I called Jeremy on my way to work this morning, reminding him to eat breakfast and pack his lunch. I gave him several suggestions. We have apples, tortilla wraps, cooked pasta, cooked and seasoned strips of tofu, vegan mayo, peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter, Wow nut butter (which I find disgusting but Jeremy will eat), purple grapes, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I also explained (again) how to make hot chocolate. One tablespoon cocoa powder, one tablespoon granulated sugar, one tablespoon icing sugar, and one cup coconut milk.
“Yeah, I know,” Jeremy muttered. Then he went on to talk about some mod on his game.
“Look, just get something to eat,” I urged. “And make your lunch.”
I got to work and began serving customers. It’s a crap shoot. I try to call Jeremy close enough to 8am to say goodbye but early enough to give him a chance to pack lunch if he’s forgotten. Flip side is, I can’t leave the floor to call him if there’s a line up and we can go from dead to a line up to the front door in under a minute. That line up can last for a few minutes to a few hours. There’s been days that I waited just a few minutes too long then didn’t get another chance to call Jeremy until a half hour after his bus already left. I got my chance at 7:48am and ran to the back.
“Hola,” Jeremy said cheerfully. We live in Canada and he doesn’t know Spanish, he just thinks that sounds cool. “I’ve got 12 minutes left until I need to get ready.”
“Have you packed your lunch?” I asked, straining to hear any customers. So far it seemed quiet.
“No,” he replied. “I’m not even thinking about it until 8am.”
That gives him 10 minutes to pack his lunch and find any items he deems necessary, which isn’t a lot of time. But there’s not much I can do from another city.
“Have you at least eaten anything?” I asked.
“No,” came the immediate reply. “I’ll eat at school.”
His school does not have a breakfast program. Apparently that hasn’t stopped him from counting on them to serve him bagels and cream cheese. I have no idea who’s paying for these items. I had no idea until today that he was even getting them. I was making him breakfast before I left… then was finding the untouched dried remains of breakfast sitting beside the computer where I’d left it. Sometimes there just aren’t easy answers.
I told him to listen to his teachers (again) and to drink a quick glass of calcium fortified orange juice (again) then got off the phone, relieved he was at least in good spirits. Hopefully he’d have a good day.
I was in the middle of serving customers when one of my coworkers came over with the phone.
“Michelle, it’s for you,” she said as she stuck the phone against my ear.
“Hello, Michelle? It’s Mrs. Teacher…”
And there I stood, with the phone in one hand and my other hand on the register, dealing with two conversations at once. One customer had been in the middle of giving an order. I quickly keyed it in then turned to my coworker.
“Take over the order please,” I said then I bolted before she had a chance to refuse.
Once again I was in the back of the store, hanging out with the supplies and listening to Jeremy’s teacher. Once again he was on his way home. And, once again it was over something ridiculous.
Jeremy brought tea bags, a packet of hot apple cider mix, and a small container of honey to school today. He wanted his teacher to make him a mug of hot apple tea with honey. No problem, except the last time she made him a hot drink, he grabbed the mug from her hand and accidentally scratched her. Then he refused to apologize.
“I hope you can see where I’m coming from,” she said urgently. “I was making him drinks as a special favour but I’m not going to continue if he’s going to hurt me then refuse to apologize.”
I agreed that was fair. I wouldn’t make him tea in that case either. Jeremy’s response was to tell her that if she wasn’t making him tea then he was going home. And he left, refusing to attend school today and refusing to sign out at the office. He just picked up his bag, grabbed his coat, and walked out.
I called him on my break and told him to wash dishes and take out the recycling. If he’s going to be home, he might as well do something useful. He did both without arguing, thankfully. I’m exactly one week into a crappy cold and spent last night coughing myself awake. My big plans for today involved going to work, coming home, pulling on pjs, eating leftovers for dinner, and crawling into bed before 8pm. They did not involve arguing with an angry 16 year old.
And that’s where I run into problems. Jeremy adamantly will not see the other side. There are three main issues we’re dealing with right now. One is his near constant arguing with the teachers. He’s currently fighting his gym teacher over safety rules. Jeremy feels their outdoor portion of gym, which includes using a swing set, would be much safer if they swung using only one hand on the ropes and is refusing to sign a safety statement explaining why he needs to swing holding on with both hands. Another is his refusal to apologize for his own misdeeds, like scratching his teacher. And the third is his inability to see how his actions affect how he’s treated. Jeremy wants to get into more interesting classes but cannot see how his current trend of screaming at his teacher and/or principal then walking out and going home is stopping him from leaving his primary class and moving into optional classes with less support.
I got home then sat down on the couch, pushing aside a storage container filled with folded and empty tortillas.
“Jeremy? What are these for?” I asked, momentarily sidetracked from my planned conversation.
“Oh, they’re my lunch,” he replied. “I didn’t have time to pack one.”
Right, he didn’t have time, when I’d called him twice to remind him AND detailed exactly what we have to eat.
I listed my concerns and Jeremy exploded. I don’t know what it’s like to be him. He has to listen to his teachers talk for an hour about all the wonderful things they have, then they do reading, and then they do a little bit of math… his voice trailed off. He dismissed scratching his teacher because she told him to take the mug and didn’t leave him anywhere to grab the mug without scratching her.
“Then you shouldn’t have grabbed it,” I said firmly and he scowled.
“She was holding it hostage,” he protested.
“Jeremy, you need to grow up and be a responsible adult,” I snapped. “You are smart, you are capable, and you have a lot of skills but you need to learn how to act like the 16 year old you are and treat the people around you with respect. You need to go to school…”
“I just need to kill myself,” he yelled back.
“Seriously,” I blurted. “That’s not being responsible.”
And I’m tired of that threat. He’s told his counselor he’s not suicidal and yelling this during an argument seems like more of a distraction than any serious issue.
The argument went in circles and nothing got accomplished. I’m badgering him to follow the rules without arguing. None of the rules are dangerous or offensive. He’s demanding special treatment, wanting a laptop which another student received for severe communication issues, and demanding to use an MP3 player during class while working on school work. And I’m in no way certain he’ll follow the rules, not when he knows breaking them means he can run home to where he feels safe. Breaking them spectacularly by yelling at the principal means he can stay home for two days. And the school will not have him stay if he’s acting up.
We’ll be working on a letter of apology to his teacher after dinner but I’m struggling with what I can do on my end. It’s not like I can ground him. He doesn’t go anywhere but youth group and, while he enjoys it, he wouldn’t be hurt by staying home. He’d rather stay home and hide.
And he’s got a whole victim mentality. His teachers are being mean. They won’t teach him, they won’t let him go into different classes, they keep changing the rules and making them harder. He refuses to see how his own actions are keeping them from placing him in outside classes, how they can’t teach him when he’s storming out the door, how the rules are going to keep getting harder when he’s constantly trying to break them. Lenny pointed out his black and white thinking is common with autistic people, which is true. I still don’t know how to change it though or how to help him see things from their side.
The sun’s now out and it’s a not so balmy 8C (46F). I’m going to drag him out for a walk as well. He seems hell bent on becoming a hermit, maybe getting outside in the fresh air will make a difference. At this point I’ll try just about anything.