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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

You remember I said I wasn't going to criticise...?!

A while ago, on the eve of Lent, I made a resolution to not criticise Ethan for the whole of Lent - and to see where it took us.
I criticise Ethan far too much - even if he displayed exemplary husband and father skills, I'd still find something to criticise (the way he eats his food, the way he stands, the way he chews his tongue during sex...we've been there before - 'Asperger's - it's the little things' from 23rd Feb - enough said on that!)
With or without Asperger's present, criticising someone incessantly is completely counter-productive. It doesn't make the person change. It makes them angry, defensive, despondent. And it doesn't do your relationship any good. You just reach a kind of sulky, angry stale-mate. It fills your head with all the things that are wrong with them rather than what is right.
And for someone with Aspergers, I'm realising it's even harder to take constant criticism. It's hard for them to hear that they're wrong, it's hard for them to back down and admit they've been wrong. It's hard for them to cope with the extra stress of having a harangued wife screeching at them. Or an emotional wife crying at them. All in all, it's just not helpful.
So, with this in mind, I set off on the path of no criticism - helpful, calm discussion after the event is OK but flying-off-the-handle-rants and countless little put-downs had to stop. I have to admit, I've not done all that well. But, on Sunday, I felt we both had a soaring glimpse of what the future could be.
At 10.10am, miraculously, we were all ready for church. So, rather than drive (which we normally do because we're late) I thought we should take advantage of the nice morning and walk. This was a change to the plan and to the norm, but Ethan, slightly irritably (not because he didn't want to walk but because it was a sudden change of plan), agreed.
At about 10.12am, on hearing the plan, the kids all decided they wanted to ride their bikes/scooters. This was a chance that was too good to miss - particularly for our 4-year-old Sam who we've been trying to cajole onto his bike without stabilisers for weeks, to a pretty unenthusiastic response. I knew it would be slightly hassly having them on their bikes but then you can't not let kids develop, learn and have fun just because it means having to slightly put yourself out.
Ethan sighed, put up a bit of an argument, tried just saying an outright no. After all, not only was this totally off plan but it also involved hassle and chaos. The kids and I over-rode him of course. Because I'm sympathetic of his plight to an extent but, at the end of the day, he's part of a family - with 3 lively kids, and he's just got to get on with it sometimes.
So anyway, we set off. It was chaotic, it was back-breaking holding Sam's saddle while he wobbled along. It was noisy having to shout to Oliver to slow down while he raced ahead on his scooter. But it was OK. Everyone was happy - even Ethan was putting on a show of being jolly. And Sam was learning to ride his bike. And we looked set to arrive at church on time. Amazing.
Suddenly Sam fell off his bike. On Ethan's watch. Because Ethan was pushing him too fast, Sam said. Unwilling to be consoled by Ethan, Sam ran to me. Ethan, probably feeling a bit sheepish, feeling rejected that Sam had come to me rather than be comforted by him, and probably just overloaded with the whole chaotic, stressful, unplanned journey to church, walked off and left me with a crying Sam, an over-excited Oliver, a scooter and a pram.
The boys and I got to church late and tear-stained. Even as I bustled in the back door with Oliver, a pram and a scooter having had to abandon Sam at the front door because he'd run ahead of us Ethan, in the congregation, just stared straight ahead and ignored us.
When I eventually sat down (one seat away from Ethan to make a point) I was filled with rage and disappointment. I wanted to lean over to Ethan and whisper in his ear what a b****rd he was, how he'd let us down, how he'd not behaved like a normal father, etc, etc (and normally this is what I'd have done). Instead I just said 'Thanks for abandoning us'. To which Ethan replied 'It's a pleasure.' To which I seethed even more. I was about to let rip on him when I remembered my resolve. So instead I prayed (and I don't want to get all spiritual in this blog). But it gave me an outlet. And it helped me see things more from Ethan's point of view (which is why I can write this blog with some insight) and it calmed me.
I said nothing more and, later, when time and silence (and maybe God) had done their work on Ethan. Ethan leaned over and said he was sorry. And then went on to explain to me why he'd acted the way he had. And, again that he was really sorry. And our day, and our relationship for now, was saved.
So, I've kind of said in hundreds of words what I could have said in just a few: that not wading in with angry criticisms but allowing conscience and time to do its work seems to yield far more productive results.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Aspergers and caves (real ones!)

