This morning I had one of those disappointments to remind me that, no matter how far we’ve come, I still have a son with autism.
Adrian had already left for work, Martin was eating breakfast, and I’d finished giving his supplements early, so I had five minutes to spare. Bouncing around my Facebook feed I saw several references to Alfonso Ribeiro doing “The Carlton” on Dancing the the Stars last night. I’m not a big DWTS watcher, but who could resist traveling back 20 years and watching The Carlton again? Hastily, I used my iPhone to Google.
The dance was as delightful as I’d imagined, and I thought, “I want to share this with Martin.” I brought my iPhone to the breakfast table and restarted the video for him. I said, “This funny dance made me happy.”
What did I expect in return? I don’t know. Maybe a laugh. Maybe a question like, “Who is that man?” so that I could talk about The Fresh Prince. Maybe just a moment, together, when we would share a kibble of amusement. Just a moment.
Instead, Martin retreated to his comfort questions, the topics on which he fixates these days:
– “Are there children in that audience?”
– “Can we go there?”
- “Do you have to practice to be in that audience?”
Each of these questions has, somewhere in the past, an origin. For months now, Martin has wanted to attend anything that resembles a concert, however remotely. When a group comes on the car radio, he says, “Mommy, does this group play shows still?” And then, “I want to go there.” He often melts down if we cannot proceed directly to a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert, or if informed that Adele is not currently appearing in our suburb. When Nick Jonas sang God Bless America before the U.S. Open women’s final, which I was watching on television, Martin deemed the event a concert and lost his cool because I didn’t have tickets. As to whether one has to “practice to go there,” last fall Martin and I attended a community event in which a children’s band and chorus performed. Martin became distressed that he could not climb up on stage and perform too. My attempt to explain that concerts are a culmination of much practice became a fixation for Martin. Now, no matter what is denied to him, he blames “practice.” “Mommy, do you have to practice to be a pirate?” “Do you have to practice to eat food that makes your belly hurt?” “Do you have to practice to go to Arkansas and meet the Duggars?”
There was no sweet moment this morning, watching Alfonso Ribeiro dance The Carlton. As soon as the video started, so did Martin:
“Are there children in that audience?”
“Yes, Martin, I assume so. This is taken from a television program that—”
“Can we go there?”
“No. See, this is taped from a televi—”
“I want to go there.” [He was growing distressed.]
“It does look like fun! But it’s not something we can—”
“Mommy, do you have to practice to be in that audience?” [He was beginning to cry.]
“No! You don’t have to practice to be in an audience. You—”
“I’m never going to go there! Never!” [Here ensued a meltdown.]
“Martin, I was hoping to share this with you, but it’s just making you cry.” [I turned off the video. We made it less than 30 seconds.]
I shouldn’t have said that last comment; Martin is sensitive, and I don’t want to induce guilt for behavior he cannot control. But I was frustrated.
We all have our shortcomings.