November 6, 2011

There Has to be a Better Way

I have never met another kid like Moe. "You've met one child with autism..." and all that. But seriously, I've never met, read, or heard about another kid who is quite like Moe. And maybe that is because I don't often write about what it is like at our house when Moe is at home.

Unless he's sleeping, Moe does not stay still. Almost ever. The boy is in constant motion, and because he doesn't really play with toys, this means he is always getting into trouble. We try to make our house as Moe-friendly as possible, child-proofing the doors to rooms we'd rather he didn't go into unsupervised: our bedroom (in which he has cracked a lamp and torn the snooze off my alarm clock), the office (which now, once again, has a fish tank in it), and the bathroom. But Moe climbs kitchen counters, his shelves, his dresser, behind the TV. He'll climb his bed and go on top of the bed tent, laying on it like a hammock. He's already bent two of the poles.

Did I mention that he broke his crib tent by climbing on top of it? It inverted and when I tried to fix it, I broke the poles. So technically, I guess I broke it. Either way, I had to buy another one, and those cost less than half of what the bed tents cost.

Occasionally, Moe will stop and read books or flip through magazines but even then he's making a mess, pulling all the books out of the shelves, crumpling the magazine pages or tearing them up. As far as I can tell, he's not destructive on purpose, just not neat or careful in any way. And he's a sensory seeker, so it's fun.

I love to spend time in the back yard, but even that requires constant supervision, as Moe puts everything in his mouth. Ideally, I prep the backyard before we go out, making sure Berkeley's dog run is closed and latched and that all fruit that has fallen from the trees has been picked up lest Moe put a rotting or half squirrel-eaten orange in his mouth. But no place is truly safe for him. You remember the time he ate a snail, right?

When we're out of the house, Moe just wants to run. He loves to run free, but doesn't have the instinct to stay close (or stay out of the street, or other people's picnics), so either Jeff or I has to follow him around. If we're at a busy place, like the farmer's market, or I'm by myself, I have to keep the kids in the stroller. Moe is generally pretty happy there, but he doesn't get much exercise nor does the experience help him expend some of this excess energy. We try walking with Moe, holding his hand, but he'll drop to the ground over and over. It's frustrating for all of us.

It's the same when we visit other people's houses. As soon as we arrive, Moe wants to explore, and by "explore" I mean find the nearest bathroom and splash his hands in the toilet, or eat some crayons, or take food off the table. Honestly, I'm envious of people whose kids are obsessed with dinosaurs, or bugs, or Thomas, or, frankly, anything. I'd love to have something in my back pocket I could let Moe obsess about for an hour or three if needed. Even the iPad or TV won't keep him still.

It is worst on the weekends, when Moe doesn't have the structure of school for most of the day. Part of the problem is that I think Moe is bored. I am able to occupy Moe's attention for very brief intervals of activity, usually just a couple minutes, sometimes up to 15 if he's interested and I'm working very hard. But I have another kid who is also very demanding, a dog, a novel, a blog, and a husband, and even if I neglect most of those things, I still can't devote constant attention to Moe for over 12 hours a day. I want to. But I just can't.

So we end up frustrated and yelling a lot, which makes me sad. I don't want my relationship with my son to be based around me telling him what he can't do. Stop climbing. Get out of there. Put that down. Not for mouth. Be careful. Repeat.

If your kid is like Moe, what do you do? How do you manage your time at home and when you're out? And, if your kid is older, has it gotten better? Or has your child just gotten bigger?


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