

Which brings us to yesterday. Because Joshua has no real fear of consequences, we’ve been using the toys, or rather the idea of losing them, as a punishment. Several times we’ve gathered them up and stored them in the garage, making him earn them back 10 -20 at a time. Last week he had bad behaviors at school and lost them all, so yesterday he was told he could pick 10 because he was being good. He wanted more. When he came out of the garage, he’d filled a huge box full and insisted he’d been good enough to keep them. I calmly explained to him the process, as I had done many times before. I told him to pick 10, put the rest back and he could earn more throughout the day. He didn’t agree.

He took the box and chucked it down the deck stairs, then took off down our lane, swearing and throwing rocks at our trailer and anything else he could hit. He’s got a good arm and a good aim, so that was just about everything. When a rock bounced off the trailer and went sailing past my husband’s head, he’d had enough. He told Joshua he’d gone too far and the toys were going to DI.

This only set Joshua into a major melt down. When he started down the road, I got in my car and went after him. We learned a long time ago that chasing him just makes it worse. He usually calms down before getting to the road and comes back, but not this time. Fortunately, when he saw my car, he turned around and headed back. I stopped the car and let him come to me, giving him more time to cool off. When he reached me, I was able to calm him enough to get him back to the house. By then, my husband had loaded all the toys into the back of his truck. We’d threatened several times that if he couldn’t get his temper under control, the toys would go to DI and jig was up. After all, a fifteen year old young man shouldn’t be playing with baby toys, right?

I led Joshua back into the house where he pleaded with us not to take away his toys. But the decision had already been made and we had to be firm. It was time to let him grow up. It took a few minutes of convincing, telling him he had so many other things he could do, like listen to his music (which he loves) and play his PSP. He also loves to draw and is very creative. Maybe we were opening a new door for him. I tried to be positive. He finally calmed down and spent the rest of the night asking questions about things like, “How will I go camping without them,” or “What will I do this summer? I’ll be bored.” We tried to reassure him, but in my heart I felt like a monster.

I keep thinking about those little animals being his passion. Then I thought about what it would feel like if someone took away my passion. How would it feel to me if someone came into my home and took my computer, every shred of paper, pens, pencils, everything that had to do with writing and then said I had to grow up. No more writing. It would be like killing the best part of me—the part that defines me—the part that keeps me alive. That’s how I feel right now—like I’ve destroyed Joshua’s world.

I lay awake most of the night wondering if we were doing the right thing, but not wanting to go against what we’d decided. Hoping that my husband would have a weak moment and give in, not wanting to carry through with it. But now . . . “it is done.” There’s no going back. I can only hope that we will get through this and Joshua will find something else that will bring him as much joy. In the meantime, I’m satisfied with believing I’m the worst mother ever put on the face of this earth. Maybe I should restrict myself from writing for a while, that way I can appreciate what he’s going through.

Moan. Ugh. Whimper. Groan. Sigh.


  1. You certainly aren't a terrible mother. I'd say, on the contrary, you are an excellent mother filled with love and compassion.

    It's really hard to do something like this. Don't get down on yourself. You have Joshua's best interests at heart.

  2. Christine - I am in tears for both you and Joshua. We have gone through exactly the same thing with our son and other things he's become obsessed with. We've even done the same thing as taking them away and making him earn them back. He's currently totally obsessed with Legos and wants to carry around the little Lego guys everywhere he goes. It's something we've been working on a lot - that they dont' need to go with him everywhere. And he is making progress. But there have been other times when we've had to take something he loves away from him and either throw it away or donate it. It absolutely destroys him and it breaks my heart to see him so upset. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months before he "lets it go". But each and every time, he has. He's moved on and progressed and grown because he's had to give up something he dearly loved. But you know what? He's also grown and found more interests that he never would have been willing to explore had he not lost those things.

    I know just how difficult this is for you. Just pray and pray and pray and you will find comfort and direction. It will be very difficult in the beginning, but it will get better and Joshua will grow and be better for it.

