Out Sick and Remember When…

The flu has hit our house. It has been a rough 2 weeks here. Michael has missed an entire week of school. Patrick missed a day and Elise missed a day. Tim missed 4 days of work, two because I was sick and the other two because he caught what we all had.

Last night our furnace quit. It was 0 degrees outside and 54 degrees inside our house this morning. It has been a rough 2 weeks.

Because Michael has been home from school, there has been a lot of just me and him time. It has been nice. I stay home with the kids but that doesn’t mean I get to sit around with them all the time and chat. But this past week I have done just that. I am still recovering so I have just enough energy to get the two healthy kids to school and to throw a load of laundry in the wash before collapsing on the couch next to Michael.

I have been surprised to where our conversations go. MIchael likes to talk about things that he likes to talk about. He likes to lead the conversation. He isn’t a good listener. This is pretty typical with kids with Autism and while Tim and I recognize that, we also do our best to push Michael out of his comfort zone and have him practice more socially acceptable conversation patterns.

This practice has been paying off and you will see that if you ever have a conversation with him. He knows what is polite to ask, “How was your day? What did you do today? How was your lunch” and so on. It is typical for MIchael to charge into a room with something exciting he wants to report to us but before he starts his story he will ask one of his quick “polite” questions and get it out of the way so he can start telling his story.

If he forgets to ask his polite questions right away he will start telling his story and because his brain spins in so many directions all at once, you can see the moment when he remembers that he needs to ask the other person a question as clear as if a light bulb turned on over his head.

He will stop his story mid sentence, and ask, “Oh, Mom… how was your day?” I will reply and he will pick up right where he left off in his story content that he hit all his “to-dos” and return his focus back to himself.

To even get him to this point had been a long road. It hasn’t been easy, but man has it been interesting. He is a fascinating and wonderful kid.

In order to keep him growing and progressing Tim and I made a conscious effort to push him more. Instead quick answers to his questions, we have been elaborating more. How was my day? “Well MIchael I am glad you asked. Today was a pretty good day. I had a lot of errands to run but I forgot my shopping list at home so when I got to Target I didn’t know what I needed to buy. I was feeling frustrated and mad at myself for forgetting but then I started retrace my steps and I remembered that when I poured OJ for you and your brother and sister that I used the last of the OJ bottle so then I remembered that we needed OJ!”

He is getting better at being a more engaged listener but really, I can’t expect him to care too much about my shopping lists and house chores so this week I stepped up my game.

This week when he peeked out from his blanket from where is spent his week cozied up on the couch and asked, “How you doing Mom?” I would answer, “I am good. I was just cleaning up the wheat field and thinking about why we call this carpet the wheat field.”

Michael’s interest would be piqued and I would continue. “I don’t know if you remember this but when you were little you loved tractors. Your favorite tractor was the combine. You had a little combine that you took everywhere with you. After we changed our floors from carpet to hardwood we bought this rug. You were 2 and a half years old. When we rolled out this rug the very first thing you did was run over, flop down on your belly and start rolling your combine over the shag rug and you said, ‘Wheat field!’ We have been calling this rug the wheat field ever since.”

Michael would smile from ear to ear and ask another question about his combine toy or tell me a story that he remembered about his love of tractors.

And so it went. This week Michael and I have been walking down memory lane while he fought the flu. We have talked about the wheat field, we talked about when we had a splash pool filled with little plastic balls for him and Patrick to play with, we talked about how Patrick, Dad and him played train tracks every Saturday morning for hours. We talked about when Elise was a baby and how he sat really still in the blue recliner chair and I would let him hold Elise and how he thought his baby sister was “kinda smelly”

The poor kid has been sick all week and I don’t feel bad at all when I say I loved it. It has been a rough 2 weeks but it wasn’t all bad. The furnace is working again. Michael is on antibiotics and is perking up. I am feeling good enough to get dishes and laundry done.

Best of all though, is that time Michael and I spent telling stories that all started with, “Remember when…”