Painting with Robert

July 24, 2015

Last Sunday, my husband and I decided to paint the ceilings in the living room and in the staircase. The ceiling in the staircase was high enough to require extended ladder.  Maneuvering the long ladder in a narrow space around the stairs was difficult.  It was even more difficult because Robert was not happy about the whole thing and he made sure we knew how unhappy was he. Very.

His anxiety demonstrated itself by repeated requests that we stop the painting immediately and that we put the ladder back in the garage. We didn’t.  We finished painting the ceiling in the staircase before Robert with his dad folded the ladder and carried it to the garage.  Smaller, a two steps ladder was sufficient  for the living room ceiling. “It should be easier from that time on,” I thought. But it wasn’t. Robert kept bringing living room furniture from the dining room where we temporarily stored most of the items.  It was very, very hard to paint. At some point, I went to the bathroom and cried. I have to admit.  I felt sorry for myself.  I am not ashamed.

Before we decided to paint with Robert, we tried to sign Robert for overnight respite.  But he was not accepted. We considered hiring painters, but discarded that idea as we knew that it would not make it easier.  Robert would be all over the contractors and we would have more, not less, problems trying to keep him away from them.  We had to paint with Robert.

Of course, I could plan it better.  I could do small painting projects with Robert.  Just one wall in his room. Maybe even half of the wall.  We could dress for painting just for 10 minutes. We could move one  dresser to another wall. We could practice using edger or roller or brush. We could.  But we didn’t.

That is why that Sunday afternoon, I cried knowing that Robert was not prepared for many situations that might happen in the future.  He should, at least,  learn to accept them. I cried as I realized I couldn’t prepare Robert for all possible events that could shake Robert’s worlds even more drastically than temporarily  placing a living room chair in the dining room. I was overwhelmed by all possibilities of Robert’s environment being suddenly transformed and nobody helping him to adjust. I was overwhelmed by Robert’s  persistent efforts, lasting two hours or more, to bring things back to the living room which was still being painted.

Surprisingly, Robert agreed to go to Mac Donald with his dad. Surprisingly, because in the past, Robert wouldn’t leave the house in such terrible condition.

I was almost done with the ceiling when Robert and his dad came back.

Robert was calmer, as he noticed signs of wrapping up the painting.  Jan and I kept asking Robert to do small things like taking just one tool to the garage. As he predicted end of this mess in near future, he complied happily.

Soon, however, he felt sort of betrayed when we still didn’t let him bring the furniture back after the painting of the ceiling was done.  I kept telling Robert that on Monday, I would still paint the walls, so all the objects had to remain in  the dining room.  Robert seemed to listen, but when I turned my eyes somewhere else, all the pictures were back on the walls.

“Robert, I said, I am very tired.  Tomorrow, I will have to paint more.   I would have to take all those pictures down and carry them to another room.  That is a lot of work.  Maybe you could help me and do that today.”  As soon as I finished, Robert took all the pictures off the walls and placed them under the dining room table.

Today, as I was describing what happened on Sunday, I was almost surprised by my own despair.  Not because, I didn’t feel very sad that day.  I felt even worse, than my words described. I was surprised, because today, I didn’t feel the same anguish. Its reasons seemed insignificant.   I was left with what was important. And that was the fact that Robert listened to me and  understood the reasons why the picture had to be taken down. he had to imagine the next day.  He had to imagine me taking the pictures. He had to empathize with me.

That was why he allowed the pictures to linger in the living room.







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  1. Painting with Robert 2 | krymarh

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