I knew it as soon as I saw him walk with a barely controlled frustration across the crossing. All the signs were there. A tightness in the jaw. A slight redness around the eyes. And a real reluctance to talk or even look at me.
The Black Cloud of Angst was overhead. Damn. Back so soon?
As we were driving home, I stole a glance in the rear vision mirror. My Ninja Boy was unusually quiet, his mouth still compressed into a thin, flat line. That didn’t bode well. Normally he provides a continual one-sided conversation as we go, parroting the soundtrack of his current favourite DVD or TV show. This little routine relaxes and calms him after a long day. For ASD kids, being at school can present double the challenge of neuro-typical kids – as well as the actual work, they have to cope with external sensory and structural pressures. It’s pretty full on for the entire 6 hours they are there, so by the end of the day they are DONE.
But yesterday, there was no chatter to be had. Usually the deep rumble of H’s voice is a comforting backing track as I drive and it was noticeable by its absence. No gentle prodding about what was wrong elicited any response. By the time we reached our driveway though, it all came tumbling out punctuated with hot, angry tears.
“I just. Want. Things. To stay. The same.” This statement was accompanied by a hand smacking down hard on the seat beside him. My heart broke.
This year heralds preparation for a major shift in H’s life. High school looms in the distance and this means new friends and new routines. A new classroom. New uniform. New teachers. Not to mention we have the added bonus of puberty with mood swings, hormonal and physical changes all combined with autism. The result is one very stressed Ninja Boy. All it takes is one thing to go wrong and he’s beside himself.
Because haven’t we all been there? Everyone has met Same. Same is safe. Same is predictable. Same lets you focus on other things because the main parameters of your life are known.
Same doesn’t help you grow. Same doesn’t push you to learn. Same doesn’t expose you to new taste, touch and feel. Same doesn’t help you become the person you’re meant to be.
So the battle began. We finally shot down that Cloud with lots of cuddles and some social story-telling. I knew the crisis was averted, for now. The Universe kindly decided to cut me a break when I realised later we had karate scheduled for that afternoon. Most serendipitous. Karate has been a real revelation for us – it’s the perfect place for any teen to get rid of all that pent-up anger in a safe and calm way. No actual persons are harmed during this activity! Win/win.
I know it won’t be the last time we see the Black Cloud of Angst, unfortunately. I’ve been down this road before and I know it’s like a rite of passage. A sure thing. Navigating those teenage years is like walking through a minefield. Every little drama is magnified like it’s the end of the world. One wrong step and…*mass explosions* Exhausting, isn’t it? I am only slightly cheered by the fact that this will be the last time I have to go through it. Small mercies, people, small mercies. But hell, I’ll take it.
Has your house been visited by the Black Cloud of Angst lately? What do YOU do to send that bitch packing?