Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Changing Dynamics July 5, 2018

We are fully immersed in the summer now.  The kids go to an all day camp where they do arts and crafts, go on field trips to amusement parks, watch movies, go bowling or to the library, play board games, enjoy sports and all sorts of other fun activities.  Shaunie and I, well, we go to work as usual.  Adulthood.

A couple evenings ago we were at our community pool.  I do love that we have a pool that’s only open and available to residents of our housing development.  We can walk and be there in less than 5 minutes.  As usual, we had brought snacks.  It’s what we do in the evenings.   Go to the pool; snacks in hand.  Some days we are armed with chips and cookies and assorted other goodies.  On this particular day though we had only brought one pack of Shirley biscuits: a Jamaican favourite, and water with ice of course.  The smell of sun block surrounded us as everyone does their best to keep their families protected, while having fun.  There were 3 other families at the pool that day which seems to be pretty standard as it hasn’t ever been crowded when we show up and we are always able to get a table with an umbrella.  We’d rather have a table with an umbrella than lounge chairs with uninhibited sun exposure.

So far, nothing about the scene seemed out of the norm.  Business as usual you might say.

The kids jumped into the water which was surprisingly warm and began their usual antics.  Spraying each other with water blasters, swimming, diving – you know the drill.  After a while, they began playing with the other children who were there.  One such child is new to our neighbourhood – And state.  He is an only child and will begin the 7th grade (the same as Ace) in September at the same school Ace attends.  As kids are wont to do, they hit it off pretty quickly and began some sort of game that I did not care to learn the intricacies of.

The next thing I heard was Ace complaining that Jay was “spying” on them.  Remember, they were in a pool.  There really was nowhere to “hide” but nonetheless, Jay was spying and it was annoying his older brother who was busy having fun with a peer and had no interest in playing silly games with his little brother.

 

It’s something I’ve noticed more and more lately.

 

Jay got invited to a classmates birthday party and when I asked Ace if he’d like to attend as well, because I was sure it would have been fine with the mom, he declined.  Instead he and I watched a movie at home.  Beetlejuice since I know you want to know.  And no, it wasn’t as good as I remember it being when I watched it back in 1988.

When Jay asked me to initiate a play date with a friend and basically told Ace that he would come too, Ace flat out said NO.  He was not interested.  Jay has been steadily trying to convince him to change his mind.  Ace is unwavering.

 

Also, he no longer likes shows such as Teen Titans, and does not care that they have a new movie coming out.  Last year it was his and Jays fave and they were eagerly anticipating the movies release.

 

Yesterday was the 4th of July; Independence day here in the United States and that meant a lot of people had the day off work.  Typically, it’s a day spent with family and friends, having bar-be-cues or going to the beach and when it gets dark the skies are lit up with fireworks.

Together with 4 friends (family really), we went river tubing.  Ultimately it was a fun and mostly relaxing way to spend a day off, knowing we all had work the next day.  All, except my teacher friend that is, who has off all summer, but I’m not jealous at all.  Like, NOT ONE BIT.  (I’m lying 🙂 )

We had done this same activity at the same river last year so we thought we knew what to expect.  This year though, for some unknown reason, everyone in the state decided to go river tubing, at that river, at the time we got there, so from the time we parked, stood in line to pay/get wrist bands, sign waivers, get tubes, get on the bus that takes patrons to the top of the river and actually get in the water, it took about an hour and 45 minutes.  A lot longer than the 20 minutes it took us last year.  Everyone was hot and sweating but doing their best not to let it affect their good mood.  At one point Jay was messing with Ace; As brothers do.  Ace wanted no part of it.  He wanted to stand there quietly like the rest of us, inch up slowly in the line, get a tube and chill.  He just wanted no part of being silly or goofy and I had to intervene and tell Jay to leave Ace alone.

 

I cannot believe I just typed the words “[Ace] wanted no part of being silly or goofy”.

 

That tone continued the entire time we spent on the river.  Ace wasn’t being surly.  He was just being … more mature?  He lounged in his tube.  Hopped out to help bring us back together when someone in our group drifted away, passed drinks from the cooler to whoever asked for one and offered to help anchor us when we wanted to stop going with the tide.

