Okasaneko
(http://blog.hellokitty.com/okasaneko)
A Tubby Tabby, Three Konekos, and a Life with Hello Kitty and Autism

Smile, Baby, Smile

Last week, I wrote about adolescent angst and how it’s making itself felt in my household of two teenagers (technically, both my boys are teenagers by chronological ages, but the young one is still a little child in many, many ways). Of late, it has been one issue after another: late bedtimes, chronic daytime sleepiness, inattention and apparent deafness (or just selective hearing), repeated (^nth power) requests to use Yahoo Messenger, and worse, going through a PhP300 prepaid cellphone load in just a matter of days!

We’ve slowly adjusted our household rules to address these issues. For example, his late nights do not worry or bother me as much as it did in the beginning. Studies have shown that the period of adolescence brings about a change in circadian rhythms. While the the sleep-related hormone melatonin remains at a constant level from childhood to adolescence, alterations in the timing of its secretion by the pineal gland affect their sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin secretion occurs later at night, making early sleep difficult, and turns off later in the morning, making early wake-up time just as difficult.  

Alex, who used to have a 10 pm bedtime at age 12, now can’t sleep earlier than midnight, and this we understand and accept fully. On a regular school day, he averages only five and a half hours of sleep (12 MN to 5:30 am) as school starts at 7 :45 in the morning. Thus, on weekends, if his schedule allows for it, we let him stay in bed longer to make up for lost sleep.

The other issues are a bit trickier. When he “seems deaf,” do I just repeat myself? YM requests must  answer a need, and not necessarily a want (like, is it for homework, or for socialization), but I find myself questioning and second-guessing myself if I limit his social interactions with this rule. Ahh, no easy answers, it seems.

And lastly, the sudden burgeoning of his cellphone load expense. Last year, PhP300 lasted him two months, but now, we see his load dwindling in a matter of weeks, days even. To instill in him some fiscal responsibility, we decided to make him buy for himself every other load card he needs. So,  on an alternate loading schedule, we share in the burden of his expense.

I find myself thinking about him more and more these days. I worry about him now more than I do his differently abled brother. Autism is difficult, true, but at least we have a clearer sense of how much Alphonse needs us and how long we will be in his life.  With Alex, there are so many possibilities- a million potential outcomes, it seems- that I worry about the choices he makes and how it will affect his future. The changes that seem to come almost every day leave me unsettled, wistful, and nostalgic. Sigh.

Every now and then, though, I still see glimpses of the little boy who followed me around shouting “I love you, Mama’ in sing-song fashion. Of the chubby six-year-old boy who refused to leave my side. Of the twelve-year-old who broke out in song every chance he could get, singing the Les Miserables libretto by heart. 

On a day like this, when he and his father exchanged ridiculously funny messages on SMS.

And on a day like this, I just have to remind myself to stop worrying and to “Smile, baby, just smile.”

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