It's hard being the sibling of a special needs kid. I know it is. I watch my daughter deal with this daily, just as I deal with being the Mom of a special-needs kid.
Just as my son deals with being a special-needs kid.
One of the things that can happen to my son, being a child with autism, is that he can be overwhelmed to the point of meltdown sometimes. I suppose we all can, but it happens a bit more frequently with him. And like any typical sibling, no one can push his buttons harder than his sister.
Last night was one of those nights. They started out play-fighting, but it escalated into a full-on brawl that required parental intervention. I'd just get them separated, and she'd start taunting him with words or passing by too closely or a slight brush of a hand in his direction, and he'd respond with fists whirling, screaming at the top of his lungs. This cycle repeated several times until I finally threatened them both with a 7pm bedtime for the next month if they didn't go to opposite ends of the room (a room with me present in it) and stay there.
All while my pre-teen mouthed off about how I always stick up for him and no she wasn't taunting him, she was teaching him manners. While taking his stuff. And getting all up in his personal space. And any attempt by me to point out her lack of manners resulted in her talking over me with "Oh my GOD, Mom. Oh, my GOD. Stop. STOP."
To make it worse, it was time to start David's homework, which, in his current screaming and sobbing state, was just not going to happen. I told David we'd wait half an hour, and then do homework.
Which somehow was secret code for "Oh please, Anna, do give your opinions on how I'm doing this parenting thing wrong." Go figure.
"Mom. Make him do his homework."
"I will, Anna, but he needs to calm down first. It can wait half an hour."
"Dad wouldn't wait."
I tried not to roll my eyes. She went on.
"Just make him take a drink of water. That's all he needs. You shouldn't let him just sit there."
"Anna, please." I said, trying to keep my voice even. "Just hush and let him calm down. It's still early, and I am handling this."
"No, you're not."
Well, at least, not to her satisfaction. Which is a really hard thing to come by these days, as she moves into puberty and beyond. I wish I had as much patience as she has hormones right now. I'd like to tell you that I smiled at her and told her I appreciated her feedback and she smiled back and we went on about our evening, but that's not true.
I turned to her and quite tersely made it clear that I'm the Mom here, she's not, and I do not need her to tell me how to do my job. We went back and forth with it escalating to the point where I just got up from the couch and simply removed myself physically from the argument. My daughter is like a mongrel when she argues - she just won't let anything go - and I could see there was no winning for either of us. She'd keep tearing at me, and I'd have to keep responding else she would think she had the upper hand. I left the room and went upstairs and started the shower.
And then I climbed in, cried a little just from the stress, cried a little more because this single mom stuff is really, really hard sometimes, shampooed my hair, washed my body and stepped out. Then I headed downstairs (where my son was now happily watching an old Blues Clues DVD), sat with him and did homework, and said not one more word to my daughter until bedtime, when she finally apologized, albeit begrudgingly.
Right after she told me that running away was not the right way to handle the situation.
Well, it was a partial win, anyway.
I know we'll have a lot more of these kinds of days as she heads into her teenage years. And I know I'll have a lot more days where David is overwhelmed and it makes me overwhelmed. I may even have to face them all alone, for many more years, if not forever.
And right now, that's just hard to think about. Know what I mean?
Today is a new day. Both kids were smiling this morning, and I blessedly have the night to myself since they're going to their Dad's tonight. Time to recharge, regroup, and be ready for whatever battles are on the horizon.
And so it goes, when you're going it alone.
What do you do to recharge when your life beats you up? And how do you keep from eating your young like a wild animal?