The Boogeyman

This is a very hard post to write, but I’ve learned that fears die down when you face them.

I’ve been enjoying the ramp up to Halloween – recently catching a matinee of “Halloween Ends.”

Yesterday night, a real horror scenario played out: T took a lollipop from a store without paying for it.

This may sound trivial but this is triggering for me, because stealing behaviour is common for some kids with FASD – and I’ve long dreaded this.

The evening started innocently: T and I were shopping at the dollar store for Halloween decor.

At the lineup, he walked away. When I went to look for him, I saw him slide his hand into his pocket.

Not thinking anything of it, I later saw a lollipop poke out. I questioned him and he said it was given to him by daycare.

It felt off but I didn’t want to create a scene. In the car, I grilled him and he confessed he took it.

I was livid and I told him what he did was wrong and is considered a crime.

I was in shock and my reaction was to drive home. T had a meltdown because he thought we were going to jail after I said the word crime. I was so upset I let him sweat until we got home.

The horror film “Halloween” tells the tale of Michael Myers who escapes from an asylum and goes on a killing spree, targeting babysitter Laurie Strode, with psychiatrist Dr Loomis in his pursuit.

Laurie is horror’s most famous “Final Girl” and she referred to Myers as the Boogeyman, a word synonymous with things we deeply fear.

As a parent of a child with FASD, the invisible disability itself is my Boogeyman.

When we first learned about T’s FASD prognosis, the things I read up about it horrified me, specifically high risk for aggression, mental health challenges, run-ins with the law.

I read with empathy of other parents’ struggles, including challenges related to stealing behaviour.

If a horror movie fan was to judge T based on the challenging behaviours he can exhibit, they wouldn’t peg him as the “final girl,” the virtuous character who survives the mayhem.

Thankfully, what the FASD parenting journey has taught the hubby and I is that our kids don’t follow the standard narrative, nor is anything about this life journey standard.

Once we understand “brain not behaviour,” the chaos makes better sense.

In T’s case, FASD impairs his executive functioning and makes him very impulsive, which is how I’m explaining what happened at the store.

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for him. I am still very pissed and sad about what happened – but I’m trying to view it from the eyes of a child with an invisible disability.

In our horror movie, T is the final girl being chased endlessly by the boogeyman of FASD – and the hubby and I are Dr Loomis, his external brain.

Invisible Disability Week took place this past week.

Our fear of the Boogeyman is so powerful, because it is unseen and unknown – leaving our imaginations to fill in the blanks and make it larger than life.

When I think about FASD, the hubby and I have come a long way with our relationship with it, because we have learned and experienced so much, and been blessed with wonderful supports.

The invisible became visible. What was once unseen is now seen. What once seemed unknown and scary seems less so, although not necessarily easier to deal with, just to be clear.

A great video for parents dealing with stealing.

When we got home from the store, T dashed out of the car, into the house and hid in our room.

I sat by myself in our dining room trying to collect my thoughts. I was so flustered.

After the hubby logged off work, I told him that we were driving back to the store, T was going to go to the cashier, tell them what he did, return the lollipop and say sorry.

That’s exactly what we did – and T was cooperative.

I will be honest, I felt nervous and mortified, but I knew this was the right thing to teach T – and it was about facing my own Boogeyman.

T handed the lollipop to the cashier and said, “I’m sorry I stole the lollipop.”

As we left the store, we praised T for doing the right thing. We also reiterated what we did was wrong and that he was grounded for the weekend with no electronics or his favourite snacks.

The hubby and I are aware this could happen again. As his external brain, we will remind T about expectations going into a store, supervise him and do an inspection before we leave.

This may sound over the top to parents of neurotypical children, but for us, it’s about helping our T succeed.

“Halloween Ends” is the 13th film in the franchise and just like Michael Myers never stays away and comes back in endless sequels, the Boogeyman of FASD will always be a part of T’s life.

But I still believe – even if part of me feels deflated by what happened on Friday – that T will still emerge as the “final girl” in his story.

Through supports, accommodations, intervention therapies, awareness raising, advocacy, the invisible Boogeyman in his life will become more visible and the fear will die down, giving us the courage to face the ongoing challenges.

Today, Saturday, was a trying day, but we stuck to our guns and he was grounded.

We took T to swim lessons. He did an amazing job.

In the afternoon, I took him to the park and enjoyed watching him initiate play with a group of boys.

As I watched him laugh and smile, I reminded myself that he’s just a kid, trying to find his way in this world with the cards he’s been dealt.

And for that one moment, I told the Boogeyman to fuck right off.

25 thoughts on “The Boogeyman

  1. I was reading and hoping that you went back to the store with T. You and hubby handled it perfectly, and it brought back a memory. When I was 12, I took a lipstick – my mother found out and made me go back to the cashier and return it – it was a humiliating and lifelong lesson – great post – AND I WON’T WATCH HORROR MOVIES! EEEK!

    1. Thanks Vickie for sharing that story. You turned our wonderful despite that lipstick incident. There’s hope for us yet! 😊 Have a nice weekend!

  2. Well you handled that perfectly! It brought back the memory of my autistic client that stole a book mark from a book store when she was with me. I didn’t even know it, she was an adult. Her dad found it and since I didn’t turn in a receipt and all of her money was still in her wallet he asked where it came from. They marched her right back to the store too. Unfortunately it didn’t stop and I had to watch her like a hawk!

