Had a sudden moment of clarity as I stomped furiously into the shower last night. I always find the shower is a great place to let off steam (pardon the pun) and to think clearly. Must be something to do with all that cleansing water pounding down on you that awakens your senses. Or maybe it’s just that the shower’s the only place and time that I get time and space to think!
In any case, I’d stomped into the shower and was thinking/fuming. Ethan had just, in one fell swoop, upset Ava, upset Ava’s friend who was round for a sleepover (to such an extent that she was crying and wanted to go home), and upset me.
I don’t need to go into details, but he’d got stressed and shouted and been generally pretty harsh and unpleasant - and his irritation was mostly directed towards Ava’s friend, which makes it doubly inappropriate.
As the water soothingly pounded me in the shower, I realised that I was partly to blame for the turn of events (and I’d been far from calm with the kids myself). I know that Ethan has Aspergers. I know that normal, day-to-day life with its demands of work, social interaction, expectations and three energetic young children is almost more than Ethan can bear sometimes. So my decision to throw two more children into the mix (we were having a double sleepover last night) was probably pretty poor decision-making. And me trying to force Ethan into the role of fun, attentive, jolly father for the entire duration of the afternoon and evening, with little chance for time out, was doubly poor decision-making.
Two five-year-olds repeatedly getting out of bed and running downstairs at 10pm (by which time Ethan has normally switched off) at the same time as two eight-year-olds complaining about the snack Ethan had made and requesting a different film, and a stressed wife snapping at everyone and nagging him to help, led to an overload. His response was to combust - internally and externally and to release his stressed, angry unedited thoughts on Ava and her unsuspecting friend.
Ethan is trying hard to make changes to his default settings. But that situation was too much for him. He malfunctioned. And I realised, in the shower, that it’s not all about Ethan changing, it’s also about me changing. We all need to adapt to Ethan’s Aspergers. He and his needs and breaking points need to be considered before I charge ahead creating chaos and making arrangements. At the same time, I don’t want the kids and I to become so Aspergerised that we cease to be ourselves and never do the things we like to do. It’s a difficult balance, but one that both of us (thankfully) are determined to master.