Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Posted by Anonymous.

I wonder if my entire relationship with my son has been based on my saying yes to everything.

He's 17, a high school senior, successful student and generally a good guy, except I learned he's not so nice and we're not so close when I say no. When he was 9, he was diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's, but was "highly functioning" which meant that he was intelligent, oppositional, argumentative, sweet, loving and exhausting to raise. We sought all kinds of social and occupational therapy for him in order to help him develop the social skills he did not intuitively have. We indulged him when he found an interest in the video arcade game, Dance Dance Revolution, and we drove him to tournaments up and down the East Coast just like other parents drive their kids all over the place when they are on travelling soccer teams. He formed friendships, built confidence, and figured out how to deal with his quirks. He became popular. His dad and I indulged him by taking him on these trips to visit his friends and to participate in DDR tournaments. We permitted him to sleep over at friends' houses in the city where the tournament was held. We hung out in the town and got a hotel room, so we could be close by.

This started when he was 13. As he got older, he told us there was drinking sometimes but he did not participate. Then last New Year's we let him go to North Carolina with a friend, without us, to visit friends. Yes, there was drinking and yes, he drank. He concluded that because we allowed him to go, we approved of his drinking. Then over the summer while his father and I were on vacation, he begged us to stay home and we let him. His response was to have his friends over for a party, with alcohol, purchased with the spending money we left for him.

Since then we have had many conversations about drinking. He tells us that we're punishing him for being honest. We tell him that we worry about him making bad choices. Now, he asked to go away with friends to a New Year's party this year out of state, and we said no. He's angry and is acting out. He says that he's much more honest with us than his friends are, and that we need to trust him to make good decisions, since he is going to college next year and will be on his own. We tell him that there are so many bad things that could happen, like getting into a car accident or having a run in with the police and getting charged with underage drinking. We won't be anywhere nearby to help him if there is a problem. He said he's not handling his anger better because we have modeled bad behavior when we're angry. He says we're being inconsistent and arbitrary. He's saying whatever comes to mind.

He's being so unkind and so impolite that I don't recognize this rude person. Or rather, I see him clearly for the first time. I've been far too worried about being his friend and not being his parent. I did not think that is what I was doing but now I see it all more clearly. And it's too late to change it. He's leaving home in less than a year. He's 17 -- a know it all and barely listens to me. He's grown up thinking that we'll always say yes and he's hardly ever heard us say no. I thought I was teaching him and I see that by indulging him, I failed him. It feels like our relationship is a sham. We are not close because he loves me; we're close because I always said yes.


Anonymous said...

Sounds more like a typical teenager than anything else. This is just what 17 year old boys who are trying to be men do...hang in there, it'll get crazy before it gets better...but it gets better!

Daniel's Mom said...

My autie is 5 and until he therapy, he had a pretty sweet deal--didn't need to talk, not really...didn't need be pro social, not really...diapers were big deal...Man, was he pissed when he figured out how the world worked. And that was at 5. I can't imagine an aspie who is an adolescent with both adolescent and aspie issues...aside from the drinking thing. Wow. I'm just starting to work with ASD adolescents and man, Aspergers is hard enough even when you can send them home. And he's your son. And he's your special needs son. And all that other stuff. That's a really rocky bunch of stuff for anybody, so don't kick yourself--seems he's done enough of that as it is. Behavioral, Social, Neurological, Developmental--none of that is the bottom line here. He's breaking the law (aside from the very real horrors that might accompany his behaviors). When I taught typical adolescents, the law was the line--*I* could be held responsible for their poor choices. Harsh, but that's how it works w/underage drinking, even if it's some kid's basement under supervision. I'm sorry that you have a doubly heavy load. Please keep your physical safety regarding his size in mind and plan thusly, but a tantrum is a tantrum is a tantrum. Let him. You did what you thought was best --and your kid has a tougher road than most. Remember that he knows the lingo,the buttons, and the soft spots. What he doesn't process or understand or grasp could be a million things--you know how different ASD kids are, and I don't know your son, so I wouldn't presume to say, but damn, you're in a spot--don't downplay that. Does he have a doc? Meds? Not saying he should or should not, just wondering about resources/options/back up plans. Sometimes there's a really fine line between indulging your kid and modifying for your kid. We WANT our kids to be as typ as possible--we'll do anything--if we all lined up behind that phrase, it'd be a damned long line, believe me. Parents of spectrum kids are particularly torn and adrift. We just don't know and if you ask 6 people you'll get 6 different responses. I'm sorry you're hurting so badly right now. My 5 y.o was pissed at me for weeks when he started therapy and it was horrible, so I can't imagine your heart right now. If this was one of my typs, I'd take the weight off me and put it on the law. Every time it comes up. I know it's not that way with Aspies, but it's all I've got. I just really feel for you. And I think you're going to need some back up. I would. I think anybody would. Damn, I'm re-reading this and thinking that this is no help at all. But I want you know that I get how much harder your situation is and I wish I knew something better. Oh, here's the best I can do: It's entirely possible that it's not too late--I was a HORRIBLE self- medicating self-destructive kid and I don't know how I survived. Seriously. Lots didn't. My parents looked the other way and I was not special needs, nor was I indulged. Just too much bother. You have not failed your son until you have given up and you would not have written if you'd given up. Get what YOU need to help HIM, even now, as you're seeing that his needs are not what you thought they were. Remember when he was diagnosed? All that stuff about hopes and dreams down the drain? (if it was like me) Maybe this is sort of similar. He's not what you thought--everything changes, but you will change too, and adapt. A bit like when he was nine. Only now you're a lot smarter. I wish I had more, but I don't. I'll be thinking of you. And you are welcome to vent whenever you like. I mean that. Seriously.