Sometimes, it's as if there's nothing the matter with Ethan at all. Last night he met a bloke at the pub (a guy he barely knows) and wasn't home til the early hours of the morning - he was having such a great time and conversation was flowing so well. They were talking about space and technology and gadgets. Had he been out with someone who was into football and fashion and music - he would have been totally stumped.
But it shows me that, if he's interested in the topic and, if the environment is conducive to it (the pub he was in last night was fairly quiet and had no music playing - so no distractions) then he can be chatty and friendly and appear completely socially competent. He can do it. He even asked most of the questions last night.
Today though, it felt like the Aspergers Ethan returned. We went inside a cave in Derbyshire (one open to visitors, you understand, we didn't just push our kids into an empty hole we found in a hillside!). Inside the cave he was completely absorbed with everything the guide said: to such an extent that I was left carrying the bag and our two-year-old son up a steep incline at the same time as trying to stop our 4-year-old son from crawling under the safety rope and having our 7-year-old chat incessantly at me. All of this I did completely alone while he, completely oblivious, focused only on learning how minerals had formed and how long the caves had been mined for. I couldn't even scream at him because we were part of a group of quiet, well-behaved tourists (already we were spoiling everyone's tranquility with our crazy, noisy kids).
Afterwards, in a visitors centre, while the kids and I enjoyed reading about and seeing photos of people from the past and how they'd lived, Ethan did everything he could to show that he was bored and wanted to leave. He wandered off (there's a running theme here of me being left alone with the kids), he sighed loudly, he sat down and, eventually, just came out with 'Can we leave now?' because he, and he alone, wanted to; because now, the information was about people and not about things. And he'd switched off.
It all feels a bit Jekyll and Hyde (but then, I guess we're all a bit like that) and perhaps that's what Aspergers is. When the circumstances and content is right a person can perform. When not, they zone out, clam up, cease to make the effort. Maybe learning to function well in a relationship between an Asperger's and a neuro-typical is about me making some allowances and Ethan making some effort - and somehow meeting in the middle.
My resolution for Lent was to give up criticising Ethan. I'm not doing too well at that. But I am trying to balance the criticism with understanding of why Ethan does the things he does, and by trying to bounce back as quickly as I can and not take it all too personally.
It's an ongoing battle of will.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

London versus Aspergers

Just back from a trip to London to see some old friends, some sights and have some family time.
Was proud of Ethan - it's not easy for him to be around loads of people and noise and chaos all the time (which is pretty much how it was for 3 days) as well as spending a day touring from one house and family to the next for around 12 hours straight. It was fab to see people again, but I was shattered, so he must have have been doubly so. And then, just to finish our trip off in a calm relaxed fashion (!), we went into London for the last day of our tour of the south...It seemed too good a chance to miss not to take our eldest son, Sam, around the dinosaur exhibition at the Natural History Museum. But, it being the first day of half-term, the place was heaving. We queued for almost 90 minutes to get in (and exhausted I-spy options, ate all our supplies and negotiated 2x toilet emergencies for our two youngest children while we waited). This came after catching a train and tube with 3x small children and a pram to get to the museum in the first place. Once in, we battled crowds, tripped people up with the pram, shouted for our kids not to run off (in increasingly sharper tones as the day went on), queued for the toilets twice, paid about a million pounds for a cup of tea and ham sandwich (that all the kids shared - how extravagant), dealt with a meltdown from our middle child because he couldn't buy two rubber dinosaurs (that he already had at home), etc...etc...
The museum was amazing, the dinosaurs were wondrous for our 4-year-old. But, blimey, it was exhausting. And at the end of it all, we had to get a tube and train back to our car in rush hour with no seats anywhere and 3 tired but wired kids (and tried to ignore the glares from fellow travellers who seemed to disapprove of us bringing kids onto their commuter train when they wanted quiet and calm in which to read their Evening Standards). Once we did finally reach the hallowed ground on which our car was parked, Ethan had to drive 200-odd miles home.
Through it all, Ethan only once or twice snapped at the kids, he was friendly and conversational with everyone we met up with, and he rarely moaned.
I think he was trying really, really hard. And the action is infectious. When he tries hard, it makes me want to try hard back. And life becomes so much nicer, and easier. And, whereas on days when he is gloomy and over-tired and giving into his natural instincts and making me feel that we just can't possibly have a future together, on the days he works at it, things seem really hopeful. We start to appreciate each other again. And I feel like we will make it.
I know it's impossible for Ethan to keep up the effort all the time and go against his natural instincts for negativity and zoning out and escaping and giving into irritation, but it's nice to know that he can do it. And that, when it really counts, he will. We just need to learn how, together, to keep that side of Ethan around more often and for longer periods of time, without it completely draining him.
Am reading a fab book at the moment Alone Together by Katrin Bentley. Her opening The Cactus and the
Rose resonated so much - both for me and my husband (but particularly for me). It's really helpful to me just to know that other people are going through the same issues and struggles - and finding ways to make life work with Aspergers in the relationship.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Aspergers and an empathatic wife (to a point)

