Being a parent of an autistic child is something akin to juggling live grenades.
At first you’re dropping them all over the place. Explosions keep knocking you off your feet. Your head hurts from the constant thrashing, banging, and the deafening sounds. You feel scarred, and scared, unsure of yourself and this whole operation.
Yet, you persevere. You get back on your feet, shake the ringing from your ears and begin again.
Of course you’ll drop grenades occasionally, but you’re getting better. You’re managing to go days without an explosion. Perhaps you even get to the point where you say to yourself, “Hey! I’m getting the hang of this! I haven’t dropped a grenade in weeks.”
You give yourself a mental pat on the back.
And then when the next grenade hits your hand, it explodes.
There’s no rational reason for this. There’s nothing you did. Nothing has changed.
But there is carnage none the less. Screams fill the air and you’re unsure who they belong to, you or the child. There is crying, there is blood, there is trauma. And the rest of the grenades fall from the air as you try to stop the bleeding.
And you did nothing wrong.
This has been my last 36 hours.
Connor woke up yesterday just ready to pull the pin. He was angry, defiant, destructive. Everything was a battle, from changing his diaper to getting his shoes on to feeding him. All of which failed.
He refused to let me put a new diaper on, kicking me and screaming for what seemed like hours but was really only a matter of minutes. Feeling sorry for my obviously unhappy child, I let him go naked. Later in the day, when I actually managed to clothe him briefly, I should have known that shoes were not going to happen. All I got for my trouble was a kick the head and a lot of tears. Food was equally ridiculous. He refused to eat a hot waffle, screaming at me when I cut it and poured syrup on. He wanted a frozen waffle, which I gave him, which he promptly placed next to his hot waffle and then ate said hot waffle.
All of which is happening without words. Connor refused to communicate in any way other than screaming, physical violence, and gesturing.
I gave him a mental health day. Taking him to preschool in that condition would have been the equivalent of taking one of my dogs to preschool. The teachers might have actually gotten more obedience from Penny than they would have from Connor.
I figured I’d be a nice mom and just give the kid a break. Adults need days off, why not kids too?
I let him be naked, eat goldfish, watch Sesame Street. I took him swimming at my mom’s. I gave him ice cream after he was such a sweet boy for his Nana.
Yet as soon as we got home, grenades began to fall from the sky again.
I was beginning to feel shell-shocked.
So when he fell asleep at 8, I was relieved; when he woke up at 8:40 and stayed up until midnight, I was unsurprised. I had hoped that a night’s sleep was all he needed, that a day at home was all he needed to set him back to right. I had hoped I could hold the grenades in the air today.
Connor treated me to exactly the same type of morning as yesterday morning.
There is only so many times a person can be kicked, hit, and scratched before something inside them snaps. As he lay on the ground screaming, kicking, crying out for me to stop trying to dress him, I lost it. I have never been so abused in my life than I am at the hands of my child. I flipped him over and spanked him once on his bottom. The only thing it made him do was cry harder.
I yelled, the dogs cowered, and Connor yelled back.
I pinned him to the floor face down, using my body weight as leverage, to force pants, socks, and shoes on him.
I held him down in this booster seat and buckled him in for a breakfast he wouldn’t eat.
I moved his chair against the wall when he tried to flip it over with his frantic kicking.
I placed cereal and juice in front of him despite the fact that I knew he wouldn’t touch either.
I went about starting the day, all the while we both cried.
At last he quieted and I sat across from him. I asked if he was all done. He repeated all done. As I unbuckled his belt, he leapt from the seat into my lap, wrapping his arms around my neck and whimpering.
Now he’s at school, after crying pathetically for me not to leave him there. And now I’m at home, crying pathetically over the guilt I feel for one spank, for yelling, for holding him down to dress him, for screaming at him to stop, just to stop!!
I just want the grenades to stop falling.
This is what parenting my autistic child is: juggling grenades and then feeling guilty for taking cover when they begin to fall.