Daniel's Mom

Shania said...

Oh, he loves you, and not just because you say yes. But he's testing his boundaries like they all do. And pouting when he doesn't get his way. Like they all do (well, mine anyway). He sounds like a great kid and you like a great mom. It'll smooth out.

Anonymous said...

Don't beat yourself up so much. I survived two teens; both who thought I was the worst mom ever. The younger still believes it to be true. At 20 my oldest pulled his head out from his A@$ and figured out I had his best interests at heart. Your son will too. This too shall pass.

Rosemary said...

I agree with the comments above.. alot of this is just typical teen behavior.. push the boundaries, test the parents. Your road is a little harder than most because of the autism. You need to remember that you did a GOOD thing by encouraging him to find something that he was good at, and then supporting him. Like you, I have a seventeen year old senior.. good student, always sweet. This year, for the first time, he is pushing back when we say NO. So, we lean forward and hold the line.. and you are doing that, too. Don't get discouraged.. he loves you. HE'S A TEENAGER. We will both get thru this!! Keep us posted, please. It's helpful to follow others journeys.

Candy said...

As the mother of two teenagers myself, I know exactly the line you are balancing on. You want them to trust you, to feel they can tell you what's going on in their lives, but in doing so, you sort of condone it. Because you know if you punish them for what they told you they did, they'll never tell you anything again. It's a conundrum.

Would it help to know that kids without autism and asperger's do the exact same thing? They do. Trust me on this.

I guess the only thing that I can add is that my daughter, who is now almost 20, once thanked me for setting rules. She watched many of her friends doing unspeakable things while their parents turned a blind eye, and she knew how unhappy I would be if she partook so she declined. And thanked me for laying that groundwork for her. Now, as a college student, she is drinking more than I wish she would, and I still balance the beam of "too much information". But I'd rather they communicate, than not.

Andrea said...

Underage drinking is illegal and he's copping out to say he thought you would approve when you didn't spell it out for him that he shouldn't. That's not a parenting fail - that a boy looking to do what he wants to do and make himself think it's okay. Your job is to hold the line and assure him quite clearly that it isn't okay. Just because he tells you he's done something wrong doesn't give him a free pass to continue the behavior. But it does mean you still have a trusting relationship which will give him freedom in other areas of his life (I'm sure there are ways to point that out to him) but until he leaves you still make the rules and he still ahs to follow them. Can you imagine a 15 year old saying that he should be allowed to drive the car because next year he will be able to anyway and that parent saying oh what a great point you've made dear, here are the keys? There will be other rules he has to follow when he gets older. It's just the way life works. You haven't been his yes, mom. You've been a loving mom and you will always be that.

Sarah said...

They like to use logic to try and make their failures your fault. All kids, not just special needs kids. Maybe you have been too indulgent, that doesn't mean you can't draw the line now. Good luck, and remember he loves you, and teenagers are beasts, when he becomes human again, he'll remember he loves you too.

Neen said...

Oh, arn't teenagers fun! My 16 year old is breaking my heart on a regular basis lately. (While his 17 year old brother hides in his room, ignore us all, and waits to turn 18. I'm not sure which I prefer, the yelling and tantrums, or the cold shoulder.)

I remind myself that this is just a renegotiation of our relationship from child/parent to adult/parent, and that it's painfull, but something that has to be done.

And, please, please, please, don't take anything he says personally, he's looking for dodges and loopholes and will use anything HE sees as your fault(s) against you. (I've seen this with my sister and her son who's ADD, because he has special needs, she felt hyper responsible for ensuring his success while he was just being a teenaged little sh*t. Then she realized what she was doing, rapid dynamic shift there!)

