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Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome To Autism, It's Not Always Fair

When my husband left and I realized I had to go it alone in this parenting thing, I made a vow that my kids and I would have fun together, as much as possible. We'd go on outings, we'd take hikes, have movie nights, I'd ignore the dishes and step over the laundry and just go enjoy my kids' childhood as much as possible.

Those are nice dreams, aren't they? And for the most part, we do that. Being a single Mom is hard on the finances, so many of our planned-for outings have been scaled back a bit. We've had to learn to substitute creativity for cash, but it comes out pretty good. 

This last weekend was a prime example. Friday night sent my daughter to a bonfire party, freeing David and I up for a trip to the grocery store - which is like Disneyland for him. We all had a great time. Saturday was a local festival that featured dollar hayrides and a hay pit where we could build our own scarecrow. It was a gorgeous fall day, and we drank cider and walked around before heading back home for homemade chicken soup from the crockpot. I dragged out the big air mattress, popped some popcorn, turned on America's Funniest Videos on Netflix and we had a living room campout to cap off our evening.

Then came Sunday. 


Sunday was a Bad Autism Day. They happen every so often, and I'm not really sure why. I used to track them, hoping to find a dietary cause, a behavioral trigger. There's just no rhyme or reason that I can see. It started early and escalated. First David was angry and shouting at Anna for every real or imagined slight ("She's touching my Lego! I saw her looking at me!") and then it ramped up to throwing things, self-harming by throwing himself onto the floor or into the wall, slapping us, kicking us - I even had to put him on 'cat-restriction' because I was afraid he'd hurt the cat if he picked it up.

Several time-outs and some restraining arms around him coupled with a back rub and rocking were helping, but only for a few moments at a time. The best recipe was to just stay out of his way and let him scream it out, addressing him only if he was being harmful or destructive.

In the meantime, I had made a promise. Sometime Saturday night when we were all cozy and giggling under the comforter on the air mattress, Anna and I had talked about bowling. David chimed in with "I wanna go bowling!" and we had a plan. There's a bowling alley just a few miles down the road and they were open on Sunday. 

Except now it was Sunday, and I didn't dare take David anywhere. Not on this Bad Autism Day. So when Anna asked what time we were leaving, I had to tell her we wouldn't be. And that went over just about the way you think it did.

"He's better!" She said, vehemently. "Look! He stopped yelling!"

"Right now he's stopped. If you walk in the room,  he'll start again, and you know it. This has been going on for hours, Anna."

"It's not fair! Why do I have to give up my fun because of him?" She crossed her arms, glaring at me.

"And it wouldn't be fair to him to take him to the noisy bowling alley with the pins clashing and the jukebox blaring and the bowling balls rolling down the alley when he's already in sensory overload. It wouldn't be fair to me to have to deal with him in a full meltdown in public, and it wouldn't be fair for you if I have to drag him out of there kicking and screaming halfway through the game," I pointed out.

"Why does he have to be like this? You always choose him over me! It's just not fair!" She stomped off, leaving me feeling like Mother of the Year.

Part of me wanted to yell after her:

No, it's not fair. It's not fair to you, it's not fair to me, and it's not fair to David. And I wish I knew why he had to be this way. There's no answer. He just is. It's not fair that I have to make you unhappy at the cost of keeping him contained. It's not fair that this funny, sunshine-y boy who talked to me in his Shrek voice just to cheer me up the day I was on the couch with the flu has turned into this child who screams and cries uncontrollably because his sock got turned around. It's our life, Anna. And it's not always fair.

I didn't unload all that on her, of course. Mostly because she doesn't need me to use her for unloading, and also because she knows all of that. She knows that, but being a kid, she has the luxury of shouting and screaming about the unfairness of it all.

I get to be the Mom, and just get through it, and hope that next weekend, maybe we can go bowling.

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