Friday, May 20, 2011

Locking things up

Our new pantry lock.
About a week ago we did something I never thought we would have to do in our home. We locked up our food. You may recall me discussing some recent issues we’ve had with Monkey telling the truth. I wrote about it here and followed up on it here.
Anyway, I had been noticing some strange things happening. Items were being moved around in our kitchen cupboards and it seemed like we were going through food faster than normal. I had found some unexpected wrappers and food packaging in the trash a couple of days in a row and I knew that they didn’t come from me or my husband. So, I casually asked the kids about it. They both gave me a very sincere “I didn’t do anything” response. Due to the recent problems we’d been having with Monkey being dishonest, he was my top suspect.
Then one morning when I was in bed trying to justify smacking the snooze button on the alarm clock one more time, I heard some noises coming from the kitchen. I quickly threw on some clothes and tiptoed out into the hallway. Our floor tends to creak, so I stealthily crept along and tried to avoid giving myself away. I saw that Monkey’s door was open and I continued to hear noises from the kitchen. Good Lord, what was he doing? I peeked around the corner and saw him carefully opening up his vitamins bottles. Mind you, he had to climb onto the counter and stand up to reach the very top shelf where I keep them and then he had to open the childproof containers! (“Childproof” is obviously a completely ludicrous term because my kid has had them figured out for at least 2 years now.) He had the vitamin bottles on the counter with the lids off and had poured out a big pile of vitamins that he was shoveling into his mouth.
This will surprise you, but I did not freak out.
You see, he had done this particular stunt before, quite some time ago. And that was when I freaked out. When he did it the first time, I immediately counted the vitamins to see approximately how many he had consumed (it was around 50). Whether or not he had to go to the hospital, Monkey was in big trouble! I called poison control and then my husband. My saving grace is that our vitamins are made from whole foods and are not synthetically created like most others on the market. Since they were comprised of things like organic broccoli, carrot and cherry, I found out that he would be fine other than perhaps a tummy ache. Thank you, God! I was a wreck until I heard that news, and then the upset mommy reared her head. He had just consumed about $10 worth of vitamins in a few minutes and had scared me quite a bit. I was not a happy mommy for sure.
Here we were again. Same stunt, different day. I managed to not make the floor creak as I had gingerly tiptoed toward the kitchen, so Monkey still had no idea that I was watching him. I was about 4 feet away when I said quietly, “What are you doing?” He was startled and then began covering his tracks by telling me that he was helping me by getting the vitamins ready. I knew that was a crock. I walked past him and looked in the trash can. There were wrappers from our allergy-free granola bars. Six wrappers. Oh no, he didn’t.
The top shelf of this cabinet
used to hold the boys' vitamins.
I had to take a moment to breathe because I was getting upset. I couldn’t help but wonder how much money was currently digesting in his tummy. We are a single income household and my husband took a humongous pay cut with his new job after he was laid off from his old one. Every. Penny. Counts. Wasting food and vitamins is not a luxury we can afford.
Somehow I managed to stay calm while I tried to explain to him why what he did was wrong. I reminded him about how stealing food is the same as lying, and that if he was hungry he needed to come get me or at least ask my permission before helping himself. Due to this conversation taking a chunk of time out of our carefully choreographed morning schedule, Prince Charming almost missed his bus. Once he was safely on the bus and I was back inside the kitchen making Monkey’s lunch for school, that’s when my tears started to silently flow. I was beyond frustrated and felt like I was at my wit’s end.
We had been dealing with this negative behavior in its various forms for weeks and didn’t seem to be making any progress. The dishonesty had to stop.
I got Monkey onto his bus and then called my husband. We agreed that I should call the school and make his teachers aware of the issues we’d been having at home. There had been some things going on with him at school recently that fell along the same pattern of dishonesty, so it was imperative that we were all on the same page. As a result of that call, we planned a strategy session to address everything that we had collectively been seeing with his behavior. It was going to be like an IEP meeting, but thankfully without the paperwork or stress. I knew we needed to come up with a plan so that we could all be on the same page in order to have the best chance at making a unified, positive effort that would hopefully generalize across environments.
After my husband got home that night, we had a chat with Monkey to discuss what had happened just to make sure that he understood the expectations, his goals, and the desired behaviors. The thing that we have learned with Monkey and his particular brand of autism is that you can talk about something 20 times but it might not sink in until you’ve dealt with it over 100 times. It can be exhausting to try to get something to register in his complicated brain, and we obviously still have a lot to learn about him.
After the boys went to bed, Titan and I came up with a plan of our own. First things first, we had to work more diligently on his goals, with truth being the most important one. We would find ways to reinforce and encourage the appropriate behaviors. Next, we decided that since we had lost over $20 in food and vitamins over the past couple of days alone, the food had to be locked up. My project that weekend was to rearrange our kitchen and pantry to ensure that all tempting items were secured behind our pantry doors.
The bottom 2 shelves used to hold the boys'
special allergy-free food and snacks.
Now they house all of our regular staples.
Looking on the bright side, it was a way for me to do some much-needed organization! I even found some items in the pantry that I forgot I even had. It was a worthwhile exercise, even though I didn’t like the circumstances. Our hope is that we can de-escalate his behavior and work with him on making the right choices so that we can eventually remove the lock.
I moved all the boys' food and vitamins to the top
2 shelves of our pantry, easily locked away.

Only a few days after the food was locked up, Miss C was over to watch the boys while Titan and I were helping my parents move. She forgot to lock back up the pantry after making the boys their breakfast and left the room for a moment to tend to something with Prince Charming. When she came back in she noticed Monkey was acting strangely. When I got back home she warned me about what she had observed since she was never able to figure out exactly what was up with him.
The next morning I found more wrappers in the trash. The pantry had been locked up the whole time since we had gotten back home. I couldn’t figure it out. What I came to learn after some serious interrogation of Monkey was that he had taken the opportunity to steal some granola bars when Miss C left the room the day before. He proceeded to take the bars into his room, eat them and hide the wrappers. When he woke up early the next morning and I discovered that I was still in bed, he opted to dispose of the wrappers in the garbage. That little stinker. When did he get so sneaky? Argh!       
We still have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure!  
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