I heard someone far wiser than me once say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Should that be the case, I am long overdue for an involuntary commit.
My son, a master of repetition, who’s Asperger’s Syndrome is often known by this characteristic, has taught me to repeat things as well. Even the cinematic caricatures play it right: “I’m an excellent driver. An excellent driver.” Aspies love routine, doing the same things over and over. They love the predictability of sameness. Repetition even fuels their relationships with others. Like a relationship with siblings, for example. When Noah repeats nonsense in Grace’s and Jesse’s ears, continually pokes their legs, or regularly shoves their car seats, they pretty much want to punch repetition in its face.
Two days ago, I sat on a bench in a TCBY – somewhere between the karate and gymnastics shuffle we’ve done every Tuesday night for a year – and looked out the window to where a thin, smartly dressed mother sat with her two daughters – younger than mine, quieter than mine. They were dressed in starchy, floral dresses with oversized bows in brushed hair and miraculously, ate their frozen yogurt without missing their mouths so much as once. I used to want to dress my kids like that, I thought. Now, all I want to do is find something that’s clean.
That they were quieter children and neater eaters than mine wasn’t even a consideration, so far was it out of the realm of possibility. But it was the LISTENING that baffled me. Mom said “stop,” the kids stopped. Mom said, “throw the rest away,” and into the garbage can went a perfectly good scoop of pralines and cream. I pressed my face longingly against the window.
Driving home that night, with a set of sugared little people screaming at each other at such a decibel that even the roar of the wind through open windows couldn’t squelch it, I yelled, “Grace, if Noah’s bugging you, JUST IGNORE HIM! IT’S NOT LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT – YOU DO IT TO ME ALL THE TIME!!”
Noah bugs Grace, Grace screams in protest, I beg them to stop. Torment, scream, reprimand, repeat. I could posit here that something has to change. Certainly, my kids’ behavior does. But maybe something has to stay the same. I have to keep doing what I’m doing, AND expect different results – even if they never come. Matt and I set the standard for our children. We ask them to toe the line whether they want to, or are even capable of it. The sameness in our instruction is the parity to Noah’s repetitive behaviors. Regardless if he ever changes, our guidance mustn’t.
If you’re reading this closely, you realize that I’ve just said the crazy must continue. But show me a parent who isn’t just a little bit daft, and well … you’re reading this, aren’t you?