Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Please keep talking to my son

Earlier this week Parker and I were in the grocery store checking out.  The young cashier told him she liked his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (TMNT) shirt.  Parker responded by kicking me in the shin.

I reminded him to say "Thank You" ... three times.  He finally mumbled "Thanks".  I took it.

As she continued to scan our groceries she said, "Have you seen the movie?"  Out of nowhere a strong 15 year old hand smacked the back of my head.  I think it hurt the cashier more than me when it happened.

I simply said, "Use your words.  Have you seen the movie?"  He replied, "No."  I reminded him that was not true.  He had just seen the movie a couple days prior.  He sheepishly said, "Yes".

Without initially thinking twice the cashier said, without skipping a beat, "did you like it?"  This time I noticed she winced a little as soon as she said it with the panicked look of "why can't I stop talking?" across her face. I did my best to reassure her with my smile while I pleaded in my mind "Please... keep talking to my son."  We both waited and then it happened, a full body shove that almost knocked me over "GO MOM" said the clearly stressed voice of my son.

Without looking at him, only in his direction I calmly said, "We're not done here. You need to be patient and use your words. Did you like the movie?"  He grumbled, "no."  I said, "That is not true at all.  Parker Roos, did you like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie?"  "Yes" he replied with a deep sigh as our groceries were all placed back into our cart.

There was a look of relief on the young girl's face.  You could see she wanted to carry on a conversation but also was concerned for me.  Understandable so as Parker towers over me these days.  However, I need for her to have these conversations, they are so important in my son's development.  Because of that we stood paused as I said, "Parker, say goodbye, please" and waited - not knowing if there would be a physical response or a verbal one.  It was, again, physical as he reached over and pinched my arm.  I quietly responded, "Parker, please say goodbye"  "Bye" he said under his breath but loud enough to be heard.

"Thank you for using your words, I like that!" I responded.  The cashier and bagger both said goodbye, I quickly said, "Thank you" to both of them as Parker and I started to walk out of the store.  Within our first 3 steps we were already reviewing what to do.  It's an important routine for us.

"Parker, when someone says "Hi" to you, what do you say?"
"Do we hit when we say hi?"
"No, use my words"
Nice hands?
"Nice hands."
"What would Grandpa do if someone told him hi?"
"Say Hi"
What would Grandpa do with his hands?
"Give hugs."
I need Parker to be like Grandpa, nice hands, nice words.

Reminders.  We go through them daily.  Before we enter the store and after.  It's not just at the store. It's every single time we leave the house.

The past couple of weeks have been our roughest of the summer.  I was gone for a conference and school is quickly approaching.  While he loves school and is more than ready to return, there is the anxiety of the new routine and returning to school too. It's made our recent outings a bit more difficult but an incredible reflection of where we used to be and where we easily will be again without interaction from others.

The most common thing I hear from people when they try to talk to Parker and he physically lashes out at me in response is "I'm sorry, I should not have said anything to him."  Noooooooooo.  That could not be further from the truth.

Do I want to get hit/kicked/pinched/shoved?  Gracious, NO. 
Do I want my son to learn how to have basic greetings and conversations while in public that casual and not scripted?  YES.  That is life.  Yours.  Mine.  And it needs to be his.

That is only going to happen if you keep talking to my son.

The only way I can help him is for you to help me.  I need you to keep talking to my son.  I know that when he's struggling, like he is now, this isn't easy.  I understand that is because you are concerned for me. Please let me help you through this so, together, we can help Parker.

I need you to know that I am always anticipating the worst.  I have to, it's sort of my survival mode.  That said, there is a difference between anticipating the worst and expecting it (in the mind of Holly).  I don't "expect" it to happen, odds are it won't - at least not the worst case scenario - however I need to "anticipate" it and be prepared.  That's crucial. 

When we leave the house we talk about how we might run into someone he knows who might want to say hi and what we will do.  We talk about how we might run into someone that mommy knows and they might want to talk to just me and what we will do.  We talk about how we might run into someone who just knows and wants to talk to Allison and what we will do.

And we practice.  Every time we leave the house.  Every time.

I know that each time I see someone it's a 50/50 shot either he will hang his head and reply with his words or he will physically reply in an attempt to escape the situation.  I am ready for that.  This isn't new, this has been our life for as long as I can remember.  That said -we've made HUGE progress.  Right now, we are in a moment of setback and we need to increase Parker's interactions to get us back to where we were.  I need you to talk to my son when you see him.

As much as I anticipate the physical reaction and the worst case scenario - I also expect Parker to show me how far he has come.  I expect him to respond positively.  I expect him to work through it when he doesn't.  It's not an option, it's a life skill he has to master.

When he does well, I am the first to praise him.  Those moments are my favorite and I need more of them - which means I need you to talk to him.

Here are my tips to talking to Parker.
1. Always say Hi.  Always.
2. Keep it brief.  Pick 1 question, maybe 2 for him to answer.  "How are you?"  "Are you ready for school?"
3. Always say Goodbye.  Always.
4. Give me time to work him through a response.  If he doesn't respond verbally, give me the opportunity to help him find that answer.
5. Compliment his words.  "It was nice to hear your words today"  "Thank you for talking to me"

Parker can communicate with me.  That's easy.  He loves his Momma more than anyone, I'm easy for him to talk to.  His anxiety comes into play when we are out and about.  This is a life skill that is important for him to master.  So please... keep talking to my son.

I know sometimes it's hard.  I know that you don't want to see him react to me.  I can only change that behavior by repeating it and replacing it with an appropriate one.  That's going to take your help.

So please, when you see us at the store, the doctor's office, or out and about take a moment to say "Hi Parker"  even if nothing more is said... that "Hi Parker" is a tremendous example of a greeting for him to model.

He'll get it... I promise.  And when he does, it'll be crucial that you continue to keep talking to my son

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