Oh, and the "Well, next year I'll be able to..." is easy, you just say, "Well, then NEXT year you'll have to be responsible for the consequences of your own decisions, so NEXT YEAR you can go to it, but this year I'm still responsible for you and I say NO!"

I mean really, wasn't it enough when they were toddlers and acting this way! (Spoken by a woman with 2 teenagers AND 2 toddlers, we do nothing around here BUT play on the mood-swings!)

They are still our sweet boys, they're just our sweet boys hopped up on far to much testosterone, which they'll outgrow. If we let them live.

Anonymous said...

We do the best we can. If I were you I would call the police when I knew he was at a friends house drinking. Let them take him in. I would let him spend the night. Maybe wake him up a little let him see that he has it good at home.

Anonymous said...

Please don't beat yourself up about this--it sounds like very normal teenage behaviour to me. I was that kid too--no force on earth could have kept me from drinking once I decided I wanted to try it. My parents were much stricter than you sound, so I just lied to them until I was eighteen and could move out.

Our relationship never recovered from their strictness. They thought I was close to them because *I* always said yes... when I was really living my own separate life. They didn't want to know who I was--they punished me when I tried to tell them. I'm in my thirties now and we're still not close.

Your son is a person with his own choices. Some of them are going to be bad. You can't protect him from that--nor should you, within reason, because making bad choices is one of the ways we learn. I think you must have done something excellent if he's willing to be honest with you about his bad behaviour.

Anonymous said...

I agree, don't beat yourself up. The boy you know and love will return. I can't believe what a brat I was sometimes as a teen. This too shall pass. He loves you, don't worry.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comments - he is a typical teenager.

Just stick to your guns and dodge the 'flak' when it comes!

Mouse said...

I heard a specialist on Asperger's say that, as a rule, you should figure an Aspie's maturity level as 2/3 his chronological age. This means that not only is your son faced with the temptations and issues of a teenager, but he's even less able to handle it at a mature level. Aspies also tend to apply their own brand of logic to situations (hence the insistence on this being about him being too honest). The specialist said that you just can't engage. So I agree with others who say to state firmly that it's against the law. Full stop, no space for negotiation.

My son is almost 7, so I haven't had to parent through the teenage stuff (although I have taught some Aspies). While we have every expectation that our son will be academically ready (and more than ready) for university, I could definitely see him attending our local branch for the first year or two if I don't think he's mature enough to be on his own. Similarly, we're keeping an eye on state schools and other nearby places so that he's never too far away until his maturity starts to catch up to his age.

Anonymous said...

I know this is very hard to deal with, but I can't help but think that the fact that your son is having THESE problems-- these very common teenage problems of rage and defiance and drinking and testing rules-- means that you did a great job raising him and helping him cope with his Apserger's. He's GOING to parties. He HAS friends to tempt him to do stupid things. He EXPRESSES his anger and frustration with you, verbally. He tries to make logical sense out of the reasons he does silly or dangerous things. He understands that you expect and deserve explanations for his behavior.

Some kids with autism don't make it that far.

That is not to say I don't understand why you're concerned about his behavior-- I do, and I hope you find a solution-- but I do think you should stop beating yourself up and worrying that you might have failed. It seems to me you're doing a good job. It's just that your work isn't over yet.

Terri said...

excellent comments anon 10:13am!

hang in there mom!

Daniel's Mom said...

Wow,Terri and Anon 10:13 gave me a different perspective--Thank you. Excellent points. I would worry based on impulse control and desires to "fit in" as well as how the incidents seem to happen away from home. But that's right--most aspies aren't able to get that far. I guess my biggest fear is the dangerous place he's putting himself in, regardless of what kind of kid he is. But again, I would never have seen that "half-full" part. Seriously, thanks!
daniel's mom

Bill said...

I once had a grandmother explain something to me:

"One day, you will notice that your beautiful, kind, thoughtful, polite child is gone.

It her place will be an ungrateful, self-centered, rude, obnoxious teenager.

And your job will have changed. As a parent of a child, your job was to raise, guide, and educate your child.

But now your child is gone, and is gone FOREVER. You MUST accept this, or you will go insane.

Your new job is to protect the teenager from destroying herself before she can turn into an adult. You can't be her friend - it's not possible.

What is possible, is that if she is alive in ten years, what comes out of the other side is a beautiful, kind, thoughtful, polite adult. If you did your job right with the child.

But you must accept that the child is gone FOREVER or you will die from heartbreak."

Anonymous said...

my oldest son phoned me one day after having been out of the house and across the country for two years.

"Mom, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for being so mean to you for so long. WHAT a bastard I was to you. If I could beat MYSELF up, I would."