44. Good, Better, Best

“Good, Better, Best”

A couple times a week, G has to get to school an hour earlier for an extracurricular activity. The two of us are perfecting our system of creeping quietly around the house. I even suggested a side door exit this morning, to minimize unwanted blasts of stimulating cold air, but was brutally rebuffed. Ruthless and worthy opponent that I am, I said, “We shall revisit the topic when the snow has left the yard.” I got teenager face in reply.

I’m sitting in my bathroom, having a cup of tea before the day descends properly. It’s a decent bathroom, not one that is gross to drink tea in. The boys are still asleep, and we just came off a snow day, so I’m not waking my tired husband till there’s no other choice.

We have to laugh at the situation; otherwise it is mind boggling to consider that we’ve been tiptoeing around A’s policing for over a decade. Behavioral therapies notwithstanding, we live in A’s world from dawn till night, so we’ve created routines that establish a few moments of solitude and peace here and there. If G and I didn’t creep, A would be all over our movements, trying to help improve our flow of productivity, or whatever it is that churns in his mind when he choreographs and directs us. And I don’t know what other autism parents will or won’t tolerate, but I’m way too old and unapologetic to be humoring a kid who wants to hang out with me while I shower, or reorganize my closet while I iron my clothes.

Boundaries. How do you draw them with a special needs kid. A practically burrows into our ribs, and he demands our complete attention when he’s awake. Sometimes, for family members, it comes down to sidestepping the whole system of therapy-based incentives and rewards, and just claiming some time and space. We aren’t automatons, and, at least for me, my brain gets fatigued from responding to A’s brain, and I need to flow a little more spontaneously. If that means stashing some tea paraphernalia in my bedroom, or reading children’s fiction to relax my thoughts, or having a nice long chat with my parents or one of my sisters, then that’s what I do.

When I was in grade school, our government rolled out Teamy the Bee. He was a mascot, meant to inspire the workforce to greater heights of productivity and teamwork. Teamy, get it?? Sigh. Anyway, Teamy came with a song that we all had to learn in school, and I could never get through a rendition without convulsions of silent laughter. Here are some salient highlights:

Good, better, best!
Never let it rest!
Till your good is better,
And your better best!
To achieve the best,
Let that be your quest!
Through productivity–
A better, safer, happier life!

I’m laughing helplessly right now. While I understand the intent, the execution was a source of endless mockery for us kids.

Old Teamy (who is retired now) pops into my head occasionally, because A is like that bee. If someone introduced him to flow charts and spreadsheets, he’d be all set. We might even have scheduled loo trips. There would be timed use of the stove. And we would have choreographed, set movements while we showered; no gratuitous hair flips. Economy of movement is highly valued by our hive sergeant. My husband would have to stop doing what passes for singing too (that might be a bonus).

For those of us not so inclined to rigid, minutely crafted rituals in our daily routine, this is all very draining. We frolic and escape as needed, though we wouldn’t want Teamy to feel bereft of his self appointed supervisory tasks, so we do return dutifully to our work stations. But we relish those moments when we can let go of the idea of time as such a thudding, anxiety-inducing abyss that must be conquered through obedience to constant action. Dwelling in someone else’s notion of time well spent is the challenge we all face, even A. On one side is the love we have for him, and on the other is the self love we must nurture in order to be our most real, and (good, better!) best selves. In the end, time ticks by for all of us, but how we perceive it, and how we shape ourselves in the face of that knowledge–that’s an extra special challenge for autism families.

My husband and I spend it in a haze of caffeine. But you knew that.

Radha.

P.S. Teamy the Bee was the brain child of the then-National Productivity Board, a division of Singapore’s Ministry of Labour.

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