At first, it didn’t really sink in. But yes, the sliding door was open and yes, our son was indeed squirting the hose into our dining-room-that-is-also-a-study. Like a freeze-frame segment on a sports program, the next moments seemed caught in slow motion. We faced off. I stared into his eyes. He was absolutely fully energized. No. He was manic. Uninhibited. Unhinged. This, this moment was a stand-off of epic proportions. And there was not a moment to waste trying to sort out what the parenting advice for kids with FASD might say for this situation. Instinct kicked in. I looked down, there was a growing puddle of water on our hardwood floor. Alice’s pool of tears somehow flashed through my mind (it is after all one of our son’s favorite parts of the story and he literally only recently returned from a Mad Hatter party). I contemplated what was more important, throwing my body over the computers or getting that door shut somehow. If I moved the wrong way and psyched him out, that hose might not have stayed aimed at the floor. My brain was locked on one thought. Not the books!
Moments before our eldest had alerted us in the most British of ways, encouraging us to bring towels into the dining room. He is such a great kid. He stays cool in almost every situation. He understands his brother’s brain works differently. He gets it, sometimes more than we do. So, I popped my head into the room for a quick check, wondering if I needed a cloth towel or if a paper towel would do. I was lazily remembering, as I glanced around the door, that had we used the last of the paper towels earlier when the bowl of yoghurt had been thrown down the stairs and onto all the winter coats that had been pulled off the coat rack.
Until I rounded the corner I really hadn’t caught up with the live action. While I was still staring at the hose spraying full force onto my dining room floor, my husband had gone through the kitchen door and went in for the tackle. Positioning himself between the nozzle and the tap on the wall was a significant tactical move. (Sometimes it’s helpful he has watched and played so much football over the years.)
Now that the hose seemed contained, I quickly opted for all of the cloth towels hanging in the bathroom and sent the eldest upstairs for more. Within moments, miraculously, the youngest was being handed off to me, quite indignant because he now had mud all over him. It’s not clear that the hose was relinquished voluntarily (it has since been detached and hidden away).
So, yes, we have been having a heck of a weekend. We always knew we would. But knowing it doesn’t make it any more pleasant. We are moving our son’s room as part of a planned upgrade of furniture in various bedrooms and moving our home office into his old room. He gets a much bigger room in the process, which he has been wanting for years. We know in the end this will be worth it. (We hope in the end this will be worth it.)
To do this, there are many steps (think of that kid’s game where you move the numbers in the square around to try to get them in order, and when you move one you end up having to move them all before the one number is where you want it to be). It’s chaotic. It’s messy.
And it’s hard – extremely hard, if not impossible – for a kid who has trouble wrapping his head around abstracts to envision The Plan. We have tried to explain it. But honestly, we barely have our own heads wrapped around it. We have plunged into the deep end here. Of course we know we should have done this more gently. (As if we needed raspberry yoghurt on the walls to underline this fact). We know we should have mapped it all out for him, shown him pictures, diagrams. We should not have scheduled this at the end of a school holiday while he was home to see it. We had thought the party would help him, and he did have a great time. We are so thankful for friends who invited him and looked after him knowing what a difficult day it was. But in hindsight it probably was over stimulating, even if we needed the time to Get Some Things Done. He should have eaten more even if he was refusing everything. He should have had exercise even if he refused to go to gymnastics, doubled over, saying his tummy hurt from the one thing he did eat. He should have had a top up of his medication toward the end of the afternoon, even though it was getting late.
We know, we know, we know. Even before water washed away the marbles under the bookcase, we knew. We know. But we barely have time to get this done. Without going into all the gory details, sometimes there are external deadlines that we cannot change. Sometimes we do, we really do need to move our little ones faster than they can be moved, faster than they should be moved, faster than we want to ask them to move. Sometimes, there is just no choice. Sometimes, Mum and Dad have to take short cuts. And yes, sometimes Mum and Dad learn that taking shortcuts is a really, really bad idea, and they only really get that when the sixth Great Lake is found spreading out in their dining room.
I am pleased to have been reminded that even in the most extreme cases my husband and I can work as a team instinctively, not fighting about the plays when the stakes are high (though we often quibble about calls that are far less important). I learned that I have indeed become adept at the Next Level of FASD parenting – my reactions are becoming more of the ‘neurobehavioral’ type rather than the traditional parenting type. My instincts are changing. I knew the most important thing was to get him to a quiet space, somewhere calm, away from his flood. That I needed to tell him quietly over and over that he was okay. He would be okay, I would help him get the mud off. I would sit with him. I did say that was not a proper way to use the hose and so we would have to talk about that because he damaged things. But honestly, I didn’t dwell on it. It was done. In fact that was what I kept saying most of all. It’s okay. It’s over. It’s done. You’re okay. We’re okay.
I was reminded of something important. He is learning to tell me what he needs to come down from those moments. (Can I just sit here Mummy? Can you just rub my feet Mummy? I don’t want to talk now Mummy, OK?) OK, pal. And then our new ritual. Look at me, pal, look at me (eyes flit up toward mine, for a second we really see each other and I know now we will be okay, the moment is truly past). I love you. I love me too. You’re a good kid. I’m a good kid. Can I just stay here alone Mummy? I’m hungry. Okay pal, I’ll get you some food. Not the green grapes, the red ones.
And that was pretty much the end of that.
Except that here I am, posting this the Morning After. Today, we have to switch his room for real. Some reinforcements are coming, but we have to have most of it done while he is at school or tonight could be an instant replay (without the now-hidden hose). We will see how the actual swap goes. I’ll provide an update for those following the Room Swap Ordeal. Stay tuned.