51: Scared or Angry?

51: Scared or Angry?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Scared or Angry?

Some days even my lucky rocketship underpants won’t help.

~Calvin & Hobbes

This morning my autistic son Benjamin was taking a shower by himself. I was enjoying his independence when I heard a loud thud. Then a scream.

The door of the shower had had the indecency to fall off its tracks.

I went into the bathroom. He was furious.

“The shampoo made it fall off! The shampoo is fired! Falling off is against the ten commandments!” His rant continued to include Captain Underpants, and Family Guy. He went so far in his exasperation that he declared Zack Johnson is no longer his friend. This was serious.

I tried to disguise my amusement. Benjamin was convinced that Captain Underpants and the bottle of shampoo were in cahoots in this flagrant example of espionage.

“It sounds like you are angry, or scared. It is upsetting when the door falls off. You were not expecting that.” I helped him out of the tub.

“Want a hug?” The wrestling match between fear and anger continued. Fury was winning so he did not take me up on my offer.

“The shampoo is STUPID.” His wet body was shaking. I wrapped my arms and a towel around him.

I was glad he was not hurt, and thankful that the shower door had not shattered. I wasted no energy on reprimanding him, or asking if he had any explanation for what happened. Gratitude and compassion had center stage, with a muffled grin behind the curtain.

While I feel fairly certain that the targets of his blame had no malevolent intentions, I could translate Benjameese into my native tongue.

“Someone or something made this happen! I do not know who, so I will pick a random target to catapult my feelings at. I can’t tell the difference between fear and rage, but whatever it is it’s exploding inside of me.”

I can cut Benjamin some slack because he has this handy diagnosis of autism. But really everyone in my house suffers from the occasional implosion. They are savvier at choosing scapegoats, but I could offer them some leeway too.

One time my husband John got mad at me for asking if he wanted to go to the twins’ school program. I was caught off guard. It seemed out of proportion for the question at hand. I became defensive, and we both lost.

I think next time I want to heave blame I will spare my family entirely and aim it at Captain Underpants. He can handle it. He is after all, a superhero.

~Lori Odhner

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