Posts tagged ‘behavior’

Heartache and heartbreak

Parenting has not been anything like I thought it would be. I hear comments from parents about it being the greatest joy in their lives, the best thing they’ve ever done, or the purpose for their very existence – and I want to scream. It has not been the case for me, not even close. Parenting C – through no fault of his own – has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. I recognize how awful that sounds as well as the ramifications for saying it. I wrote this long before posting it; letting it simmer in its sadness and reality long before I decided to share it.

I do remember having a sense of joy in parenting when C was little, despite the complications and before most of his anger and venom had a target. I wonder, had that anger been turned toward the world and not me and sometimes Husband, if I would have had a different outcome than I am experiencing now. I’d like to think so.

But the reality is that it didn’t. We are where we are.

We have landed right back where we started, and far more quickly than I thought we would. A mere two months after C returned home, he is now back in an acute care psychiatric hospital. His behaviors have been escalating, culminating in my calling the police yesterday morning. They called in their psych team that rides with the force, and they elected to put him on a 72-hour hold.

I think both Hubs and I are pretty numb at this point. We have realized we need to find C alternative housing, as we have to be absolutely *perfect* in order to manage C’s behavior, and even when we are, it’s no guarantee. It is no way to live. We’ve been told that if C isn’t in the home, he is very unlikely to finish high school, which is part of why we hoped we could keep him at home for the next year and a half. But the cost is simply too high.

In the biggest act of radical acceptance I can muster, I recognize that this is the way it is, and it is unlikely to change. C is who he is. I hope that he will grow up and grow out of his current mindset, but he may not. My hope is that if we can find him some placement, he will settle in and blossom much like he did while in residential treatment. Given that his issues exist mostly in our home, I find this hope possible despite my nervousness about the unknown in his future.

So where do *I* go from here? If that isn’t the question of my life, I don’t know what is. I recognize that while I have come very far, parenting C is likely always going to overwhelm me in ways I am unable to overcome. I will continue to hope that we can help C become independent and that he’ll live a life that is meaningful to him, whatever that looks like. While I want that for him, I also know that it is what I need in order to have the same for myself.





May 25, 2019 at 10:45 pm 2 comments

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

     It’s about that time of year. I’ve been listening to Christmas carols for a couple of weeks now, which is far better than my usual late September starting date (with apologies to my college roommate, who teases me about it to this day), and C’s Christmas list is long and wide and full of things there’s no chance anyone will get him.

     C has been asking for a couple of months now if he should check his name on to see how good he’s been. But he hasn’t done it, and last night I found out why. While he soaked in the tub, we talked about our plans for the holidays. “I’ll bet Santa won’t bring me much this year because of my behavior,” he said, his head hung dejectedly.

     My heart broke more than a little bit in that moment. I couldn’t lie and tell him his behavior has been fine. It’s been a challenging year for sure: C’s behavior has rocked our family to its core, and I’ve read more books on defiant children than any parent should even know exists. I’ve collapsed on the floor in sobs too many times to count. And Husband and I have locked ourselves in our bedroom far too frequently in order to escape the wrath of C. Still, there’s nothing more heart wrenching than a child whose self-defeat is written all over his face, and all I could do was give him a big kiss on the forehead and tell him that Santa knows he’s been trying his best.

     Once again I was thrown into both the joys and sorrows of parenting this particular child. In the same moment, I was both impressed C recognizes his own challenges and sad that he feels his challenges are having such a profound effect on his life. It’s times like these when I remember that C carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and there’s little I can do to help him shoulder the load.

November 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm 8 comments

What comes around…

     Last week, the autism blog world was in an uproar over a post written by a woman who witnessed a child who was clearly autistic, even though the poster didn’t recognize it. There’s been some discussion since about how anyone can diagnose the child based on the writer’s description (and it’s really irrelevant to the discussion), but let’s face it, we can. Most of us (correctly) diagnose kids in the grocery store every day. We can spot those kids a mile away, and even easier, we can spot their caregivers simply by the words they speak. “Yes, granddaughter, you are being very patient waiting in line,” even when it’s obvious the child isn’t being patient in terms of neuro-typical standards. But we know that language; it’s the language of someone who has probably worked harder than anyone to get that child where she is, actually in a library, standing there without screaming, seeing another child doing what she wants to do without having an earth shattering melt-down. Let’s face it, that’s something to be rewarded with praise. 

     Yet this blogger responded with harsh judgement at how both the child and the grandmother were handling themselves. Couched in humor at a child’s expense, she praised her own behavior in not verbally condemning the pair, all the while congratulating herself for her own restraint. In actuality, that grandmother probably went home and celebrated how well her granddaughter did at the library that day waiting “patiently” in line. We’ve celebrated those things; the first time C left the park without a tantrum, the first time I was actually able to get him into the grocery store (see here), and the first time C made it through a movie. These are big deals for us, and I’ll just bet that somewhere out there a grandmother is still glowing about how well her little one did at the library that day. 

