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Monday, 1 July 2013

Aspergers and blow-outs over toothbrushes

Goodness me. We had a big blow-out at the weekend.
Over a toothbrush.
We’ve had a toothbrush argument before. Ethan absolutely cannot bear to use anything other than his particular toothbrush (I forgot to pack it the last time we went away – which begs the question, if he’s so worried about his toothbrush, why he didn’t do his own bloody packing!) Anyway, this time it was about the fact I had unwittingly given Sam Ethan’s spare toothbrush since Sam’s looked like a bedraggled hedgehog. Sam was very proud about having a grown-up toothbrush and proudly told Ethan when they went to brush his teeth at bedtime, that this was his new toothbrush.
The problem with Ethan is that he reacts – whether he’s dealing with a 50-year-old or a 5-year-old his response will be pretty much the same: aggressive, lacking in tact or empathy, and loud. Poor old Sam was crying his eyes out and trying to tell Ethan that mummy said that was his new toothbrush, while Ethan didn’t hear a word Sam said because he was too busy shouting over him and stressing about the fact his toothbrush had been used by his son.
My reaction was partly to the fact Ethan gets so irritated and shouty with me and the kids over little things and partly that when he’s on a rant (and even when he isn’t) he doesn’t listen to what the kids are saying to him.
It was the end of a long weekend, in fact week, in which I have done the lion’s share of dealing with the kids and housework and paid work whilst Ethan ‘rests his leg’ and in which, during the little time he’s had with the kids, he’s been irritable and impatient with them. I lost it. Shouted, told him we were all happier with him not around (which was particularly harsh and which I immediately regretted) and threw the toothbrush at him. Which I shouldn’t have done because it made Sam cry.
Children are a huge challenge to a person with Aspergers. They’re a huge challenge to me and I don’t have a need for control and calm and orderliness. And we’ve got three of them under 9-years-old. I know I should cut Ethan more slack. Maybe take on more of the burden (although, I feel like I’m already doing most of the emotional and physical management of the kids), be more patient with him, step into a situation before it gets too heated, encourage him more, micro-manage his time with them. But it’s exhausting constantly having to be on my guard, watching out for potentially explosive situations, explaining anything that I need Ethan to do with the kids in detail – and then reminding him again when he completely forgets what I’ve said.
Ethan immediately regretted his irritable, aggressive behaviour and, when he thinks about it, he knows that it’s ridiculous over-reacting like that over a toothbrush (particularly towards Sam who was completely innocent in the whole process). But by then the damage was done. Ava who’d overheard it all thought we were splitting up (so did I for a second), Sam was upset about things being thrown and voices being raised, and I was just totally fed-up with managing Ethan’s moods and mini explosions.
Needless to say Ethan is trying really, really hard today to keep a lid on things and control his emotions. But the kids have been at school all day. 3.30pm onwards will be the real test.

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