The most insulting thing I find is when people think the daily rituals in my child’s life are “hobbies” and “cute.”
In fact, they are obsessions and the downstream consequences of deviation are drastic and very very real.
Aiden is a firefighter. He is 5 1/2 and the youngest on the job. He works at many stations, which are listed in a book for everyone to remember but never read unless he says it’s okay.
He has “guys” that work with him. There are “rookies” and “captains” and “firefighters.”
He has real truck that everyone who lives in my house must remember from memory and our imaginative eye. Make sure you listen because you may get quizzed on hose length, the size of the water tank and if the truck has strobes or rotating lights in an emergency.
Most days, it is really cute.
Some days, it is not.
Some days the repetitiveness of the same question over and over for a length of 4-5 hours breaks us into an emotional outburst (adults and children) as we try to walk on those eggshells I mentioned in an earlier post while keeping a straight face and giving him all of our completely undivided attention.
Aiden has REAL gear. No time for “pretend” stuff, Mom!
Here is a sampling of his many items (ps- you mustn’t touch unless you ask):
Here you can find a handful of uniforms, patches and his equipment.
Thankfully, as a paramedic I have left over uniforms and know how to draw the perfect sinus rhythm.
This all began when he was very young. He has always been obsessed with a certain thing, as most children on the spectrum are. Not the shiny coins everyone thinks of like described in so many fictional books on the market. His back bone has been FIRE.
It was programmed while he was being made of tiny cells and forming lungs. Remember these sweet phones?!? When we actually had keyboards!
At first we thought it was cute (It still is, don’t get me wrong). We thought “Of course he’ll like firefighting. Dad and Mom are both in the field!”
Aidens first trip to the firehouse:
Aiden at 7 months, photos by Sarajane Case
Always so intent on the details of how things work NOT the actual object
Time went on and we noticed it was harder and harder for us to get him to leave the station. He always wanted to do the exact same thing every time we went. There was no playing, straight to business.
Later, it became so consuming we would take him to his dad’s training burns because he HAD to learn. He would kick and scream and punch himself if his brain wasn’t fed the knowledge he was searching for… I am thoroughly impressed by watching someone put out a fire… 2 hours later… can you tell? I remember this day and how cold the air was. This was around the time we were first told to get Aiden evaluated and we kindly declined. I remember the way Aiden’s chilly fingers felt on my face and struggling to get him in his layers of jackets and scarves.
Jump to a day in the life of our sweet boy TODAY! A collector he is of patches and all things fire. He got these at the many stations he “works” for.
What’s the point of all this? The point is that you don’t mess with a kid’s stuff when they can not detach from it. It isn’t cute and it isn’t funny and it IS a big deal.
Today- we had a meltdown for this very reason.
I was awoken at 5ish o’clock in the morning by my snugly boy. He came into my bed and swam under the covers. His eyes were teary and he began to let his emotions flow.
Aiden- “Mom, during lunch yesterday at school my teacher went into my backpack and took out my blue paper! She ripped off my list of stations and put it in the recycling and kept my pad of paper.”
Me- “Are you sure, Aiden? I sent that to your dad’s house.”
Aiden- “Yes, Momma. I watched her and she took it. She’s so rude (NOTE- children on the spectrum are very blunt and honest) to do that. That’s the rudest. Why did she take my things?”
Me- *wiping tears from his face and trying to not let the snot get on my fingers* “Well, are you sure? Let me call your dad.”
…. Called dad and he confirms that the blue notepad was in his backpack so he could bring it back to my house …
Me- “Well, I’ll ask your teacher when I get to school, okay?”
Aiden- “Why would she do that? I can’t remember what station I work at. Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear. MOM! That’s the rudest. That was mine. I’m a firefighter, Mom.”
This continues for the 2 1/2 hours before we arrive at school…
Aiden has a white book at home that we write down the stations mentioned in shows, movies and on the road in. This is a technique we recently discovered with therapy to help him overcome his obsessive thoughts. He would often, prior to having this book, repeat the station name over and over over the course of a few days. The purpose of this book is so that he has it written down and can easily reference it when he is feeling anxious about the name of the firestations he’s learned.
Last week before he went to his dad’s, I didn’t have the book so I used a blue notepad to write down a few that we saw on YouTube.
I sent that home with his dad who sent it back in his backpack… Or so that was the intention.
Upon arriving at school, I confronted his teacher about our beloved notepad. She pulled it from her desk and when I asked where the sheets with writing were she sort of stumbled on her words. She said she didn’t know but she’d look for them right away and that she had just happened to find the notepad in the classroom. The first place she looked was the recycling bin (which was odd to me) and “found” them (as Aiden had mentioned her placing them there earlier).
I am obviously full of many emotions at that moment because so many things are running through my head:
*Why did she take this out of Aiden’s bag?
*Why did she lie about it? She told me she “found” the pad? Did you “find” it in the backpack and throw away the sheets?
*I felt so angry at her because the consequences of this one simple action of hers ruined Aiden’s morning and will surely ruin the rest of his day
My son did not need to be awake at 5am crying. My son did not need to have HIS belongings taken from his bookbag. My son did not need to see you lying to my face.
It is entirely sure that she didn’t know how to handle the confrontation and with the flow of children coming in the door didn’t have time time to explain the real story to me. But I can’t help but feel so hurt, more than anything.
I have called his teacher and left a message for her to call me. It is possible Aiden, my honest child who never forgets a thing (including the color t-shirt that was worn on the day 2 years ago when we bought the ninja turtle toothbrush) is lying. But it is also true that teacher is lying.
When I arrived home I cried. These blue sticky notes don’t represent paper to me. They are Aiden. They are his heart, his balance, his emotions, his focus. They are his words and his light. They are him. When they were gone, he was gone from me emotionally. He was unable to eat his breakfast which impacts his entire school day. He was unable to talk kindly to me. He was unable to follow directions and put on his shoes. He was stuck in that circle that never ends. Once in, you have to be pried out.
In the many years I’ve been living this strict, repetitive life there are a few things I’ve learned.
NEVER touch his belongings without first asking.
NEVER point out something new without him first giving you permission to look or bringing it up first.
NEVER act not surprised at something even though you’ve seen it a million times… Heck, You BOUGHT it at the store. Always act surprised.
NEVER tell anyone anything about him unless he tells them first and/or gives you permission.
If you happen to do any of the above, be prepared for hours of fits, tantrums, self injury behavior, hitting, screaming and tears that can not be hugged out, kissed out or loved out. It’s like a tornado of emotion that is waiting to be released at any moment.
For the love of blue notepads.