On Gloves and Mittens

Obsessive compulsive disorder affects Robert’s behavior if not as fquently as Robert’s speech impairment then much more severely. Over the years, we have dealt with it without the help of proscription drugs, but with eclectic approach aiming at widening Robert’s world, exposing him to new things, places, activities, and people. A great part of this approach was aiming also at building more unified vision of universe to replace Robert’s idea that world is constructed from separate spheres that do not intersect. For instance, there was a time, when only respite providers could take Robert to McDonalds, but not we, his parents. We could take him to Applebee’s or Outback. There were shoes Roberet could wear to school and another pair he would wear to parks. At some point, Robert learned that some interchanges make sense and make a life easier. Convincing Robert of that required constant efforts, as Robert’s need to compartmentalize his world has been lurking under his acceptance of the uniform universe.

March 22,2014
With the help from his father, Robert put on his ski boots, then he looked in the bag for his dark blue gloves. There were not there. He checked the other bag. No sign of his gloves either. Without a word, although rather slowly, Robert reached for his mittens, and squeezed his hands and hand warmers in.
If he felt a little uneasy about his gloves, it was my fault. Before we left home yesterday, he placed them in a bag. I took them out and replaced them with much warmer mittens. I should have told him, but I did not. Just a few minutes before that, I suggested to him to take mittens instead of gloves, but Robert protested. Of course, I could have stood my ground and say, ” This or else”‘ but I was not in a mood for a discussion. So I waited until he left and switched.
When I did that however, I knew it would not be a big problem when Robert would discover my treachery later.
Four weeks earlier, I hid his gloves before the trip to Sunapee. He looked for them, but ultimately decided to take his mittens instead. For the two concurrent trips to Sunapee, he didn’t have any issues with following my advice that mittens are warmer and thus better.
But trip to Killington, was something completely different so different rules applied. In the past, even on the coldest ski days, he always wore his gloves there. He wore them, because, we, as the saying goes, chose our battles. For Robert first encounter with Killington, we chose another obstacle to conquer: wearing hands’ warmers.
For, as long as I remember, he kept refusing placing hand warmers in whatever he wore on his hands. Or in his boots, for that matter. It was during his first trip to Killington when Robert, watching his ultimate role model, Amanda, placing hands’ warmers in her gloves, decided to follow his sister lead and put hands’ warmers in his gloves too.
Of course, I ask myself a question, “Should we insist on hand warmers and gloves sooner?”
I don’t know the answer. I am happy that Robert wears both today. It feels like an accomplishment. His an ours.


Surviving the Doomsday, Sort Of

Between 8 AM and 2 PM on Tuesday, January 29, Robert’s yellow wallet disappeared from his locker.  And thus the world, as Robert knew it, came to an end.  The simple and pleasant world where the things stay in those places that one left them.  The world in which yellow wallet kept in the right packet of Robert’s jeans, provided constant comfort and support every time  Robert left the safety of his home or his school.That predictable, safe  world was gone.

Just like that.  POOF!

Robert refused to go on the school bus to return  home. The ride would feel too disturbing and/or too dangerous as the rules were broken and one would not know what to expect even in familiar places.  He was, however,  persuaded to go home with his mother.  He complied mainly to explore the possibility, suggested by his teacher,  that the wallet might be miraculously transferred to Robert’s home. Robert came home and checked the shelf by the door.

The yellow wallet was not there.

It was serious.

It was not the  time to eat.  It was not the time to watch Barney on the IPAD.

It was not the time to  take a sip of  soda.

It was the time to restore  the balance of the universe by calling on the yellow wallet to come back to its place..

So Robert turned to the only representatives of the World he had access to: his mother and his sister.  Repeating hundred times per minute, “Yellow wallet, yellow wallet… (….) yellow wallet” he clearly expressed his determination.  He wrote on big and small pieces of paper, “Yellow wallet.” He typed on Speak It on his IPAD, “Yellow wallet”.

The world, did not give back the yellow wallet.

Robert’s mother tried to fool him by showing him a brown, leather wallet of the same size.  Was she kidding?

Robert’s sister attempted to cheat him by bringing from the store a new, black, fabric wallet.  Exactly like the one which disappeared, except for the color. That was not the way to repair broken world.  Robert placed the new wallet in its shiny box and gave it back to Amanda.   She should know better than that.

Robert voice got louder and louder.  He shortened sounds  to “yell wall”, but added a dramatic pitch. He was hurting and made sure we realized that.

After learning about the doom of Robert’s world, his dad took earlier train and on the way bought  McDonald’s gift card.  He tried to place it in the brown wallet.  Robert took it out.  Wrong wallet, wrong card.  Robert wanted his debit card and his public transportation MBTA card.

He still did not want to eat.  He still did not want to watch Barney.  He did not want soda.  He wanted the pillar of the universe – the dirty, old, yellow wallet to return to its place. “Yell wall, Yell wall, yell wall……”  Dad locked himself in his office with an excuse of finishing his work assignment.

I continued to explain to Robert, that the brown wallet was nicer, that the bank would give him a new card.  That everything would be fine. Robert did not want to argue with me.  He smiled insincerely and said, “OK, OK.”  Then with a key we didn’t even know it existed, he unlocked dad’s  door from outside.  He knew that dad would be the first to give up to his demands.  “YellOW waLLET” he said as clearly as he could.  Dad responded evasively and meekly with vague promises about tomorrow.

Not quite enough, but at least some hope. !

I showed Robert his worksheets.  They were part of his evening  routine.  Maybe hoping that by fulfilling his daily obligation  he would convince the world to do the right thing and give him his yellow wallet back, maybe for some other reason, but Robert started working.  He worked for three hours with a few minutes long breaks during which he ran to Dad. “Yellow wallet, yellow wallet.”   After every break, Robert returned to the table and continued his work. It was the only time that evening when all four of us (including Robert) regained partial sanity.

Soon it was gone.

It was a good sign that Robert  took a bath and  put on his pajamas.  But then we realized that his compliance was a part of the scheme, he concocted. He went to bed to accelerate arrival of “Tomorrow. Robert got up every few minutes and ran to his dad demanding that he kept is promise.  After all Robert closed his eyes, and that meant the tomorrow had arrived.  Dad promised to find the yellow wallet “TOMORROW”. So, where was it?

Over and over, until one or two AM.  More and more persistent and angry.

Only the threat, “If you don’t go to bed, no school tomorrow” forced him to return to bed.  For five minutes.

At 2 AM I fell asleep.  I was awaken by loud, mad scream at 4 AM.  YELLOW WALLET!!!!!!.

I couldn’t sleep after that, but surprisingly Robert could.  I did not wake him until his dad left for work.  That was a mean thing to do, but the only way to reduce the number of desperate calls for dad to find the yellow wallet.

As soon as Robert woke up, he started calling for his dad to keep his promise.  Dad was at work.  Robert could accept that.  When I drove Robert to school, two hours later than usually, he took his brown wallet with McDonald’s gift card and $1 bill with him.  Good sign.  The school put locks on the lockers.  Another good sign.

At school, according to the note, Robert kept asking for the yellow wallet but was relatively successfully redirected to academic work.

He came home happy.  He ate a snack, he drank coke, he watched movies on his IPAD and even danced with IPAD in his arms. He laughed a lot. He kept asking for dad.  He was happy to have him home.  Once he asked for a yellow wallet but did not insist.

24 hours passed since the yellow wallet disappeared and the world did not end.

It was not the end, after all. It was the metamorphosis.


Time to celebrate!

And sleep.