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.