People would describe me and my work ethic as the non-quitter, innovative, productive and mercurial (if they don’t know me well). I procrastinate because my best work comes under pressure. I’m not overly organized or anally-retentive neat but I’m always aware of the location of anything I need (e.g. pens, paperclips, paper, etc.) in relation to my proximity. I’m very “teach-able” (the exact word my lawyer used) in that I only need to be told once: I’m very malleable if whatever I’m working on includes an ineffective system set-up by my predecessor upon which I am called to reform/a situation calls for change. I strive to please but in that earnestness, I can be taken for granted and have had others take advantage of me/my work ethic. Years of operating a family business have shown me that being productive during slow downs/boredom can go a long way in loving what you do and buying time for recreation each time a task is completed ahead of schedule. With the jobs outside of it, I know my co-workers at Victoria’s Secret thought I was being underhanded (if a promotion was coming up), snobby if I wouldn’t stay and gossip on their down time and a brown-noser for taking up tasks “above my pay grade” (even though nothing really is and I never let it be known that my family owns a business because the hate comes out very quickly if someone thinks of you as not needing a job). “Stay busy and work hard” was the way my mom put it and I have with every job, especially if I have to be on my feet all day. That work ethic permeates almost aspects of my life whether or not I want to examine and admit it. It goes without elaboration that quitting was never spoken of and it never seemed to be an option. Thus, we come to the next chapter that’s become this year’s motif: learning when to give up and completely burn something to the ground.
My work involves caring for a moderately to severely autistic teenager and his slightly autistic older brother. Adding in the menagerie of animals, an aging farmhouse and two overworked (one very unorganized and controlling) parents, I knew I had my work cut out for me. My priority has always been Buki, getting him to understand and work within his world (that diatribe on Mendability is coming) while advancing him as far as I could teach him. His math has been very rudimentary but I’m hoping an abacus will change that for my visual learner. I’m forcing him to not only read but to comprehend what he is reading and that has kept the books very pre-K and first grader appropriate. When I began, he would read very well on a fifth grade level but nothing stuck and he couldn’t make heads or tails of the plot or character development. He can now tell you what Peppa Pig and Daniel Tiger are doing/trying to convey.
Since the school year started, Buki’s still counting on my fingers or dominoes but now, understands that the word addition means to sum up the numbers and subtraction is to take away. From the get-go, I’ve carefully observed my charge and I could tell he was smarter than he let on; thus, I’ve pushed him to hit all the mile markers he should have down and it’s worked. I think the adults in his life (parents, relatives, teachers and former nannies) have accepted that he’s damaged goods and inadvertently, stolen skills he’ll need when he’s an adult by not teaching him little common sense things and made worse when the day comes, his parents can no longer shelter him. His father is a very good man who wishes his son to be nothing more than simply happy and healthy whereas mom does everything she can to keep him infantile (even if consciously doesn’t know she’s doing it) while finding “the cure” for his autism. Both can’t see the damage they’re inflicting and it’s not my job to appraise or condemn them: I can only guide them as I have their children. They didn’t even believe the videos I made of Buki tying his shoelaces because they thought he was able to only do it under my guidance. When I was able to get a third-party (one of his after-school specialists) to record Buki tying them (with me clearly far enough away and not a result of editing trickery), then they began giving him the time and their patience (b/c mom has a tendency to rush everyone) to let him practice everyday before school.
As such, this has made teaching Buki almost anything, from how to empty the dishwasher while sorting (i.e. like-with-like, the difference between small to large objects and what is clean verses another go in the dishwasher), using correct sentence structure to ask for anything (food has been a great motivator – once he grasped asking for second servings in a polite and coherent manner, other things fell into place), wiping himself until he no longer saw feces on the toilet paper/baby wipe and on and on, frustrating but rewarding self-imposed tasks. Bit by bit, I can tell Buki comprehends his world, and the expectations of the world at large. It’s been more reassuring for him because I’ll watch him try to do something I’ve taught him (e.g. cleaning up a mess he has made [don’t even get me started on the fecal smearing his mother unhelpfully neglected to warn me about]) and if it fails the first time, he’ll give it another try. Usually, the second attempt is half-successful but by the time he’s come to get me, I’ve already formulated a way to correct what he did wrong without having him show me what happened/getting frustrated with himself and he’s more “teach-able” when he’s not emotional. In the past, he would shutdown or become agitated leading into physical violence. The secret to this success is teaching everything I’ve spearheaded in song, game or social story form. Being patient, self-restrained and innovative towards teaching any child is hard work but doing it day in and out for a special needs child is exhausting in its repetition because it must be even when it looks like Buki’s got it down 10,000%. When it becomes second nature, like breathing or eating, that’s when the next phase is begun. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be there.
See, I know some people would say I’m a push-over when it comes to the ones I love which is true but only to a point. I do have a line, a breaking point, and when it’s reached, it’s best to get the hell out of Dodge, especially, if you’re the reason. Buki isn’t the reason I’m leaving because I’ve stayed for him: his mother and her antics disrupt a lot and whereas everyone else in her family willing enables and puts up with her, I will not. I can’t turn a blind eye to the various unfounded and untested methods she’s inflicted on her captive audience, mainly Buki. From forcing him to consume live tapeworms/maggots, medications prescribed off label, keeping him on a restrictive diet that is NOT necessary, etc. is wrong. Making him change schools AGAIN isn’t fair to a kid with transition issues because SHE doesn’t like the way his teachers treat her and she will not admit how far back this will set him. She doesn’t care that the little victories (shoe tying, reading comprehension) need to be made to prepare for the bigger ones. I also refuse to let her take advantage of me any further: she lied about her kid’s severity, the fecal smearing/bed wetting and the physical assaults (when I asked because it was a deal breaker for me) but by the time I figured it out, I was attached to the kids and they were attached to me. Initially, the hours were 20-22 hours per week MAX but she’s been pushing her home arrival time to the point that I’m working 30 a week without an increase to reflect that NOR does she give me advance notice so that I can move my plans and reschedule activities. I rarely leave work on time (supposed to be 9 pm) and I’m expected to get there early. A little consideration for my time and my life would have gone a long way as would have complete honesty (one of the worst cases of compulsive and blatant lying I have come across), better time/household management, integrity, money management (don’t assume that the broken vehicle “provided while on duty” that was never fixed can be replaced with my working and personal car without additional compensation to me for its upkeep is acceptable because you have other bills to pay) and attempts at reformation. Nobody is perfect but everybody can put more effort into being better people and productive members of society.
(before this gets any longer and the hour any later, I’ll start with a new entry tomorrow).