How to Be a Shit Mom: Lesson 1

I keep forgetting to post about this insanely embarrassing, and ridiculously hilarious episode that happened, well, several weeks ago now. I’m always good for a humiliating tidbit, right? I’ve been lax on the blog of late. I’ll try harder!

My son, as we all know, has autism. This means that he relates to the world in a way that is different than you or I might. Like any other kid, just when you think you have something figured out about him though, he goes and pulls something out of his sleeve and says, “Just kidding! You know nothing! NOTHING!”

Oh, and also, it feels like Collin likes to add, with an imagined evil cackle, "You fools!" just to make us feel even less like we are on top of the whole master-of-anything parenting game. Autism has a way of making you, as a parent, feel like not only are you behind the 8-ball, but that you have no idea where the 8-ball is, that maybe there is no 8-ball, that maybe your child is playing pool, and you are playing shuffle board, or perhaps they ate the pool balls.

For example, a traditional trait of autism is that they tend see the world a very rule-based way. Of course, this doesn’t mean all people with autism do this, just that many do. Collin is very typical in this way, as far as this trait.

He tends to establish, and follow, literally thousands of seemingly arbitrary rules, especially ones that he makes up himself. Once we can figure out what rules he’s established for a situation, we can usually help work with whatever is happening in his head. Often, a seemingly confusing refusal to cooperate may be tied to a rule that he's established in his head that we just haven't figured out, or that he hasn't been able to communicate to us.

We can also usually help control undesirable behaviors, like elopement (a fancy word for running away, that is associated with autism) with rules, which his little brain very much wants to follow. It’s a perk that the autism gods give us parents, in exchange for life-long “tantrums,” affectionately called “melt-downs.”

Anyway, Collin loves climbing. He always has. When we lived in Alabama when Bryon did SOS, and Collin was about 15 months old, he was like a Spider Monkey, climbing to the top of the big kid play structures. I stopped caring about the eye rolls from the helicopter moms who thought I should keep him on the ground, which was impossible anyway. The kid was made of suction cup feet and Velcro hands. I don’t think I could’ve knocked him down if I tried. It would’ve been like peeling a price tag off a vase without Goo Gone.

We have a tree in our backyard that is very, for lack of a better word, branchy. It’s especially climb-worthy because we have shitty lawn maintenance service here at Tierra Vista properties. Well, that's not super clear. TVC has a lawn maintenance contract with an outside provider, that takes approximately 2-3 days to mow a set of lawns that could be mowed in one day; but for tree services, they rely on their regular crew, or on additional contracts, which means you have to call management and make a request.

We’ve had half a dozen trees fall this year, in our neighborhood, due to disease, and the maintenance crew that I spoke to about it was very alarmed when they finally came to check out our trees (after six calls to the management to force an inspection). His cries of protest to the management about needing to cut trees before they fall went on deaf ears, because in the management’s opinion, the cost/benefit analysis was simple: it’s cheaper to clean up the mess in the event of a maybe-fall, than to pay for the definite mess of a no-fall. Hmmm….Logic?

I digress.

Back to the branchy tree.

My branchy tree. The window it's up against is my bedroom window. I was clearly sound asleep! And, when I got outside, my son was ABOVE the roof! ABOVE the roof! I almost threw up when I saw him. He was in that bushy part at the top, nearly invisible.

My branchy tree. The window it's up against is my bedroom window. I was clearly sound asleep! And, when I got outside, my son was ABOVE the roof! ABOVE the roof! I almost threw up when I saw him. He was in that bushy part at the top, nearly invisible.

We have a very branchy tree, full of sucker growth. The maintenance manager recommended a serious trim, and said within several years, the tree would fall on the house, being pulled in too many directions. This is a super climb-worthy tree for a Spider Monkey. This means that we have had to establish some rules about how far a boy can climb, without supervision. Unfortunately, this is a vague thing to establish for a little boy, who despite a desire to follow rules, is also equally ruled by Mr. Hyde, who is encouraging him to just “do whatever he wants.” In this case, join Icarus near the sun. So, our rule: climb only to “here,” when we aren’t outside with you, was very easy to ignore, or in Collin’s words, “forget,” or "not understand," or "have a hard time seeing from the ground." 

I was asleep in the house because I’m a negligent mother and I don’t care about my child.

Wait, no. That’s not right.

I was asleep because I had a migraine and I wished for the sweet release of death that never comes with a migraine. I was dressed in footie pajamas, a robe, and two-day old, unwashed hair. I looked so, so pretty. Collin decided to go play in our backyard, and only our backyard, as when I’m not feeling well, he gets the tiny range of about ten feet from our house. Back to that “negligent parent” part, yes?

I don't generally care too much about what people think of what I'm wearing. Wednesday is Wonder Woman Wednesday, for example; I wore this same outfit yesterday to a neurologist's appointment. But, pj's to have my kid rescued from a tree was a little bit pushing the envelope of good decorum.

I don't generally care too much about what people think of what I'm wearing. Wednesday is Wonder Woman Wednesday, for example; I wore this same outfit yesterday to a neurologist's appointment. But, pj's to have my kid rescued from a tree was a little bit pushing the envelope of good decorum.

He’d asked if he was allowed to climb the tree, which happens to be directly outside my bedroom window, where I was lying down. This seems like a no-brainer permission, right? I told him he could go play, but to, of course, remember the rules about height.

“Of course, Mommy.” Famous last words.

An indistinct amount of time later, I hear my neighbor knocking on my back door, saying that the police are here and that my son is stuck in a tree.

Like a kitten.

The police.

What. The. Fuck.

So, I scramble outside. In my pajamas. Normally, I don’t care about that so much. I've watered plants in my jammies, gotten the mail, read a book on my patio. Whatever. But this felt a little different. Right now, I’m scrambling outside in my pajamas to greet a policeman, who is rescuing my feral child, from a tree. I was, a bit, well, embarrassed. I felt like I should have complimented my ensemble with a Coors Light and maybe a Parliament.

The very next day. Showered. Wet hair, but nonetheless, still clean and dressed. Just in case the cop who helped me sees this. See! I do get dressed....sometimes! I swear!

The very next day. Showered. Wet hair, but nonetheless, still clean and dressed. Just in case the cop who helped me sees this. See! I do get dressed....sometimes! I swear!

After some explanations to the police about why I was in pajamas, given with some nervous laughter, and, spoken over my child, who explained that he’d been yelling for me for “a while” (shut up, Collin! Seriously!), we determined that we needed a ladder to retrieve him. The policeman and I carried my ladder from the garage, rescued my child, and we sheepishly went into the house. The "rescue" part is anticlimactic. Sorry.

And that, my friends, is why Collin is not allowed to climb trees anymore.

New Rule.

So, that is how you embarrass yourself in front of your neighborhood, and how you teach your son not to reach too far beyond his station, all the same time.