Wednesday, February 7, 2018

When parenting fails, call in backup

Max is still planning to move to Jamaica, a situation I somewhat consider a fail on our part. I've tried my best to reason with him—he loves his school here, Daddy and Mommy have jobs, it costs money to move and get a house. He has answers: There is school in Jamaica; Daddy can work from Jamaica, I can stick it out here with Ben and Sabrina. He dodges the issue of paying for it.

Dave, aka Marshmallow Daddy, has been indulging him. Which explains why our calendar says, on Tuesday March 20, "Fireman Max moves!" (Max is kindly waiting to go until after his sister's bat mitzvah in mid-March). This also explains Dave and Max's weekend trips to Home Depot, where Max has been picking out appliances for his new home. So far he's chosen a fridge ("Samsung!" he repeatedly tells me—he loves the new smart model that enables you to order groceries), a microwave, a range, a washer/dryer and a granite countertop. He's also discovered he can browse for such items.

When he's getting dressed, he'll note whether or not the clothing will be coming with him to Jamaica. He tells me he's already informed his teachers. He's got this whole thing planned out, in his mind, anyway.

"It's disgusting here!" Max says pretty much every time he comes in from outside. I don't disagree, except he's been saying the same thing about our house, too.

I think having fantasies are healthy and good; life would be pretty dreary if we had nothing to dream about. But I am pretty sure Max thinks this is real, and that's what concerns me. So this weekend, I roped in backup: his longtime, super-matter-of-fact-practical-pants speech therapist.

Things didn't start off so well.

"It's disgusting here!" Max announced as she walked into our house on Saturday and took off her boots.

She wasn't sure what he'd, said so I translated.

"Max, I can't hear that 'd'—try that again, dis-gus-ting," she said, modeling the correct tongue movement. They practiced that again and again. Super.

Toward the end of their session, I told her about Max's anticipated move.

"I just don't think it can happen," I said, and Max shook his head vehemently.

"Max," she said, "you can't move to Jamaic, you don't have a house."

"I do!" Max announced, triumphantly, and we opened photo on his iPad of the dream house that he'd chosen.

"Max, it cost a lot of money to buy a house," she pointed out. "Your Mommy and Daddy had to spend a lot of money to buy this house. Where are they going to get the money from?"

And Max stopped and thought and had nothing to say.

Last night, I got home as the music therapist was finishing up Max's session. Max has been trying to get her to compose songs about his new home, Jamaica, and I'd told her we were trying to be realistic.

"I had Max write a song about what he loves here," she told me.

"And he did it?!" I asked, incredulously.

"Well, it was mostly me," she said. But Max wasn't having it: even when she mentioned his favorite fire station he said, "Oh, it's OK."

Some good has come of this fixation: Max is learning to make a case for what he wants.

"You and Daddy moved to this house," he recently pointed out when I was telling him he couldn't move.

"Yes, but we moved from 20 miles away," I said. "Jamaica is 1500 miles away! And your family wouldn't be near you!"

"First home!" he continued. I knew what he meant: This was our first home. He, too, deserved to have a first home.

I have a chat coming up this week with his teachers, and I'll be asking them what he's said to them. While I do think he needs to keep it real and we have to help with that (the Home Depot jaunts have got to stop), this is far from the worst problem in the world. Maybe Max will calm down once the weather turns warm. Meanwhile, I'm trying to plan a spring getaway; Max insists he doesn't need to go because he's moving.


  1. Thanks for sharing. This is a tough one and I have no idea how I would handle it. It is kind of like there is a line that Max is crossing - from being a child to a young adult. Age-wise he is. But as you well know, chronological age, maturity and understanding with our kids most often don't go hand-in-hand. My oldest (a freshman in college) has always dreamed of traveling the world and living different places for a year or so before moving on. As wonderful and exciting as that sounds, as a 19-year-old she now has a much better understanding of what this dream will require. But I sure love how enthusiastic Max is. This and his stubbornness will serve him well in the future.

    1. I so appreciate your pointing out how his enthusiasm and determination will serve him him—this is true. But right now, OMG.

  2. I would remove the date from the calendar, otherwise that's going to be a very disappointing day for him. Also have you tried saying "no, we are not moving." and leave it at that? It could be harsh at first but what what might seem like playful fantasy to neurotypicals could be very real plans for children with special needs.

    1. Totally agree on removing the date from the calendar. I also agree with a simple, "No, we're not moving to Jamaica and neither are you." And then ignore anymore of his talking about or nicely just remind him again, no. Max seems like he would understand it easily and just because he's not happy with it doesn't mean he gets a free pass and should be indulged as if he didn't understand. I think more damage is done by constantly indulging him rather than making him face reality. But then, I'm not in your shoes so who knows how I would handle it if I were. I always say to people who offer me advice about my daughter with Rett Syndrome, it's easy to talk from the cheap seats. :)

    2. Yes, we (or I) have point blank said, "We are not moving." That has not worked and Max has disagreed. I totally agree on needing to cross it off the calendar. I might replace it with "Someday, Max can move to Jamaica." His take crosses the line between fantasy/reality. I think a part of him does know that, but I think there's a part that also believes it's feasible. This is what's especially challenging.

  3. I’ve been brainstorming this problem. What if Max applies for residency in Jamaica? Surely a minor would not be granted the necessary papers. Another thing, Dave must declare that he’s not accompanying Max on his move; that the rest of the family needs him.
    Good luck!

    1. This is a very creative idea! I worry, though, about fueling his fantasies. And yes to Dave taking a stance on not moving. More firmness is required from both of us here.

  4. Maybe you could compare Max to Sabrina in this one situation. That you wouldn’t let Sabrina (or Ben) move, and the same applies to him while he’s a minor.

    When the time comes, you might have to explain to him that he still would have more limitations than the average 18-year-old, but that’s a good few year away.

    1. I will add "I wouldn't let Sabrina move" to my list of reasoning tactics. But right now, he's not listening to reason.

  5. I can only imagine what our lives are going to be like when our daughter reaches this age and starts getting on tangents like this! Hopefully Max isn't too disappointed when the truth sets in!


    1. Oh, he will certainly be disappointed when the truth sets in...but I have a feeling this is not happening for quite some time.

  6. Assuming you really want this to end, There’s another reason I’d cross it off the calendar promto: when these kind of fantastical dates pass what often happens with people who are indulging in unrealistic thinking is that instead of thinking “ I was wrong”they double down. This phenomenon is seen in end-of-the worlders. The date passing onky feeds the mania somehow. Cross it off. Do not replace it with “someday” unless you want this to continue. Insist that there be no more Home Depot trips.

    OR decide that no one is being harmed by this fantasy. That Max will eventually get over it and don’t worry so much.


Thanks for sharing!

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