Rough Night At Home

It's been a rough night.  I awoke frustrated this morning.  You see, I'm in much physical pain; much of it probably associated with my weight. 

Instead of going down, it's rising to uncomfortable levels.  I've tried bursts of exercise and tried to eat better, but I'm not doing better.  My knee from surgeries in 2006 still hurts regularly.  I walked the dog a week ago and my left wrist has been in great discomfort and I'm going to see a doctor on Thursday about a tailbone issue that frankly hurts like the DIckens if I sit wrong.  I hurt. 

Compound that with stress related to an event I did this morning.  I was back in my old school district.  An organization I left because of the "leadership," or the lack thereof, at the top.  It took pointing out the obvious to cause me to lose my job 15 months later, but in the end, it has worked out for the better. No longer do I get on TV and try to explain the unexplainable.  I heard people telling me today that they saw me smile unlike they have in the past 7.5 years.

When I left work today, I was planning on writing about how far I've come since 2005.  Certainly in the past 10 months with this Mac, I've learned more new things and new cool tools than I have in a long time.  I'm quite pleased with the new things I can do that only a few years ago would have required paying someone tons of money to do instead.  There is great satisfaction in that.  The new camera and studio lights are another step in that progress.

But contrary to Kari's pronouncements that I never admit fault on this site, I beg to differ, I've got a few confessions to make.  First of all, I had issues tonight with our oldest son, who suffers with Asperger's, a social development form of Autism. 

Seven kids are hard to have under one roof; that gets compounded when one is an Aspie. 

He knows I don't like him to wear his ROTC after school, and surely not through dinner.  I know he's proud of it, but I also have respect for the uniform because I grew up in a military household.  My dad never wore his around the house, particularly cos when he was home, he was off, and two, they get dirty and wrinkled fast. 

Tonight our son was parading in his uniform.  I have said before, I, too, would do something similar when I was in Cub Scouts and Webloes.  But we don't own this uniform.  And it's a military uniform.  And tonight's meal:  Spaghetti.  Do I have to say much more here?

I've been telling my son that if he keeps talking back to his parents, we'd have to have a conversation with his supervising officer at school.  That is just about the only thing any more that gets his attention.  Otherwise, he just wants to argue round and round about the same old stuff. 

Should I mix what happens here with what happens there?  Debatable, but during a meeting at his school two weeks ago, I did mention it to his supervisor.  And the supervisor has continued to talk to our son about it.  And did so today.  So part of the verbal confrontation with him tonight was centered on his belief that I've been calling his supervisor.  I haven't.  I probably won't–ever. 

So that went on and on.  My course of action?  Say as little as possible because no matter what I say/said to him, as my wife says so often, "He has to have the last word."  So if I leave him to debate himself, it makes it harder for him to argue with me.  I use the same principle in dealing with my ex.  "Don't engage," is what my counselor of these many years has tried to enforce in my mind. And you guessed it, that just made him more wound up that I was "Ignoring him."  I wasn't but that's the way he took it.

Couple that with six other "hungry, starving children."  Kari and I attempted to eat in the dining room tonight so that we didn't eat at the main table with the kids.  Again, trying to keep from engaging in an argument. To make the dinner more special for me and the wife, I even lit the candles on the table so we could eat by candlelight.  The closest thing to being romantic tonight either of us could come close to muster. 

To add to it, both Kari and I have had headaches today.  It must be the change in the weather because it's been raining today.  Add to it all the stress she's endured from driving around to pick all the kids up from school. 

And then after dinner, we have assigned chores for all to do because it shouldn't be up to just me and Kari to clean up after dinner.  Naturally, several did just as little as they could to get their job done.  I had to call four back to the kitchen after they'd all fled, leaving stuff for mom or dad to do. 

Add to that the fact that the four-year-old didn't get a nap today. 

Add to that the fact that I asked Kari just to go on upstairs and rest.  She refused because I had a headache, some how concerned that I might use it against her as in, "I stayed up and dealt with the kids."  Bunk, I know, but …. 

Add to that that when I got upstairs with the four-year-old to get her to watch a movie in her bed, I made it perfectly clear to all the kids that no one was going outside tonight, particularly to skate because it's been raining.

Add to that the fact that the 15-year-old skater went ahead, leaving the other kids inside to wonder why they could not, and surely if he could, then they could go outside, too, despite the previous directive not to.

Add to that my fatigue, soreness, and lack of interest in dealing with all this chaos. 

And what happened?  I got mad.  Really mad.  The big P'ed. 

I admit, I was loud with the twins and scolded them, before giving them a spanking. 

I was loud with the four who tried their best to literally skate by in the kitchen. 

