Losing Your Shit While Parenting An Autistic Child Is Okay, Right?
As I navigate this new blogging territory, I will sometimes talk about my son who is autistic. Without sacrificing his privacy for the sake of my own personal venting session, I have changed his name and will slightly alter his face. Thank you for understanding.
Mikey sat on the doctor's table, flimsy paper ripping beneath his ever moving butt while we waited for his specialist to come in.
"Doctor and?" He asked with a smirk.
As grateful as I am that he can speak words that sometimes make sense, I am also tired. This question is one that he has asked 12 times in the 17 minutes we had been waiting.
Mikey is a boy of routine; anxiety takes over and he demands (politely, mostly) to know what his future holds. I can't blame him. I'm not autistic and my own severe anxiety creeps in when I don't know what the day holds for me.
My husband responds, "Doctor, then bagel store. What are you going to get at the bagel store?"
"Doctor, bagel store, and?"
It's my turn. I say, "Doctor, bagel store, and home."
"Doctor, bagel store, home and?"
This goes on until he reaches a suitable response. A few minutes will pass, and the series of questions are asked again.
As I sit here typing this now, he is asking me to repeat the routine for the night, but with various scenarios.
Before the doctor, he asked my husband to draw him a lawn mower man. He is obsessed with all things landscaping. To be clear, not in person or up close; the noise overloads his senses and any enjoyment a "typical" child might get ... just doesn't happen. He loves watching from afar, and requesting us to draw them and color them in.
"Blue lawn mower man pants." He said.
My husband took the blue crayon and began filling in the outline of pants he had just drawn seconds earlier.
Screaming. Tears. The kind of scream you often hear when a child is scared or upset. The tears were real, the salty kind that drip down his cheeks and turn red then purple.
What happened? My husband chose the wrong color blue. That's what happened.
"Well, he's just a brat."
That's what I've heard before from various people who speak about children like mine without any type of hands on experience of their own.
Think about it. You are working on your dream project (to Mikey, that's coloring his lawn mower man at that moment), and something catastrophic happens.
What do you do?
You, a person who is able to verbalize your dismay, might cry, tell the person or even yourself how screwed up it is. Letting out the words that describe your emotions, even if it doesn't always come easy to you, helps alleviate the battle cry we often hear as parents of special needs children.
Mikey is unable to do that.
I yell back, "STOP SCREAMING!" as I hold my hands to my ears. But that's like telling someone who's scared "Don't worry!" -- it only makes things worse.
But day after day, no matter how hard we try to make things stable for Mikey, there's always that one portion of the day that we can't fix. This misuse of the color blue was that portion.
Then, I cry.
Why did I scream at him?
He can't help it!
I'm a horrible mother.
He deserves better.
Maybe he'd be different if it weren't for me.
My husband will usually mediate by telling me to go inside and shut down for a few minutes: reset.
He then will ask Amazon's Alexa to start playing U2, which seems to automatically calm Mikey down within seconds. (a big thank you to the band and my husband!)
At first glance, it might seem like I am all those things I mentioned above -- horrible, undeserving of the title mother, etc.
But it turns out, my son and I are not that different.
He is unable to communicate his feelings and thoughts fully.
And even though I can, I bottle it up all day to hide any negativity or sadness from Mikey.
The truth is, there is no right way to parent any child.
You know your neighbor with the really huge SUV, perfect house with balconies stemming from every bedroom, and children meticulously dressed every single day?
She loses her shit, too.
You know your pediatrician who recommends you extinguish co-sleeping immediately and recites every single article bullet point about how you are fucking up your child by continuing it?
She loses her shit, too.
It's okay. It's ALL okay. We are all human with feelings and emotions and reactions.
At the end of the day, if your child is happy and healthy (and healthy is relative), then you are a good parent.
At the end of the day, if you lose your shit and your child goes to bed sad, but wakes up giving you a hug, then you are a good parent.
When all is said and done, children need 99% love.
The other 1%? Food and shelter. (these percentages are probably way off, but I think you get me, right?)
Give extra hugs, extra cuddles, and remember that when you lose your shit (because you will), it's okay.