Good & Bad (#341)

I used to pick up Charlie almost every day when he attended his old public school autism classroom and, over time, the main information passed between his teacher and me was “what difficult thing happened today”?
I was not happy with this routine that Charlie’s teacher and I had fallen into as it came to mean that all we ever talked about was whether he had done, or had not done, X “bad behavior” (such as head-banging). Charlie, the boy with the best smile who (we all knew) tried so hard, became the sum of his (bad) behaviors.

Call me over-hopeful—resolutely positive—but I do believe that, even on the worst, messiest of Autismland days, something good happens. Since Charlie was born, I have kept a daily journal. As he was being diagnosed with autism in the spring of 1999 and through the seven long years since then, the task–the ritual–of writing in my journal has become an essential record. If I gushed about my lovely baby boy with his huge black eyes (still not rolling over at six months…..), the tone of my journal writing became increasingly descriptive and objective after it was clearer than clear that Charlie had “something.” I wrote down what we did morning, noon, and night; what toys he poked at; what happened right before a screaming fit; every syllable, sound, and shred of a word. And I made it a rule, I will note one good thing that happened today, no matter what awful thing happens.

Because, at the end of my every day, the sum of Charlie’s day is a mix of good and bad, and the good of Charlie just being Charlie outweighs the bad.

You’ve got to have hope.

This was one of those days when New Bad Things and Great Good Ones Too occurred.

As a result of getting very little sleep on Monday night Charlie could not wake up this morning. He was still blinking in bed, arms crossed behind his head, when the bus pulled up and no favorite breakfast items, no friendly wheedling, could move my 75-pound son. He cried out the name of a former therapist before running onto the bus which (I learned later—the bus driver had the wrong phone number to call me) had to pull over when Charlie started to thrash all over the back seat and ceiling of the bus. His “awesome” morning at school was overshadowed by an awful moment during lunch recess, when another child’s screaming resulted in Charlie trying to stop the loudness.

I felt like the proverbial deflated balloon as I read his teacher’s note, which was long and full of details about the rest of the day, playing catch and talking.

And see, I just gave you “the bad,” a half-hour of Charlie’s 23 1/2 hours of a good day. I guess old habits die a slow, slow death when the minutiae of life in Autismland surround you.

Charlie was quietly joyful to see one of his former ABA therapists return to work with him. He talked a lot to her, and during his speech therapist session: “My turn! Kristin’s turn! Shock-koh-wett! Sannd-wisssh. Chock-bored.” My parents came to visit tonight and Charlie took his usual hour to warm up (he wrapped himself in his blanket while eating dinner and peering out), then became sweet, silly, singing.

Became good ol’ Cholly boy.

4 Responses to “Good & Bad (#341)”
  1. Sharon says:

    If we only focused on the bad, we would be so disheartened and that’s not going to do anyone any good. My dh sometimes says I am burying my head in the sand and not thinking enough about the ‘bad’ stuff, but I think it’s much more beneficial for us all to celebrate the good stuff.
    And you are right, there is something amazingly good every day.

    PS, I just got a big book on Greek and Roman mythology, thanks to you having piqued my interest!

  2. I sometimes wonder if I’m not being honest enough in insisting on “something good” happening every day—I think it has helped Charlie to feel a lot of positive support all around him.

    I’d love to know what you think about the myths!

  3. Eli's mom says:

    I remember vividly my first meeting with Eli’s EI team. They all took turns (speech, occupational, developmental, etc therapists) pointing out all of my son’s “issues” and problematic areas. I was crying by the time I left the meeting. It was one negative heaped on another, and another, and another…
    They saw that I was upset and then tried to assuage me with “But he has a lot of strengths, too!” They didn’t BEGIN with the positives and focus on them, it was all about what they saw as negative in my son, and I felt crushed.
    I’ve come a long way since then. I can always see the good, the bad and the ugly, but the bad and ugly are always less significant to me. He is, after all, a work in progress.
    His giggles, his “I love yous” his beautiful smile, his growing empathy for others, his playfulness. Yesterday was a first for Eli. He was fake giggling when I was putting him to bed and I said, “Why are you acting so silly? Is something funny?” He replied, “I’m JUST kidding, mom!” Add a budding sense of humor to list of goods.

  4. Hi Eli’s mom—-that’s so funny about Eli pretending to be silly. Charlie loves to tease me by pretending he’s going to do something he ought not to—like climbing on a table—and then running off with a big grin.

    “The power of positive thinking” is a cliché, but with more than a bit of truth.

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