Monday, January 17, 2011

Peace Through Understanding?

Tough mornings are nothing new in our house. To say that I'm not a morning person is an understatement of epic proportions. As one parent I recently spoke with at my son's daycare said, "Oh, you're a two-cupper." Meaning, I need two cups of coffee before I can function at a somewhat "normal" level. But when is enough, enough?

Abby has been really angry lately. It seems like it's just come about in these last couple of months, but when we're really honest with ourselves, she's always been angry. It's tough to see sometimes, because when she's happy, she's really, really happy. But man oh man... if she's not in the mood to cooperate or she's just plain pissed off... watch out!

She probably needs to get to sleep earlier. Her bedtime is 8 o'clock, but it's always closer to 9 by the time she actually falls asleep. She's like her mama. She likes to read in bed and I can't say I blame her. It's hard for me to enforce rules against something I've done my whole life. Even when I know it's the best thing for her.

My Facebook status today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is,

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

I chose that quote, because I believe in it. It's the method by which I try to live my life. And the method that I attempt to parent my children. But I find that most days I fail miserably. (I hope I'm just not giving myself enough credit.) I try so hard to keep my cool and to be peaceful while I'm helping Abby with tasks. From homework to dinnertime to getting dressed. And yet I seem to have a threshold that I just can't extend. There are only so many times that I can calmly say,

"You have to pull from the bottom too, Honey, like this. You have to use your hands, Abby. Your pants won't pull themselves up. Abby you have to use your hands. Now pull from the bottom, too. Honey, like this. See pull from the bottom over your feet, then you can pull the rest up from the top. No, don't lose your temper... you just have to use your hands to pull from the bottom."

After another minute of so of dialogue similar to above, she's pissed off, because she hates using her fingers/hands to do anything, and oddly enough, pants don't magically pull onto your body without those magic appendages. And now I'm pissed off, because my job is to teach my 5 year old to dress herself, because her teachers aren't going to dress her and I don't want to have a 13 year old that I'm still freaking dressing! So now the dialogue turns into something like this,

"Well if you would use your freaking hands like I've said ten times and actually reach down and pull your damn pants over your flippin' feet, it would be easier to put on your damn pants! Now pull them up! Quit freaking out! For the love of God! We're just putting on pants!"

Not very peaceful.

I imagine that trying to change the hearts and minds of ignorant racists might be as difficult as teaching an Autistic 5 year old to get dressed. Both are irrational, over emotional, angry human beings. And it really breaks my heart that I'm drawing a direct line of comparison between my daughter and racists. But it seems impossible some days and yet I continuously push forward for change. I cling to the memories of the progress we've made and it does give me hope. And yet, I can't help but let my mind wander to thoughts of a darker nature.

At Christmas dinner, when I was pleading with her to watch her temper and just eat her food without screaming and throwing a tantrum, (which really would have a Christmas miracle), she turned to me with fury in her eyes, and hissed,

"I'm going to peel you!"

When I asked her in my stern mommy voice,

"What did you just say to me?!" she tried turning it into something cute and said with a giggly smile,

"I'm going to peel you like a banana."

At the time I laughed it off, but I can't shake that moment. I was disturbed by her threat and then her ability to turn right around and make it into something it wasn't... cute little kid banter. The fact is she says things like that quite often. I'm concerned for my little girls emotional well-being. How much of this anger is related to her Autism and how do we help her deal with it?

We are not an angry household. My husband and I rarely raise our voices to each other. That is not to say we don't get angry with each other, but we don't scream and call each other names or make empty threats. We don't scream at our kids, though we certainly get angry and let them know it. But there have been times when we've both lost our cool... a person can only take being screamed at by a child for so many hours in a day, before they push back. And this... THIS is what I fear... that I'm not successfully achieving Peace through Peace. That I'm exacerbating the problem, by giving into the stress, even when I was successful for the greater part of the day. It's those moment of anger that are staying with her, burrowing into her psyche.

And when do peaceful words and actions become complacence? Because sometimes I just give up. I merely move through situations quiet and numb, all in the name of "keeping the peace." I feel in some ways like we're back to the beginning. When she was 2 years old and spent much of her days in time-out, because if the doctor's are right and she's "just fine", then I need to discipline this behavior away. When and how do I discipline "bad" behavior, when I'm not sure she fully grasps how damaging her behavior is? Since the day we finally heard the words "Autism" come of the mouth of a professional, we've changed the ways we discipline Abby. She hardly ever takes a time out and generally the mere mention of it is enough to TEMPORARILY get her to change course, but are we doing enough? I have so many questions and not enough answers. Everyday it seems we make great strides, only to find ourselves back to square one in other areas. It's exhausting.

It's been a long time since I've sat down to write here and I'm afraid this is mostly rambling nonsense, but I think I need to do this more often. It helps to get it all out of my head where it just rolls around and morphs into thoughts like,

"Well, if you had more patience, maybe she would, too."

"If only you said the right words, she might understand."

"If you would focus more on her and less on school and work, maybe she would make more progress."

"If you were a better mom, a better wife, a better student, a better employee, a better sister, a better daughter, a better friend..."

"If you were more..."

I know in my heart that I'm a good person and a good mom, but this hand I've been dealt sucks and I don't know what move to make next. I don't have the tools or the knowledge I need and there aren't enough hours in the day to learn them all. When I focus on my family, I start to slip in school and at work. And while my family is my first focus, always and forever, it's important that I do well at school so I can keep my job, and it's important that I do well in my job, so I can keep my health care and my husband can have the freedom to pursue his career goals. And mostly so I can feel good at something again. Because even though I have great kids and we're really doing "ok", I never felt successful when I was a stay-at-home mom. The laundry was never done, the dishes were always dirty, and the kids still threw temper tantrums. At least at work, I can see things crossed off the to-do list. I can teach someone something and they thank me. I can make life easier for someone... and that's what I want to do at home, too. It just doesn't feel like I'm doing a very good job of it.

All I want is for my daughter's mind to peaceful and for her heart to be full of love. And I can't force it. I can only lead by example. And while my heart is full of love, my mind is not peaceful.

I'm trying, I really am. Maybe she is, too.


Dani G said...

This is a really long blog post. You know what that means... you need to write again. You need to get this stuff out, girl!

I love the idea of you blogging again. This makes me happy!

Little Bird is nowhere close to being able to dress herself. And I'm nowhere close to having the patience to work on it.

So interesting that Abby has this anger issue. I wonder if it's sensory based, rather than really an "anger" issue. Really.

Anyway, I'm so glad you're back. Even if it's just this post for now. I'm glad :)

My name is Erin. said...

Haha! It is a really long post. And thankyouthankyouthankyou for reminding me that it might be a sensory thing. Maybe a change of routine is exactly what we need. I'll survey the situation from that view. Thank you. This is why I need to blog. *deep breath*

Kate said...

Hi. I've got three boys on the spectrum. The youngest of them is 7. It will get better. Slowly, but it will. And you are doing something most people can't even imagine doing: raising and loving a child with challenges. Don't give in to the idea that you aren't enough.

Praying for you.