|me: I'd like to get off now!|
Jack: sorry. We have to do this every day from 8 AM till 9 PM.
Come to think of it, the title of this post is probably inherently sarcastic (typing, then pausing to pound some chocolate covered nuts).
Right! Let's begin, shall we!
One of my son's biggest problems is ANXIETY. I wonder if this is true with most kids on THE SPECTRUM. I mean, think about it: if you've ever web-surfed to an Autism-related website, and looked up common indicators/signs/characteristics, you have no doubt read that these kids are attached to rigid structures and schedules. They need to do the same thing at pretty much the same time and in the same way, each day and every day.
A lot of mothers, like myself, have sensed this instinctively from a very early time in our kids' lives; and I'm talking way before any formal diagnosis was ever made. This means, that when Jack was about 2, without knowing why, or even really giving it that much thought, I just came to realise that Jack NEVER watched a Baby Einstein dvd BEFORE breakfast. Then, on the weekends, when typically all hell would break loose because The Man was not in the office, and all schedules got way the hell out of whack, I would come flying down into the TV room to find a freaking out toddler, and inform my husband;
"No videos till after he eats breakfast!"
It would be the simplest thing: daddy would get up with the kid on Saturdays because mommy was typically burnt out and tired from a whole week of being screeched at and trying to find ways to keep a kid who hates toys and only wants to running and climbing amused. I'd hear Jack ask to watch Baby Einstein, and The Man, thinking 'what's the big deal' would comply. And then the kid would turn into a behavioural monster, and The Man would get all put-out; not understanding what the hell the kid's problem was, after all--he put the video on for him, right?
The evironment has to be controlled. I think thusly: the greater the anxiety, the greater the need for total control over all things around us. What came first: the anxiety or the need to control? Either way, I'm willing to bet that a lot of moms of kids on the spectrum at times feel that they are slaves to their childrens' needs. Is it better to live a less structured life and be at the mercy of your kid's screaming and rage, or is it better to organize as many things as possible thereby ensuring you will have a much happier, much easier to live with child?
Maybe there's a middle ground somewhere in all this...
Anyhow, enough musing. I'll tell you what my summer's been like, and why now that it's almost mercifully over, I'm ready to break.
I've heard several mothers lament that their kids would not go outside over the summer and they could neither get them to go out to play, nor to go out anywhere for that matter. I've heard this from moms with kids on the spectrum, and from moms with "neurotypical" kids (that's a label that sits like an itchy shirt for some reason that I've yet to figure out).
Oh how I relate to this. Later in the summer it dawned on me, that despite my best effort to keep the kids really busy, and inventing a loose but decent schedule of "karen drinks coffee in the morning WITHOUT BEING BUGGED, then we go out after lunch," we soon shifted into Jack's schedule, which he never consciously acknowledged but went a little something like this:
UNACCEPTABLE TO GO OUTSIDE OR DO ANYTHING UNTIL AFTER DINNER.
Hell. Pure hell. This translated into hours and hours of Jack cycling from computer to TV to his room, etc, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. And I was bored. And he was bored. And I watched the days pass by outside my window, minutes ticking by with excruciating slowness, as I waited for that magical timer to go *DING* and I could go outside and not have to stay nearby and keep my CONSTANTLY FIGHTING children apart from each other.
I started to give up trying to go out (which is probably a mistake) because I could not take the fighting, the wailing, the sobbing, the pleading, the verbal and sometimes the physical abuse. I also couldn't take Jack harassing his sister constantly even in public places, or Ella's typical-kid "I want this, I want that, GIMME GIMME GIMME, WAAAAAA!"
They sucked the life out of me, and I gave up.
Yesterday was a very dark day. I was convinced that I have no other purpose in this life than to care for people. "Why bother trying to write anything, karen" the ugly little voice said; "why bother trying to write and finish a book and gain some kind of accomplishment in life: your purpose is solely to care for others. This is all you're going to accomplish until you die."
Damn I hate those days.
Then, there was that other ongoing problem: the one in which Jack HATES his father on the weekends. I couldn't figure it out--all week, Jack would be a pain in my ass, but still lovable, and still relatively civil to his dad. Then the weekend would arrive and he would turn into the rage machine. His dad would say something as simple and mild as "you need to go wash your hands. They're dirty from the park," and the kid would FLIP OUT. He'd be FURIOUS--and run at The Man to attack him, with a look of pure loathing on his face.
Weekends were becoming a total hell of action and reaction between the two of them, and near constant TIME OUTS. And then, as I was getting ready one morning, it hit me, like the world's most obvious smack in the face: the reason why Jack was so filled with animosity toward his dad on the weekends is because his dad isn't working.
I mean, the answer was right in front of my nose, and I could not see it. It didn't occur to me because The Man works from home now, so I figured it wasn't like before, when he was out of the house every day of the week, and home on the weekend, messing with Jack's routine. But, instead of starting the day on his laptop, then making the kids' breakfast and then returning to his computer, as he did Monday to Friday, The Man would maybe sleep in and then he'd spend a lot of time trying to coax Jack to go out and do something fun.
This isn't a bad thing of course; Jack needs to learn that his father can interact with him more, and that he isn't always going to be working. So, I had an idea; I suggested to The Man that maybe he might consider starting his Saturday/Sunday off by surfing the net on his laptop, rather than working. Hell, we all lurv the computer, right??? He wouldn't be doing work, and it would be a relaxing way to ease into his day, and an easy way to ease into Jack's day. That way things wouldn't appear radically different right from the get-go. I also suggested that he back off, for now, trying to get Jack to do something on the weekends, and instead implement a one night a week "Jack and Daddy" night, whereby they could go swimming or go to the park. Make it a regular night, and then slowly incorporate other togetherness times.
It seemed to work pretty well. We just tried it last weekend. Still, the kids have been making me want to cry. Here is the biggest problem, which ties in to my long-winded intro to this post: ANXIETY. Jack will be starting school in two days. Whenever there's a big change on the horizon, he becomes UNLIVABLE for weeks: angry, sensitive, sarcastic, SHOUTING every answer, calling us "meaney" constantly, bugging his sister RELENTLESSLY, and it's all because that dot on the calendar is making him mental.
The only survival tactic The Man and I have for this at present is "buckle in and hold on." Endurance. That's it. I haven't yet figured out what else we can do. I try to have talks with Jack all the time about how he's feeling, and quell his worries and tell him that he doesn't have to worry because I'll always be there to help him. I empathize, I sympathize, but that anxiety is a monster. I can only buckle in, and hold on and wait for these periods to end. I pretty much know when the tide will turn too: when I've broken. It's pretty sad to say, but generally by the time I've completely had it and am in tears, things tend to get better from there.
It's not a great strategy. I'd like to hear how you other parents deal with your child's behavioural challenges and their anxiety over BIG transitions.
So, the kids have gone off to my inlaws' today. I should have gone with them, but my god--I needed the break. Like Popeye said:
That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more.