I know that thirteen year-olds are not typically volunteering to help with basic housework. “Oh please, Mom, let me clean the toilet,” are words I’ve never heard (if your kids do say these things, have a heart and don’t tell me). I have heard, “Why do I have to do that? It’s not fair!” countless times, however, so it was no surprise when I arrived home from work on a day when Cameron was home alone to find that literally nothing had been done in the house. Not. One. Thing. I left a list, I discussed it with him the night before, and yet he did not do the dishes. He did not do the laundry. He did not eat anything that wasn’t a pretzel. I arrived home and he had forgotten and “hadn’t seen” the note. I calmly said, “I guess you can do it now,” with my eyes closed and my insides preparing for a battle. But he said, “I’m sorry. Okay.” Holy shit. Did you just read that? He said he was SORRY and he said OKAY! He hugged me too! Seriously, what happened here? I cannot explain how difficult it is for this child to admit when he is wrong, to apologize without being asked, and/or to agree to complete a task without a long argument first, and yet all three of these things happened at the same time. I felt like I may have fainted.
The next day he had fewer tasks on his list. He only needed to do the dishes and to shovel so his grandparents wouldn’t slip and fall when they came to visit while I was gone. He actually likes to shovel, so I thought all would be well. I even texted him to make sure he remembered this time. I thought we were in good shape! By now you know I was wrong. Once again, he did nothing. I mean, he ate actual food and was able to dig some brownies out of the freezer so he could eat a few–I mean give some to Grandpa– but other than that, he did nothing.
I was very patient with him on the first day. I was very upset with him on the second. His dad, however, was infuriated… like the most angry I’d seen him in a really long time. The disrespect! The lack of concern for others! The untrustworthiness! The laziness! Cameron had to go to swim practice so we didn’t have the opportunity to talk about consequences until he arrived home. We agreed upon the following:
- Finish the jobs you were supposed to do all day after you finish dinner (around 9:00).
- No phone.
- You cannot be left home alone, so…
- On Friday, when you were going to stay home alone with your sister while we go to dinner with friends, you will instead go to your grandparents’ house while she stays home alone, which means…
- You will miss seeing our friends, your favorite people, when they come over before dinner.
I was cringing so hard about delivering him this news, so I did what any reasonable adult would do and avoided it. I snuck away to read to his sister while his dad told him, then warned her that he was going to be really mad so she should stay away. We all know that Cameron is so explosive when things don’t go his way, that I was prepared for tears, screaming, uncontrollable outrage, etc. I could not have been prepared for the reality of what happened…
He said okay. He said he’d get it done. I was so proud! I couldn’t stop telling him how proud I was of his reaction to everything. I mean, I told him so many times that he was probably sick of me telling him; I know my husband was a bit tired of hearing it, probably thinking that I was focusing too much on that instead of what he didn’t do, but I couldn’t help it! He showed me a glimmer of hope! Maturity! Acceptance! Accountability! These coveted attributes are so elusive that I didn’t know that I’d ever see them in my life. They’re like the giant squid of my son’s existence.
And in the end, he did get the jobs done. He was done at around 11:00 pm, but he did it! He accepted the lack of phone, which has since been returned because of his solid show of maturity. However, he is still not allowed to be left home alone for more than a half hour or so.
With all of that said, we did not properly prepare Cameron for the fact that he would not be able to see our friends on the night he went to his grandparents’ house. We weren’t sure if he’d be able to see them or not until Friday actually arrived. Once Friday night rolled around, he was very upset. Tears, yelling, etc, but we understood. Honestly, we were really upset too! I hated that he couldn’t see them, but timing was off, and it just couldn’t happen. I felt sick to my stomach about it, but we couldn’t back out on what we said; he had to go to his grandparents’ house before they arrived. Calm and consistent parenting is what Cameron needed in these moments, and it’s what we were able to give him. We cheered him up enough before he left, and he ended up having a nice time. Win-win! Proud.
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