And I probably could have been more something with the Aspie kid, but frankly, I'm worn with it and still don't know what. I'd not be surprised that there isn't some rule somewhere that these kids are supposed to retire their uniforms when they get home, but I'm almost certain if there is, I'll certainly never be shown it.

I don't come home from a long day's work to deal with people who want to argue about everything.  That's just not what I'm in the mood for at the end of the day. And if I offer to my wife to let her go up to her room to rest, I'm doing it because I understand the nuttiness she's encounterd while I've been off at work.  I'm sorry, but being at a job is no picnic either. 

Now don't get me wrong; I do love my job.  Right now in my career I'm doing the best work I've ever done, and I'm the happiest I've ever been doing it.  Right now as a dad, I love my wife and kids.  All of them no matter what.  And I know I have to be more understanding of the fact that all the kids have been dealing all day long with their own set of issues.  I just hate coming home and walking into a firestorm of emotions.  I know that's what a family is and can be, but I need some help from all of you out there on how to deal with this better. 

How, guys, do you try to be more supportive to your wife at the end of a work day when she's done pert near all she can to manage the house, laundry, kids, food, carpooling, etc, all with a headache?  Ladies, how do you get your wife to understand when I offer to let her go get away from it all, I'm genuinely offering to let her do just that; not with some agenda to later say, "well, I let you go get away from it all." 

Moms and Dads, what should I do about how to deal with our wonderful Aspie son?  I've tried to let him have the last word.  I've turned a deaf ear to the lack of respect he gives us at times knowing in many ways, he just doesn't know better.  I'm really struggling here.  Dinner time is awful because it's so dern loud, largely from one person and we're all sitting there, nine of us around the table. 

We don't eat in the other room often, and we've debated about doing it. But frankly, because of my job, this is some of the longest time I get to spend with the kids in a day some times.  Does that mean I neglect my kids?  Certainly not intentionally.  So if we go to another room to eat so we can get time to ourselves, are we being bad parents for doing so? 

Kari says I've tried to portray our house as one of peace and the Brady Bunch.  Sometimes, it's not.  It's chaotic at times.  Is this how I want to live and manage a household?  Heck no. 

So what are your recommendations?  Save the snarky comments, please.  This is a genuine request for recommendations.  I realize you don't live here.  I realize you don't know us; most of you.  But we are struggling.  I'm struggling, and the world should know; we need your thoughts, prayers and suggestions. 

Moms, your perspectives, please.  Dads, you, too.  Parents of Aspies?  How do you cope? 

I'm not perfect and never have tried to suggest that I am.   I made some key parenting mistakes tonight and I'm hoping you and my kids and wife will forgive me for it; human, after all. 

In my wife's loving way, she came in here tonight and challenged me to be honest with all of you and talk about areas where we're struggling.  Her message made me remember my late grandmother, who always told me to write in the vein of "Momma always said," or in my case, "Daddy always said." I love my wife. 

So here we go.  Wide open.  Can't wait to see how the ex will attempt to twist this. 

We love our kids.  I love my wife, as I say often here.  We need your prayers tonight.  We need your ideas.  We, I, am asking for your help.  And that's about as real as I can make this.

  1. Gregg

    Well, I certainly don’t have 6 kids, and don’t have any experience with any developmental challenges (though a nephew was recently diagnosed with the same thing!).
    But the best advice I have to give without all your background and circumstances is advice my boss gave me at work when I became a boss myself:
    Learn to pick your battles.
    So, this is tough…in particular at home because you want to be king of the house and want the respect. I know. I get it. Believe me! It’s easier GIVING the advice.
    So, pick one thing that will matter 6 months from now. Us yelling at our kids may, in fact, matter in 6 months. In a negative way. Best case, if we do it enough, is they ignore it. WOrst case, they remember us as the dad that always yelled.
    The uniform may be an easy one. Let him wear it. Don’t say anything about it. If he messes it up, won’t his supervisor at school get all over him? You don’t need to. If you have to replace it, perhaps the cost is worth a little extra peace.
    For your wife, sit down and tell her that you are sincere when you tell her to take a break. Follow through on the sincerity…never use it against her even in the heat of an argument. She’ll get it. It may take a while…most worthwhile things do!
    Hang in there, MOST parents survive parenting! 🙂

  2. Chuck

    Tough situation and day. No doubt. I imagine every one of us with children can relate even with only one or two kids. I have four.
    I don’t have any advice on how differently to handle your son. I’m guessing you guys have sought some professional advice in the past. What have they recommended, and if you took the advice what was the outcome?
    You just dumped out all these things that are obviously stress triggers for you, and I’m guessing your wife as well. Loud dinner time, kids not listening, missed naps, headaches, etc. Every single one of us would be having a crummy evening with all this going on. Maybe you and your wife can enjoy dinner after the kids eat, but still be at the table and engaged while they eat?
    It’s OK. Some days are really hard, you know this. Some days are really hard for the kids too, and some days are really hard for your wife. Life happens.
    Like I said, I’ve got nothing. I will dutifully pray for the family though.

