That seems impossible. Where other children his age are marching resolutely towards adulthood, he is still very much a little boy. He still enjoys playing legos and cops and robbers in the back yard, and he doesn't care who knows it. That part of him I love. He is his own person, public opinion be damned.
I'm pinning a lot of hopes on Middle School, but not the kind you would imagine. I'm not hoping for straight A's. I'm not hoping he'll join chorus or band. I'm not hoping he'll become fluent in a foreign language.
Nope. I'm just hoping he's finally going to start wiping his ass.
He doesn't, you see. And I'll be damned if I know why.
Probably for the same reason he doesn't shower, brush his teeth, or comb his hair. Probably for the same reason his clothes are worn inside out or backward fully 90% of the time. Probably for the same reason he refuses to tie his shoes, zip his fly or rebutton his shirt when he has done it all cockamamie.
He simply does not view these activities as necessary or valuable. To him, they are a waste of time and effort.
Oh we've been over it a time or two. I've explained that feces on his hands and his body can make him and other people sick. I've explained that if he doesn't brush his teeth everyday, twice a day, that they will fall out. I've explained that the bumps on his upper arms are there because he won't use soap when he showers.
I've explained it all. Nicely. A million times.
And I've explained it not so nicely a time or two as well.
I know what you're thinking.
Why don't you try this, and why don't you do that? Obviously, you're not being hard enough on him, or consistent enough. You haven't taken away enough privileges or given him enough chores. If you're FIRM with him, he'll stop eventually.
Believe me when I tell you we have tried absolutely EVERYTHING, including bathing him ourselves while he cowered behind the shower curtain with his cheeks flaming.
The one thing we haven't tried are humiliation tactics. Do you remember the after school special with Lance Kerwin where his Mom hung his wet bedsheets out the window for everyone to see? 30 years later I still feel sorry for that fictional kid. I won't do that to my own.
I have said horrible things to him though, which is just as bad. I'm not proud of that. And I have cried in my bed at night for the words that came out of my mouth; words that can't be unsaid.
But sometimes, when I'm worn to a frazzle, frustrated, tired, angry....I just snap.
Like the time I opened one of the toy bins in his room and found about 17 pairs of stained and crusted underwear crammed in there. For a moment, I was fairly nonplussed. So that's where all his underwear went.
And then it dawned on me. So that's what that smell is!
I had been steamcleaning and disinfecting for a month trying to get rid of that smell. I thought it was the carpet or the mattress. All that work, when all I had to do was remove the offending garments and launder them. He sat there and watched me, knowing. I could have killed him. But instead, I told him he was a pig.
And you all thought I was a good mother.
It seems impossible that he doesn't understand. But he really doesn't. Part of his disorder is that he just doesn't make certain connections. He doesn't understand that these things have social implications. He doesn't understand that his personal habits affect other people. He really doesn't get that nobody wants to be friends with someone who smells, and he doesn't really believe that he does smell. And if he does, so what?
His psych thought he might have a phobia about touching poop, but I wasn't buying it.
"Couldn't it be that he's just lazy?" I asked.
"Weeeeelllll, it could be. But I think it's more likely that he just doesn't understand the larger implications of not having good hygeine. And because of that, it's just not important to him."
"But other kids tell him all the time that he smells. And he's an incredibly bright child. How can he be so smart, and yet not be able to understand that he has to wipe his butt?!?!"
"You've been his mother for ten years. You know that sometimes, things just don't get through, and nobody can explain why. And the things that motivate other children, don't motivate kids like him."
"What WILL motivate him?" I asked.
"There's no way to know. It's a process of trial and error. We just have to keep trying until something clicks."
And you would think that standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing all those underwear by hand would make some kind of impression on a kid, wouldn't you?
Not Diminutive One.
So we soldier on. It's getting marginally better, but it's an ongoing issue.
I'm very worried about what's going to happen to him in Middle School. But also, I have to tell you, that part of me is hoping he will be ashamed and humiliated enough to effect some change in his personal habits.
Because I am tired. Really, really, really tired.
I thought long and hard about posting this. I wondered if I had crossed a line in terms of sharing too much about the intimate details of his life and in so doing, exposed myself for the fraud that I am. But I know there are other kids out there like Diminutive One; kids on the spectrum or kids who are just different. And I know there are other Moms out there like me.
Maybe it helps to know you're not alone, and that someone else has felt your frustration. Maybe it helps to know someone else has flipped their lid, had apoplectic fits, and pulled a full on Mommy Dearest once or twice.
"NOOOOO MOOOOOORE SHIIIIIIITY UNDERWEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!!!!"
Sigh. Here we come Middle School, for better or for worse.