Riding in Cars with Boys

(Originally written July 11, 2011)

When I was a little girl, my parents would often fight in the car with both my brother and I in it.  It was always the most distressing experience.  My father would fly off the hook about something, and my mother would beg him to stop screaming in the car and driving like a maniac because we would get into an accident.  My brother has autism, and as a little boy, he would hit whoever was closest to him – hard.  If he hit my dad, he would freak out even more.  If he hit my mom, she would just go silent.  And if he hit me, I would cry, and it would largely go unnoticed because of the bigger problems at hand.

Anyway, it was a disastrous event, every time it occurred.

Eventually, I became old enough to decline invitations to go places and was happy to do so.  My domestic life was dramatic enough without having to take it on the road.  My mother explained to me that my father did this to her on purpose.  Because she was so passive, he would trap her in the car so that she couldn’t avoid the ensuing argument.  Not a bad plan, other than the whole prospect of getting into an accident.  (Which we never did, by the way.  My father, at 61, still has yet to get into an accident that he caused.)

I have found myself in similar situations throughout my years of being a passenger in a car with a significant other.  I had one ex who found the car was the only place he wanted to fight.  He would dodge everything until the key was in the ignition.  And for maximum results, he would take a crowded highway.

I am not my mother’s child.  I am my father’s child in every way, minus most of my physical appearance.  I am not passive, although I can be passive-aggressive.  I have fought to get this far, and I’m not going to lie down anytime soon.  I am highly reactive (probably a product of bipolar), and can take a hint better than most.  I am an empath.  I can feel what’s going on around me, even without words.  So if someone is going to take a stab at me, they better hope they don’t miss.  Because, I’ll be back with chainsaw.  On a non-deep-down-dark-depressive day.


Back to the chronological narrative.  After my husband witnessed all of the direct deposits being dumped into the account on Friday, all was well in the world again.  At least his.  I don’t get over things easily.  It’s hard for me to forgive, and I will NEVER forget.  But when he became a little more easy-going and wanted to actually spend time with his family, I started to feel a little better.  We had friends over on both Thursday and Friday after the recent disasters.  Xan. puts on a fantastic show.  It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, truly a dinner theater-type show to behold.  I am less inclined to play pretend when I feel it’s too much of a farce.

Saturday morning came and he was springing to life with ambition for family time.  He was intent upon taking our son (I’ll start referring to him as Beast.) to the museum.  Outings are always a to-do and stressful to get out the door.  Yes, with the man who is perpetually late.  When I die, this man will be late to my funeral, if he makes it at all.  His man will be late to getting to the pearly gates before closing time for the day, and he’ll stand there and sweet-talk Saint Peter into at least sneaking him in the backdoor, while also taking some money off of the cover charge.  That is Xan in all of his glory.  But when it’s something that wants to do, he’ll be flying us out the door.

“Check the mail.”  Always an obsession with the mail.  You know, there is nothing ever in there but junk mail, bills, and boasting / nagging letters from his annoying, pompous bitch aunt.   (There, I said a swear.  She’s a bitch.)  But no matter.  I grabbed the mail and knew by the scrawl on the front that this was the results from Beast’s evaluation, addressed: To the parents of Beast, Pittsburgh, blah, blah.  I told Xan what the contents were and was about to throw it inside.  But I knew that it would gnaw at me until I returned to find it there.

“I have to read it now,” I thought.  So I dropped it in my purse and hauled it off to the car with the rest of the 50 pounds of supplies and junk we need to go five feet from our house.  My doing, mostly, I’ll admit.

As we drove through our town, headed for the gas station, I opened the letter.  I scanned through the first few pages, because I had seen them before.  My husband started hounding me for information and I started to give it to him as I was reading it.  When I got to “The mother filled out a questionnaire to assess Autism Spectrum Disorder…” he went off like a firecracker.  “How could you fill those out… I’m his father too… he  act autistic like what you say… you just said those things to make it seem worse… I should have a say… You aren’t allowed to fill out any of those questionnaires again…”

We pulled into the gas station and I fired back, “Is it going to be like this the whole trip?  I will get out of the car right now and walk myself back home.”  He refused to answer.  “I had to fill those questionnaires out.  It’s part of the evaluation.  I’m doing what is right or our son.” 

