Assigning chores for him was a no-brainer. When I was younger, I had a teen rebel thing going on with my mother. My good heart wanted to help with housework, but the rebellion wouldn’t let me admit I wanted to do work – or lift a finger – to help her out. So I did nothing and felt tormented at the same time.
Ah, teenagerism at its very best.
But when it came to my son, I wasn’t having any guesswork; I was assigning specific chores. Every since he was three, I’ve had him put his laundry away. As he’s grown, we’ve added folding laundry – and wasn’t that fun – to the list. Easy, perfectly reasonable chores that helped our son learn to take care of himself.
When he hit around 8 or 9, I pondered adding to the list. Dishes, dishes were good, I thought in a moment of madness and selfish abandon.
We’re talking about a typical Asperger child who thinks differently. Who handles tools differently, and applies think-outside-the-box in new and previously un-thought of ways.
About the tenth time he almost stabbed himself in the eye while waving a fork around – while standing in a puddle, covered from head to toe in soapy water, and after baptizing the entire kitchen – we gave up on dishwashing. I also had to stand over him to make sure he wouldn’t rub his face or hair with dirty dishwater hands.
So that was a no go.
But the trash…. well, okay, maybe not hefting up a fragile – they’re not supposed to be fragile, but we all know they are – bag full of interesting objects, when it’s important to remember which end is open. No, not lifting the bag.
But taking the trash out… well, that was a possibility.
After all, how hard is it to drag a wheeled, solid plastic garbage can out to the curb? Maneuvering it from the garage, across the lawn, to beside, but not on top of or too close to, the mailbox?
Perhaps I should describe my lawn at this point.
It’s boring, very boring. Except for the cypress trees. The exciting bit about a cypress tree – which we did not, and would never, plant – is the knee. Our yard boasts several hard, spreading, knotty knees. So to traverse our lawn with a wheeled garbage can requires strategy. And planning. Both of which are challenge areas for our son.
In the few seconds this took to cross our brains – my husband and I held a powwow over additional chores – we both flashed back to packing the car with groceries. This task, recommended by a friend, really helped our son learn a lot about planning, physics, and breakable objects.
Perhaps taking the trash out was just what he needed to encourage that brilliant mind of his to grasp planning, strategy, and movement?
One forgets the lessons involved in moving large, unwieldy objects across treacherous ground. It’s not easy; and the lessons we’ve already learned are interesting to observe in others. Eureka moments, as in turning a large, unwieldy object too sharply (tim-ber!!), are wonderful to watch, and really things that everyone needs to experience to learn.
My Chore General has now successfully maneuvered his plastic tank across the minefield multiple times. And each time, he’s learned something new, whether it be about turning a top-heavy object, avoiding pitfalls, refraining from oh-so-tempting brute force (no, the can will not go over that knee no matter how hard it’s pushed), or thinking ahead.
And we’ve learned that he can be trusted. That he’ll work hard to accomplish his goal. His solution may not always be the same as ours – I can’t imagine popping wheelies with a garbage can, for instance – but gets the job done just the same. Sometimes even better.
So every Sunday I catch myself thinking: Today the garbage… tomorrow the world!