     I was struck, as I read the post and the comments that followed, by how much that woman sounded like me BC (that is, “Before C”). I was the one in the grocery store wondering why a mother couldn’t control her screaming child. I was that person who, it pains me to admit, would have glared at a child disrupting the sacred quiet of the library. I was the one on the airplane groaning inwardly if I was unlucky enough to sit near a toddler. I would like to think I hid all that from the mothers parenting those children, yet I know how terrible I am at hiding any emotion I have. I’m quite sure I was responsible for my fair share of causing other people pain.

     Then, nine years ago, I received my cosmic lesson in the form of C. He changed everything for me. I became the mother who worked so hard with C before ever stepping foot in the library on his “library voice.” It’s hard for other people to understand just how much work it takes to get our children to do what they do. You see, we, and other parents like us, try to anticipate every single possibility that might arise in any given situation. And we train for them. Sometimes, we just miss, and sometimes our kids just aren’t there yet. “Didn’t you talk to him about not sending the bowling ball down someone else’s lane?” Husband innocently asked after hearing my tale of C standing in his own lane and somehow sending the ball right over the middle into the next guy’s lane. Then we laughed at ourselves for ridiculously trying to be two steps ahead of C when we’re really two steps behind.

     The irony of my own situation in once being like that blogger is not lost on me. For all our talk about helping our children with autism learn empathy, the fact that I had my own lesson to learn about empathy, and that I had to learn that lesson from my own child…well, I suppose that is my cross to bear. Don’t think for a minute that I don’t know there’s some version of karma operating here. The thing is, I’m so thankful for that karma. I can say with a smile that I am so much better than the person I was ten years ago. I haven’t been given just what I can handle; I’ve been given exactly what I need.

March 30, 2010 at 5:09 am 12 comments

Thank you, Tony Attwood

     When I was pregnant, I remember visiting Husband’s family over Christmas, and spending some time wandering through the Mennonite general store near his parents’ rural Tennessee home. I don’t remember who found it, but we eagerly agreed to purchase a book entitled How to Train Up a Child. I read that book, took small pieces of it to heart, but left most of it aside as simply too harsh for my tastes.

     Now, nine years later, I’m reading my way through my first Asperger’s book. I know, those of you in the know are wondering why it took me so long. Well, for all these years, I’ve been reading books about autism, because that was, and is, C’s diagnosis. Quite frankly, after a good 25 books on the subject, I quit. I couldn’t take it anymore. And somehow, in the years since I stopped reading, C became more of an “Aspie” than an “Autie,” and I only recently realized I had a whole new set of books to read.

     So it’s time for total honesty here. For years, years, I have known in my heart that somehow our parenting, no, actually MY parenting, is responsible for the part of C’s behavior that is the worst. The demanding, entitled, bratty behavior that we see only at home simply must be my fault –  even though I’d never admit that in public. I do what all of us do; I agree with those who try to comfort me by saying it’s not my fault while knowing deep down that it is.  

     Then I found my new love, Tony Attwood (sorry, Husband). I don’t care if he’s a one foot tall troll with hairy warts covering his face – he’s my new man. Within three pages of reading The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, I knew somewhere deep in my soul that none of C’s most challenging behaviors are due to any bad parenting on my part. The guilt is gone, and I feel as though I can parent armed with an entire new kind of ammunition: understanding. It doesn’t make any of it easier, but it sure makes me feel better about how I’m doing it. And I’m doing it right. I’m not too firm, not too soft, but just right. I know as I continue to read this book I’ll learn new strategies for helping C navigate his world, and I’ll learn new strategies to help me navigate my own world as C’s parent.

     The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome? $29.95. The weight lifted off my shoulders? Priceless.

March 22, 2010 at 5:39 am 11 comments

Keep it simple, stupid

     Recently, we’ve been battling some serious discussions, arguments, and outright defiance when we ask C to do something, or even when we tell C something. “The sky is green,” C will say in response to my statement that it is blue. The constant debate over seemingly everything has taken a toll on my already fragile state of being lately, and I often find myself waking in the middle of the night with a small idea to help facilitate some peace and calm at our house.

     I spent much of today working on a modified PECS board with all of the things C needs to do on it in the hopes it will make getting ready for school in the morning a simple – “Have you done everything on your board?” – instead of 15 reminders to put on his shoes (“But I don’t want to wear shoes, I’m not going to wear shoes!!!!”), 47 requests to pack up his backpack, and at least 10 attempts to make sure he is actually wearing pants before we leave for school.

     For those of you out there in la-la land itching to leave me a comment with the old “ask it once” adage, I’d like to invite you over to our house. Come on over, and ask C (once) to put his blanket away. Sit there while he remembers and starts to get it, but on his way he notices his remote control car, which he plays with for a few moments before he gets his shoes on and goes outside to play with the car. Then we’ll leave for school and the rest of his life. Trust me, you’ll grow old waiting for that long forgotten request to be both remembered and completed.

