Friday, May 05, 2000

Quit bugging me!

My son is delayed in just about everything. From his small size (way down there off the bottom of the charts) to his fine and gross motor skills to his language ability to his social and emotional development, he's running anywhere from a bit to a lot behind. Therapists, special-ed teachers, and his father and I work tirelessly to bring him along and catch him up. Yet when it comes to harrassing his sister, I must admit, the boy is right on schedule.

I was an only child growing up, and so I missed the sibing-rivalry experience. I always wanted a little brother or sister, but now that I see what that entails, I think there's a lot to be said for solitude. I had counted on a sibling as an in-house friend, an ever-present playmate, someone always available to bask in my wonderfulness and reflect it back at me. But at the same time, that little person sharing your home can be your enemy, seeking out your weaknesses and exploiting them, saying just that thing that will make you lose your temper, preferably in front of Mom and Dad.

My daughter, with neurological problems of her own, is certainly easy to bug. With her rigidly literal world view and inflexible sense of right and wrong, there's a hair-trigger quality to her outrage. And that's not lost on the boy. Among the things that he knows will tick her off are copying her in any way, from deliberately repeating her words to simply asking for the same kind of juice; hugging, pinching, or touching without filling out the appropriate paperwork first; making up funny stories instead of always telling the cold hard literal truth; and saying her name in a loud and sing-songy way he likes. This is a boy who has no skill for social cues, who cannot seem to read other people, and who has yet to develop much sophisticated emotion himself. But his ability to drive this one girl crazy is unerring.

So much of what he does is impulsive, obsessive, or compulsive that it's hard to believe he could be doing this on purpose. He repeats phrases in that sing-songy way all the time, and it seems to come from a part of his brain that has little to do with conscious thought. He's often in his own world, which can be seen from ours but does not run on the same rules. His preoccupation with his own needs and interests can make him hard to reach and hard to discipline. But with his sister--well, I've seen that gleam in his eye. There's deliberate manipulation going on there, and though I'm sorry for her unhappiness, I can only take that sort of involvement with another person's feelings and reactions as a positive step forward for him.

But he better not get any ideas about teasing me.

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