Rumble in the jungle
By Elise Ronan on March 13, 2010
No I am not going to discuss the Ali-Foreman fight. But what I can tell you is that Ali and Foreman had nothing on my two boys. Let me tell you when the rounds start going here, the rounds start going. Now it’s not always fisticuffs in fact most of the time it’s just plenty of mean words. Which believe you me is bad enough. Punches may sting for awhile but those words can be damaging. And with two boys with OCD who never relent, sometimes the fighting just goes on and on and on.
I have told you stories about how the boys can’t agree on anything. How even at holiday dinners they need to be sat at opposite ends of a table because the entire meal is spent arguing about the existence of God. I do have to tell you it is tiresome. No not tiresome in the fatigues sort of body ache way, but tiresome in the enough already way. Get over it and get over yourselves. I try to tell them. People are entitled to their opinions and their opinions don’t have to agree. Of course, then you turn on the news and everyone is just so polite and respectful, NOT.
But what do you do when it’s your home and your children can’t and won’t get along. It is a very interesting problem. At least in many homes there is a neurotypical sibling whom you can try to reason with. But here in this house, with two aspies on board, it’s like arguing with two brick walls. Now don’t get me wrong, you can argue with them, you can reason with them, you can talk to them like civil humans beings and have a wonderful articulate discussion about almost anything in the world, except their sibling.
The irony that surrounds their relationship is that HSB emerged from the womb in love with his older brother. I know they say that infants don’t smile or react to people right away, but I will tell you that the only time HSB lit up as a newborn or smiled, was when collegeman was around. You saw it in his face. He lit up. His little arms would start going and you could just tell that the person he loved most in the world had just came near him. This attitude continued throughout their childhood. HSB was collegeman’s protector. Like the time I grabbed him from attacking a counselor at camp whom he thought had made his brother cry. Heaven forbid you made collegeman upset, his enforcer, HSB, would have a word with you and would make you an offer you couldn’t refuse where collegeman was concerned.
But then something very interesting started to happen. HSB realized that he was his own person. It happened some time in middle school. HSB started coming into his own, which also meant that he didn’t listen to everything that collegeman told him. Boy did collegeman not catch on to that right away. In fact it was just something collegeman was neither about to acknowledge nor relinquish the control that he had once had on his younger brother. You see it had become the way life was. Collegeman said to HSB, “jump”, and HSB would reply, “How high?” Not anymore I’m afraid. Collegeman never really took well to the change.
It wasn’t the adulation so much that he missed. I am not even sure he understood how much his brother looked up to him. But it was more that collegeman thought of himself as HSB’s mentor or sensei. Collegeman decided it was he who would guide his brother through the trials and tribulations of life. For awhile it worked out well. But then HSB decided to try life on his terms not anyone else’s. Not a good move where collegeman was concerned.
Now it has gotten so bad that if collegeman even makes a suggestion to HSB, HSB automatically rejects it without giving it another thought. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to what he perceives as his brother being a budinsky. Now I do have to tell you that collegeman is at that wonderful stage in life, when our brilliant and delightful and joyful offspring think they know everything. Collegeman has decided that he is going to teach everyone, including his father and me.
I do have to tell you that I try to emphasize to collegeman how to act and how to behave when he interacts with people. When collegeman was entering college and he was excited because he thought he was done with bullies and assholes, I did put a damper on his euphoria a little. I had to explain to him that no matter where you go in life there will always be that one asshole. The trick, I told him, is to not be the asshole. Then you will be ok. I am afraid at times; collegeman can be the know-it-all asshole in the room, and especially with his brother. So therein lies the rub. How do we get collegeman to let HSB figure things out on his own and teach him how not to get insulted by HSB’s independence thereby starting a commotion. Meanwhile HSB has to learn to be gracious about his brother’s advice, not get insulted by collegeman’s attempts to help and then start a commotion of his own. It really is two sides of the same coin.
Yesterday was what I termed the last straw for me. We were in the barbershop, both getting their hair cut. Not really a big deal and not really a traumatic event. They go. It gets cut. We pay. We go home. Done. Not yesterday. HSB has taken to saying silly one-liners he reads off his favorite websites. They are in context in his mind but generally out of context for the rest of the world. Well HSB let out a one-liner. I was going to correct him but before I got there off spouts collegeman, yelling at his brother to shut up. HSB then of course gets insulted and they begin, in a crowded barbershop, to yell at each other. People talk about stares when your little children misbehave because of their issues in public, guess what kind of stares I received yesterday when my full grown pain in the asses started yelling at each other in public.
Needless to say, I moved in quick and for the kill. Shut them both up in a never you mind parental, I will punish you, shut your mouths mode sort of way. They got quiet, but there was the perpetual scowl on collegeman’s face and a grumpy demeanor. The rest of the visit was uneventful and successful. The boys ended up with haircuts. We paid and we left. But just outside the barbershop I saw the looks again and turned on them in the middle of the street. I did that mom with the finger in your face and chastised them both as being ridiculous and above all embarrassing themselves and me in front of people in the town. Told them they are 16 and 19 and need to act their ages. That they were to shut up, stop fighting and cut in out or I will make them miserable. Even when we got in the car I had to tell collegeman to wipe the scowl off his face.
Sometimes I am just at my wits end when they fight like that. The best part about yesterday was when collegeman told me he was going to have to teach Jared because he, not I, knew how to parent his brother. Just use your imagination with what came next out of my mouth.
I know that in reality collegeman means well when he tries to teach HSB. He sees issues that HSB has and wants to fix them and is frustrated that HSB does not seem to try to fix the issues himself. He doesn’t understand why HSB doesn’t take school as serious as he should and why he doesn’t seem to work hard. Yep that parts frustrating for us too. We do try to teach collegeman that even though it’s frustrating he should let us handle it or allow HSB to make his mistakes. So of course collegeman goes the other direction and declares HSB a nonperson and doesn’t talk to him at all. We tend to have extremes in this house; nothing is ever half-way.
HSB for his part should not push his brother’s buttons. Now you may ask does he even know when he does that. Yeah I’m pretty sure he does know, known for quite some time too, and as with all manner of younger brother, really like pushing those buttons. Then of course, he gets upset when collegeman pushes back.
The true irony in all this is that what they are annoyed about in each other is the issues that each of them have. So collegeman can see when HSB is lazy, but not when he is. HSB can get annoyed with collegeman’s one-liners from the Big Bang Theory, but repeats the one-liners he likes. They have so little patience for what they perceive to be each other’s problems and faults that its truly comical at times. You have to laugh how they seem to have each other figured out, but they don’t fix those same problems in themselves first.
What to do? They do share a bedroom, interestingly that goes really well. But the areas that are important to them are their offices and for that each is off limits to the other. No problem by me actually. They do share the basement, take turns working out and playing their games. That they actually do really well. It’s truly the interacting part that causes them trouble. Truthfully I am not sure how much of the fact that they annoy each other is the aspergers and how much is just plain old sibling nonsense.
I can’t make them like each other (deep down inside I think they really do). I can’t make them be friends. But I can insist on civil discourse and respectful interaction in the house and that’s what we are working towards. Not there yet, but we are working on it.
Told you Ali and Foreman have nothing on my boys.
Until next time,
P.S. If you read the previous blog you will note the discussion about collegeman’s beard and how we finally relented to letting him keep it as long as it was groomed. Pain in the ass had the barber shave it off yesterday. Go figure.
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