It was in the first hour or so after school, and our older son was upstairs. While we have video monitors installed to capture some of his activity in case we can't be directly with him when he is on the second floor of our home, not every room can be captured by those monitors.
Little Brother looked at me. I looked at him. We shared an understanding without speaking a word.
"Okay, two dollars, and you don't have to clean a thing," I bargained.
A look of satisfaction crossed his face. Yes, this worked for him. Lulled by his love of cash, and with an air of importance, that trooper spun on his heel and marched up the stairs to investigate what I simply could not bear to face in that given moment.
Heaven help me, I'd been battling it for a good month: pre-teen defiance. I guess as parents, we all deal with it. It's just that, in this house with special needs, that defiance takes a slightly different form. And, lately, it was playing out in my bathroom.
Our 11-year-old son had stopped having his bowel movements in the toilet.
It was volcanic. It was horrific, and it was entirely intentional.
Currently, unless I catch him with his pants down, his practice is to walk into the bathroom, drop his drawers, hold onto the basin of the sink and simply let it rip.
The first time I saw him standing naked in a puddle of his own waste, my instinct was to protect him from the shame I was certain he felt.
The second time it happened, I was confused but still determined to help my innocent baby boy.
Endurance carried me through the next few happenings.
Frustration set in by the sixth or seventh time.
I started to curse somewhere in the double digits.
Soon after that, I cracked.
"Listen, son," I commanded, "if you are going to decide to stop using the toilet, then I'm going to decide to stop cleaning."
He looked at me as though I'd lost my mind. Perhaps I had, but I was going with it. One-by-one, I chucked paper towels his way and demanded that he deal with the same yuck he'd been leaving me on a daily basis. It was the raunchiest bathroom smack down the two of us have seen. Yet, in the end, he cleaned his mess.
He cleaned his mess, stormed to his room in a fit of tears and proceeded in the days to follow to withhold his bowel movements completely. Both at school and at home, he decided that his answer to all of this was to not poop at all. And, when that became painful, he just decided to reduce his dietary intake.
It's moments like this, when mother's intuition fails, that I really wish he could talk.
Certainly, I'd tried the picture schedules, the social stories, the incentives and minor structural modification. He had his own plan. But, what was it?
"Do you have an issue with pooping at home?" asked the Ace Up My Sleeve, our son's speech therapist upon my request one day. Their discussion came home to me on a sheet of paper in his communication notebook.
This therapist was the only person who can tap into his thoughts on this kind of level. With hard work, incentives, determination and two simple "yes"/ "no" picture symbols, she has helped me learn that there is much more to our son than what meets the eye.
"Yes," he answered.
"Are you trying to say something by pooping on the floor?" she asked.
"Yes," he responded.
"Are you mad about something?" she continued.
"YES!" he replied emphatically.
Frankly, at this point, I was angry with him as well.
Our son admitted in the transcript that at home he did not participate in the "yes"/"no" system of communication, the only form of communication that provides us with a two-way discussion. He said that he knew using the system would be a good way of getting what he wanted. Still, using the system requires work for him. It requires engagement and motor planning. It requires effort in the home environment--his place of relaxation.
I don't know why he is angry. Their conversation ended before the mystery was solved. However, more importantly, I am certain that he is probably more bothered by the fact that I don't know why he is angry than he is bothered about whatever made him angry in the first place.
After all, Mom is always supposed to know everything.
Unfortunately, as our low-verbal child grows much beyond his communication skills, it is increasingly more difficult for me to read his mind. I simply can't always know.
Watching our younger son that day after school as he trudged upstairs to scout out potential acts of defiance in my bathroom, I marveled at the challenges that have waited for us around every corner along our journey with special needs, understanding very well that the journey had really just begun.
This entry was written in response to a word prompt from the Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2).