Just a quick post today, about two epiphany moments I had yesterday.
As I was driving out of a supermarket car-park, an older lady started reversing out of her space, heading right for my car bonnet. I sat there alarmed, disconcerted, stressed, waiting for the inevitable to happen. As her car started to make impact with mine I banged frantically on her window. She didn't hear and carried on backing into me. At no point in the whole procedure did I think to beep my horn or reverse my car away from her (there was plenty of room behind me). I just sat there, paralysed - in body and mind, watching events unfold.
Later that day, I went round to a friend's house with Oliver for the boys to play and for us to catch up over a cup of tea. At one point we started talking about our older boys and how quickly Sam had grown up since  starting school. My friend asked in what ways Sam was being more grown-up, and my mind just went blank.
I knew he did suddenly seem so much older, I knew he'd come out with some grown-up statements and dropped some of his toddler habits. But I just couldn't think of what any of them were. I muttered something about him calling Oliver 'poo head' but that's not grown up. That's not what I meant at all. As my friend pointed out, her 2-year-old says that (and so does mine). It was a really rubbish, wrong, example of what I was trying to convey. And I felt like an idiot.
It's not the first time my mind's gone blank and I've said something odd, or out of place or just plain wrong. It's not the first time I've felt like an idiot in a social situation. But it's the first time I've thought about the fact that this must be how Ethan feels most of the time when he's in a social situation. Either scared to speak in case he gets it wrong or speaking, getting it wrong and retreating back into himself. It's a horrible feeling to feel out of depth in a social situation. And I need to see the world more from Ethan's point of view. It must be exhausting and horrible a lot of the time.
And then he comes home to a nagging, disappointed wife.
I can see it's hard for him. But he's still driving me mad.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Aspergers and friends: no man is an island

