"The best way to behave is to misbehave." - Mae West

March 6, 2009

Off and on all afternoon I've been reading A Room of Mama's Own, a blog written (I hope I have this right) by a Stay at home mom with one Autistic son and one Neurotypical daughter, whose husband is a sex addict. As you can imagine, its a fairly complex blog and I've been reading it sorted by tags and topics. Due to her son's Autism (and her own status as someone who uses the word Codependent to describe herself) she talks a lot about techniques for changing behavior ... how we expect children to be able to, somehow, control themselves if only the right carrot or the right stick is found. Its really fascinating reading, and a great site.

So, one of the cars (the FIGBASH car) has a leak in a rear tire. We took it out to Sears at the Mall to have it repaired, largely because a) they're open late, and b) its a large open space where E can run around while we wait for the car to be done, rather than having to sit still in a dull waiting room.

We went to Macy's, because I keep hoping the Martha Stewart Collection cast iron enameled pots will somehow again drop to the miraculously low price they were for a single day before Thanksgiving, and because Josh (bless him) is toying with the idea of buying a FryDaddyTM. (I have informed him that he can't do that unless he can somehow find more counter space. As it is the bread machine doesn't see regular use because its too much of a PITA to move the stuff around it.) While we were there, predictably (because of all the breakable dishes) it was the only time all night that E did not want desperately to hold my hand or otherwise cling to me. Instead, he wanted to RUN WILD! Picking him up, trying to hold his hand, or anything that otherwise might be interpreted (by him) as restraining him (like, say, touching him) resulted in him going all "limp cat" and screeching.

Then, he saw the Fiestaware.

Fiesta Pitchers + Red Platter Now, to understand this story, you must know this: I have a secret dish passion. I try, very hard and mostly successfully, to keep it under wraps, but it lurks under the surface at all times. I love beautiful dishes. I love the way light reflects off their surface. I love the feel of a sturdy plate in the hand. I love the curve of a footed bowl or the line of a well designed pitcher. If we had room, I would fill the walls with dishes, just to look at them, be around them, enjoy them.

But we're poor, and so I don't give in. I just stand in the store and look at them, longingly.

There I was, staring at the Fiestaware display in Macy's, my breathing a little shallow and rapid, reaching out here and there to caress a butter dish or slide one finger down the side of a teapot. And suddenly, my son was standing there beside me, his tiny hand slipping into mine. He was transfixed.

"They're beautiful," he whispered.

"Yes, they are. Which color do you like best?"

He stood very still and surveyed the display. Peacock, Ivory, Sunflower, Scarlet, Plum, Black, Cobalt and Tangerine. I watched him look them over carefully, with a critical eye.

"The red one." he said, with a clear tone of certainty.

And that's when I gave in to impulse. I leaned down to him, whispered in his ear. "Evan," I said, "if you can be respectful the rest of the time we're here - no crying, no whining, no running, no flopping around -- holding my hand or daddy's and being calm at all times, I will buy you a red plate before we leave."

And it shouldn't have worked, but it did. For the next twenty minutes he walked next to me, held my hand, was calm and collected, as we looked at objects and named them. I let him run a little wild in the mattress room while his father inspected the finer points of deep fryer baskets, but otherwise he was a model gentleman. Then we walked back over to the plates, and I let him pick the one he wanted (dinner size, salad size, or bowl) and he picked the dinner plate, and I paid for it, and we took it home.

We're not having supper at home tonight, so I'll be interested to see if he remembers "the red plate". I probably should feel guilty about bribing him like that, but I don't. Somehow, buying him the red plate - something that makes me as happy as it makes him - doesn't seem like a bribe. More, it seems like an excuse to indulge myself.


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Well, you do have all that stuff about me right. And thanks so much for the link and the kind words.

I use my share of (ahem) "incentives" myself. Even when they don't produce the desired outcome, they help me get a sense of what my kids are capable of and how much I'm willing to bend. Yours sounded like a win/win!