Learning to Separate 2

May 26, 2015

I packed all our clothes in one duffel bag while Robert was still sleeping. Since we were going only for a two-day long trip to New York City, one bag for the three of us was sufficient.  I thought that by doing all the preparation for hastily arranged jaunt I would avoid Robert’s interference with packing.

I was wrong. As soon as Robert’s eyes caught a glimpse of a duffel bag, his hands did quick unpacking, removing some items of garment and bringing others not always appropriate for the occasion or for the weather.  He packed everything by making one big ball of all the clothes in the bag. Since I was already tired, I got pretty upset and not in the mood to stand my ground.  Somehow, witnessing Robert’s rearrangements of the bag for the twenty-first time didn’t make me more prepared or tolerant, but to the contrary exhausted and helpless. So I withdrew to my bedroom to unwind and rethink what to do.  I was upset and I considered not going on the trip at all.  After a few minutes, however, the most obvious idea entered my mind, “Robert should pack his own clothes in his own backpack.”

Of course, Robert still protested.  He wanted the things the same way, they had been for the last couple of years. He protested, but I insisted. Knowing that I was teaching Robert another important skill brought back energy, I didn’t have before. Confronted with my regained strength, Robert gave up and  brought his backpack. He carefully separated his clothes from ours and placed them in his backpack. He was in charge of his clothes during the length of the trip, unpacking and repacking the backpack as he pleased. I didn’t mind.  I didn’t mind at all.

1. Why it took me so long to understand that Robert could and should pack his own clothes? Typical children assert their independence early on choosing the clothes they buy, wear, and pack for the all kinds of outings. Robert has been doing that for at least a year, except I didn’t notice. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that.  I liked this”, he was switching the clothes in silence. Yet, if  I didn’t “hear” the message it was not because Robert didn’t use words.  I didn’t hear, because I didn’t “listen”.  I didn’t listen, because, I didn’t expect Robert to be able to make his own choices despite the fact that he kept making them for at least a year.  Sadly, Robert’s diagnosis was a reason for my refusal to see that Robert’s need for some independence. 

2. It is much harder for me to “argue” with Robert now.  It is not because of his size. I am not afraid of him.  He is not aggressive although sometimes he demonstrates his anger by making faces and strange noises. It is harder now, because of the exhaustion I feel when I am confronting the same behaviors/issues over and over again.  It is the repetition that drains me.  Because I feel drained I don’t have the strength to analyze the possible solutions and I repeat the same approach over and over again.  Just like with the duffel bag. I packed it. Robert repacked it.  I packed everything again not without Robert’s protests.  I felt to overwhelmed to think so we continue to pack and unpack.  Last Thursday, I felt so stressed that I had to retreat to my bedroom and calm down.  removing myself from the commotion and a few minutes of peace opened my mind to the obvious solution, “Let Robert pack his own clothes in his own backpack.”




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