I got a Valentines card from Ethan yesterday. Even though we'd (rather lazily) said we wouldn't bother.13 years of marriage, 3 kids and Aspergers have pretty much killed any romance, sex-life or passion that might ever have been there. Not the love though. That still hangs on by a thread.
Anyway, this card contained the most emotion and tenderness that I've got from Ethan for a long time. In it, probably for the first time, he told me that he was finding life really difficult knowing that he has Aspergers. And that he needs to share his struggles with me more.
When I have time to analyse it, I know that life, of course, must be particularly difficult for Ethan. It's just hard to keep that knowledge at the forefront of my mind when he comes in from work and slumps on the sofa on his Iphone (exhausted from the effort of being sociable all day), while I make tea, interact with the kids' incessant chatter, set the table and oversee homework. Ethan seems to be able to zone in on what he's doing and shut the rest of us out. I know it's his Aspergers. I know he needs to switch off, amidst the chaos, for his own sanity. But it feels bloody annoying and isolating and unfair when you're left keeping everything together on your own.
Anyway, the point is, Ethan shared his struggle with me. He admitted that he's finding things really hard (and showing he's struggling is in itself a struggle for Ethan).
I probed a bit, about which aspect of Aspergers he was finding partiuclarly hard. The answer came instantly: Not having friends.
Having friends is such a big deal in our society and our generation of 30-40's. It defines us, communicates to the world whether we're a nice likeable person...or not, gives us self-worth. I know that, before the Aspergers diagnosis when I would spend excrutiating hours thinking about whether I'd made the biggest mistake of my life marrying Ethan, I judged his personality, in part, by the fact he had no friends. I saw this as one of the biggest indicators that he must indeed be the irritable, rude, insensitive, difficult, self-absorbed person he portrayed so often. And therefore, WHAT ON EARTH WAS I DOING MARRIED TO HIM?!
In my world friends, and what people think of me, is so, so important. Too important. I am lovely and funny and chatty and kind to everyone - except my family who get the rough end of me far too often. But that's normal. At least, to the outside world, I am a nice, friendly person with great social skills and, most crucially, I make lots of effort with lots of people - and that's proved by the amount of friends I have.
So I can't offer Ethan the comfort of saying that having friends doesn't matter. Because for us as individuals and for how society views us, it does.
It may be that, without the pressure from society to have friends and be sociable, Ethan would be quite content with me, his kids, films, a computer, lights (I'll talk about the light obsession another time!) and the odd book on Aspergers. But he can't escape the society he's in. He wants what other people have got. He wants to fit in and feel that he's liked.
All this is admirable and I want to help him build friendships (he can be very sociable when he tries hard, and he's quite nice to chat to when the conversation is about something he's interested in). But making friends requires effort that Ethan either isn't willing or isn't able to make.
For example, within a couple of hours of him sharing his desire for friends, we were in a toy shop with our two sons and our older son's friend. Our boys were allowed to chose a treat for earning all their smiles this week (where would we be without a bit of bribery?!). Sam's friend started looking at the little animal display with Sam. And Ethan, noticing this, stated brusquely, 'You're not getting anything Joel.' Imagine, 4-years-old, in a toy shop where your two friends are choosing a toy, being told roughly that you're not having anything. I know I said in my post on Tuesday that I was going to try to see past the bad to the good in Ethan. And to encourage rather than criticise. But you can't let that go...(I did buy Joel a £3 racoon, if anyone's worried). Ethan followed this rudness by looking miserable all the way home (the natural state of his face is a frown) and the only time he bothered to talk was to tell one of the boys off (for going on the grass - too muddy).
I sympathise with Ethan and his difficulty in making and keeping friends. But, really, if he wants friends he's got to work at it, just like the rest of us. Being nice, making the effort and interacting with other people isn't always easy. But that's the recipe for building friendships. Aspergers or not.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Aspergers, pancakes and what to give up for Lent