  3. Melinda

    First of all, u are a great dad and hubby. Don’t let urself feel other wise. I know I’m a young parent but I’ll try to tell u what i think here. As far as eating dinner, why not try one night a week, u and Kari eat by urselves. I feel that dinner should be a family thing. I wouldn’t do away with that yet. I’ll admit to knowing next to nothing about having a aspie kid, so i’m no help there. Kari should take u up on the offer to go lay down. Not bashing her but she needs to learn to receive ur help without questioning ur motives. I’m sure ur wife really appreciates that u work and provide for the family. U are doing a great job.

  4. Mary

    Sounds kind of like your “perfect storm” hit tonight.
    I think sometimes you just have to give yourself a timeout when things get overwhelming and build up like that. I’ve told mine before, “You need to go to your room for a little while because I’m about to lose my temper and I don’t want to go there.”
    It’s tough with challenging children because you don’t want to give in but you can’t deal with them the same way as the rest. I think the key there is consistency, and setting up expectations before you have the situation. It drives my “challenge child” crazy that I tell him the same thing over and over again, but he doesn’t remember the expectations and needs that nudge.

  5. dogsmycopilot

    As I said on Twitter, my son is ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) it’s in there with the ADD/ADHD spectrum. He was suspected of Asperger’s so I am familiar with the condition and it’s oh so lovely side effects. The swimming will do wonders for your pain including the knee. And don’t do cool water go to an indoor gym, the Y is very reasonable in most areas. The warmer pool water will help but also exercising without stressing the body will help as well. The swimming does something to these children. I don’t know what it is but the nicest and happiest is when and after swimming. Maybe it’s the exercise, maybe its the personal attention, I don’t know. But some days anything is worth a shot. It could be something you and him do together.
    The wife is just stressed. There’s no secret to it, you don’t have to get her to see anything, when she feels better she will realize how silly it was. It’s blind survival mode, like an injured person driving themselves to the hospital she’s just running on adrenaline.
    The rest of it is just life, there are no right or wrong answers you do the best you can and get up the next day and do it all over again. The bad news is it’s never-ending, the good news is, there’s another chance to get it right tomorrow.

  6. dalee

    You won’t be able to convince him that it is wrong to wear his uniform throughout the day. His disability causes him to have fixations and obsessions. His fixation with the uniform and keeping it on is equal to or greater than the idea your dad engrained in you to take it off and put it away. Unfortunately in this one case it is a lose lose situation because you have competing fixations/obsessions!
    As far the uniform and the other issues, my best suggestion is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than fussing and punishment. Instead of day to day power struggles over little things that escalate to big things, you should try finding a few reinforcers and holding them as loot to get what you want from him! That sounds silly to some, but it is powerful. Punishment is necessary when a rule is broken or something, but research shows reinforcing positive behaviors is essential to behavior management, especially of kids with disabilities. The key is identifying things he finds reinforcing (such as a special activity, computer or video game time, an object or item) and tying that to a behavior you want. Some would say it’s bribery, and the kids should just do what is requested without question, but as you know from your experience tonight, that is not exactly how it works these days. An example would be…saying something like “if you want to go outside tonight you need to clean up your room first.” They clean up their room, they go outside, they don’t clean up their room they don’t go outside. There is no arguing about it, you act indifferent to whether or not they clean up their room, after all he or she is the one who wants to go outside, not you and if they want to go outside bad enough they will do what you’ve asked first. It can work for all the children, not just the one who happens to have Aspergers. It is important to identify reinforcers that they will really work for and figuring out what it to tie the reinforcers to. I never argued with my nephew about eating his vegetables when he was 5. He knew my rule was to eat at least a portion of everything on his plate before he could get seconds or dessert. At first he tried whining and telling me how unfair that was. Eventually he begrudgingly ate his vegetables becuase he wanted more of something else. Made no difference to me which way it played out and I never allowed myself to argue the situation with him.
    I also used “if you want to go to the waterslide, you need to follow directions.” If he followed directions and minded, we went to waterslide or somewhere fun. If he didn’t, we stayed home. Again, I was cool with it either way it went. He quickly learned that it payed to follow directions and do what Aunt D said!
    The above examples were cut and dry and they were things I could live with either way it played out. For behaviors you want to decrease or increase, make sure the first negotiations are attainable so they can enjoy success. After they get a taste of how good it feels to be reinforced you will be able to up the anty and get more for less.
    Sorry for such a long post, but I have a lot of important ideas! Ha Ha. This is my first time to EVER post on a blog, so everyone needs to be nice. No freakish criticism about what I said, please!

