Last week, I spent three days at home. I needed a break from work and September is a busy month for us at home, full of birthdays, anniversaries and father's day.
My wife was glad that I was home. This meant that she too could take a break while I looked after the morning mayhem.
Surprisingly, everything went off without a hitch and the kids were fed, packed and dressed for school not only on time but also with enough free time to play a few rounds of computer games. At first, I thought it was a fluke but the pattern repeated over the next few days.
Does this make me a better parent? No - of course not!
It does however suggest that aspie methods work best with aspie children.
The Need for Routine
When I was in primary school, my mother used to set my clothes out the night before. She would make a pretend person on the floor of my room with my pants, shirt and tie set out in the right places. The pretend person even included my socks separated and poking into my shoes.
In the morning, when I had woken up, I'd simply transfer the contents of the floor onto my person.
I didn't have to rush around the house looking for clothes and I didn't forget things, like underpants or like wearing shoes without socks because everything was in the one place. If there was anything left on the floor after I'd finished, then it meant that I'd forgotten something.
A photo from last year showing how I prepared my son's clothes for a morning outing.
These days, aged 40, I don't leave my clothes on the floor in a "body pattern" but I do still set out my clothes in the bathroom on the night before. I don't have to rush around trying to find things in the morning and I don't have to make decisions about the weather or colours while getting changed.
If I needed any further proof that I'm not able to operate like a normal person, it's this. Last week, we had a visitor during the week. As a result, I moved my bag to a more tidy location. I went to work without it the next day. Sure, I realised halfway to work that I didn't have it but my point is that I didn't notice its absence as I was going out the door because it wasn't in the "daily pattern".
During lunch that day, I found a very cheap playstation game that I thought my kids would love, so I bought it. Normally, I'd put it in my bag but since I didn't have one, I had to hold onto it. Needless to say, I fell asleep on the bus, woke up at my stop and rushed out without picking it up.
I need my routine.
In the early days of our marriage, my wife went to great pains to point out how silly some of my habits were. She didn't like the idea of setting my clothes out. After all, if the weather changed, I'd be poorly dressed. Similarly, she had specific ideas about putting ones bag away.
My routines have been developed over time with the intention of keeping me on track. If I don't follow them, bad things happen (as with the lost playstation game). I rely on those routines and I'm very resistant to changing them.
My children are considerably less resistant to change because they don't yet understand how critical the routine is. As a result, they allow their clothes for the following day to hang wherever their mother puts them. They also allow their schoolbags to be moved out of sight (or the bag stays wherever they drop it). It was interesting to note that on two out of the three days, I needed to send one or both children back to the house to get their schoolbags. Picking them up when going outside isn't (yet) part of their routine.
Confusing Aspie Children
All things considered, my wife does a very good job of getting the children off to school each day. After all, it's a daunting task. The real problem is that aspie style organisation doesn't come easily to her because she's neurotypical.
Neurotypical children seem to automatically know that if you don't have underpants handy, you go and find some before you put your pants on. Many aspie children, mine included, don't.
Similarly, neurotypical children can often watch television while getting changed because they're able to multi-task and because they're aware of the passing of time. If my children are exposed to the television while getting changed, they become captivated and lose focus on everything else they are doing. Even turning the television off doesn't always bring them back. Once they've lost their focus, it's almost impossible to get them ready for school.
I've talked to my wife about setting our children's clothes out the night before and she tells me that it's done. In fact, this particular statement from me will often enrage her. She points angrily to a nearby rack where our two children's clothes hang side by side, often with other clothes in between.
She see two sets of clothes.
I just see a clothes rack with shirts and pants, no underpants, no socks, no shoes.
The difference in our perception is astonishing.
Sometimes the clothes hang all together side-by-side, One son's school uniform on the left, one on the right. This is better, much better but still too close. It's not necesarily clear whose is whose. After all, my boys don't check the sizes.
When I hang things out, it's on opposite sides of the room. More than that, I put their schoolbags with their names emblazoned in large letters next to the clothes so that there can be no mistake.
Like I said, my wife does a splendid job, it's just that she hasn't got that aspie perception - she doesn't see things the same way that we do. The parents of aspies need to act a bit aspie themselves in order to get their kids off to school without loss of sanity.