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When Selfishness Reared It's Ugly Head

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Three of the most feared words in our home are "Upstairs, family meeting." Jeff came in Sunday morning after church, he goes-I don't-long story, and called a meeting. I swear that I heard the house itself take a deep breath. Family meetings have been going on in this house for twelve years. They usually mean that someone's in the hot seat and being called out for one thing or another.

Everyone upstairs got on their phones and called everyone downstairs, hey, it's a three story house, it's a long way down there. One by one they trickled in and jockeyed for a seat as far away from the usual hot seat as possible. I could see fear in every eye. Each person was looking around the room trying to discern who was in trouble and who was safe. No one said a word, breathing was shallow and beads of sweat were forming on each forehead. I knew that hearts were beating out of control, mine was.

Jeff pulled up a chair in front of the fireplace. Now everyone was confused. That's where the guilty were placed. He began to cry, catching everyone off guard. At the same time everyone was relieved they weren't the cause of the meeting, they were worried about their dad. Anna-Grace saw her Papa crying and sweetly climbed up into his lap. Then he began to speak.

"I'm afraid for my family." He went on, between sobs, to tell us his concerns which were mainly the typical kid things: sleeping too much, not being responsible, picking on each other, making life difficult for their mother, the list went on and we listened. He spoke of the lack of work that we've experienced these last two years and yet the kids want more and more. He spoke of laziness and leaving towels in the floor. After stating his concerns he asked a question. It's a question that I'm still thinking about. A question that will forever be seared into my memory.

"Who has enough guts to raise their hand and point to the one person that makes life in our home difficult?"

"Oh God" I thought "He's talking about me." The kids looked around as I thought about disappearing into the chair I was in. They all knew the answer but were afraid to point out the offending person. One hand went up and pointed, then another and another. One child's head dropped slightly before responding.

"It's me," said Joshua, "I know it is."

My heart broke. My autistic son realized that he caused the majority of conflict in the family.

Jeff continued "Right, it's Joshua. You all know that he has autism, you know that he has a problem, yet you treat him like dirt. He's the only one in the family that's trying to improve. You other kids are rude, selfish and don't seem to care about what happens around here as long as Joshua leaves you alone. I see the way you look at him with slit eyes. I hear the way you speak to him harshly. I see the contempt and the hatred and I see you ignore him. Joshua sees, and feels, it as well."

My heart felt like it had shattered into a million tiny pieces. The other kids were crying, they knew Dad was right. Joshua, the one that had the most valid reason to be called out, was the only one who was doing his best to change. We knew each one of us was guilty of treating Joshua as "less than." Yes he's irritating. Yes he's a pest. Yes he's argumentative and rigid. Joshua agreed with every word spoken, he was the only one who took responsibility for his actions.

I realized I was also guilty of treating my son badly. Oh I can come up with a million valid reasons, but they all revolved around me and how difficult he made my life. Somehow along the way, maybe it's because he's so high functioning that we expect him to behave as a typical child, but somehow we forgot he does have feelings, even though he can't express them well. He does have a disability that he has no control over and he does try.

Jeff's words as well as Joshua's acknowledgement pierced every heart in that room.

In the last couple of days I've seen a change. Jakob asked Joshua to play video games. Karli asked Joshua to go downstairs with her (she later told me that he was so happy he had tears in his eyes). Michael's been civil, Nikki's been stern but more friendly. And I, I have been trying to be a better mom. I've been reading his stories, I've been talking with him more instead of at him. How dare I demand that his teachers and classmates have more understanding and compassion if his own mother cannot?

Some of you know a few of the things that we've had to deal with him over, and they've not been pretty. Some have been down right scary. But none of that is an excuse to make a child feel like he's not wanted, that no one likes him. He gets that enough in school. Jeff made a point last Sunday, a point that I hope won't soon be forgotten.


Coffee Slut May 26, 2010 at 3:31 AM  

Touching post, made me tear up.

I have given you an award ...pop on over to collect it!

MommyLovesStilettos May 26, 2010 at 6:24 AM  

This post brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing this with us. *HUGS* I hope things continue to improve in your house.

Cheryl D. May 26, 2010 at 6:42 AM  

What a handsome boy! Your post brought tears. It wasn't an easy post for me to read, either. I LOVE my daughter, but I can't say that I haven't felt resentment at times. I try not to be resentful to HER, but to the situation though. It can get hard at times, that's for sure. I don't even have to worry about how siblings are handling it like you do! Please don't be hard on yourself. You are human. I'm sure you're doing a fantastic job 95 percent of the time. No one is at 100 percent. No one.

Anonymous,  May 26, 2010 at 7:01 AM  

This made me cry. You obviously have a family that cares for each other. The fact that you could all sit down and talk about the pink elephant in the room is phenomenal. You're a very lucky woman, and your son is lucky to have you all as family.

Savira Gupta May 26, 2010 at 7:09 AM  

Your family meeting was powerful. Made me take a look within myself and question myself. We all fall at times so be gentle to yourself.....that same gentleness will radiate to all

Gucci Mama May 26, 2010 at 7:10 AM  

Oh man. What a sweet, amazing, wonderful husband you have. This just broke my heart and then stitched it right back together again at the end there. You must be so proud of your family.