    And think of it this way too - if he still really is interested in animals, then he could start learning by learning about occupations he could pursue & possible job/volunteer opportunities where he could learn more skills about working with animals. My son absolutely loves Animal Planet. Maybe that would be another good outlet for him to learn about animals. Try to route that love from playing with toys to a real-world skill he can use as an older teen and adult.

    Much love to you and your family.

  3. Christine,

    You are not a bad mother. It's hard to know what actions to take when our children act out, and if we don't follow through with our threats, they cease to mean anything. Especially with more challenging children.

    Joshua and you will get past this, and he will have learned a valuable lesson. You're a wonderful mother who loves her son and is trying to do the right thing. Doesn't make it easy, but who said life should be?

    Lots of love to you anyway!


  4. As I said before I am the most evil mother on the planet. Hang in there. This is nothing, really. Yes, it is his life--but now he can learn to respect your things, his toys and himself better. If you never followed through then you would be teaching him nothing. By standing firm, you are helping him to learn some of life's hardest lessons. Now if you were using your computer for evil and to do Satan's work.. then you better believe someone should come in and take it away from you. But if you're doing it because it's something the Lord has asked you to do and you're doing it respectfully, then you have no need to put yourself through more. I too, have an autistic son. He is given no favors, or treated any different from the other children. We do pay specific attention to his needs and help him progress, but he has no idea that he is different. he has no limitations. He must do chores on time, he's expected to behave and act just like the rest... and he is rewarded handsomely just like the rest of my children are when he is good. In fact in many ways, tanner is one of my most obedient children, my most reverant and most well behaved. Even if I do have to remind him the most and repeated keep track of where he is at, since he does tend to get distracted, he shines. My sons greatest love is drawing and building. When we take these things away. He does cry and scream and throw fits--which we send him to bed--but he learns come next christmas or birthday when he receives the art supplies or building k'nex again, that he is expected to treat them nicely or they're gone. He gets better every day. Hope it helps. I think you're wonderful btw! Jenni

  5. I know what you are feeling! It's so hard. You wonder if it's the right thing, is he really going to learn anything from it...your son and my son are the same age. Mine turns 16 in January and is autistic. He obsesses about some things, but not to that extent. He loves to play video games on the nintendo. The only way we can get through to him sometimes is to take away nintendo time. That seems to be the only thing that gets through to him.
    It's hard when they are emotional and sad about things -- but what else are we to do? It's the only way to teach them.
    We're here with you...he'll be okay. Honest.

  6. I agree with Danyelle, if his life is meant to go in a direction with animals, he can still pursue that and now that he doesn't have the toys to lean on as a crutch, he can continue learning about them in other ways. And you are NOT a bad mother. We've all seen how much you love and care for your son. When any of us punish our kids for misbehavior we all feel terrible for it, but it doesn't make us bad parents, it makes us GOOD parents for teaching them consequences.

  7. Thanks for all your wonderful comments. I'm so blessed to have friends who care about me and my family. I know Joshua will be fine, I think it's Momma who needs help...LOL

  8. Christine - We Mama Bears always need a little help and pick me up. Trust me, chocolate comes in a very close second to my hubby for that very reason. :)

  9. Aww Christine. ((big hugs))

    I've BTDT and I know exactly how your heart is breaking.

    Hang in there. You are NOT a bad mom. But I know you won't believe me ... not right now. It's true though ;)

    Hugs again.

  10. Just think, Christine, you may have opened up a whole new world for Joshua. You are freeing him to look for other interests. You must have great patience. I admire anyone who has the challenge of dealing with special needs children. You are truly special hearted people.

  11. You are a wonderful mother, but I'm glad that I'm not the only one who feels like the worst mother in the world. :) Here's something to make you smile.I wanted to tell you about an awesome contest I entered at
    The Original Scrapbox Check it out and please vote for me, #319 for the cutest craft giveaway. Thanks a bunch!

  12. I would love to have a mother like you. Keep your head up!