Thursday, June 9, 2011

I feel bad. Can I have some food?

Monkey has always had a penchant for numbers. He loves them! He has been very interested in pedometers since he learned about them in his PE class. I happened to have one sitting in a drawer and I gave it to him when I saw his excitement at having such a treasure in my possession. He loved to wear the pedometer and I would see him checking it periodically throughout the day so he could announce updates on his number of steps.
Well, the pedometer went missing. We think it may have come off of his waistband when he was either in his classroom or on the playground. Monkey started to immediately cry when he realized he wasn’t going to find it right away. He wasn’t faking or forcing tears for attention or manipulation like we are used to seeing as of late. No, this was true mourning over a loved trinket.
I felt bad for him. I also thought it was a good moment to help drive a point home. Want to know how mean I am? I used his moment of pain to remind him about the time he stole a toy from another student. Yes, I did. I went there. I talked with him about how sad he felt knowing that his pedometer was lost, and then asked him to imagine how this other boy might have felt the same way when his toy was stolen. Monkey kept crying and nodded his head in sorrowful agreement. There may have actually been some recognition clicking away in his brain. At least I hope...
Did I stop there? No! “Mean” mom kept it up. I’m all about the teachable moments.
I shared a story with him about how I had lost some important papers and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I told him how even after looking for a couple of days all over the house I still couldn’t find them and felt very sad. (The real reason I was sad was because it was almost tax day, I had been procrastinating, and I had lost some of our tax paperwork! I practically tore apart the house as I rabidly searched for the paperwork.) I told Monkey how I had tried really hard to find my lost papers but realized that they were probably going to stay lost, and I gave up my search. (As a result, I was forced to file my very first tax extension so I could gather up all of the paperwork again from scratch. That was a *very* proud moment.) Then, something amazing happened and I found the missing papers! (They were within 2 feet of where I keep my laptop, so I wouldn't lose them. Yup. Just put the white dunce cap on me and stick me in the corner with a big “L” on my forehead. I was so happy I cried.)    

I talked with him about how sometimes we just have to think carefully about where we could have misplaced something, like when we last saw it or used it and where we were, so it can help us when we are searching. I also worked in a brief lesson about how it’s always easier to find something that is lost when you keep your surroundings (like your room) clean. (No snickering about my lost tax paperwork, people!)
He sat on my lap, quietly crying as we talked about all of these things. Well, I mostly did the talking as he sat in forlorn silence. We sat and cuddled and his tears began to dry up. As he got up out of the chair he said something I never thought I would hear.
“I feel bad. Can I have some more food?”
I turned my head suddenly to look at my husband with bugged out eyes that screamed, “Did I just hear what I think I heard?” I replied to Monkey, “Honey, you don’t need food to feel better. There are lots of other things that can make you feel good, like a hug from dad or me.”  
I have food issues. I’m overweight and have been for a very long time. My weight problem has gotten worse as my stress has increased in the past several years. I have worked hard to not have my kids associate food with emotions because I don’t want them to have the same struggle. They have enough to deal with as it is! So, we structured our token economy system at home to include many reward options that are not food-related. I’ve even worked with the boys’ teachers to make sure that they are not regularly rewarding with food.  
While I’m talking with Monkey about what you can do to feel better (I think we're now on lesson number 3!), Titan suddenly became inspired and hopped onto the internet to look up a Public Service Announcement video from the 1980’s. It was a cartoon about a kid who decided that he didn’t need a cookie to feel better. Titan and I began to tag-team the search for the vintage video and we found it!
(YouTube is not cooperating for some reason, so I can't embed the video into the post... Just click on the link below instead.)

The search for the pedometer continues. And truthfully, I hope that the trauma of Monkey losing something important to him for the first time will help those little lessons stick. 


Tammee Meneghin said...

Your "mean mom" reference makes me giggle :) Primarily because I am guilty of the same. Any time a door opens that creates an opportunity to explain AND have then potentially comprehend that "when you do this, it makes them feel (insert emotion here)" I exploit it. Often I feel like I should stop but I can't...the moment must be seized!
And great job on the food re-direction. I am an emotional eater and it is hard to break that cycle in the are awesome. As always, love your posts!

Becky said...

I don't think you are a mean mom, I think that when our children who are on the spectrum have a moment like your son did we have to make the most of it. I know I have done the same about lost or stolen toys, about hitting and biting, you have to get to them while the feelings are fresh! I think you did a GREAT job!!

Caffeinated Autism Mom said...

Tammee and Becky, thanks for your comments. I'm glad I'm not the only mean mom out there. And, by being mean moms, we are all actually awesome moms!!! :-)

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