Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dirty Laundry

Gabe has taken a newfound interest in learning how to take care of himself. He's halfway to seventeen and it's suddenly dawned on him that sooner than later he's going to have to go take on that Big Bad World by himself.

So, in the spirit of independence and maturity, he has taken it upon himself to ask me how to accomplish simple household tasks.

Last week was great. It was "The Week the Boy Wanted to Learn to Cook". And cook he did. Basic things like eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

When Gabe is doing simple day to day activities, such as watching television, feeding the dog, washing dishes, and playing video games, it's easy to forget that he has Asperger's. Then something as simple as the instructions on the mac and cheese box will slam you upside the head, with the brute force of a rubber mallet, to remind you . . . Yes, the Boy has Asperger's! Instructions that seem so simple to me (even a cave man can do it!) become ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for him. Too many instructions all at once and Gabe's brain starts spinning. It probably didn't help that I, being the control freak that I am, tried to give him more instructions than were on the box: "pour the milk into the measuring cup over the sink because that way, if you spill, you won't pour too much into the pot and you won't make a mess on the counter," "have your strainer ready in the sink while you're waiting for the noodles to boil because that way you won't have to worry about hurrying to do it at the end," "see, the measurements for the butter are posted on the wrapper! Notice how eight tablespoons equal half a cup- but you won't use half a cup today,""be sure to stir the pot occasionally so the noodles don't stick to the bottom." Meanwhile, the Boy was still trying to figure out how to read measuring spoons.

I am still trying to decide if these measuring spoons
 will help him or only make him more confused.

All things considered, I am very proud of him for not having a classic Asperger's meltdown in the middle of all this due to over-stimulation.

It's interesting (and amazing) how people with Asperger's can do things like: tell you every detail of every episode of Spongebob Squarepants (but they can't remember where they put their socks), take apart a broken transistor radio and put it back together better than when it was new (but they can't learn how to ride a bike), recite whole acts of Shakespeare (but not understand the plot of a rated PG-13 movie).

But I digress . . .

So this past weekend the Boy asks me to teach him how to do laundry. Wow! I'm on the bonus plan! This is wonderful! What a great kid!

I have him gather all the laundry and show him how to sort it. Sorting things is one of his favorite past-times, and laundry sorting is just as enjoyable for him as is sorting all his video games (according to year of release, favorite to least favorite, maturity ratings, popularity, educational to simply entertaining, color of packaging, etc). Great! So far so good!

Then I have him place all the dark clothes in the laundry basket and follow me into the laundry room. I have him raise the lid on the washing machine, show him how to measure the laundry detergent, and explain to him why and how you set the washing machine for different types of laundry. Then . . . the Big Moment.

I tell him to turn on the washing machine.

Water begins to pour into the tub.

Gabe's eyes grow large.

I chose this image because: (A) Gabe loves owls and can
tell you anything you ever wanted to know about them; 
and (B) this is pretty much the expression on his face
when the water began pouring into the washing machine.

"Uh, Mom, is that supposed to happen?"

(I'm thinking to myself, "I have done laundry around this boy for years, I know he can sometimes be oblivious to his environment, but surely this is no revelation to him?!")

(I am wrong.)

"Yes, Gabe. How do you think the clothes get clean?"

"But, Mom, won't the water ruin the clothes?"

Ruin? How?

"No, Gabe. The water washes out all the germs and dirt and stains and makes the clothes clean."

Dramatic pause.

"Okay. If you say so."

Yes, Gabe. I say so. Because I have been washing your clothes for almost seventeen years with water and they always, amazingly, seem to come out clean and . . . non-ruined.

We go back to whatever we were doing before we started the laundry (for me this means reading blog posts in Feministe or Pharyngula . . . or, more apropos for this experience, Moms Who Drink and Swear; for Gabe, this means hand counting the number of pages in the book he's about to read before he begins reading it- including those blank pages they put in the front and back of the book).

Eventually, the washing machine finishes its job and I call Gabe back into the laundry room.

"Now you're going to take all the clothes out of the washing machine and place them in the dryer."

"But, Mom, they're wet!"

I do my typical Asperger's Mom's count-to-ten. 

"Yes, Gabe, I understand you have texture issues but you need to get over this. You can't expect other people to do your laundry for you your entire life." (Asperger's people often can't abide certain textures: the feel of paper, cotton balls, seams of clothes, anything damp, or squishy, etc.)

"No, Mom, I don't care that they're wet. I'm just asking . . . um, is it okay to put wet clothes in the dryer?"

Now I do the not-oft employed Asperger's Mom's count-to-twenty (mostly so I don't laugh out loud in front of him).

"Gabe, why wouldn't I put wet clothes in the dryer?"

"Because, um . . . it will break the dryer?"

"Gabe, why do you think this machine is called a 'dryer'?"

He pauses to think.

I do so love these precious moments.

"Oh! That's so cool!"

Then it's on to the discussion about the importance of fabric softener sheets (which turns into a flurry of scientifically based questions regarding static and fabric softness for which I'm hardly qualified to answer). Really, I can't just say, "There are magic static fighting fairies in the fabric softener sheet!" Why not? Because Asperger's kids, though often quite gullible, aren't that gullible. 

The rest of the laundry-doing instruction goes quite well. Folding laundry makes him happy. He loves to sort the clothes based on to whom it belongs, largest pieces to smallest, and color schemes. Oh, happy Gabe.

All bets are off on tidiness and 
symmetry once it reaches his room.

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