Totally unrelated to Aspergers but just need to begin with a quick rant - just to set the tone...
Snoring. What an awful, awful noise that is. Especially at 2am when you've nearly tipped over into sleep a few times just to be pulled back from the brink by a big old snort from the sleeping lump next to you. And then, even after a few kicks and nudges when the snoring does stop you still can't sleep because,  subconsciously, you're waiting for it to start up again. I'm shattered. Any tips? Other than the obvious - since being in bed is about the only together time that Ethan and I get without the kids these days...
So, snoring aside. Today is Pancake day (as I was reminded by Ava at 7.50 this morning as she requested pancakes for breakfast - she got Shreddies instead. Pre-school run is stressful enough without throwing pancakes into the mix!) But pancake day today means that Lent starts tomorrow. Traditionally the start of the season of giving something up. I toyed with the idea of giving up lattes - but I just can't. Instead, I've decided I'm going to give up criticising and trying to change Ethan.
For thirteen years (since we got married), I've tried to change him. And it hasn't worked. And I know that I am far to quick to criticise and that, sometimes, the good in him is hidden behind a cloud of negatives that I can't see past. Criticising and moaning and nagging and hassling has not improved things at all. So I'm going to try a different tack. For the duration of Lent, I will actively search out the positives and the good in Ethan. And, instead of trying to change him, I will try and change myself. Because living in a healthy and happy relationship - not only when there's Aspergers in the mix - is as much about me adapting (my expectations, my view of how things should be done, my reactions) as it is about Ethan changing what he can, to make life work for us both
For anyone who read yesterday's post Thank you Einstein my point was illustrated brilliantly when I tried to put our new hamster cage together after school yesterday, surrounded by three excited kids. The excitement dwindled as I struggled and sighed and frowned and pushed and pulled and realigned and pushed and pulled again. What was left of any excitement abruptly stopped when a small piece of the 'mezzanine floor' (this hamster has a better house than us) snapped off. My cue to put it all to one side and wait for Ethan to get home. Which is what I should have done in the first place. He had it erected and kitted out and bedded in in a matter of minutes. And the kids were delighted to have him home. Ethan's practical, single-focused mind saved the day. See - I'm seeing the positives of his unemotional, strictly practical brain wiring already!
And one final thought in this rather jumbled blog, is that today is the 20th anniversary of James Bulger being tortured and killed. Just a few weeks before his 3rd birthday.
The thought of what happened is so abhorrent and hideous to me that I can barely think about it. Particularly with my youngest son, Oliver, being pretty much exactly the same age that James was. But what the thought of what happened to James does do for me is remind me of how lucky we, our family, are to have each other: whatever challenges we may face and irritating behaviours we may have. We're all here - and we're muddling through life together and supporting each other. And we don't have anything near as horrendous to deal with as James Bulger's parents do (James' dad, Ralph, talks about living with his grief 20 years on on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21337506)  The suddenness with which life can just stop - in the most cruel of ways, reminds me to cherish the people and the time that I have. Lofty aspirations, I know, and hard to live out when Ethan is being blunt and insensitive, the boys are fighting and Ava is stropping at me for packing the wrong thing in her lunch box. But I'm going to try...
A week into this blog, I've made the decision to write an updated post two or three times a week. It'll give me time to appreciate my family more, and to read those books an Aspergers that keep arriving from Amazon with my name on. Also, the floors really need hoovering. And I've got to stop feeding the kids beans on toast!
So, enjoy your pancakes (I will be making them for the kids tonight - for anyone worried that the kids have a horrible pancake-averse mother). x

Monday, 11 February 2013

Thank you Einstein

'Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.' Einstein.
That's the second time Einstein has been mentioned in this 6-day-old blog. But perhaps that's apt, as experts reckon that Einstein could well have had Aspergers. So my husband, Ethan, is in pretty good company.
I love this quote. It reminds me that comparisons between people are generally useless and sometimes damaging.
It's hard not to become despairing with Ethan though when I have to take over Ava's reading homework again because Ethan keeps getting all the words wrong ('Michael' became 'Michelle' yesterday in Ava's reading book - much to her indignation. And Ethan was stumped by questions such as 'what does contempt mean?') Understandably, Ava gets frustrated (as do I as I try to read with Ava at the same time as making dinner!). It's hard not to feel annoyed when I always have to take the lead at social events. Or when I tell Ethan something, write a note about it, send a text reminder and still have to deal with disappointed little boys whose daddy has forgotten (within the 30 minutes from leaving the house to coming home again) that he's meant to be taking them for babycinnos! (see my 8th Feb blog post Baked beans, babycinnos and Aspergers).
But, this weekend, Ethan fixed Ava's broken drawer, put up some shelves, mended the laptop, drew a (pretty impressive) T-Rex head for Sam's dinosaur hat for school, took Oliver on the miniature train,  updated my phone (whatever that entails) and patiently read-through Ava's magic tricks booklet so he could teach her a couple of tricks. All things that I just don't have the aptitude, skills or patience for (with the exception of the miniature train!) Instead, I engaged my social and negotiating skills to talk to Ava's dance teacher about her stopping tap and ballet and taking up street-dance, going out with Ava and another mum and her daughter to a country park, taking Sam to a party and socialising with all the mums (and dads) there, teaching Sunday School at church and going out for a girlie dinner party on Saturday night. Oh, and reading with Ava!
Maybe herein lies one of the keys to successfully navigating a relationship where one person has Aspergers: to recognise each others strengths and weaknesses and play to them. And to accept the things that each of us are not good at.
Maybe, like Einstein, Ethan will discover some life-changing theory one day. Or maybe he'll just discover a life-changing theory to help him live with Aspergers in a chaotic, loud, and messy family (and world). Or maybe it'll be me that discovers the life-changing theory of learning to accept...