Jay spent the nearly 2 hours we were on the water, jumping in and out of his tube, splashing people as they are chips, dropping his empty chip bag in the water which meant I had to go rescue it and put it back where it belonged with our other trash, being loud, making me belly laugh, climbing onto me and nearly toppling me over, “sneaking” up on Shaunie to splash her and just all round having a great time; the way a little kid would and should.

 

I do believe we are entering a new stage here folks.  They have always been each others play mates and my boys do still enjoy each others company but Ace is becoming more serious; more teenagery; more grown up.  The dynamics are changing in our house.  Change is not bad.  But it does mean that some adjusting needs to happen and I think in this case, instead of my mama heart, it’s Jay who is about to have the hardest time accepting it.

 

According to Ace June 21, 2017

If all goes well, courtesy of their father and step-mother, the boys will be the big brothers to twin sisters early in the fall.  The other day, Ace was talking about it and said “I hope the twins don’t get autism.”

I understood that he probably had a good reason for what he said but I didn’t like that he said it in front of Jay and explained to him that we never want Jay to feel as though something is wrong with him or that we don’t love him for exactly who he is.

It gave me the idea though that I wanted to interview Ace.  I wanted to give him a chance to talk without feeling the need to sugar coat or censor anything.  Our interview is posted below (with his permission) as well as a couple of notes by me.  His answers are in bold and my notes are in small print.   (If the formatting acts right.  It’s looking weird on my screen.)  Also, I selected the punctuation to try and reflect the way he spoke as accurately as possible.

 

 

What’s your name and how old are you?

*Ace.  I’m 10 years old.

 

What’s your brothers name and how old is he?

Jay and he’s 9.

 

What kind of things do you do for fun?

*smiling*

I’ve never been an interviewer before. 

 

Interviewee.  Remember there are no wrong or right answers.  I want you to be completely honest.  OK?  So, now, what kind of things do you do for fun?

 Sometimes I watch videos or play video games.  I also like to build Legos and on occasion, I read for fun. 

(I love that he said “on occasion”.  It sounded so grown up. )

 

What kind of things does your brother do for fun?

He likes to watch videos.  Right now, mostly Garfield episodes and then he makes them in book form.  He also plays Roblox.

 

What do you guys enjoy doing together?

*Long pause*

We play with Legos or other toys.  Like animal toys.  And we act out our own stories.

 

What have you taught your brother?

That’s a hard one.  I can’t really think of anything.  I did help him to get better at speaking.  Like, I correct his language when he says things the wrong way.

 

What has your brother taught you?

He tried to help me to get better at drawing but I’m just horrible.

 

What kinds of things are hard to do with your brother and why do you think they are hard?

It’s hard for him to speak properly and to not get angry over silly things.  It’s because he’s autistic and his brain has a hard time knowing what to get angry about and knowing how to focus on what to say and how to say it correctly.

 

What can you tell me about autism?

I know kids with autism are really smart but they have problems showing it.  He’ll get better when he’s older.  He’ll still have it but he’ll know how to control it.

 

Can you think of a time you felt really proud of your brother?

Yes actually!  Whenever he tries new foods and when he completed his first book that he wrote I was really impressed.  It was really good.

Also, when other kids compliment him and his drawing I feel really proud of him.

 

Does your brother ever embarrass or frustrate you? If yes, how do you handle it?

No.  Well … kind of, sometimes.  When he gets angry and other kids talk about him it’s kind of embarrassing.  I don’t say anything.  I try to ignore it.  Now, it’s not so bad though and he gets over it really quick. 

 

Is there anything your family hasn’t been able to do or it’s been harder because of your brother?

I can’t remember where we were going but he got angry and started making the trip miserable so we turned around and didn’t go.  Also, sometimes we leave places early because he’s getting mad and making it miserable for everyone.

 

Do you feel like you get less attention than your brother?

No.  I feel like we get equal amount.

 

Do you feel like you each get enough individual attention from your parents?

Yes.  You do a good job.  Don’t change a thing.

(That was nice to hear because it’s one of the things I have long worried about.)

 

Do you ever talk to your friends about having a brother with autism?

Yes.  No mean things.  But like when we are at camp and other kids talk about how it’s not fair that he gets better food than us so I tell them that he has a doctors note and I try to explain to them and defend him.  Or if he’s throwing a tantrum and kids say something I tell them he’s autistic.

 

Do you have any friends that also have a brother or sister with autism?

No.  One time after I was talking about Jay, one kid told me that I would get along well with his sister but I don’t know why he said that. 

