Last night, I lost my temper with the trio – and it wasn’t pretty. It was nothing earth shattering that precipitated my meltdown, just a million and one little things that finally sent me tumbling over the edge. They deserve better than what they got last night, and while lots of parents now and then lose their temper, the negative effect on kids with autism (at least mine) can be longer lasting.
I don’t think there is anyone from my youth, adolescence or young adulthood who would ever have described me as a patient person. It’s never been my strength. Loud, weirdish funky, & unashamed to moon people from random cars would all rank above patient.
Parenting changes you – in ways you sort of expect and often in ways you could never have envisioned in a million years. I never imagined that I would ever be a stay-at-home-parent – it was not something I wanted for myself, and I am often as surprised as anyone that it’s come to be (for now). Never thought I’d ever drive a minivan. Never thought there would be days that were so difficult that the 7 year-old behaves in a more mature manner than me. (I didn’t say the 11 or 13 year-old, because everyone is more mature than adolescent boys).
Now, adding autism & ADHD to the parenting mix makes for an abundance of unexpected and unanticipated experiences. Even though patience has never been my strength, I’ve had to learn how to make it one because my kids sometimes need vast amounts. So, unlike at 17ish, many more people would likely rank my patience as a strength above unashamed to moon people (a positive thing in more ways than one). No doubt, weird & funky would still far outweigh patience, but I’m good with that. I own my weirdness.
Every parent who has a child diagnosed with autism (or any type of special need for that matter) must travel their own path to acceptance. For me, this path has been long and had several forks in the road. The raw pain gives way to making your life’s mission to do everything in your power to help your child/children. The accomplishments are amazing, and are all hard fought for and usually a lot of work. It is the kind of joy I could never have anticipated before the trio came into my life – watching them overcome an obstacle that seemed insurmountable or accomplish something that comes naturally to most but might take years for my kiddos. It is overwhelmingly cool – and I do my best to try to recognize the small steps along the way because they matter.
Autism at 13 looks so different than at 3. Having 2 kids with autism who are very different and don’t always have success working through their disagreements sometimes requires more patience than I have in reserve. Especially in never ending MN winters where we’ve all been locked up in the house way too much and when it’s evening and ADHD medications have long worn off so that running, jumping and throwing things down the stairs is going on along with a 13-year-old who has had a rough day and been argumentative and anxiety ridden since school ended asking again and again why you don’t want to talk when you’ve asked for space repeatedly because you are losing it. Yeah that.
So, I lost my temper, and I yelled. I just boiled over knowing all the while it was bad, but unable to stop. My kids can be challenging for me sometimes. Even though I know that they depend on me to be calm when they can’t, and to be their stability when anxiety overwhelms them or they can’t find a Target coupon or Mom uses the wrong detangler after bath or people don’t practice their Trombone even after 5 reminders and then forget about art project homework from last week, sometimes I fail. Last night was an epic failure – I yelled and it freaked them out.
I’m sad today that I let little things get the best of me. I’m sad that I’ve been up until 3 for the past few nights researching curriculums and ways to help middle schoolers keep progressing academically when they’ve hit a wall and it makes me tired and cranky even though I need extra Zen like serenity these days with 2/3 of my people having elevated agitation between 5-8.
But just like Elliott now tells me when he calls during a rough patch at school, sad about where he is sitting in Science or ticked that he can’t join his old group in math because he chooses to repeatedly express love to a group member who freaks out, “I’m the only person who can turn my day around”. The good news is he has been turning his days around! He has his moments of challenge, but more often than not is communicating and working through challenges and having much more success as a middle school guy.
So today, I’m well rested, medicated, and prepared to be as Zen like as needed for the trio. Ada has decided to throw in the towel on MN and is contemplating a move to multiple South American countries, and Henry initiated a conversation with me this morning (unrelated to Minecraft) so things are looking up. E will likely want to chat with me about my unexpected behavior, and will probably summon me to the red couch. He will also likely share that his Mom yelled in her loud voice to a variety of Target employees, but they’ve heard worse (still feeling sorry for the person who he discussed the human development curriculum with). My offspring deserve better, and since they’ve taught me that I’m the only person who can turn my day around, I’m going to do just that. Grateful I have such great teachers.
But I’m still going to be weird. And I’m not completely ruling out mooning people, though I’m not as agile as I once was . . .