Here is a weekend morning, where I normally get up and make the kids pancakes, scrambled eggs, chocolate milks, or whatever the flavor is that morning. We appear to be a normal functioning family. But we are not a normal functioning family.
Bailey wants popcorn for breakfast. She hates pancakes today. Bailey is a nine year old girl, and very tall for her age. She is also very strong. She is on the autism spectrum, which changes the game completely, though there are many family members and/or friends who do not agree with how I parent her (or Reagan, for that matter!). And that is fine, because I am not this perfect mother, nor do I want to be the perfect mother, because that would be too much pressure to live up to. I am flawed, broken, and many times, I make decisions by the seat of my pants, instead of contemplating them in advance.
For me, for my family, and only for my family……my kids need a few minutes to collect their thoughts. They need to stew in their own words, and reflect on their behavior, which takes some time and patience. Threats makes them shy away, makes them defiant, and puts them on the fence, which does not sit well with me. I have my own methods that work for me, and that is all there is to it. And yes, I do get hurt often, but I do have a plan in place, and I am getting help, and that is a big deal for me, to accept external help. I have taken that first step in doing so.
If I cannot calmly explain to Bailey, how it is unacceptable to have popcorn for breakfast, and give her other more nutritious choices that she can pick from, then we have a meltdown. The meltdowns can just be a few minutes of flying toys, and choice words, but they can also be the extreme, with hitting, throwing, and self harming.
Ross was always the one to grab her arms to make her stop swinging. He was always the one to hold her in place. Now that there is only me as the sole parent (not single parent), I have to ensure she isn’t hurting herself or anyone else, though it isn’t always in the cards to be fast enough, or alert enough, to keep her from hurting me. This is something that I have grown accustomed to, and I recognize that I should not have to. I make mistakes, yes, and many times, I fall victim to those mistakes.
Will I always ensure my children’s safely, above anything else? Most definitely. Will I threaten Bailey with no electronics mid-meltdown? No way, Jose. After a meltdown, yes!
Mid meltdown threats sent her into a frenzy, where she cannot slow herself down, and her arms and legs are out of control. That is not a good place for any of us, and there is only one way to stop it.
Wherever we are…..we lay down, and I hold her arms and her legs the tightest, safest way possible. I let her break out her strongest screams, and squirm until she is absolutely exhausted. After some time, she finally quiets down, and we are both laying there, emotionally spent, and at times, physically sore. This is very consuming for me, as a parent, and I often struggle with the after effects. Families that do not have an autistic child will never understand, or relate, nor are they in any position to place judgments. Honestly, another family with an autistic child, should not place judgments, either.
Every child is different. Every family is different, and there is not ONE WAY to handle a situation. Every child and every family function differently, and they have to function with the dynamics of their bubble, not against their dynamics and bubble.
I did not let Bailey have her popcorn until she ate some bites of her pancakes and drank her milk, but I enforced this AFTER I laid with her, let some stillness pass, and spoke to her gently about how she was feeling, and that she is not allowed to speak to me in such a manner, that her behavior was not acceptable, and would she like to have another chance? Granted, sometimes this is very time consuming, and as a sole parent, my mind is meanwhile racing……I need to get laundry done, I need to pack their lunches, OMG my cookies, etc….but it is what it is, and it is how Ia choose to parent my daughter. She does not respond to threats or physical confrontation during a meltdown, like some children would, in normal functioning families. She does not respond well at all, unless she is in a calming state of acceptance, and this is only after she is held tight and still.
And there you have it, a look into our household, and a look into my daily battles of having a child with autism, and a child that I have tried may different tactics with, only to strike out, and escalate the situation with the wrong decisions. Like all other parents, I have grown and learned, and adapted my responses accordingly, and though it is not always a good outcome, it is the a solution that works for us.
So if I am not answering your texts, your facebook messages, or most importantly, if I am not answering my phone. There is a viable reason for this, and there are bigger matters that I need to attend to. Please do not assume that I am ignoring you, or that I am discounting what you need from me in that moment of your phone call. I am taking care of my children, and I am all they have now. Forgive me….please, if I cannot take care of your needs right then and there. And that sucks many times, believe me, because I love to make others happy and give them what they need, but this is my life now, and it is just how it is. Please be forgiving with me.
Thank you so much for all of your kindness, words of advice, and most of all, thank you so much for your support. It reminds me that I am not alone, and that something that I am very familiar with these days.