 

What can parents do to help siblings understand autism?

I think parents should be open and they should talk about things and explain why things are happening and what to do about it.  Like in case you can help.  Depending on the sibling I think they don’t mind helping. 

 

How can parents encourage more positive interaction between their children?

I don’t know.  I think we have a positive relationship.

 

How can parents deal with resentment and competition from siblings?  Do you understand that question?

Yes, I understand but I don’t know.  I don’t feel any of that.

 

If you put yourself in your brother’s shoes, what do you think he would say about you?

That’s a hard one.  I think he would understand how I feel and he would try to help me as well.  He would say I’m a good brother even though I am only nice sometimes. 

 

Do you worry about what will happen to your brother when you guys get older?

No.  Not really.  I believe in him.

(I LOVED the words “I believe in him”). 

 

Do you think he will become your responsibility and you will have to take care of him when he’s older?

No.  I think he will get a job and be able to live in his own house.

 

What’s the best thing about having Jay as a brother?

*LONG pause*

I’m not saying there’s no best thing. 

*Smiling/Giggling*

He is easy to tease and to have fun with.  Like, I can show him what to do and he will do it.

 

What’s the hardest thing about having Jay as a brother?

Dealing with his anger issues.  For sure.

 

What are the best and worst things about having you as a brother?

Having a brother who respects him.  But having a brother who bosses him around.  Like, I will tell him “take your feet off the chair” and like that.  I talk to him like he’s only 5 years old and I will do the counting thing like “One, two … “ when he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do.   

 

Is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t asked you?

You only asked me about autism.  I want to say that having ADHD is hard.  I get distracted easily and sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep and I fall asleep late but then I am tired the next day. 

 

Is there anything else we can do to help you that we are not already doing?

No.  I feel like you know it’s hard and you understand what it feels like for me.  We have a lot of fun and even when you are hard on me I understand why even if I don’t like it.

 

Anything else you’d like to say?  Would it be ok if I interviewed you again some other time?  Maybe in another year or so?

Oh yes!!!  Maybe you can interview me and ask me what it’s like to have twin sisters.

 

*Both of us laughing*

Sounds like a plan.  Thank you for doing this.

 

Pot. Kettle. Black. November 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 8:00 pm
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I’m in my room hiding. No, not hiding, taking a breather. That sounds better. 

I hear Jay yelling to me from the living room. 

“Moooommm, Ace isn’t sharing.”

I smile but make no move to intervene.  After all, I’m hiding remember? 

A second later, Ace comes bursting through the door …

“Mom, Jay is trying to tattle on me.”

 

 

 

 

Happy Torn June 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 12:20 pm
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It was a gorgeous Sunday and the boys had just gotten hair cuts. The next step was to go to the grocery store but our plans made a left turn and we ended up at the neighbourhood pool.

I wasn’t at all sure how Jay would like it. He’s been tentative about water play so far this summer and it took him a long time to even let the sprinklers at the park wet him.

Last year at the pool, Jay refused to take his shirt off. He also refused to take his shoes off and spent most of the time chasing butterflies and eating snacks. I would’ve been OK if he did that again this year. As long as he’s safe I’m OK with whatever makes my boy happy. I no longer put my own expectations on him. *How far I’ve come*

 

Once we got to the pool, Ace found some friends of his from the Boys & Girls Club so he was off and splashing. Jay, following Ace’s lead, took off his shirt and shoes.  My eyes got wide but I try not to make a big deal about him doing new things so I just acted like this was all normal.  I don’t want him to be self conscious about me taking in Every.Little.Thing.He.Does.  He then walked gingerly into the pool. He quite happily got his legs and arms wet but didn’t seem keen on getting his torso wet. He did get splashed by other kids and although he looked annoyed by it, he didn’t cry or leave the area.  (Later in the day he got fully wet.  That could be a post by itself.)

All was going well … But then … Something happened.

Something amazing that tore me in 2.

 

Jay wanted to play with Ace. He tried so hard to follow Ace around and do the things that Ace was doing. But Ace was busy with his friends and didn’t want to be slowed down by or tethered to his little brother.  He didn’t want to have to stay in the shallow section when he is tall enough to go to the 3 ½ Ft area. I asked him once to spend a little time playing with Jay in the shallow part, but he really didn’t want to and I felt bad asking him to, so I told him it was OK, he didn’t have to.  So off he dove to re-join his friends.

