Monday, May 7, 2012

Monkey and the Cat: Processing the death of a pet

About a week ago Monkey was in an excellent mood and said something magical to me.

“Mommy, I want to be a helper. What can I do?”
It was one of those moments when the clouds parted and the angels began to sing. I never expected that question among all of the usual whining and other joys of everyday life in our household.

Over the past few years I’ve learned it’s much easier to go out and do the shopping on my own when my hubby is home to watch the boys. After Monkey’s inquiry, I decided to take him with me to the grocery store so he could be my special helper. I gave him my smart phone so that he could be in charge of our list. He had lots of fun helping me keep track and checking things off the list as we put items in our cart.
We were at a store that we typically don’t shop at, and I was a bit unfamiliar with the layout. As a result, we ended up walking down the pet food aisle, which is something we typically don’t do. Making conversation about my mistake, I said to Monkey, “We don’t need cat food anymore, do we?” What Monkey said in reply came as a surprise.

“Our cat died in 2009 just before Christmas. I was 6-and-a-half.”
I’m sure that my mouth was open at that moment due to the shock from such accurate and correct detail. I was surprised because Monkey didn’t seem to like our cat much at all. In fact, he mostly ignored our cat, just like he ignored Prince Charming when he was born (for about 18 months straight)! Of course, I now understand that a good portion of Monkey’s response to his brother and our cat was due to his autism diagnosis.

Our cat loved getting his belly rubbed by Titan. We miss him.

Monkey got a slight sideways smile on his face as he told me that his favorite thing about our cat was when he chased him around the house. He stood there with that cute look on his face for another few seconds as he thought about our cat and the fun he used to have running around after him. Of course, our cat was terrified when Monkey would chase him! I think the fact that he would take off like a shot made it even more fun for Monkey.
This little moment made me think about how little I understand my boys and how their brain works. There are so many times when I repeat myself over and over, make lists, use visual tools, pre-teach, remind, and cajole, and it seems that they never catch on to certain things.

Yet, they also retain information I never thought possible. This was confirmed to me when Monkey shared all of the details about our cat’s death. Considering how little interest and emotion there seemed to be from either of the boys when it happened, I did not expect that.
When our cat died, Titan and I talked about it with the boys over the course of a few days, and that seemed to be the end of it.  I remember quite some time ago when I had the boys in the car and all of a sudden Prince Charming asked me, “Is our cat dead?” It had been over a year since our cat had passed away, and the question had caught me off-guard. I managed to pull some thoughts together and talked about it with him for a few minutes while Monkey listened. That was the last time I heard anything about our cat until Monkey brought it up in the grocery store the other day.

One thing is for sure…I may never understand how my boys think. The way their brains process information is certainly complex! I’ll just keep rolling with it, try to keep up, and do the best I can!              
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