What a difference a day makes!
On Monday morning, following Sunday's showdown, Ethan got up before the alarm, sorted out the kids' breakfast and got them dressed, all before I got up! Even more amazingly, he did it without shouting at them, losing his temper, pushing or pulling them. He even managed not to sigh (at least not loud enough for me to hear!)
Today's Thursday and he's managed to maintain the transformed approach. It's partly due to the blowout on Sunday night (me saying we were all happier when he wasn't around might have stung a bit!) And partly thanks to a fantastic book Ethan's reading (and that I've dipped into a bit) called The Journal of Best Practices. It's written by a guy with a wife and kids...and Aspergers. I love it because: a) there are so many similarities to our life and it helps Ethan and me to see that, within the world of Aspergers/neuro-typical relationships, we're pretty 'normal'! I think the fact this guy has so many of the same issues, hang-ups, stresses and behaviours as Ethan, gives Ethan some validity and reassurance too. And it helps me to see that at least some of the traits that drive me mad in Ethan are due to his Aspergers and not due to the fact he's a rude, insensitive git! b) This guy and his wife have found a way to live with his Aspergers and still have a happy, productive relationship and happy, productive lives. And c) It's humorous. And, as the laughinghelps blogger reminds us, laughing helps. It really does.
But, getting back to the bit of the book that transformed Ethan's attitude this week, the author David Finch describes how he really wants to have quality, fun time with his kids but instead, when he plays with them for example, he finds his thoughts drifting off to analyse how he could better construct a Duplo tower, or how he could improve the quality of a particular toy. And that's it. He's zoned out. While the kids play, he's in another place entirely - physically there but mentally absent. Ethan has exactly the same experiences. Afterwards, he'll feel irritated with himself for zoning out when he could have been enjoying precious moments with his kids. But rather than this leading to him rectifying the situation, it just makes him bad-tempered so that, when the kids do try to connect with him, he's too irritated and wound-up to respond. Or, if they slightly step out of line, he snaps. In the book, David has the same problem. His advice is to shut off your thoughts before they have a chance to build: in his words 'Nothing numbs feelings like thoughts.' So, the answer? Don't think! At least not for that moment. If you've decided that now is the time to play with your kids, play with your kids. Take control of your thoughts. It's something we all need to practise, Aspergers or not. But having witnessed Ethan trying to live this way this week, I've seen the positive effect it's had - on him and on the kids, and therefore on me.
Maybe this is the week we'll get through without a big argument...3 days to go!