 

It’s so great to see Jay WANT to play with Ace.  We spend so much time working on social interraction and cooperative play that I love seeing it translated this way.  I want to encourage Jay to keep opening up like this.  I want him to reap the rewards of his hard work and not get ignored when he tries.

But it’s not fair to ask Ace to sacrifice his time with his friends.

 

Eventually both boys found a way to have their own fun and when it was time to leave, neither of them were ready so that’s a good sign.  Usually we leave a place because one of the kids has begun to get fussy.  There was none of that at the pool.  Just total happiness.

 

When we got home, my 2 sons played together for the entire rest of the evening and I loved seeing that.

 

More and more Jay is looking up to and is wanting to be like his older brother. But as that is happening, Ace is making his own friends and forging his own way through life. It’s clear that Ace loves his brother but I know he can’t live for his brother.

 

I am torn between feeling happy that Jay is reaching out … and enjoying seeing Ace grow up … and wanting to give Jay whatever he wants since I know it hasn’t come easy for him … but knowing I can’t put that job on Ace’s shoulders.

 

Maybe If You Ask A Question, You Will Get The Answer March 1, 2012

Filed under: Life on the Jay train — The B Side @ 9:05 am
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We talk all the time in our house about how we’re a family and we have to look out for each other and love each other.  It’s really meant for Ace.  It’s really REALLY important to CC and I that he keep an eye on his lil bro.  We don’t expect him to be his care taker (now or in the future).  We don’t want Jay to ever be a burden on Ace … but, we want him to be nice to him and not get annoyed with him (even though Jay can make that very easy).  We want Ace to look out for Jay.  To speak up for him if it’s ever necessary.  To include him in things.

We’d feel this way whether Jay had autism or not.  They are brothers first.  In a perfect world, that’s how brothers (and sisters) would be.  They would care about each other and share with each other and laugh with each other and protect each other and keep each others secrets and gang up on the parents and cover for each other and fight each other but not allow anyone else to do the same.

 

It’s hard for Ace to relate to Jay sometimes though.  (Shoot, it’s hard for us sometimes).  There are definitely times when Jay makes Ace’s life harder than it should be.  There are times when Ace doesn’t get the attention he should because it’s all directed at Jay.  There are times when Ace has to sacrifice his own fun or toys or story time because Jay is just being so fussy and it’s easier for us (the parents) to reason with Ace about waiting till later to get what he should.  We ask him to compromise a lot.  It may not be fair but sometimes it’s the only way to keep our sanity.

 

I worry that Ace will feel resentful or bitter towards Jay.  My worries may be baseless.  They may not be.  Either way I worry.  I make a point not to let any of the actual responsibility of  taking care of Jay fall on Ace.  (Like, I don’t ask him to fetch things or clean up after Jay etc)

…..

 

Recently Ace has fallen in love with drawing pictures and making cards.  He usually does it when he’s at After Care waiting to come home or when CC and I are otherwise tied up so we can’t pay attention to him.  It’s how he entertains himself.  He always shows us the pictures when he’s done and is very proud of each of them.  He’s actually pretty good for a 5 year old.  He has a better eye for art than I do.

We noticed though that when he draws family pictures he always leaves Jay out.  We know they are family pictures because the people are labeled.  “Mom”, “Dad”, “Ace”.

This has happened quite a few times over the past couple of weeks.

 

It was disturbing.  Did it mean something?  Did he wish his brother wasn’t around?  Does he just not care at all about his brother?  Have all our teachings been in vein?  What should we do about this?

The questions in my head were numerous.

I’d have to tread lightly.  We need to talk about it.  It’s gotta be addressed … but gently.  He should be allowed to feel whatever he’s feeling.  I know what it’s like to have your feelings dismissed and to be told that they are ridiculous and unfounded.  I can’t do that to my son.

It’s been very busy around here lately though so I haven’t really had the quiet time I wanted to sit and talk to Ace.  There were always people around or homework to be done or I was getting home late from work.

 

A couple of days ago, CC (who apparently is not insane and doesn’t have all the emotional baggage that I do) just asked him “Why do you always leave Jay out of your pictures? Don’t you like him?”

The answer.

 

Daddy, I don’t mean to.  I do love Jay.  But I don’t know how to spell his name. You never showed me.”

 

 

Oh.  Oops 🙂

*Whew*