     Yet even despite this grand new chart that is beautifully hung in the kitchen – along with the new “behavior bowl,” (replacing 1-2-3 Magic, which just doesn’t work very well at our house) in which C will put red and green beads for bad and good behavior with a reward for more greens than reds at the end of the week – the best ideas are sometimes the simplest ones. Instead of the argue/debate/discuss response I usually get when asking him to do the smallest of tasks this evening, he actually said, “Okay, Mom” when I asked him to put something away. So stunned was I at the almost complete lack of WORDS that I instantly knew we had another trick to try. “Those were the most beautiful two words I’ve heard all day, C. Thank you.” He was happy when I exclaimed how nice it was to hear and how I’d love it if he said those two words more often. In the 1/2 hour following, I think he’s managed to squeeze it in at least a 14,000 more times.

     Sure, C’s going overboard in his usual fashion, and will until it levels out. One end of the spectrum to the other, so to speak. And it probably won’t work long-term. But I’m hoping, hoping he will say it enough that it becomes habit. Perhaps soon I’ll ask him to fix the economy and make me dinner.

March 5, 2010 at 5:33 am 7 comments

Monkeys jumping on the bed

     C is a pretty happy kid, or, as we like to say, he’s a pretty happy kid – except when he’s not. He can whine with the best of them, and despite our consistency in not changing an answer once we give it, he still feels the need to push the issue at least a dozen times before completely losing it when the answer remains no. Sometimes I fantasize about sending him off to live with the Duggar house (if you don’t know who they are more power to you) for a week or two for behavior boot camp, but then I remind myself that autism lives at our house. There’s a reason for troubling behavior when it happens. I may not always know what triggers it, but there is most definitely a significant trigger and it’s not just about bad behavior. 

     This night, C rose to new heights of unhappiness, and it pains me to say that for the first time ever, I was actually afraid of my child. Scared that he would hurt me, I was left fretting about what his teenage years might bring if this is what we’re getting at 8. The multiple tantrums that started shortly after I picked C up from school seemed to only escalate in their severity and, frankly, violence.

     If you really knew C, you would be stunned. Aside from the fact that he’s a mere 46 pounds and I am, well, not 46 pounds, it’s uncharacteristic for him to go to this extreme. Fortunately it’s rare and unusual, and probably takes him by surprise as much as it does us. C’s teachers would not believe it was possible that a child who behaves beautifully at school could be such a Jekyll and Hyde at home on occasion. So much so this evening that even Husband, who always thinks we are great parents, said he felt like crying. I know it’s bad when it gets to that point. Actually, it’s never made it to that point before tonight.

     We have a plan, though. As C and I snuggled in his bed before lights out, I suggested some things he could do when he gets angry that won’t hurt himself or anyone else. He didn’t want to hit his pillow because he didn’t want to hurt its feelings (and have the now anthropomorphized pillow give him bad dreams). Instead, we decided, when he feels as though he’s about to lose control, he will go into his room and jump on the bed. That’s the plan for the moment, and I think C felt empowered to have a solution that he liked. And hopefully, it will diffuse the situation enough to keep C, and everyone around him, safe.

February 5, 2010 at 5:38 am 6 comments

It’s always the Mother’s fault

     I’m pretty sure all the things I swore as a child that I would never say to my own children have come out of my mouth in the last four hours. From, “Because I said so,” to “Mommy and Daddy make the rules, not you,” I have broken all those childhood promises to myself in a very short amount of time. Geologically speaking, anyway, because the last four hours felt like an eon or twelve.

     Yet like all good dysfunctions, I’m pretty sure I can blame this one on my mother. The price we pay, and it is the absolutely only price we pay, for having C spend a night at Ga and Pa’s house, is a complete hellion when we get home – to the point where Husband laughingly asked me to call Ga this evening and ask why she took all of C’s good behavior.

     It never fails; we pick up C from “Grandma camp,” as we call it, and get the report that it was all sweetness and light. After all, it always is when C is with someone other than us, which leaves us no conclusion to which we can arrive except that we are exceptionally bad parents. Well, that’s the conclusion at which I arrive; Husband is far smarter than I. He knows, and fully believes, that a) C saves his worst behavior for the ones he loves the most; or b) that C works really hard to hold it together at school, for example, and then has to unload when he comes home, or c) C dumps on us because he subconsciously he knows he can and that we will still love him after it’s over.

     It’s not as if he gets away with anything at Ga and Pa’s house – far from it. The kicker is that he doesn’t really even try to get away with anything at their house. Or school, for that matter. The Dr. Phil in me says that we are doing something wrong at home that sends C the message that it is okay to test each and every boundary as many times as possible in a single hour. But I think I’ll go with Husband on this one and choose option “a.”

December 7, 2009 at 6:45 am 5 comments

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