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dinosaurs, interfering and Aspergers

Really don't want blogging to take over my life (already I'm checking my page views every couple of hours like a blogger junkie) and yet here I am writing my latest blog at 1.20am while the rest of my family are fast asleep in bed.
In my defence, I've not stayed up specially to write my blog. I'm just in from a night out. And feeling quite proud of Ethan (my husband, who is grappling with a relatively recent diagnosis of Aspergers). I was sitting opposite a woman tonight who works in a special needs school. A lot of the kids she works with have Autism and she was describing some of their mannerisms and challenges. It made me realise that Ethan actually does really, really well - and has done really well his whole life, trying to fit in and hide his Aspergers. Life is hard enough, even for those of us who are 'mainstream' - I am plagued with social doubts constantly about what I've said, how I've said it and what people think of me. To not understand or be able to follow the rules in the first place must be unnerving to say the least. But Ethan carries on, day after day, at the helm of a family who are chaotic, messy, loud and unpredictable. And most of the time he gets on with life in good humour, making an effort and being the best that he can be. I am proud of him.
And yet I can't help correcting. Like tonight when Ethan had finished reading to Sam (our 4-year-old) and Sam was in floods of tears because he hadn't learnt enough dinosaur names for being 'dinosaur expert' at school next week. Ethan was trying to console Sam by pointing out the harsh reality:'There's not enough time to read it all.' Instinctively, my response would have been a soothing, encouraging one: ''We can learn the other names tomorrow.' As I listened in on Ethan and Sam's conversation, my lips twitched, my legs started towards Sam's bedroom, I tried to resist but Sam's wails got the better of me. 'Tell him you can learn the rest tomorrow, Ethan, you need to show you understand his concerns and that there's a solution...'
As soon as Sam heard my voice, of course, he started crying out for me. All Ethan's good work of reading about dinosaurs for the last 15 minutes with our oldest son was undone and I became the rescuer as Ethan stomped off to heat his ready-meal.
Perhaps my kids need to toughen up to Ethan's ways. Perhaps I should wait and do the gentle correcting later, out of earshot of the kids. Not correcting feels impossible - and defeatist. Because, although he's doing really well, I want Ethan to be even better. I want him to know what response to give in particular circumstances. And surely, the best route to that is self-awareness?
1.30am. Good night.

