It's school holidays right now in Australia. In theory, the disappearance of the whole mum's taxi "rush-rush" to school and after-school activities should mean a reduction in my wife's stress levels - and consequently, my own.
Instead, "cactus hour", that uncomfortable first hour when the husband comes home from work hoping for rest but instead being lumped with all of the day's domestic problems, is worse than usual.
Freed from the daily routine of school, my wife and kids instead fill their hours with unstructured "free time" and "surprises" both of which are problematic for the aspie mindset.
I'm not criticizing the way they do things. Far from it, after all, they're entitled to a break and they seem to be having fun. I'm simply making an observation. The changes to routine, while providing freedom, also tend to unsettle my kids making domestic and disciplinary problems worse.
In my own annoying way, I've already pointed this out to my wife who replied, "but I love surprises...". She's right of course, surprises can be fun. She's also right to allow "surprises" into our otherwise cosy and routine little world. These surprises provide challenges for our children. After all, too much routine and predictability could lull our kids into a false sense of security. It's best that they learn to cope with at least some of life's surprises.
All of this (temporary) new stress in our lives means that the kids are somewhat on edge and that the slightest little provocation is enough to push them over - and into a meltdown.
This leads me neatly into my current problem. Scouring the shops in search of a replacement whoopie cushion. Sydney isn't well known for its magic/joke shops and the four I visited had all been shut down. There were no whoopie cushions in the eleven newsagents I visited either - nor in the three department stores.
All this shopping means that there's no lunch for me either. I'm too busy searching for a trinket - and it's not the first time that something like this has happened. In fact, it only seems a couple of weeks ago that I was desperately searching for a Spongebob book, when nothing else would do.
It doesn't matter that I specifically warned my son, the previous night, not to jump on the cushion. I knew what would happen you see. Nothing else will calm him except dad promising on the phone (at work, during an important meeting), that I'd bring a replacement one home for him.
In any case, it was his brother who popped the cushion and my emergency shopping spree isn't just to satisfy my son - it's also to protect his brother.
To Give In or Not to Give In?
I'm sure that any grey-rinsed neurotypical grandparents out there would love to tell me that all this child needs is a good spanking (I'm stereotyping rudely here - my apologies in advance) but I'm not so sure that this is the answer.
True; according to my definition of a meltdown, my son has too much control. It's more like "temper". The thing is though, that unlike controlled temper tantrums, he doesn't have a specific objective in mind. He doesn't know that I can (hopefully) easily replace the cushion. All he knows is that his "world" has collapsed (he was focussing on the toy) and that his brother is to blame.
For this post, there are none. The main point that I'm making is that we, as parents need to pick our battles. There's no sense in attempting to apply behaviour modifications to an upset autistic child in a meltdown. We need to take the "moment" into account. We need to recognise when our children are subject to additional stresses, even those of our own making - and we need to make allowances.
BTW: While I was creating the graphic to go with this story, I was informed that the "popping" happened on the trampoline.