Living well with Ethan's aspergers is as much about me changing as it is him.
I don't mean losing who I am or wearily giving into the way things are. But I do mean letting go of self-righteous anger and condescending rebuke - even when it feels justified. I mean nurturing a calm approach and actively reigning in my desire to react angrily when Ethan has let me down or is, frankly, being an idiot. I mean increasing my understanding and finding effective ways to handle disputes. I mean by accepting, sometimes, that I need to be the one to act like a grown-up, to take responsibility for not fuelling and heightening stress and, if needs be, sacrificing my right to 'be in a mood' so that he can be in his, come through the other side, and calm can be restored.
I don't mean to big myself up at all. It's all very well, in the tranquillity of this moment, to write all this. In reality, it's flipin' hard to do.
Take today for instance. I was going to be out during school pick-up time meaning Ethan needed to collect the kids. He was well briefed on the matter. I warned him the day before, told him again on the morning in question and made him sit down and focus whilst I went through arrangements one last time before leaving the house. Ethan rolled his eyes at me.
A familiar sense of foreboding overcame me as I pulled up on the drive a couple of hours later to the sight of Ethan happily hacking at our front room wall (yes, the project lives on - it's good and bad. Good because it occupies him and bad because it occupies him...to the exclusion of everything else). School had finished fifteen minutes earlier and I couldn't see or, more to the point, hear the kids. As I walked through the door I knew my question was ridiculous but I hoped for the best.
"'Are you back from school already?"
Ethan gasped, swore and scrambled for the car keys. This, my friends, is when my wise words and good intentions came tumbling down around me! A tiny part of me was desperately trying to hold onto that still, small voice telling me to be calm, not to shout, to employ understanding. But my carnal instincts won out.
"I don't believe it," I chastised, "I can't rely on you for anything."
"I know you can't," boomed Ethan as he stormed past me and slammed the front door.
For the next five minutes I battled inwardly between the desire to have a go at him and pity myself for having such a useless husband, or to make the conscious decision, despite the circumstances and my feelings (which are fickle companions) that I would try to understand, that I wouldn't overreact, that I wouldn't feel sorry for myself and that I wouldn't make everything worse by attacking him any more than I already had.
It took huge resolve. Particularly as, when he got home with the kids, he snapped at Ava, shouted at me and then stomped into the front room, slamming the door closed. Everything in me wanted to burst into that room and tell him what a horrible person he was. To ask how he dare shout at all of us when he was in the wrong. But I'm learning through experience that such reactions just sink us both further into anger and resentment. By choosing to stay silent and keep away, I starved the furious feelings in us both of oxygen. I forced myself to chat with the kids, to engage in their days and to take my mind away from my frustration. The situation ceased to be so huge. And about half an hour later, having had time and space to 'come down', Ethan surfaced and apologised. I wasn't very gracious. I couldn't quite resist pointing out that he had acted like a s**t - not by forgetting to pick up the kids but by shouting at us all afterwards. But I said it calmly and packaged it in understanding ('I know you were absorbed in what you were doing') and, crucially, after the heat of the event itself. We listened to each other, hugged each other and started again - again.
As I wrote this blog entry, I'd just phoned Ethan to remind him to pick up Sam from karate at 6.30pm because, as well as learning not to react angrily in the moment, I've also learnt that by micro-managing Ethan, I can avoid these situations arising. I need to tell him what to do, then remind him, then remind him again. There's no use getting frustrated, it's just the way it is. Some things, again I'm learning, I just need to accept and make the best of.