So what’s it like when you are living with neurotypicals in a family setting? Noisy.
I asked my Aspergian son about this topic. We talked about the definition of family – to him it means ‘people that, no matter what they do, I will still love them.’ And in return, he expects them to love him unconditionally as well.
We haven’t seen that in our extended families. Neither my side nor my husband’s seem to follow that unconditional love idea. They didn’t want to deal with the mess of Aspergers. We were not invited to many family events. It was and is just the four of us.This is confusing to my son (and my whole family actually). He wonders what he did or didn’t do. He cannot understand the rejection. My daughter doesn’t like it either but doesn’t take it personally.
The isolation is hard. People with Aspergers often don’t have many friends so they hold very tight to those they do have, and this includes family members. As my son puts it, ‘You stay very close to family since they often are the only regular interactions you get.’ And I would add, and the only regular ones you can trust.
When you have this group of people, living together, isolated from others, little things can set emotions off. People take offense over the littlest of infractions. No sliced cheese left for the sandwiches for tomorrow escalates into arguments over what gets eaten when and who is eating too much.
Also, with Aspergians involved, rule enforcement issues will occur. Say, for example, my daughter said that she would clean the kitchen on Sunday by 6pm. Then a friend calls up and invites her for Sunday afternoon fun. She doesn’t get back until 7:30pm Sunday night. My Aspergian son will be beside himself that the kitchen wasn’t cleaned by 6pm. She said it would be done. It wasn’t. Cue dramatic music here. We fight this battle often at my house, the literal versus reality.
Today I asked my son about those kind of moments and his reasoning and he stated that he holds to very high standards since 1) our family set those standards and 2) Aspergians love rules/standards and he is simply enforcing them. My neurotypical daughter simply sees her older brother bossing her around and acting like a parent. Cue more dramatic music or maybe something from an opera. Ugh.
So you have a small group of people living together and some days it feels like half of the house is speaking Swedish and the other half Gaelic and each side is sure that they are right and the other side consists of idiots. Someone tells a joke and half of the house takes offense while the others laugh. Dinner is served and an argument ensues on who is serving the potatoes (concern over unequal portions). There is not often peace in the house until half the house has gone to bed.
I wish I had advice on what to do in those dysfunctional times. I have tried whispering – the idea being that people really want to hear you so they quiet down, forget it, no go. I have tried yelling, they just yell too. I have tried lots of rules, I forgot some of them before I could enforce them. These days, I have simple rules of respect: for themselves, for each other, for the rest of the world. They are teenagers now and I am less an instructor and more a mentor. If they don’t know the rules now, yelling them at them isn’t going to do it. I try to preach less and model more. (But I still enforce the rules and will for as long as they live under my roof.)
There are times when it is nice. When everyone is trying very hard to get along with each other. Normally this is on birthdays or holidays involving gift giving. I know someday soon my daughter will go to college and start a new life on her own. I hope that my son will try a life on his own someday as well. I know that I will miss them when they are gone. But I know I will enjoy the quiet. ;.)