Aspergers and (not) home-made chicken

Argh, I hadn't anticipated how tricky it would be to write a daily blog post over a weekend!
Have just ushered my daughter off to dancing (why does the thought of doing anything requiring effort reduce a child into a whinging, whining mess, despite them always enjoying it when they get there?). The boys are watching TV (thank the Lord for Scooby Doo), Ethan (my husband) is cleaning the windows (now there's a benefit of having a husband with Aspergers - he likes things ordered and as they should be, which means he'll do something about the greasy child-sized hand prints on the windows). And I'm grabbing 10 minutes to write this blog.
That was a bit of a messy introduction (with the use of far too many brackets), but then that's probably quite an accurate reflection of life: messy and full of asides. Particularly when you're part of a chaotic family of 5 with a dad with Aspergers at the helm!
Last night was good. Ethan and I talked - for the first time for days (I mean, talking beyond 'Can you pick the kids up from school?' and 'What shall we have for tea?'). Once we'd got the griping and niggling at each other out of the way (a week's worth of little irritations that needed airing) we had quite a nice time. Although I found myself telling Ethan off more than once for sticking his arms up the opposite sides of his jumper sleeves and biting the sides of his nails. Just a few hours earlier I'd been telling our son off for biting his coat sleeves and picking his nails. The difference being that Sam is 4 years old. Anyway, I know I should be able to look past these quirky little traits of a 40-year-old man but, increasingly, I just can't. The scratching and biting and putting arms up sleeves really annoy me - and perhaps, I realise, it's because I'm looking out for them more. However, amongst a bit of  bickering and telling off, we enjoyed each other's company. I told Ethan about this blog - he's supportive but feels it's probably better he doesn't read it. I couldn't agree more! And then we used our 'dinner party ice breaker' cards to spark conversation. I discovered that Ethan used to collect key rings and that if he could run a shop that sold anything, he'd sell gadgets (no surprises there).
All in all a pretty good evening. Even if Ethan did say, on finishing the dinner that I'd lovingly prepared for us 'That was really nice, the chicken tasted home-made.'
Some of you may be wondering what the problem is with that statement, and maybe you could help me out here - because maybe I do over-react sometimes and maybe I should let more things go. But I took it as a subtle but definite criticism. The chicken was the one bleedin' part of the dinner that I hadn't made myself (thank you, Mr Waitrose). So Ethan had chosen to mention the one part of the dinner that he knew I hadn't made and make a comment about the fact that it wasn't home-made. Is it just me? Or would any other women out there feel a bit annoyed with that comment? He could have chosen to mention the honey-roasted carrots or the perfectly crispy home-made potato wedges (not meaning to blow my own trumpet here!) But he didn't. He made a comment about the chicken not being home-made.
He struggled to see why his comment was a problem. I struggled not to give up on the planned evening of conversation and read my book instead!
Maybe I need to accept the fact that he'll often say the wrong thing and just learn not to take it personally. I just struggle with the fact that he consciously chooses to say the wrong thing rather than any of the positive things he could say.
Anyway, time up. Scooby Doo has finished and the boys have started killing each other. True to form, Ethan is oblivious to it all in the kitchen. Probably deeply absorbed in a job, or his Iphone.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Baked beans, babycinnos and Aspergers

So, yesterday's euphoria and happy, positive thoughts about my lot in life weren't to last...
Nothing earth-shattering happened. It had been a pretty good day. But, around tea-time, things began to unravel.
After 3 days away with work, my husband had taken our eldest son, Sam, to the barber's after school. Partly for some father-son time, partly because his hair resembled Einstein's. The plan was, and I'd gone through this with my husband, that they'd go to the barbers and then for a babycinno (as a way of making the haircut trip more appealing for Sam).
At 5pm, Ethan (my husband) came through the door with Sam trailing behind crying. As I heard the words 'I'll make you a babycinno here' my heart sank. It sank even further when I said (OK, a little aggressively) 'I can't believe you didn't go for a babycinno. Sam was looking forward to that. You knew you were meant to be going for a babycinno after the haircut...' and Ethan responded (typically for an Aspie, I'm discovering) by trying to pin the blame on someone else and accusing me of not telling him about the babycinno.
Things continued in the same vein as, during tea, Ethan took issue with our daughter 'not finishing her dinner properly' - having left half a baked bean and a bit of bean juice (I kid you not). I tried to interject but was too late. Ethan had already made an issue of it. Followed by Ava then making an issue about the fact that Ethan had made an issue. Ethan seemed to find it impossible to back down. Not able to admit that, actually, he was being a bit harsh and half a bean probably didn't really matter. When Ava ate her half a bean and then threw her fork down, he saw his chance to authenticate the path he'd gone down and put her in the naughty room. I was inwardly wishing that I could put Ethan in the naughty room and leave him there. The awful truth was that life had seemed happier and more peaceful when he was away.
I hate it when Ethan's Aspergers plays out on the kids. His forgetfulness and vagueness meaning Sam misses out and gets disappointed. His desire for total order (even on a dinner plate), his inflexibility and his inability to back down and admit he's made a mistake meaning Ava ends up in the naughty room - even when she's eaten her dinner well.
On the positive side, Ethan bought me the book Aspergers for Dummies yesterday. He really wants me to understand him and his ways (and therefore cut him a bit more slack I'm guessing!) And I really want to understand more too. It's just finding the time. And, after incidents like yesterdays, the inclination...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

