Friday, January 17, 2014

The Princess

Usually, if one of my kids is going to develop an obsession with something, it's the boy. He fixates on different things all of the time--we've gone through lawn mowers, fans, elevators, get the idea. He's prone to obsession.

Well, most recently, it's the other one who has the obsession bug. Amelia is currently infatuated with all things Frozen. Dolls, songs, YouTube clips.  She has even gone so far as to only answer to "Anna". She even introduced herself to another child as Anna. When I had a conversation with her that, while it was okay to pretend to be named Anna, she should introduce herself by her real name, she got angry and insisted that we change her name. This has gone on for probably a month or more, and is showing no signs of easing up.

We got an AppleTV for Christmas, and it's been a treat for the kids to be able to watch their favorite YouTube videos on the big screen.  This is how Anderson was introduced to Frozen--the videos of all of the songs in the movie. My boy loves some music, and apparently show tunes are no exception, because it took no time before he was asking to hear the Frozen songs as well.  "For the First Time in Forever" and "Let it Go" are huge favorites in our house. Anderson is actually singing "Let it Go" as I type this.

Enter..."the Princess".

Anderson started talking about wanting an Elsa doll, because Amelia has an Anna doll and she carries her around EVERYWHERE. Fine, no big deal. Well, he then discovered Amelia's singing Elsa doll and declared that she was his. Elsa is a little on the large size, and is hard for Amelia to hang onto, so Amelia was good with this plan. Cue the sounds of angels singing and clouds parting here, because the amazingness of true, non-ASD-tinged pretend play soon filled our house. Amelia and Anderson played "Princesses"--he was Elsa, she was Anna. I thought momentarily about how Marty would sigh when he walked in and saw Anderson with a huge doll in his hand, but PRETEND PLAY WITH A PURPOSE, YOU ALL!! It was the most adorable, most precious thing I've heard. They saved each other from the freezing ice.  They saved each other from fire.  They played for a solid hour straight.  It was just awesome.

I should've known something was up when Anderson excitedly told me that he wanted Tofu to sleep on the counter, and Elsa to sleep with him in his bed. Anderson has never, EVER denounced Tofu. This was a big deal. I convinced him he could have both Tofu and Elsa.  Later, after the kids were in their beds and I was settling into mine, I heard little feet walking through the living room. Anderson appeared and started telling me that "the Princess wasn't going to be in the bottom of the bag, that she could be on top". We are very skilled at translating Anderson-speak, and I quickly realized that the bag he was referring to is the giant bag we use to cart all of their crap belongings to school. It goes in their locker, which is where Tofu and other personal things stay during the day. He was worried we'd bury Elsa at the bottom of that bag. I assured him we'd put her on top and it would be fine.

The next day when Daddy dropped them off at school, Anderson very gently, very carefully put Elsa in the locker--he stood her up even, so that she didn't lay down and get buried.  Fast-forward to me picking them up a little after 4:00.  His teacher had a very concerned look on her face and said that Anderson had had a very emotional day. A big crying jag in the morning, including refusing to eat snack, as well as more crying that afternoon followed by time lying down on the bean bag.  Anderson doesn't cry at school.  He's a rule follower by nature and generally enjoys his time at school.  This was definitely out of the norm.  His eyes were red and puffy and he looked awful.  I felt his cheek immediately to see if he had a fever, and he was cool.  I got on my knees and pulled him close to me, kissed his cheeks.  Then we had the following conversation:

Me:  What's wrong buddy? Why are you crying today?
Anderson: I got in three troubles today...
Ms. Stacey:  He didn't get into any trouble! I don't know what that's about...
Me:  Why did you cry?
Anderson: I played at blocks today.
Me: Buddy, look at me. Why are you so sad at school today?
Anderson:  We have another Lacey at home (Lacey is my sister's dog...he calls Haddie "another Lacey")

And on, and on and on.  There was no way he could answer that simple question. Everything coming out of his mouth was bizarre and unrelated.

I talked more to Stacey, and started realizing it might have been about Elsa. Apparently he had mentioned his "Princess" that morning, and expressed concern that someone might take her. Of course they had no idea that there was a giant doll in his locker, so they didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Unfortunately that happens a lot--he talks about so many odd things, nothing that he says catches anyone's attention anymore, parents included. He slept with Elsa at naptime, and then apparently a teacher he is rather unfamiliar with took Elsa to put her away--and he didn't like that at all. This seemingly set off the afternoon crying fit, which prompted his loving Ms. Stacey to get Elsa out of the locker to calm him down.

He's had a sniffly nose and a dry cough, so I was still uncertain as to whether he might be coming down with something, which generally causes similar episodes. I kept an eye on him all afternoon, and it took a long time for his little eyes to get back to normal,  but he was nothing but his excited, happy self--he and Amelia continued to play Princesses with great enthusiasm.

Before bed, Marty and I both talked to him about Elsa going to school. We let him know that she had to stay in the locker, and that if he was going to worry about her or cry, she was going to have to stay at home. He seemed to understand. I called to check on him today around lunch time and he was having a wonderful day. Problem solved--all was good.

It's so Marty, none of that was a big deal. To me, it was heart-breaking. I hated that he couldn't just TELL me what was bothering him, that we had to play the "rule it out" game to determine the problem. I hate that his little obsessions cause him such anxiety and grief. Most of all, I hate picking him up from somewhere and seeing those huge red-lidded, tear-stained eyes, and knowing he was totally beside himself and I wasn't there to help figure it all out. I guess a Mama's heart is just different from a Daddy's heart.

On days like that, I hate Autism. I just wish he could TELL me what's wrong. It's so easy with Amelia--she can express her frustrations and feelings in one single sentence. Anderson is totally incapable. He can't even tell us what hurts when he falls down or hurts himself--which part hurts. And he wants us to know...oh, he does. You can see that frustration in his eyes. My buddy. Sometimes it's so hard for him. Sometimes it's so hard for me.

Alas...tomorrow will be a better day. We've got a hot date planned for Hollister and Chick-Fil-A. I'm sure he'll take his Princess.

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