I worked in an emergency room for the better part of a decade.
I have some stories that would curl your hair.
But if there’s one thing we learned, it was that when it is quiet and there really isn’t much going on…you don’t ever say it.
Never ever EVER.
Because the moment you say it, patients start piling into the ER like crazed shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday.
So I know better than to fall prey to the jinx.
Yet here recently, I did just that.
It was about 2 months ago. Zoë and I had just finished spring cleaning the sun porch, and though it was still brisk outside, it was beautiful. I had a fresh cup of coffee, she was singing Bohemian Rhapsody, and the sun was warm on our faces. I took a moment, and gathered inventory on all of the goodness in my life. As I breathed in the cool air, I looked over at Zoë and said, “Ya know, life has been nice and quiet lately.”
Oh. No. You. Didn’t.
I could almost hear the glass shattering as I said it.
If I had been in the ER, ten nurses and two doctors would have tackled me.
But hey, gimme a break. It was true. Life was smooth-sailing. The medical bills were paid, Zion was thriving in ABA therapy, and there was no drama.
A week later one of Zion’s long time therapists resigned. Two weeks after that, another one of his afternoon therapists resigned. That following Friday, I received a massive bill in the mail. A few days later, some family drama resurfaced. The next week, Zion’s program manager resigned.
Within the time span of about a month…chaos.
The main problem with this, is that Zion needs routine.
Change upsets him.
So we tend to do the same thing day after day.
Sort of like the movie Groundhog Day, only without the comic stylings of Bill Murray.
So if there’s one thing you can’t do in our house, it is to panic or overreact. Zion is like a dog, in that he can smell fear a mile away. Any sign of stress or drama will send his behaviors skyrocketing.
(I’m sure you can already see where this is heading. And it makes me giggle.)
One day last week, I had prepared for the day as usual. Lunch packed, clothes laid out, iPad and headphones by the front door.
Zion’s entire therapy team had changed, so I knew I had to be on my A-game.
I went into Zion’s room to wake him, and like I do everyday I said, “Good morning buddy.”
He popped right up like he always does, and as soon as he did I realized I didn’t have any cereal.
He said, “Mama, can I have a cereal?”
So without missing a beat, I said, “Today we are going to have bacon and eggs.”
Now, everyone who knows us knows that we don’t have bacon on weekdays. It gives me fajita hair, and honestly I don’t want Zion turning into a salt lick. So I restrict bacon to weekends.
And he knows it.
We stared at each other, Wild Wild West style for a moment, until he said in a confused tone, “Today is Tuesday.”
I took a deep breath and said, “Yes, it is Tuesday,” and I proceeded to walk calmly to the kitchen to prepare said bacon and eggs.
He followed me into the kitchen and started searching the cabinets.
He said it again, “Mama, can I have a cereal?”, only now the tone of his voice was so high-pitched, only dogs could hear him.
I took my coffee and went out to the porch, and let him have his tantrum. When he was done, he came outside and asked me for the bacon and eggs I had offered 20 minutes earlier.
I fixed his breakfast, and he ate it in silence.
He got dressed, quietly.
His new therapist picked him up, and they headed off to the therapy center.
Without any more behaviors.
This is when I get nervous. Much like the scene in Jurassic Park when it is super quiet right before the T-rex pops out.
Two new therapists, a new program manager, bacon on a Tuesday, AND mama forgot the Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
Yep. Here come da T-rex.
Late afternoon I got the text message. His new program manager was on her way to my office with a very naked boy in her back seat.
People, no matter how many times you have seen your child naked, nothing can prepare you for opening up that car door and seeing a buck naked 10 year old.
I walked up to the car. I opened the door. And there sat Z in all of his glory, with his clothes and underwear sitting on the seat next to him, his iPad in his naked lap, in a urine-soaked seat above a urine-soaked floor.
And in that moment I thought two things.
ABA therapists are angels from heaven who don’t make enough money.
And tonight I better pick up some Cinnamon Toast Crunch.