It’s sometimes a fine line. And before the diagnosis I spent a lot of my time thinking Ethan just wasn’t a very nice person. The fact he had no real friends confirmed it to me.
Still today there are times when I need to step back from everything and remind myself that he’s just wired differently to me, and that he doesn’t know how to put on the right impression and hide his thoughts like I do, and that situations I sail through, he stumbles through painfully – doing his best to reach the other side in one piece without having offended anyone.
On Saturday night he went to the pub with some of the dads from school. He arrived home at about 10.30pm having left the pub without saying goodbye to anyone. He walked into the living room, collapsed on the sofa and moaned about the pub they’d gone to, then he moaned about someone that was there, then he moaned about what I was watching, then he moaned about one of the women on the programme I was watching for being too emotional, then he moaned about another of the women on the programme for not being emotional enough. At that point I sniped at him to please be quiet because he hadn’t stopped moaning since he walked in the door. He got up and went to bed.
The next afternoon we went on a family walk. While I was slipping and sliding down a mud bank engaging with our kids and entering into the spirit of things, he stood at the top of the bank, hands in his pockets, watching the proceedings and occasionally shouting at the kids not to go in muddy puddles.
Later that evening, while I got the kids to bed, read to Ava, fed the hamster, got the snack ready for the morning and loaded the dishwasher before having to run out the door to work, he watched TV in the office. He’d assured me that he’d wrap some Christmas presents to lighten the load a bit – but he forgot and I was too irritated to remind him (just like he’d forgotten, the week before, to buy stamps even though I’d verbally asked him – and he’d agreed – had written it on a note for him and texted him to remind him).
At this moment, he’s been looking after the kids for a couple of hours – his kids, it’s not like he’s doing me any great favours – and, in the course of those two hours, Ethan has shouted pretty much constantly, Oliver has cried repeatedly, Ava has been sent to her room and Sam abandoned ship long ago and has been hiding out in his room. It’s so hard to feel we’re on an equal footing when so much of what he does ends in tears – mine or the kids. It’s easier, often, just to do everything myself – although then I feel bitter that I never get any downtime.
All of these things seem to present a pretty thoughtless, selfish, disengaged man. The difference now is that I understand why. And so does Ethan. So when I, calmly, point out that just leaving the pub without saying goodbye would be regarded as rude, he accepts that and texts the guy he went with to say sorry. I could have spent the walk on Sunday feeling resentful and annoyed (and, in the past, I would have done). Instead I dumped Oliver with Ethan and ran off with the other two so that Ethan would be forced to interact: and he rose to the occasion. And (because, of course, I couldn’t keep my frustration in and had a quick rant before I left for work) when I arrived home last night, Ethan had hung out all of the washing, unloaded the dishwasher and left me a nice note thanking me for everything I do.
It’s not that Ethan isn’t a nice person-it’s just that his niceness needs constant prompting and wheedling out. Just off to sort out the latest bout of arguments...Happy Christmas everyone!