He growled, “We won’t talk about this here.”

I don’t think so!  Absolutely no one on this planet will ever silence me.  I don’t care if that person is the President, or even the Pope.  No one has the right to take away what I want to say and where I want to say it.  Second, you don’t start an argument with me and then attempt to silence me!  If you started it, I will be sure as hell to finish it.  And third, no one, and I mean, NO ONE on this planet, father or not, will tell me what I’m doing with MY son.  I carried that little boy inside of me for a grueling 38 weeks.  I spent 13 and a half hours in agonizing labor (is there really any other kind?) to bring him into this world.  I bear the physical scars of motherhood on my stomach and other lady parts.  And I have spent the majority of his life raising him practically alone.  I believe that I have earned the right, even if it wasn’t given to me the moment I saw that digital pregnancy test light up as “pregnant”, to do what is needed and best for my son’s health and well-being.

We fought for 10.4 miles.  I google mapped it.  It was this awful back and forth. Xan insisted that he be present at every evaluations and that an evaluation couldn’t be done without him.  I bitterly asked him what was the sudden change of heart after he failed to be at every other evaluation.  It was my mother and me, his two primary caretakers and the only two people in Beast’s life that are well-versed in developmental disorder and mental illness.  “What gives you the right now, after all of this time? Out of the 14 awake hours Beast’s has, I care for him 6 hours of that solo and another 3 with you lingering around.  The other five belong to mom, who watches him so I can close the hole in our finances.”  He gets on the defense about how that isn’t his choice and how someone has to work.

I wanted to scream at him that is was his choice.  I was working and all of a sudden, he decided after 8 months of being laid off that he wanted to go back at any cost.  And I still worked after that.  The only time I didn’t spend working at least 15 hours a week was during a portion of my pregnancy when I wasn’t doing well enough to work, and then I became to pregnant for anyone to hire me.  And after I had Beast, when I was very sick from what if physically and emotionally took to bring him into this world.  Now, I can’t work more than I do because someone, meaning me, has to be at home to take Beast back and forth to therapies, special schools, and be at home for in-home services.  I have done nothing but devote nearly every available waking moment to Beast.  He wasn’t interested before, and I had resigned myself to being a single parent inside of a marriage.  (And believe me, there ain’t a lot of outside help to us married gals, even the ones with bipolar who have children with special needs).  Why now?  You know, all of a sudden when someone wanted to slap a label on him.

I went on to tell him about the rest of the contents of the letter.  He was very silent for a moment and all he had to say for himself was, “Oh.  You didn’t say that before.”  {Insert insane cursing here}.  How could I have possibly been able to do so, when the first three lines that came out of my mouth were met with such a colossal storm of rage, berating, (because that’s his favorite), and threats?

I gave him the points that I couldn’t make before.  This diagnosis opens up the doorway to treatments and funding that Beast would not have otherwise qualified for.  We are both agreed that he needs extra help, and that even if they go overboard, it can’t hurt him.  Labels don’t carry the weight that they did when we were kids.  In fact, when we register Beast for school, no one will even have to know about this.  Legally, no one has to know.  We don’t have to tell anyone.  Not our friends, not our family.  We don’t even have to tell his pediatrician if we don’t want to.  (And largely, no one does know.  Two close friends, his therapists, and our parents).  There doesn’t have to be a stigma, and there is so much awareness now that there isn’t one.  This diagnosis, this label, does NOT make Beast any different than he was yesterday or the day before that.

He was relieved and the conflict was resolved.  For now.  I find it disturbing that the only thing my husband seemed to care about was the social stigma that could result from carrying a PDD-NOS / ASD diagnosis.  But then again…

Who’s Afraid of ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe?

9 thoughts on “Riding in Cars with Boys

  1. Pingback: Riding in Cars with Boys Again | Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon

  2. Is there any chance that Xan doesn’t know how to express fear or concern so he just explodes? My ex and my dad were like that. Yer a good mom. xoxoxo

    • Men in general are like that. I know he’s afraid. And I know that he has trouble processing what happened in there. I think I wrote what he said at one point, “The boy in that room is not the same little boy that I see.” I think he was finally starting to put it together. And I really do think that it shocked him when he realized how bad the situation is. Our son has special needs. Maybe a little more than we originally thought.

