Multicoloured Christmas lights have become a really big thing for Johnny. It began two years when we would go for would go and wander in the neighbourhood and check out all the Christmas light displays. We live in a big city so the houses are very close together so one street can offer many different delights. Princess would get excited about the big “blow ups” as she calls them and Johnny would get excited about the multicoloured lights strings, where people chose to hang them and the difference between incandescent and LED. He’s always loved lots of colour and in his drawings and paintings there is a vibrancy and intensity about it. Princess thinks that it’s the patterns of the colours he likes most and how they repeat and look like a never ending rainbow. Whatever the reason, last year Johnny was adamant that when we were buying some new LED lights to replace some of the older strings, he insisted that he wanted to hang multicoloured ones. When Johnny gets an idea in his head, he is like a pitbull pant leg and he will not stop people try to keep figuring out ways to make what he wants happen no is not an answer.
So last December, while shopping in Walmart, his Daddy decides to check out the Christmas light display and look for some blue strings to create blue spheres to hang off the bush he wants to cover in white lights to create a frost effect. Meanwhile, Johnny sees a big spindle of 200 multicoloured lights and he puts it in our shopping cart and tells us that’s what he wants to get. But his Daddy has other ideas and he isn’t into having rainbow string lights in his front yard Christmas display. It suddenly became a comedy of errors watching Daddy put the big spindle of lights back on the shelf and putting his choice in the buggy and then trying to leave the Christmas section while Johnny would run back and grab the heavy spindle and put it back in the buggy and removing Daddy’s choices. They were at an artistic impasse.
One of the things I’ve learned from being a parent is you have to be prepared to choose your battles and when can you turn it around from being a negative experience into a positive teaching moment. When it comes to parenting a child on the Autistic spectrum, I have had to learn with great frustration that Johnny has a hard time learning when its time to stop repeating the same argument over and over and be more flexible. He learns via repetition so how can I win if repetition can beat me down? What do I want to teach him? I want to teach him to be a more flexible thinker and also accept another person’s opinion as their own and respect it even if you strongly disagree with them. So I look over at my husband and son and realize that they are going to both have to compromise. I suggest that they both get the lights they want to get and work together in the front yard. Now the next argument is going to be exactly where to place the multicoloured lights that Daddy doesn’t really like. They settle on this big bush near the porch and it works and most importantly Johnny has been taught that adults can be flexible too and his opinion is valued as well.
So now its December 2014 and we hang up the multicoloured lights and the string works for a week and then doesn’t light up. One of the wires has snapped probably due to the intense cold of the ice storm last year. Johnny has a meltdown that keeps repeating because he wants Daddy to fix it and can’t accept that they are suddenly not working. When things don’t work Johnny is driven to try and fix things and problem solve and saying that we have to replace something is never the answer he wants to hear. He wants to tinker and fix or wants his Daddy to do it. My father who lived with us before he passed away always tinkered with stuff and made the impossible work so I think watching his Grandpa from a young age do this has stuck with him. I sometimes wonder if it has a larger meaning at times such as finding control in his world that sometimes feels like its filled with pitfalls and chaos while he tries to fit in and do what all the other children find second nature.
Princess and I go to the store to pick up more multicoloured lights because she knows that once her older brother sees the new strings and can hang them he will feel better. She is right (she’s only 4) and he is absolutely thrilled and already has a new idea of where to hang the lights. His choice is on our hedge in the front yard so its a good thing we bought an extra string. Its freezing out but he stays outside and helps his Daddy finish all the lights and its looks great.
The other idea Johnny had was he wanted to go to a Christmas tree lot and pick a small tree and dig a hole and plant it in our front yard and put red lights on it. He wanted to go to the dollar store and buy a star for the top and some Christmas decoration balls to hang on it too. He was very adamant again that he wanted this in our front yard as part of our Christmas light display this year. We decided lets budget for it and let him follow his creative spirit and see where it leads us and it lead us to a beautiful display this year.