Yesterday, I turned my son upside down in front of Staples in an effort to tickle the “evil jujus” out of him.
He had been in a snarly mood all day. He woke up grouchy and kept pushing my buttons all day long- “NO!” was the word of the day. He informed me that I couldn’t tell him to eat; I wasn’t the boss of his body- he was. I calmly informed him that he was indeed, and that I expected him to make good choices for himself, but he was having none of it. Everything- from the song playing on the radio, to the weather to the direction we were heading to the grocery store- was wrong and something I had done on purpose to make him angry. We call these the “evil jujus”- the moments when the bipolar/autism/anxiety- whatever- is in control and Ray is out of control.
I was about to rise to the bait, when I remembered something that I read in Susan Senator’s book, “Making Peace with Autism“. She described her son Nathan as seeking for some kind of response- any sort of strong response- and that negative emotions were easier and stronger to get, so he would seek out negative attention on some days. On the days that he was needing to feel the most grounded, he sought the strongest emotion. She would turn the tables on him by providing him with strong positive emotion- by sitting down and laughing with him- uproarious emotional laughing, the kind that makes you cry. The kind you get up from feeling good, not bad.
It was worth a shot. So, I turned to Ray in the back seat and growled at him, “If you don’t stop right now, I’m going to have to tickle you really, really hard!” He looked shocked, and then turned his head with a little smile on his face, trying not to laugh, trying to hold on to that snarl that he had been working on. James said “Oh, look, he’s laughing!”, which immediately produced a “No, I’m not! You can’t tell me what to do!”
When we pulled into the parking lot at Staples, he headed back down that well-trodden path of resistance. “I’m going to stay right here. You can’t make me!” as we got out of the car. We got out, and he followed, about 10 feet away, grumbling, “I don’t want to go to Staples. Staples is stupid. They don’t even have any staples here!”. It was a stream of negative words that was focused on me, on us, on what was wrong with the world- that had been going on since 9am.
Which explains why, if you were in Staples yesterday afternoon, you witnessed a half-crazed mom turn around very quickly, grab her son, and turn him upside down, right in front of the doors, singing “I’m going to tickling those evil jujus out of you. Goodbye, evil jujus!” I realized as I was tickling him, that it helped me release all of that pent-up frustration as well and that he was laughing, although a bit shocked at the same time. I figured if he wanted sensation, by God, I was going to give him sensation. And I’m quite sure that tickling, even upside-down tickling, complete with maniacal laughter, was better than the physical lashing out from which I was restraining myself.
And those evil jujus? Mostly shook out… they reappeared a few more times during the day, but would go back into their gabbling, dark, evil place when I walked away from the confrontation. We went to Staples, bought some school supplies and went back home, where “The Pink Panther” movie helped them go away some more.
Thank you, Susan.
… another example of how moms help each other- even virtually!