Saturday, April 18, 2009

For the Last Time, It's NOT My Parenting (and if you ask again, I'm Going To Throw You Off A Bridge)

It started over tea. She wanted to have a tea party. But she didn't want to use water. That's for babies! She wanted me to make tea. Which I couldn't do, I was helping her older sister with her Algebra. Part of homeschooling is taking turns. Littles, at 7, isn't always good with that. Well, let's face it, she is really bad at it. When it is her turn, she expects everyone else to wait. But make her wait? And it is Meltdown-City. She will extract her pound of flesh, one way or another. Of course, it passed. It always does. But the aftermath for me is the hardest part. The way I am left feeling: drained, defeated, ready to cry.

I suppose I shouldn't be too upset. She hasn't had a tantrum all week long. Her dad was gone for ten days and in that time, she has been fine. We have had a few missteps here and there, but no full blown I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU episodes. Maybe that means she is getting older. Maybe that means the developmental delay that is Autism Spectrum Disorder is righting itself. Maybe that means the naked chanting that I did by melting green crayon and throwing sheets to the wind has paid off. (I am just kidding about that last part.) Maybe it's just that the tide is high and the moon is low. Hell, I don't know.

And that's part of the problem. I don't know. If you ask me a question about grammar or algebra or llama breeding, I can probably tell you. Or, barring that, I can find out. But as far as the exact reason my daughter is tantrumming, or the tried and true foolproof method of stopping said fit, that seems to be missing on Google. Certainly there are suggestions, but what if they don't work? What then? With children, you don't add A to B and necessarily get C.

If I was a carpenter, I would be sure that I have the latest tools, the best ones to get the job done. A hammer will always work as a hammer. A level, well, that's designed for leveling. With just a few simple tools, a carpenter can build many things. With a few more, he becomes a master craftsman. It can take a lifetime to wield the tools correctly. But even if his skill is only passable, he will be able to create a chair.

As a parent, I work hard to develop my parenting skills. I think if had neurotypical children I would be a pretty good parent. I add tools to my toolbox often. They say if you only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I am guilty of this at times. But a soft word or patience? Those don't always work. In truth, there are times that I run out of tools in my toolbox. I keep thinking if I just gain more gadgets, if I just learn more schematics, I will, eventually, build the Taj Mahal. But with autism? All bets are off. Sometimes, a level ends up as a fulcrum. Or a hammer ends up as a paper weight. Sometimes, I end up dancing around like a monkey because I have to think outside the box. Down is up, and and Left is Right and OhMyGod is it 5 o' clock yet??

I am not a drinker. I have a bit of Irish Cream or Kahlua in my hot cocoa or coffee about twice a month. A glass of wine about as often. And though I talk about it, I just don't do it. There are times I wish I did drink more. Then I wouldn't care so damn much when I reach the end of the toolbox and find nothing but sandpaper and a ball ping hammer. But I do care, and it kills me and I always wonder, why can't I be a better parent? Why can't I help her calm down before she gets to that place where she is completely unreasonable? Why must I be left feeling like a hollow shell with every nerve exposed? What am I doing wrong?

Tina Cruz is a writer, wife and mother of three children, two who have high-functioning autism, one who has Asperger's tendencies. She advocates for autism awareness and education, as well as acceptance. She views autism as a growth process and the opportunity to connect parents for support as a privilege. She is the Special Needs Editor at typeamom and her own site, Send Chocolate reflects her passion for her children and autism. She is the founder and editor here at Autism Sucks.
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  1. I can so relate. Mr. Busypants has meltdowns too (and they're getting to be more infrequent). So I start to wonder: is this typical kid behavior or autistic kid behavior.

    It's so hard to know.

    One thing I've noticed with him is that many of his meltdowns come from him not truly understanding what I mean. Like you can't say: if you don't stop hitting your sister, you're going to your room. He only hears, going to your room.

    I have to say: here are the choices. You can hit your sister, then go to your room, or you can not hit your sister, and stay here and play. Which one?

  2. I can relate although my guy is younger (nearly 4)and not very verbal. I look at my friends with NT kids and think - that looks so easy!! Of course behind closed doors they may be having a tough time as well. I also feel like if he ends up closer to NT at any point in this life, I will be a pretty good parent. I have certainly put in the time to learn clear and direct communication.

  3. okay, are you ME right now?? (Only as a better, more articulate writer?)

    The answer to your question? You're doing everything right.

    Being a parent is tough under typical circumstances. Throw a little ASD or whatever else in there and the manual is not only lost, it's written in some foreign language anyway, so nothing would be applicable! :) You are a woman/mom to be admired. You have the desire to be a good parent -- some people already think they're great or they just don't concern themselves with it at all. The ones who keep trying to do better are the excellent ones :)!!!

    At the bottom of my tool box is a bottle of wine or an ice cold beer - LOL! or, sometimes an inspirational book, a cup of chamomile and piece of dark chocolate, or a cathartic blog entry. Tomorrow is another day :)!

    Thanks for all that you do, all that you share with us, and all that you are. I for one, am a fan! :)

  4. Finally! Someone gets it. I'm sorry you're going through such a hard time. My son was never dx'd w/ASD (close, but no cigar), but he has those incredible, inexplicable meltdowns and sometimes odd behavior.

    For us, time has helped a lot. He's 10. There are months that pass without incident, and I ALMOST forget. Then I can tell it's starting back up again, and it will last for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Today, it's been going on month #4, and I've reached my wit's end. Oh, I'll pick myself up and try to be strong tomorrow and the next day, and eventually it will be easier again. I know the drill.

    The hardest part has been establishing friendships for both me and him. We'll be a typical family for a while and will start to make friends. Then all hell breaks loose again, and people avoid us. When he's calm again, I don't want to pick up those friendships again. They treated us like leppers when we needed understanding. We don't need fair weather friends.


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