In perspective

So I've just read about Kepari Leniata, the 20-year-old woman from Papau New Guinea who was tortured and set alight by a huge, angry mob for suspected sorcery.
And it somewhat puts things in perspective.
I've just got a husband (generally loving and supportive) who has Aspergers. I feel I have no right to moan when such horrendous things go on in the world - and yet I do, because I'm human.
Today though is a good day. In fact, it seems it's me that is the difficult partner to live with. I snapped at my husband when he pressed snooze on the alarm this morning rather than get up and and embark on the never-ending, grinding process of getting the kids ready for school (even though I frequently press snooze when it's my turn to get up). I told him off for spending too long in the shower, and I took my daughter's side in an argument about whether she should drink her milk or not (she didn't!). Having dropped the older two kids at school, my husband has now taken our 2-year-old swimming and is going to follow that with lunch. Now that all is calm and I'm sitting here writing this blog, I feel a twinge of regret for my controlling, irritable, nagging ways. He's really a pretty good bloke.
Having said that, I did pack the swimming stuff, get our son's shoes and coat on, tell my husband where to go and what to do, and search out the armbands. But, I'm increasingly realising that that's just men (and I know I'm generalising here). It's not exclusive to Aspergers. Just yesterday my friend's husband was supposed to be collecting their daughter from our house at 6.30pm. At 7pm I got a call from my friend to say her husband had forgotten he was collecting their daughter and was still at work. Half an hour later, my friend arrived to collect their daughter - straight from finishing the second job she's taken on.
And, while we're on the topic of the constant, grainy little irritations of life - does anyone else find it soul- destroying  that each and every morning we are forced through the monotony, stress, shouting and clambering of getting kids dressed and teeth and hair brushed, just to repeat the same process, backwards, every single night? Can someone out there come up with a more efficient and less painful way of starting and ending the day? Anti-crease school uniforms as pyjamas? Cereal that brushes their teeth as they chew? And yes, I know the obvious - crew cuts for them all, including our 7-year-old daughter. That would sort out the problem of nits too.
In reality, I'll be up tomorrow morning, throwing socks at our daughter, chasing our middle child around the house and clearing up spilt cereal. Only after I've hit snooze once or twice though ;)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

And so it begins...

It's almost a year since my husband was diagnosed with Aspergers.
Relief was the strongest sensation. That there was an explanation for the rudeness, social unawareness, lack of eye contact, bluntness, insensitivity...a complete lack of any real connection at all, half the time. There was a reason for it all - my husband (and therefore my judgement) had been granted a reprieve. He wasn't a rude, awkward, blunt, insensitive person. He was a person with Aspergers. I felt like this diagnosis could save us - be the thing that stopped me resenting him quite so much, even hating him sometimes...because it wasn't his fault.
Almost a year on, that relief is still there, along with a gradually increasing understanding of how he ticks. But I've got to say, the resentment is still there too. Along with loneliness, isolation and frustration at times. But we're slowly travelling the road to enlightenment, and hopefully greater happiness and fulfillment in our marriage, together. We both really want to make it work, and we're both willing to get up when we fall, dust ourselves off and carry on. For now. We've got three kids. It doesn't feel like we have much choice.
So this blog isn't going to be an accurate, informed, scientific analysis of how to make a busy family of five work with an Aspergers dad at the helm. It's not going to give all the answers on  how to have a successful (whatever that means) emotional relationship with a person with Aspergers. But it is going to give a running commentary on the highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, laughter and tears (sometimes all at once!) of muddling through married, family life with Aspergers together.
It's proving to be a bumpy, eventful and unexpected ride...