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.