    1. Thanks Diane. It really upset me and in some ways, I still feel upset about it. But trying to move on, as I know this is part of the life of parenting a child with needs.

      Very interesting you shared your experience with working with the autistic child. A grandmother at daycare today just quite bluntly asked me, what kind of autism T has. She’s a social worker for 45 years, so I explained he has FASD. A lot of very similar symptoms between both.

    1. Thank you. 😊 I like the phrase “solid base” because it captures what our hopes and goals are. And I hope you’re right in that it’ll help keep the Boogeyman at bay. 😊

  3. I thank you for sharing this & I hope one day you & I can have an actually conversation. No worries, I have no advice, lol but your perspective on things have opened my eyes & continue to help me grow.
    I can’t relate to this story in a few ways too. Let’s just say my daughter was 4 at the time, it was key chains instead of a lollipop & my brother from then on became uncle boogeyman & still is today.

  4. Wow. You hit it out of the park again! What a great metaphor! I can empathize with your fears about T stealing and breaking laws. The positive is that you and your husband have an incredible support system for him. I dont think he will end up in jail. Will he make mistakes? Of course! All children, and adults do. But with your routine, your support, he will be a smashing success! He already is! When I was younger, I used to go to hardware stores with my dad and take all the hardware bits that fell onto the floor. I didnt think anything of it because they weren’t in the bins. Now I know that is still stealing lol. The impulsivity gets us in trouble. We realize how wrong it is a second or 3 after we do it. You handled it perfectly. T IS LUCKY TO HAVE YOU BOTH! Have a great Sunday! And a great week!

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I always look forward to your comments, because you get it as someone with the lived experience.

      I am hopeful T is on the right path, but I do worry when these moments happen, because they are so triggering and upsetting.

      As long as continue to focus on “brain not behaviour,” I think we’ll weather the storms ahead.

      And yes, impulsivity really does create a lot of trouble indeed! 😆 Just deep breaths and take it a step and a day at a time!

      Have a wonderful Sunday and upcoming week ahead too!

  5. I’m so sorry to hear that T stole a lollipop. It sounds like you did an amazing job at remaining calm and using this as a valuable life lesson. The fact that T felt bad about it afterwards goes to show that he has self-awareness and many of the “final girl” qualities. Can you imagine if he felt no remorse at all!? Now that would be an even bigger horror scenario!! Those characters are usually the first ones to go in horror movies, lol.

    1. Thanks Linda. The instant remorse (and meltdown over jail 😆) does make me feel better. But it’s definitely going to be an ongoing thing to keep an eye on as kids like T and their impulsivity puts them at risk of such challenging behaviour. And yes, I know which characters you are referring to as the first ones to go. 😆

  6. I love the ending to this post Ab. I don’t think your punishment was over the top. As parents I believe we have to model real life – to make them understand the gravity of the crime as the real world would see it. I remember stealing a candy as a child. I felt so guilty about it I fessed up to my mum in tears. She was proud that I owned up to it. This was after I’d eaten it of course. But my parents did make me go back to pay and apologise. I believe my punishment was not dissimilar. For what’s it worth, I have the utmost respect to you and your hubby for taking T under your wings. I believe you’re both doing an exceptional job. 🙏

    1. Thanks AP. I’m not gonna tell T that you at least got to eat the candy or he’ll feel ripped off. 😆 All kidding aside, this was a very hard one for me and as a fellow parent, I know you can relate. It sounds like your mom/parents did right by you when that incident happened and I sure hope to do the same in the years to come. 🙂 Hope you’re continuing to enjoy the good food and time in your new home!

  7. What struck me most about this is the fact that many wrong behaviors people do can actually be explained with what happens in their brain. It’s good that over time, we understand better how our brains work, and what may happen when something is not right up there. This way, preemptive and corrective actions can be done as early as possible to reduce the risk of such behavior to further develop in the future. I think you did the right thing: telling T that what he did was wrong, and bringing him back to the store to return the lollipop and apologize. Bless parents who have children with FASD!

    1. Thank you, Bama. It is a huge learning curve for me to grasp that some behaviours are influenced by my son’s neurological condition. It’s a fine line for sure between not making excuses for the behaviour but to also explain it based on a disability. Discipline is hard with kids like T but so needed if we want to keep him out of trouble. 😊

  8. The boogeyman can go suck it! Oh, what an incredibly courageous and honest post, Ab. And of course it makes sense as the boogeyman because what happened lit up a whole chain of Xmas tree lights knowing all that you do about FASD instead of just one bulb of the event. It sounds like you handled it perfectly and for the 1,027 time (approximately, of course) I am so impressed with your parenting. Indeed, T has already won the parent lotto and I believe as you do, that he won’t be limited by any prognosis and will go on to great things!

    1. Thank you, Wynne. “Go suck it, Boogeyman” needs to be put on a T-shirt and mug. I’m gonna start a side business with this. 😆

      And thanks for the kind words. This was a really hard one and I’m still feeling upset about this. But every day is a new day and all we can go it keep moving forward. Onward we go! 😊

      1. Sign me up for a mug and a tshirt!

        I can understand why you are still feeling upset. If it’s any comfort, I think it would have been so easy not to ask T the questions and not to follow-up by taking things back. Your willingness to experience discomfort will make a huge difference.

        And onward we go! Another great tshirt and mug suggestion.

      2. Thanks Wynne. The comment about experiencing the discomfort is so appreciated, because it really was so uncomfortable.

        Gonna go open up my Etsy store now. 😆

        Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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