Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Moms and Dudes:

One of the questions I most fear/hate to get when dealing with visitors to Dude-world is, "Where is his mother?" I know it's mostly unintentional but the translation I always get is, 'What are you doing here?' I guess part of the problem is that I don't consider it abnormal that for all intents and purposes (other than quasi/legally) Dave really doesn't have a mother. Oh, he's got a mom. And he calls her 'mom', when he's not calling her 'Raine' (mostly when Dad has him down on the couch and is unfairly tickling him to death). The people that ask the question don't want to know where his 'mom' is, the people who know Raine don't ask anything, they just know she's his mom. So when I hear, 'But what about his mother?' I tend to get a little cheesed.
    Mostly I get asked this question by nosy social workers, and anyone who thinks they get to ask condescending questions and is a bit too certain of their own authority. Depending on how pretentious they are they either get the short answer or the longer version. Nice people get the short answer: She lives in Kansas City. The ones that are more obviously giving me the 'second-class parent' treatment get the Reader's Digest version of events as kind of a warning shot. And if that doesn't shut them up I unload the second barrel. Oh I'll go on for an hour about all the shortcomings my ex has as a 'mother'. I think what throws them is the tone of utter indifference I use when talking about it. So if this ever gets posted I want to make one thing perfectly clear (inadvertent Nixon reference... Freudian?). I just don't care about the stuff she did to me, or 'because of me' or using me as an excuse. The stuff she did to Dude is another matter.
     Okay then, with that in mind let's skip over a bunch of the rough stuff (after all I think you're nice) and just skim over some of the relevant data. One June, shortly after your intrepid heroes moved to Da' Burgh, while they were still broke from the move, and Dude not yet being a legal resident of PA, the Wicked Redhead of the Midwest (you know, what's-her-name) went to the Missouri Pillars of Justice to keep Pittsburgh from experiencing the wonders of Dude-ness. Since no one was there to refute her nefarious statements before the bench the Dude was wrenched back to the Homeland (effective the 25th of October). Utter darkness covered the land for most of the next 2 years, but eventually negotiations were begun to regain the Dude-right for all (or at least the Pittsburgh Metro area). But the Redhead, in her cunning, wouldn't write anything down, or redress any of her scurrilous lies about the Dude-Dad and so the negotiations faltered. Then one day, (a few months later) while at work, D-D received a phone call from the Brain-Bender for his Education Zone(School Psychiatrist) telling him of the unexpected return of the Dudeness. The conversation went something like this:
'Your son is here'
'Excuse me?'
'This is Mr. H isn't it?'
'Yes it is.'
'Well I'd like to let you know that you need come and pick up your son. But you should be here before 4:30, because that's when I go home.'
'Uhhhhh. Are you sure you've got the right guy? That can't be my son, because my son is a thousand miles away from here. And even if he weren't I don't know where you are, anyway.'
'Well this is Dr. B at the A High School, and your ex dropped David and some of his stuff here, and he's been waiting 2 hours for you to come pick him up.' She was starting to get a bit huffy, like I was the one who lied to her.
'Why the hell did you let her do that?'
 Let's recap to this point: Dude's 'mother', without any communication in over 6 weeks, or any notice whatsoever, drove 1000 miles, abandoned her autistic son with a woman she'd never met before and he'd only seen once, lied to her about me knowing about the whole thing but left her my work number 'in case he doesn't show up', left a very rude note in my mailbox (first line: Congratulations, it's a boy!), and without any communication with me at all, slipped out of town and went back home.
'Mr. H, are you coming to get your son or not?'
   Ah, and there she played the trump card. Believing that I was some sort of deadbeat moron who either didn't remember or care about my son and unwilling to be convinced that she'd been duped by my ex, she avoided the whole issue by instinctively playing on my unwillingness to use my son as a pawn in anyone's game. So after a bus ride to Raine's work to get the Mothership (Caprice), and much cursing at and about petty bureaucrats in general and psychotic Redheads in particular I regained my key to Dude-World. And quite frankly, he was a mess. For the next three months I was reminded of Patty Duke's role in The Miracle Worker repeatedly. His behaviour was atrocious. He'd lost his manners, half his vocabulary, and his potty-training. He was combative and frustrated. This was not the happy-go-lucky babble box I remembered. He was more like some feral-boy version of the son I'd lost years before and was raised by wolves. Rude ones. He was very nearly kicked out of both the special needs program and the school that implemented it. I've seen some of what they put up with on a regular basis, and to be beyond their help is some kind of accomplishment, let me tell you.
     Through all of this there was one constant. One thing that kept me from sliding over the edge and him from falling back into the abyss. His Mom, Raine. Unlike the tales that Hollywood likes to tell, there are no saints or sinners when it comes to raising an atypical child. There are people that strap in, buckle up, and get the job done, and there are those that don't. There are no 'Saints' in this house. There have been times when either one of us wanted to strangle him. (Luckily for him it's never both of us at the same time). Handicapped children aren't intrinsically wonderful, beautiful, or even very much fun to be around. They're love-sponges that soak up all the love you can give them. And by that, show us that we have ever so much more love to give than we ever even knew we had. 'Mothers' or 'Fathers' don't always understand, but moms and dads do.
     Through the efforts of Dude-Mom and ham-handed help from her trusty side-kick (me), there were some palpable improvements by the end of the school year. And by the time the next season started we had to work a bit to convince them that we hadn't just cloned a Dude of our own and substituted him for the one they'd had three months before. Each helping the other, we worked as a team (go team!!) to get David back to the frustrating, stubborn, noisy, wonderful Dude he is now. (it's a work in progress) I think we each thought the other one had the tougher job. I know for a fact I was completely baffled at how to get him re-potty trained. But she stepped right in, came up with a plan, gave me my script (which I followed diligently) and, other than some occasional backsliding, in an extraordinarily short time he was trained. I mean, he still doesn't understand what the big deal is, but he does it! Atypical or not, there are certain things where I'll take 'doing' over 'understanding' every time. Using the toilet is one... .Raising Dudes is another.

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