When the children and I first escaped, my father would watch the boys for me while my stepmother and I went to thrift stores to try to find winter coats or car seats or shoes for the children.
Each time I rejoined my boys they were not happy and neither was my father. I think I left them three times and then never again, after I watched my father slap my four year old on the head for touching a television remote that looked just like his own. I specifically asked my father not to hit my son after that. So he would grab him by the arm instead (I remember that from being a kid, and it hurt) and so we cut back on visits for a while.
Things are a little better since then. But maybe not.
My kids are bored and frustrated at my father´s house. Nothing there is interactive. There are no games to play, no one is allowed to watch a screen, and no one is allowed to be inside – because nothing inside is for touching. These are ADHD kids, they need to be involved in something or they are all over the place.
This last visit they got in trouble for pretty much everything they did outside. No peeling bark (of course I agree with that one), no moving rocks, no tearing down stumps, no looking for bugs under things, no picking flowers or leaves, etc. The only thing they were left with was sticks. Picking up sticks or breaking sticks. If my father had had those rules when I was a kid on that property I would have died. My brother and I tore up plants and broke rocks into shards and hacked down whatever we could. We made pets out of root clumps and found bugs and animals and chased them down.
My autistic son is not too good at following directions. If you let it get to you then you would just be perpetually angry at him. He cannot help it. He is a people pleaser, so if he is not doing what you tell him to do then most likely he has forgotten it or he has fixated on doing that thing and is unable to process redirection. He also cannot understand two-part directions, which really hinders him in the big world.
Anyway, a few years ago, about the time I quit visiting for a bit, my father and his wife drove over an hour to come and see me. Me, without the children present. They did this so they could tell me that I had to ¨do something¨ about my sons, who were obviously out of control. Well, they still sometimes are. They said they would never have a normal life if they don´t learn this or that. Mostly about impulse control and obedience.
I knew I had to ¨do something¨ already, and I had known it since they learned to walk. I couldn´t do much about it until we were free. They were my kids and I was already working with what was the beginning of my medical team when they had this talk with me.
Less than a year later my oldest was diagnosed with autism and his brother with PTSD and ADHD. Both were also diagnosed with ODD but I never bothered to tell my father that, because sometimes it is just a comorbid dx, a default before the real diagnosis comes in. When I told my father my son was autistic he refused to believe it. He insisted my son was normal and every kid must be autistic. I asked him then why he had made a special trip to tell me the year before that my sons needed help. He had no answer to that.
So he still does not get it.
We go up to his house for my birthday lunch and just before the meal begins he announces that my son is on his ¨bad list¨ for ripping apart a stump and not stopping when being told to. This is something my father has praised my sons for doing on previous occasions, he has had them destroy stumps for him because the ones that are falling apart are such a pain to get out of the ground. I am positive my son does not know which stumps he can do this to and which he cannot. Hell, I don´t know either. A stump is a stump, to me.
I told my father that he has to tell my son something more than once and he shot me a disgusted look. I had the strongest urge to spell out the word ¨autistic¨ to him, but I did not. I was just thinking ¨You and everybody else.¨ Life sucks often enough when you are autistic. The least his family could do would be to be patient and to attempt to teach rather than condemn him. Why is it easier for people to believe that children are naughty than it is to believe that their brain might work differently? Why is it easier to believe that a child would fish for anger rather than love and approval?
I was always on his bad list, too. My son has great company.