As a parent, you want to feel more than competent. You want to feel as if what you’re doing means something. We planned both of our children–we had them because we truly wanted to have children and we love them both unconditionally. That doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t feel as if I just can’t do it anymore.
Several days during the past week and a half, I’ve felt less than up to the task of handling what’s put before me. I ask myself, “How do I do this?” My son takes off the patch he needs to help regulate himself. As a result, he destroys the house, hurts his brother, tortures the dog, attacks me, and injures himself. No matter what I do, I feel completely helpless. On top of that, I decided Christmas break meant potty-training for Big Guy, and he has done a fabulous job with it, running me to the potty relentlessly most of the time, but fighting it the other times. The exhaustion had set in big time.
Yesterday, after Squeaker attacked me multiple times, I felt as if I couldn’t handle it anymore. I broke down in front of him and cried. He kept jumping on me, kicking me, hitting me, biting me, and he just didn’t care. No matter what I did, he just didn’t care. I took away his tablet for the day, and he decided that he would turn his puzzle pieces into imaginary “Fruit Ninja” pieces and play his own game of Fruit Ninja. How do I win? I put him in Time Out, and he threw things against the walls. I removed every single object from his room, only to find that he had endless things in his room to throw. I accidentally locked us both in his room for more than an hour, had to dismantle one of his cars by removing a wheel and used the metal part to unlock the door. The whole time, he jumped on the bed, somehow found some type of red paint that came from God knows where, and smeared it all over his face. What the Hell is the purpose of a Time Out? I will never know.
He lost everything yesterday, and it didn’t matter. I’m the one who lost. We had just changed his medication this week because he kept taking his patch off. This new medication, his doctor said, was supposedly one of the best for children with ADHD and Autism with these behaviors. I knew very quickly that the lowest dosage offered to us did nothing, and then the next dose up did nothing, and then I bumped him up to the highest dose he gave us and he still behaved as if he had no medication at all in him. His behavior remained erratic, violent, and out of control. I have bruises, scratches, and tooth marks in my skin from my day. Thankfully, those fade quicker than the memories.
Finally, after many tears, I called the doctor’s office yesterday and got a recorded message stating that the office would be closed until January 2nd. By then, I thought, I’m back at work. The difficulty of getting any appointment for medication at his doctor’s office made me feel so panicked and I felt nothing but despair and anxiety. In that moment, I’m sad to say, I thought about giving up. As much as I love him, I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I felt horrible. I took a deep breath, knowing that his mentor would come at 2pm to take him until karate.
During the time I had to myself, I cleaned up my wreck of a house and then sat down for 30 minutes before getting up and rushing off in time to still be late for karate. I called my sister on the way and cried the whole time. I told her about my feelings of wanting to give up and feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore and how horrible it made me feel. After all, I love my children. Sometimes it’s hard to see the rainbow through all the rain. I feel like it’s been monsoon season around here. I do look for those rainbows. I search for them and I bask in them, but in the face of constant rain, sometimes my strength erodes.
I arrived at karate with my hair unkempt, in no make-up, and having forgotten half of his karate gear. I didn’t care. He did well in karate. He even ran up to give me a kiss in the middle of practice. After karate, he wouldn’t put his shoes back on. He fought me. He kicked, tried to bite me, and ran. He threw his shoes. I fought tears. His karate instructor, a friend of mine, came to help, and he pretended that he would cooperate until she walked away and we started over again. I wound up having to hold him until he calmed down. Other parents did their best not to look at us. I left feeling shame and defeat.
As I feel myself falling apart at the seams, I also reflect on the other things that happened yesterday and last night. No doubt, Autism makes life challenging, both for him and for us. He doesn’t do what he does out of spite or to hurt me. I know he means no harm. I pled with him yesterday for the first time as he hurt me and truly showed him the pain I felt. I asked him if he knew how much he hurt others with the things he did. I want more than anything for him to understand the result of his actions. He just gave me a blank look. Perhaps that makes me feel more devastated than anything. He doesn’t mean to hurt and he doesn’t want to hurt people, but he seems to have no idea the emotional toll he takes on others.
In truth, my son has the sweetest soul in the world. When Big Guy refuses to give me a hug, Squeaker will run up to me and hug me. He cries when he sees me cry. Seeing someone else bleed or get hurt deeply disturbs him. He loves to help others. If I ask him to get something for me, he jumps up and runs to get it. He’ll help his little brother if he can, getting him ice water or food. He loves to snuggle up to me on the couch. I know in my heart that he means me no harm. However, in that moment, when he looks at me with those almost animalistic eyes and spits in my face or kicks me, it feels very personal and the pain squeezes my heart in such a way that I feel like it will explode.
I’m working on realizing that I’m stronger than the tasks ahead of me. I will survive. We will survive. Some days that’s all we can do. I would like to do more than survive, though. I would like to thrive. I vow to use my calm, controlled voice, but sometimes I fail. I vow not to give in to his demands, but sometimes I need peace. I vow not to use profanity, but sometimes, when I get just out of earshot, I need a release. You see, I want perfection, but you cannot expect perfection. But, I’m strong enough to handle these days. I know this because I’ve done it many times before. If I ever needed a reason to strengthen my resolve, I have but to look back at pictures of my children hugging me, kissing my cheek, playing at the park, playing with their daddy, or hugging each other.
The love in this house is stronger than the adversity we face. I just have to keep reminding myself. Love may not be all you need, but it sure as hell means a lot. When it comes to loving my children, I know I haven’t failed.
So, for this year, I’m going to try to remember the word strength, because I have strength and often forget that I do, and maybe even love, because I know it will carry me through.