Furry Bottoms May 26, 2010 at 7:29 AM  

That Joshua is a good looking kid!!!

We're all guilty of selfish acts like you mentioned. It's really awesome that your husband was able to call it out in a way that pierced the layers of denial. I wish more people were like that!

Ms. Understood May 26, 2010 at 8:34 AM  

Ok. I'm sitting in Court waiting for my client's case to be called and decided to check my subscriptions. I am sitting here in the courtroom fighting back tears as I was reading. That meeting sounded so tough but it's good to hear it's had an impact on everyone for the better. Oh, by the way, your son is really handsome.

Anonymous,  May 26, 2010 at 9:04 AM  

this story nearly made me takes a lot to admit when you're doing something wrong or just not doing it as well as you could, and I'm glad your family has come together to make the effort. Communication is the key to everything, I always say

Monkey Man May 26, 2010 at 9:38 AM  

This hits so close to home. We may not have 435 children (only two) but my daughter has an anxiety disorder and we have to remind ourselves (Okay I have to remind myself) that she isn't like the rest of us emotionally and that she requires more patience and attention. This post is one I should print and come back to time and again.

Duchess May 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

What a great post and so insightful. Thank you for sharing your time and your family with us. *hugs* to you and yours!

Allyson & Jere May 26, 2010 at 3:34 PM  

This was so incredibly brave of you to write. No one ever likes to turn the mirror on themselves and point out their flaws. Thank you for sharing this. It shows that your husband is very in tune and obviously a great father. It shows that your family is working to do what's right and be "together" on tough topics. Difficult as it was, how GREAT that you all came out of it with a greater desire to do better. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for being brave. And thank you for being willing to show the imperfectiongs that we ALL have but don't often write about.

Good luck with this particular journey. Hope things go better.

Kimberly Walker May 26, 2010 at 3:54 PM  

Great blog... had fun, really enjoyed reading. Came across you from "Follow me back Tuesday"... loved your blog I added your button on mine! Keep up the great work... would love if you linked back to mine as well, as I too am bipolar and recently found out.
Keep up the great blogging and all the best,

Unknown May 26, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

Your husband is a really compassionate man and I'm glad he brought up such a tough subject. Everyone makes mistakes, we are only human after all. I'm glad things are starting to get better in your house and I'm glad you shared this story, it's really touching.

The Bipolar Diva May 26, 2010 at 7:52 PM  

You all are so awesome! Thank you so much. This was one of those things I wasn't really sure I should have posted it. I'm glad I did and that you all didn't stop following me :)

Donda May 26, 2010 at 10:05 PM  

Congratulations! You are the recipient of a blogger award :) Grab your prize at

Classic NYer May 27, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

Wow... deep post. Kudos for having the guts to come out and say this. And your son is really cute. ;-) Sorry I don't have any awards for you though.

Unknown May 31, 2010 at 6:10 PM  

What an amazing an honest post. I have five children with my middle son having some difficulties of his own. He was diagnosed with adhd several years ago and was put on a medication that made him walk around as if he were a zombie. The school was not happy when we weaned him off of it, but everyone at home is learning to deal the best we know how. Believe me, I have had knock down drag outs with teachers over my boy who only gives back what he is getting. I am amazed at how teachers and administration...knowing what the situation is...act out at him and think he is the one causing problems. Well, I tell them to deal with it. We deal with it at home, and it is not easy at times, but is getting a bit better the older he gets. We have had similar family meetings as yours and it does work for a while until they "forget". I can be honest and say that I too at times have not been the best mother to him and would know what I was doing or saying was wrong but couldn't help myself. I apologize a lot for my wrong actions because he is my son and I love him. Thank you~

Erin June 24, 2010 at 11:58 PM  

I just found your blog today and have been reading through your posts and even though this is now a month old, I must comment. My Charming, 19, has Aszpergers and it has been so hard at times. The hardest part is when I have to realize I'm being part of the problem. Charming is himself: The boy who candidly informed me (at 11), that our problems were in part, because he resented being subordinate to me. Simple, shocking, and pure. Charming thought about our friction and determined its cause. Fast forward 8 years and the struggle continues. Charming is trying to understand the language of his peers, the language of non-verbal communication, subtleties, and nuances. The ever-changing landscape of interpersonal expectations is so difficult for Charming and he's always aware he's different. Actions intended as play come out as bullying because he didn't stop to think of degrees; his younger siblings avoid a lot of this interaction, because their feelings are hurt and they struggle to see his efforts. And me? Since he's graduated from college (academics have been an area he's taken pride in), I've struggled to take time each day to tell him I'm proud of him and who he is, that we all have challenges and that some just show more than others. I'm finally able to help him be the best Charming he is and have let go of all the "I wish" statements even in my mind. He will be fine. Some days will be better than others and some days will be horrible, but he'll be fine. I don't apologize for him. Why should I? He is who he is and he's working his butt off to be the best him he can be. Can I say the same?

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