This weekend I lost my way. I’ve lost my way a dozen times or more. I’d be telling a big ol’ fib if I didn’t say the challenges of autism didn’t break me every now and then. I’m not perfect. It’s not my son that has the problem, you know. He has a unique set of challenges presented to him by the world around him that he doesn’t know how to deal with and we, his parents, have to help him overcome them. Yes, I feel challenged quite a bit. Sometimes I feel equipped to handle it. Sometimes I don’t.
Oftentimes, lately, I feel broken inside. That’s my problem, not his, if I’m to be honest. That’s my cross to bear. I haven’t quite figured out how, as a parent of two strong-willed children, one with autism and one without, I should go about doing this whole thing. I’ve racked my brain and come up with methods of discipline that should work. Logically, they should work. Time-outs, doled out methodically and consistently, should work. Right? No. Not in this house. Nor does it work to take away prized possessions. Once you’ve stripped away all there is to take, what more can do you?
The screaming, the biting, the kicking, and the hitting, as it continues, makes you feel powerless. It makes you feel hopeless and terrible and horrible. It makes you feel like a bad parent. You can put up this kick-ass chart that tells your child he’s making good decisions versus bad decisions and chart the number of good versus bad decisions and set a quota on how many bad decisions can be made during the day for the day to count as “good.” That works at school, says my special ed teacher brain. Reward given for “good” day. It seems to work at first. Every time he moves into the “good” zone, he’s happy. But then, he quickly tallies up bad decision after bad decision until he’s officially had a bad day. Cue the “Bad Day” song. Game over. Bruises on my legs as evidence.
His brother seems to feel this household is an apprenticeship. Naptime is a fiasco. “I no want nap,” he protests. Oh, but you must, child. You must. Why? Because no nap = terrorist three-year-old plots unseen by anyone outside of this house. You ain’t seen nothin’, trust me! An eerie silence falls upon the house and I believe it means napping. What I don’t know is that Big Guy has devised the ultimate in revenge schemes. Beneath a stack of boxes lies a pull-up once worn by him whilst his floor and body stink of fecal matter. Oh yes, that’s right. He pooped on the floor, then smeared it everywhere; a trick he learned from his brother. Upon opening his door, the fumes hit my nostrils like mustard gas and I could only moan, “Why?!” His reply? “I no want nap. I no want pull-up” Diabolical. You see, he has the language skills to tell me his reasoning. Do you think he cares about cleaning up the mess? He doesn’t. He didn’t mind at all. I told him what he did was bad. Very bad.
Our weekend, I think got set off by the Super Moon, though. The kids were far worse than usual. They were wild. Animalistic. I had to pull them apart several times. Separating them, only to have to separate them again minutes later. You try keeping two separate kids in a time-out holding pattern when neither of them will stay willingly. I have degenerative disk disease and neither of them are light anymore. By the end of Sunday, my voice had gotten up to a yell, and for a while, I think I’d gotten pretty good at not yelling. I know by that point that I was done. I had met my threshold. Mommy needed a break.
The challenges of autism? The whole family can be a challenge. Having a three year old is a challenge because he’s just as strong-willed as a child with autism. Put a three-year-old with a child with autism and watch the fireworks. Mine! No, mine! Boom!! Another frequent conversation in this house? “I want to watch Garfield.” “I want to watch the Turtles!” BOOM! They never agree on anything and neither of them relents easily. We have to figure out the compromise.
Another challenge? Sensory stimuli. He wants to kiss all the time. Or hug. His brother doesn’t. It causes an issue. Or there’s a loud noise and we have to figure out where the headphones are because somehow, they’ve come up missing again. Or even the slightest bump will hurt him to the level that he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. Or he’s crashing into us without regard for our personal space. Spinning through the room like a tornado just to get the feeling of being in motion. His brother gets knocked down frequently. It’s our job to figure out how to help him get that sensation without him hurting anyone else or himself.
We have to keep him constantly busy because if he gets bored, he acts out. This can get exhausting for us. It also makes it hard for us to get anything done around the house. I feel like the house is always in disarray during the week because it seems like that minute I leave him to do something, he wants my attention and the thing I’ve set him up to do is no longer interesting to him. I haven’t quite figured out how to get him to do things without me at home. Heck, even at the park, he won’t play independently with me there. He doesn’t play with other kids–just me. I would love to see him go off and do things on his own so I can do what I need to do. This takes work and careful planning on our part.
With all that said, he does what he does for a reason. I hope that I’ve illustrated that throughout. That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated or even angry at him sometimes. I’m human. He hurts me really badly sometimes and yes, sometimes I do yell. I have bruises all over my legs and some on my arms. He’s verbal, he’s intelligent, and he thinks about some of what he does. It’s hard not to get angry about it after the 7th or 8th time in a row, but I usually try to go to my room and shut the door before that happens so that I can cool off and usually that breaks the pattern.
I did go to a church today and speak to a pastor about a lot of what I’ve been feeling. Something deep down in me needs healing. I have two beautiful children made by God that I love dearly. I never want them to feel unloved or uncherished. After a long talk, I asked him to pray with me and he welcomed me to come back any time to talk. I plan to do just that. The challenges of Autism do not make my son any less worthy of love, respect, or patience. I just need to find my way again.
Linking up with Shell from Things I Can’t Say to Pour My Heart Out