Saturday, May 19, 2012
I teach in a Junior High School, so I deal with teenagers all the time, but when my own son hit puberty I had no idea of what to expect or how to manage him. I didn't start teaching Junior High until he was 14, but that wasn't really the problem. I felt as if it was really difficult to figure out what part of his behavior was Asperger's, what part was just being a normal teenager, and what part was the fact that he had no male influence in his life. The advice I now give to parents in similar situations is to ignore what is caused by what and just deal with it!
I started homeschooling my son when he was 10 years old and I became a single mom when he was 12, so I felt pretty lost when the hormones kicked in. We had always been really close. I don't know why people ever thought that kids on the Autism Spectrum weren't able to develop strong attachments because this child was stuck to me like glue 24/7. I didn't know that he had Aspergers until a year or two after I started homeschooling. I had actually never heard of it before I started homeschooling. So here I was, trying to learn about Autism/Aspergers, while trying to learn how to be a single mom, while returning to school for a Master's in Special Education, while attempting to earn a living, while continuing to homeschool, while moving the kids out of their childhood home, while dealing with my mother's breast cancer, while struggling to figure out how to navigate the legal system to get through a divorce, while living in an 8x8 basement room with 2 kids, while trying to understand why my soon to be ex-husband thought that it was acceptable to avoid paying child support, while trying to figure out the welfare system because I was falling apart and unable to make ends meet. And along come the hormones.
The junior high school years were probably fairly normal with all of the somewhat typical boy stuff that he pulled. The difference was always the "over the top" way in which he did things, not so much the fact that he did them. He actually became mildly popular during these years. He had spent most of his childhood without many friends, but because he could think about and actually pull off many wild shenanigans, the neighborhood kids now wanted to hang out with him. He always though of something cool to do. Kids were rarely bored over at our house. His sister's friends wanted to hang out with her brother when they came to visit because they thought he was cool. Boy, did that piss her off!
My son would do minor experiments like putting Mentos into Diet Coke and making a coke fountain. He created mini canons to shoot little pieces of paper into the neighbors yards, or to shoot mini-marshmallows at each other. He hooked rubber bands to all of the doorknobs in the house so that opening one door would pull another door closed. Most of it was pretty innocent and everyone had fun, but as I said, he always somehow managed to take it over the top. One day he and a friend decided to make Pepper Spray. His friend was involved in 4H and grew many varieties of peppers. They took the hottest ones and cooked up a concoction while the rest of the family was out shopping. When we returned, we were unable to enter the house. We had to stay away until the next day when the fumes dissipated. I'm sure I will eventually manage to tell all of the crazy stories of his adolescence, but for now, the point is that life was pretty crazy for my family during this time frame.
When he did the typical teenage rebellion, we really struggled. I look back at the person I was and I cringe. How could I have been so out of control and crazy? We would hurl curse words at each other like drunken sailors. Occasional items would fly along with the words. Many doors were slammed by both of us. Many tearful phone calls were made to his father, begging him to "PLEASE, PLEASE. PLEASE take your son, I can't handle him anymore!!!!". Of course he never would. My ex-husband didn't want the responsibility of paying child support much less the responsibility of an actual child. My poor son was so confused during this time frame. He didn't know how to break away from my apron strings while learning how to become a man. I begged his grandfather (dad's dad) to take an interest in him, take him fishing, out to dinner, invite him over to play poker, anything, just "PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, give him a male role model." It didn't happen :(
To this day, I don't know how we got through all of the craziness of adolescence and how he became the amazing young man that he is now. I'm sure I have our family therapist to thank and I definitely need to thank my mother who survived cancer just to make sure that I didn't actually kill my son during these years. She says that she knew she had to live because I needed her too desperately.
I think the recounting of these crazy adolescence years will take much more than one post to cover. If I have to sum up my point for this particular post, I would say that it is to have hope that you can survive your childs' puberty and try not to take things too seriously. Oh, and try to forgive yourself for going temporarily insane. Sometimes you can't help it. Sometimes kids still turn out okay even if you do go crazy for a while, so just chill and know that you will eventually get through it. They will eventually grow up and then you will miss the crazy days of adolescence.