  7. estrogen

    there were a couple of thoughts that came to my mind when I read you blog. the situation of a messed up dinner could be one in our family.
    this is what helped us:
    – we let the kids eat first if the day let expect a hard evening
    – we try to praise more, and try to criticize less
    – we made a sheet with table rules and hanged it up clearly visible for everyone. troublemakers have to change the table and eat alone.
    – we try to make a family conference once a week where everyone can bring up things he likes or dislikes
    – is an actual problem only my problem? a question of my principles? a question of power? is it worth to fight until the bitter end? can there be a compromise?
    we are working on it every day…
    I wish you strength and heart.
    good luck

  8. Cindy

    I don’t have a child with Asperbergers, but my youngest son was diagnosed with a host of junk, including ADHD. He can be extremely defiant, and at 16, it’s very difficult not to give up on him, in all honesty. And my husband died almost 4 years ago, so I raised our 4 kids on my own.
    The only thing I can think with your wife is that, maybe, just maybe, that happened to her before? Like someone said, “Go ahead and lie down, I’ll take care of things, honey,” and then it was held against her? Keep in mind, women have memories like steel traps, so even if you think, “I never did that!” if you did, she’ll know. 🙂
    As far as the kids, there are two things that helped me. One was, never, ever be afraid to admit that I was wrong to the kids. Apologize if you need to do so. It seems to me that when a father says he was wrong and is sorry, it means a heck of a lot to the kids. Just make sure you were wrong and are sorry, LOL! The other thing was that I adopted the attitude of, “Does it matter?”
    Yes, it matters if your son wears his uniform to the dinner table. Does it matter that much if the kids skate in the rain? That’s a judgment call, of course, I’m just trying to think of examples. I’m sure you can come up with things that are unbreakable rules in the house, and with things that you might not like, but could be something that really doesn’t matter. Set up very clear consequences for breaking the rules that do matter, and don’t give in, don’t deviate, don’t waver at all, even when the kids cry and beg. And they will.
    I’ve noticed with my kids, especially when they were younger, was that they desperately wanted attention, they’d do what it took to get it, and each one got louder than the other one. To this day, my youngest daughter has a voice that can pierce steel. When exhausted parents, who are fighting headaches, try to take care of everything, it’s absolute noise and chaos. You wouldn’t be bad parents by eating alone. You have to take care of yourselves, otherwise, you’ll be hard pressed to take care of the kids well.
    You know what helped me? (And trust me, I know the stress of coming home from a long day, in pain (I have a non-working spinal stimulator now, expensive piece of junk…), and having the chaos of homework and noise and fighting and kids who insist they are starving… I feel for you guys, I really do. I would say, “I have had it! I’m going to the car!” I would sit out in the car, away from the kids, in my own time-out. I remember their little faces, watching me, all concerned, until one of them would come out to make sure I wasn’t going to leave them behind. Just 5 minutes would give me the time to sort of get control. I would also involve the kids in things like dinner, reading to the younger ones, getting clothes out for the next day, anything like that that we could do ahead of time. That way evenings were set for things like reading stories together, or watching a movie, whatever.
    I don’t know if I’ve given you any ideas, but I can say this, “They do grow up.” My youngest is now almost 15, and things do change, and they change rapidly. So hang in there! Oh, and if possible? Spend time one on one with each child. Even if it’s just one day a month, try to do that if you don’t already.

  9. Robert Clark

    Daddy Claxton, don’t think you are a bad parent or are clueless. At least don’t think you are clueless and alone because we all are. We have four kids, and one of them is developmentally delayed and presents some challenges like you express.
    I have learned the hard way that you have to take time for yourself. That might be a wekend away once in a while or it could simply mean eating dinenr alone with Kari. We owe our children so many things as parents, but we also owe ourselves and our spouse things as well.
    There is no magical right answer. We knew many of the same people growing up. Some of the kids had the most stable homes and every advantage and attentive parents, yet still have a criminal record. We also know some of the same people who lived beneath our particular economic plane in single parent homes and never saw mom because she worked two or three jobs, yet they are sucecssful and wonderful people.
    Only you know what is needed. I let my daughter get away with murder sometimes because of her issues, other times i get impatient and am too hard. The point is, you love them and they love you and beyond that, God will guide. That is my firm belief.

  10. workout mommy

    I only have two kids, but I can understand where you are coming from. My hubby travels a lot and by the end of the day I am just DONE!
    I am the youngest of eight and often wonder how my parents survived. Something that I try to remember (although don’t always succeed with) is that kids feed off of your moods/energy. So if I’m stressed or anxious, chances are they will be as well and our day just won’t go great. Growing up I don’t remember my parents ever yelling. They were always calm, despite the chaos. I think that helped.
    Hang in there. 🙂

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