      I don’t blame him for the freakout. I had one myself today. The difference is, I have no place of solitude to escape to so that I can distract myself from the whole thing for a little while. Here I was, in the midst of all of my son’s disordered behaviors, just thinking about how much help he needs and how I feel helpless.

      • Hugs.
        One of my very best friends has an autistic son. It broke her heart when at 18 months things started going backward. He has been in my daughter’s class since Kindergarten and he has made such great strides. He can read. He knows who I am and knows my name. He is a joy and I think the easiest of her 3 kids! Hang in there.

        • Thanks Maggie. I really appreciate the support.

          I hope for these things for Beast, but I just don’t know. I have a brother with autism, and growing up with that was really hard. I don’t know how high functioning my son is, but I can tell you that my brother was lower functioning than him.

          Still, I imagine this scary world where my son doesn’t make those advancements. My son is four, and I would say he has the mentality of about a two and a half year old. It’s progress from where we were at 33 months when he was diagnosed. It’s a lot of progress since I had my first suspicions at 18 months.

          I just have to keep telling myself that he will progress. He will learn, and maybe one day he’ll be able to do all of the things his peers can do.

        • Lulu,
          He’s so young. My friend’s son was a mess in kindergarten and I don’t mean to paint a picture of a regular kid to you. C is a doll but he’s Rainman, he’s in there but you can’t really tell what is going on all the time. A couple of years ago he almost died from eating pretty magnets and had to have more than 12 inches of his large intestine removed. Would you like me to put you in touch with my friend? She is brilliant a great support and advocate. At least someone who knows what you are going through and speaks that language.

          You let me know.
          xoxo mag

        • Yes, maybe. I could use the support of another mom who is going through this.

          I hate to say this, because it sounds awful, but I thank God that my son isn’t that bad. I don’t know how I could possibly handle that. I can’t even handle my son, who has violent temper tantrums and refuses to potty train. At least he’s kind of verbal now, and can tend to his own needs, usually. He keeps to himself mostly.

          Hearing stories like that makes me feel better, and I hate to admit that too. I know that things here could be a lot worse. I mentioned in a Friday Confessional, Carry on my Wayward Son (I can’t link because I’m on this crappy little laptop), I have a lot of hangups about autism.

          I mentioned it to my mother, with such grief and shame. My brother has autism. And yes, the kind of Rainman autism that made him very violent, almost completely nonverbal, and scary for a young girl. I’m at least not ashamed of my son, like a lot of parents might be if they were put in the same position. I know that my lifetime experience with autism really puts me at a significant advantage. But, going through it as a sibling has really made this so very hard for me.

          I think about his future, and I get teary eyed. Is he going to end up like my brother? Is there no possibility of him having his own life and making a happy future for himself? Is he going to be like this forever, or will he progress?

          I know I should have hope. But it’s so hard to have hope when I’m faced with so much uncertainty and so many scars.

        • Have hope. C is a delight. He’s 13 and he’s a big happy guy. He’s never going to live on his own but he’s great. You let me know if you would like to talk to my pal, she is outstanding and has had to do all sorts of work with our public schools to help him do the best he can.

  3. I wonder that about Beast. Will he ever live on his own? It sounds so selfish, but I don’t know how I could possibly handle that. I can hardly handle him now.

    I know that he already has a significant advantage over other kids with autism. He is at the same functioning level as my brother, give or take a few things (like potty training) and my brother is in his 30s. My son speaks at the same level and socializes at the same level.

    My son is actually pretty brilliant in his own ways. He has the creative gene, compliments of his mother. He can memorize any song and can usually spit it back in tune. His tune is really impressive for a four year old. And so are his drawings. He learns everything through song, if the song is catchy enough. He already knows his ABC’s and can count above 20.

    I just get tunnel vision when it come to the less desirable behaviors, and I just go nuts. It’s a painful reminder that he has special needs, and I’m having a hard time right now meeting them.

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