I’m going to be honest. I took high school calculus because my best friend was taking it, and I needed to prove I was as smart as she was. I was very insecure, and what’s worse, I hated math. But I did get something good from all those numbers: a B- and a neat little tidbit: A “googol” is 10 to the power of 100. The “googolplex” is significantly larger: 10 to the power of a googol – 10googol, or 10100.
I have told my children to stop fighting googolplex times. Googolplex times, guys.
I have also had to repeat basic chores —feed the dog, make your bed, brush your teeth, put on underwear—googolplex times. In this litany of tasks is: “Wednesday is trash day, so after the bus drops you off in the afternoon, you have to walk the garbage cans up the driveway. You are walking in that direction anyway, and you literally cannot put one foot in front of the other toward our house without passing the trash cans. It is therefore illogical for you to do anything but grab the stupid trash cans and start walking.”
Temple Grandin’s mom, Eustacia Cutler, wrote in her memoir that she did not treat Temple differently than her three other children simply because of her autism.
Temple was expected to keep up, perform chores, and adhere to the same rules as her siblings. My high-functioning boys have figured out that there is shock value and potential empathy (read: leniency) associated with the “I can’t help it—I’m autistic” excuse. When they try this garbage with me, they get another chore. Homey don’t play that.
Noah hates trash day. I’m not swayed by this. Everyone has a job around here they particularly hate. For my part, it’s unloading the dishwasher. The drying and the stacking and so many cups. But it all has to be done. Our family is a team, and we need to be pulling in the same direction, together.
Oddly, while Noah’s Asperger’s mind remembers the most random informational tidbits, it conveniently forgets to bring the garbage cans up the driveway on Wednesday afternoons. So when the kids burst in the door sans trash cans this week, I looked right at Noah.
“Did you bring up the cans?”
“ARGHGHGHHHHHH–!!!” (inaudible growling and screaming)
“Sorry buddy, it’s Wednesday. That’s what we do on Wednesdays.”
So off he ran down the driveway in a huff, yelling something to himself. Probably wishing he had googolplex other options for a mother.
I sat down with Jesse at the counter and said, “Okay buddy, let’s get to work on your homework.”
Jesse was biting his nails—just like his brother does. Jesse will chew anything you put near his mouth, actually. He’s like a teething Chihuahua, but more destructive. I’ve lost clothing, utensils, and t.v. remotes this way.
“Mom,” he replied, chomping, “aren’t there three trash cans?”
“Yes honey,” I said, without looking up from his folder, and quietly seething that he was only six and why were there so many papers?
“How is he gonna get all dem up da driveway by himself?”
“Well, he’s going to have to figure that out, I suppose.”
Here, Jesse shoved a handful of cheese-itz in his mouth, chewing loudly, thinking. When the cloud of crumbs cleared, he said:
“Mom, I’m gonna go help him.”
And just like that – as simply as he’s ever undertaken anything in his life – my youngest child resolved to help his older brother without being asked. There was no knee-jerk impulse to punch him. No decision to jump on his bed naked (which sends Noah into a screaming rage). No choice to eat Noah’s toaster strudel when he’s not looking. These are quick and easy decisions. Instead, Jesse decided to put his own comfort aside, and walk the entire length of the long driveway down to the bottom to meet his brother. There, after some hand gesturing and a grin on Noah’s face, the boys pulled the cans up together, side by side. I stood at the window, tearing up.
Sometimes, googolplex pays off, and after more reminders than you can count, you get googolplex feels when you realize your son’s character is budding, and for once, he didn’t need to be reminded to do the right thing.
Thank you, calculus.