Saturday, August 9, 2014

You can stop talking now.

My husband is a heating and air conditioning contractor who runs his own business. But, more importantly, he is a Church of Christ minister and has been preaching at our small congregation for 25 years with the exception of about eighteen months that coincided with Sydney’s adoption and the beginning of Tate’s intensive early intervention. So, our kids have all grown up as preacher’s kids. I say that to set up the stories I have to tell you today.

"Scram. Beat it."
When our oldest son was just a toddler, one Sunday he was standing at the back of the building with me as everyone was exiting. We were usually the last to leave, making sure to speak to every member. I guess this particular day our little guy had been tickled, teased, and patted on the head all he could stand. He’d had enough. As the last of the crowd thinned, and it became very quiet in the back, an elderly lady bent down to speak to our sweet, angelic, precious, little guy and he responded with a growling, “Scram. Beat it.” She was shocked; and she straightened up giving me a polite smile and a nervous laugh. I was horrified and apologized to her while probably turning every shade of red a human can turn. We, of course, lectured our little guy on the way home and his daddy spanked him for being so rude. I knew exactly where the offensive phrase had come from, as Oscar the Grouch was our child’s favorite Sesame Street character.  As awful as that seemed to me on the day it happened, I have come to love telling this story and have shared it with lots of people over the years. “Scram, beat it” has become sort of a term of endearment to me and as the kids get out of the car for school, I often say, “Have a good day. Now, scram, beat it.”

Fast-forward 24 years and several children later. Wednesday evening I was walking down the stairs of the same church building to teach Bible class. I heard Sydney several feet ahead of me, in her best teacher voice, say, “Tate! Don’t be so rude!” I also heard a laugh from an adult in the same vicinity at the same time; not the kind of laugh that comes from hearing a good joke, mind you, but the kind of laugh that comes from someone when they don’t know what to say or how to respond. Let me insert here that our church family is so very understanding of Tate’s lack of social skills. They do not make him feel badly (or his family feel badly) when he is less than friendly, ever. On top of that they go out of their way to help us watch out for him (and Sydney too) always trying to speak to him so they help him practice his social skills. Now, back to the story: I caught up to my two “angels” in our classroom I was barraged with Sydney’s NEED to tattle and Tate’s desire to keep me in the dark. They each got louder and louder trying to drown out the other one. I stopped them both by speaking quietly. It is an amazing thing I have learned. When kids are yelling, they get quiet a whole lot faster if you speak softly than if you holler back. I asked Tate if he would like to tell me what he had said that was rude. He said he would not. So I asked Sydney to go ahead and tell me. This resulted in both talking loudly at the same time again. I wish I could film this sometime because it really is quite comical and is becoming a frequent part of our lives now. Sydney began talking and could only get out one or two words at a time while Tate was interrupting the whole time with, “No. No. No. We don’t want to hear. No. Hey! Hey! No! Stop talking! Quit. Be quiet. No! Our mom does not want to hear this.” Somehow, I was able to decipher. I think. As they were going down to class a grown up had asked Tate a question, trying to strike up a conversation. Instead of answering politely, Tate had a “scram, beat it,” moment. He told the grown up who had tried to speak to him, “You can stop talking now.” Was I horrified? Yes. Yes, I was, but knowing that we were amongst Christian friends who understood made it much less horrifying. I used the first part of our Bible class to discuss manners and hope it did some good. Hope is the key word. I keep trying but autism is so much bigger and stronger than my lessons on courtesy and social skills sometimes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these two instances since Wednesday evening. They were 25 years apart, one with a toddler and one with a young man taller than myself. If I allowed myself to, I could become quite depressed that I am still trying to teach lessons to my 12 year old that he should have learned as a preschooler. Instead I will choose to find the humor, be glad that we have understanding friends, and keep hammering away at the rude behaviors.
Tate and Sydney

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