I worked full time and farmed my daughter out to the only, and most expensive child care centre in the city. Whilst she slept at night, I burned the midnight oil to gain further qualifications, to brighten our future prospects. With hindsight I should have burned the paper qualifications on the flame, but the young are fortunately short sighted. We would run through a check list in the morning of all the many things that we had to remember. Sometimes an important item failed to achieve ‘list status’ and was over looked. Later in the day when I received a phone call from the school or a note home, I would have to admit my error. It was a harsh lesson for both of us. If my employer had been more understanding, if public transport had been a little more efficient, I might have managed to deliver whatever it was that I had forgotten, but all to often she just had to do without. I would comfort myself with the knowledge that those mistakes would help both of us be less forgetful.
Even then, I find it hard to imagine an employer permitting an employee to take the afternoon off to go and deliver a forgotten tennis racket or hockey stick. Maybe it was a different era or a different culture or a different attitude towards children and their needs? Whatever it was, or is, such behaviour by a parent would be frowned upon. Ultimately there would be a price to pay, whether that be in the form of a lack of promotion or a dock in pay. When it comes to cost benefit analysis, a different era brings a different price tag.
Twenty years later, I appear to be even more forgetful, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that I now have four times as many things to remember. My son has a wide variety of preferred talismen, without which, he becomes immobile. These preferred things change from day to day and from week to week. A few weeks ago these things could broadly be categorized as sticks, long handled things such as toilet brushes, toilet plungers and walking canes. I consider it a considerable coup that he now accepts smaller versions, that still adhere to the general principle of ‘stick.’ The four inch plastic lance, is always clasped in his tight little sweaty palm. It keeps him safe at all times, except whilst he is in school, where different and more socially acceptable talismen are permitted. The fact that he accepts that different things are permitted in school as opposed to home, is also a tremendous coup because many autistic children have difficulty generalizing ‘rules’ from one situation to another.
Thus it is, because of the ‘generalizing’ issue, that we stumble. My son is to go to another child’s house for a play date. Horray! On delivery, he finds that he is without his talisman. Friend’s house is not home, nor is it school, it is a different place. Since friend’s house is more closely categorized as ‘home’ rather than ‘school,’ he is unable to enter the premises without the talisman. I dither at the impasse. We sit in the car, by the curb outside friend’s house. He refuses to exchange the comparative safety of the car for friend’s now familiar house. He boils are fever pitch at the unfairness of it all, wild and riled. His exchange system categories are mis-filed. I think. I need a strategy. When his screams change to whimpers, friend’s mum toils to come up with acceptable alternatives, but none of the bribes work. I dither. If he needs the lance to be safe when he’s in his very own home, surely his need is all the greater, in someone else’s home? I decide to negotiate with my 6 year old. I make a tentative suggestion. I almost whisper because I don’t want to rekindle the embers of his meltdown.
He steps out of the car and into the warm and waiting home of his pal. I fasten my safety belt to drive home. As I drive my mind fills with wicked little American words like 'enabler' and 'co-dependency' and 'nit wit.' I collect the lance and return within 20 minutes. He has waited 1200 seconds for his lance. 1200 of delayed gratification must be an all time record. May Mother Nature turn a blind eye to the fact that the planet is defiled for yet another unnecessary car trip.
Moral – if you plan to beat yourself up over your failures, spare the toilet brush and accept beguiled.