• Erin Griffith - Tired

The Arby's Paradox

So, my son has mild autism and OCD and needless to say, he makes our lives very interesting.

Here is keeping "assured clear distance" from Donald Duck.

He is kind of a gray-area kid, he definitely has clear cut autistic/OCD moments, but he is also social and goes with the flow most of the time. He loves to snorkel. That's right, snorkel. Most autistic/OCD kiddos would never let a tight snorkel mask near their face or tight swim fins on their feet, but William LOVES it. He spent our entire Myrtle Beach vacation snorkeling in the pool. And he's good at it. It definitely makes your kid hard to find when they are under the water all the time, but a little bright yellow reflective tape at the top of his snorkel took care of those mini mommy heart attacks. We actually went through two snorkels in one week because he wore out the mouth piece on the first one. AND he got to take a scuba diving lesson and he was totally sold on scuba diving after that.

So, he has more good days then bad days and that makes us very lucky. Even better, is that he only rarely bad days, it's more bad moments than anything else. Sometimes the moments last for a few minutes and sometimes they last for hours. I wanted to share one of these moments, for both its hilarity and frustration.

To frame this story, let me give you some background information:

Let's just say that William has a love/hate relationship with Arby's. He throws a hissy-fit every time that we even suggest eating there (his little sister LOVES Arby's and will probably have them cater her wedding someday). And when I say "throws a hissy-fit" I mean that he actually throws things, growls and yells at us, engages in self-harmful behavior, kicks, hits, and cries. The more correct term for this sort of fit is "meltdown," but I did not feel that "meltdown" really paints the full picture of his reaction to the suggestion that we eat at Arby's.

You are probably thinking "Oh my, he must really hate Arby's." So, I am going to relate an Autism/OCD/Arby's story to you in order to really bring you more viscerally into the experience of having a child like William.

Ok, so this Tuesday was what I like to call a "cluster-f*&k" day. I had a big meeting after school until 330; then, I had to run home because Abby had tumbling at 5 until 630; then, William had a counseling appointment at 7.

William had a great day for the most part, but on our way to tumbling class he started to get grouchy. He was angry that Eric wouldn't turn on internet in the car. This started the downward spiral. He began lashing out at his sister, saying mean things to her, and he smashed her new LEGO toy. She immediately began crying. At that point, William lost the privilege of having his Ipad, until I finished reassembling the LEGO Rhinoceros (which could be until the year 2020 because it was broken into hundreds of tiny pieces).

At this point, having lost his ipad, and therefore, his reason for continuing on in this life, William has curled up in his booster seat in shame and misery.

Eric asks, "What should we do for dinner guys?" trying to lighten the mood.

Abby tearfully says, "Arby's!" with great enthusiasm.

This was the absolute last straw for William...he had reached his limit.


Eric turned on the radio and played songs from the movie "The Lorax" which both kids have been really into lately.


You can literally see my husbands cool leaking out of him at this point. "Buddy, you and I are going to have a talk when we get to tumbling."



We arrive at tumbling. Abby bee bops through the door and is promptly off to her world of tumbling mats and trampolines. I set up my computer and prepare to do some work while watching her.

I feel William arrive in the room not because I see him, but because I feel the wave of Arby's hatred wash over me before he reaches me.

"Mommy, daddy says that I can only have my ipad back if I eat a roast beef sandwich and five waffle fries from Arby's." he plops down in the chair beside me.

"Ok." I said, "I pinned some new drawing tutorials. Do you want to draw."

"Yes, but I don't want to eat at Arby's." he takes my phone (already showing drawing tutorials for a shark and a whale), sketch book, and colored pens.

T-minus 45 minutes until the end of tumbling class.

"Mommy, can you find me a picture of a box jelly fish?"

"Sure baby." I find him a box jelly picture.

T-minus 40 minutes until the end of tumbling class.

"Mommy, look at this box jelly fish I drew!"

"I love your attention to detail!" I say

"Mommy, I don't want to go to Arby's. I hate Arby's"

"I know baby." I say, "Look here is how to draw a cartoon piranha fish."

"Ok." he says and begins to draw the piranha."

T-minus 30 minutes until the end of tumbling class.

"Mommy, do you know what I hate?" he asks me

"What?" I ask

"Arby's. And I don't want to go there!" he whisper-growls at me, "And daddy says that I have to eat a roast beef sandwich and five waffle fries and I don't. want. too!"

This continues until the end of tumbling.

We all climb into the car and pull out of the gym center parking lot.

My husband says, "Huh, looks like there's Wendy's and Arby's. William, where would you like to eat, Wendy's or Arby's?"

"Arby's, I guess." he growled. (I suppose that it's the lesser of the two evils).

We go into Arby's and I order for everyone while my husband and kids find a table and sit down. At this point, William is recovering from his meltdown and is becoming less hostile.

Presented with the roast beef sandwich and five waffle fries, he begins to eat and proclaims with great confidence, "I love Arby's! This is great! This sandwich is delicious daddy! Mommy, did you see I'm pounding down this sandwich. Hey, did you know they have great milkshakes here? I love Arby's milkshakes."

My husband and I look at each other with mutual exhaustion because this happens every. single. time.

He loathes the very suggestion of Arby's only to rediscover that he likes Arby's after all. Now, we can remind him of this repeatedly, but it won't help. It's an autism/OCD thing. He has created a routine about going to Arby's and we have to follow it every. single. time. It's like he is stuck in a loop on this particular thing.

This may sound trying, and it is. But he keeps us on our toes and our lives would be boring and less dynamic without him. William has made us better people, better teachers, better parents. We wouldn't give up our dimpled, blue eyed, little guy for anything.

Thanks for reading!


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